My husband is my best friend. I know, I know — it’s eye roll-worthy, but it’s the truth. Since we started dating over ten years ago, he’s always been the first person I wanted to talk to when I woke up in the morning and the last one I hoped to see before closing my eyes. He knows all my secrets, he puts up with even my worst personality traits, and together we’ve created the most amazing part of my life: a family.
I love the guy – and that’s how it should be. But a recent business trip had me in a panic I’ve experienced before and was never able to figure out. As wonderful as it is that my husband and I have such a close relationship, I worry that I might rely on him a little too much.
I wouldn’t say our marriage adheres to “traditional” gender roles, per se, but he does a lot of the outdoor stuff around the house. Trash, landscaping, dog duty, and the like. He also handles communication with most of the people that keep the home running, from booking plumbers to knowing when we don’t actually need to, and can probably fix the problem ourselves.
Whereas I’m on the more “indoor” tasks, like laundry, cleaning, and pretty much anything related to the kids, he handles the finances and keeps the big picture running. I’ve always considered myself a fairly self-sufficient woman, but we’ve settled into a pattern in the almost six years since getting married, and it is a little worrying how heavily I rely on him.
Recently when he went out of town, I realised for the first time how difficult it is for me to get our garbage and recycle bins up the long, steep driveway to the place we call home. And even back down again. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but after lacing up my running shoes and using all my strength to wrangle those bad boys and get them where they needed to be, I was sweating, out of breath, and totally freaked out. He does this crap every week?! I thought, horrified.
I was about halfway up the drive with Can #2 when a caring neighbour who had observed my plight came running over to help. I couldn’t believe her kindness — but I sort of felt pathetic.
I often tease my husband about what the heck he would do without me, especially as it comes to laundry and keeping a social calendar. The man hasn’t so much as put a sock away in a drawer since we moved in together about three years into our relationship. And I’m the one who keeps tabs on the kids’ parent-teacher conferences, and remembers the names of all their friends’ dads so we can avoid awkward interactions at birthday parties.
But really, I don’t know what the heck I would do without him, either. And this most recent business trip had me panicking like never before. It wasn’t just the length — he hasn’t been gone for a week in years, and certainly not since we had two kids — but also the scope of our lifestyle now.
Things are a lot different from those beautiful, whimsical days of early dating. When we were young and in love, without tons of responsibility, the only thing that really mattered between us was the relationship. Had I lost him for any reason, my heart and my hope would have been completely shattered. And now, it would be too. But on top of the wrenching heartache and inability to even fathom a life without our love, there’s all the practical stuff, too.
We have two children to care for now in every way — not just emotionally but financially. There are also a dog, two cars, and a home that need maintenance and attention of all sorts. Taxes, student loans, the works. The life we built around our love has grown to include so many more factors than it used to, and I’m not sure how I would navigate all that without him.
It’s not even so much the doom and gloom of thinking about losing him and how on earth I would cope emotionally and practically. It’s also the fact that we have two young daughters for whom I want to exhibit strength and independence. I want them to look back on their childhood and remember that their mum was confident driving on highways, and capable of keeping their life normal when their father was out of town or working late.
I also want to feel confident that when I travel, or do things out in the world without him, I feel good about it and sure of myself. Sometimes, I think back to a time when I lived on my own in Manhattan and I have no clue how I managed. Navigating the train system alone sounds overwhelming and scary now. The bottom line: I’ve grown too comfortable being taken care of by my husband, and it freaks me out.
There’s no easy answer to my conundrum. It’s not like, on top of taking care of the kids full-time, managing a writing career, and keeping the house in order, I really want more responsibility. I don’t see myself hopping on a lawnmower or taking over all of the bill paying any time soon. But I do think it’s important for both my kids and for me, if Mama pays a little more attention to the ins and outs around here.