From birth until they were six weeks old, I was the primary home-based care provider for my two daughters. My husband, an ICU nurse, slogged through his overtime shifts, and I beleaguered at home through the seemingly endless hours of dirty diapers, Barney and a never-ending Honey-Do list of chores, errands and physical demands. Money got tight, so he took a two year long travel assignment. Alas, two years into the big money, constant travelling, and an extremely strained marriage, my husband walked away from his six figure income as a travel nurse and announced that he would now provide the day time coverage for the kids, so that I could return to my work as a paralegal. Though at the time I could not identify why, I was panic-stricken over what would happen to our kids. Two years later, I now know. And women: Listen up!
There is much to negotiate during the domestic restructuring process.
Even if your husband was nominated for Father of the Year, prepare yourself and your children for a hostile-takeover. Once the decision is made, your former role is this man's new target. You may reject his managing style; your former duties may be outsourced; your subordinates may become restless and confused. Make a quick business plan: Know how your system currently operates and begin to accept that headquarters has tapped a far less-experienced greenhorn to come in and do your job. Criticism & mockery regarding his ability to handle this new role is futile. That man just stole your promotion.
Do not complain...No, seriously, no whining.
Dr. Phil is known for advising his viewers that, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.” If you complain, the kids will begin manipulating both of you. If the kids whine to Dad, he will not cope. He will look to you to resolve the incessant whining. (Oh, he may ignore it or deflect it, but eventually, he will indeed want you to stop them from whining.) This is where the rubber meets the road. Balk at this recent reallocation of duties, and now both your kids, your husband -- and eventually you -- are all whining, sulking and becoming increasingly frustrated. Vent instead to women who have undergone the same role-reversal, only they will understand. Unity with like-fellows will save your marriage and your sanity.
Alert the allied camps.
You know who they are. They provide rides for your kids. They make their own holiday greeting cards. One of them is that Mom that remembers every second Tuesday of the month is orange hat day at school, and she always has extra hats in the bag. Take her to Starbucks for her Venti House decaf (She is saving her pennies for her crop night at the scrapbook store); swap cell numbers first, as she will no doubt be over-scheduled; and then lean in sincerely and say to this woman, "I need your help." She will soar to the moon at the honor of being asked...no matter the needs. I guarantee by the following work week, a pot roast may be delivered to your home, your children will spot her instantly as a volunteer in their classroom, and you will receive voice mail at roughly 3:37pm stating "Don't worry about the rain, dear, I picked up all the kids and we're headed for ice cream."
Organization comes from Venus; Independence from Mars.
You have taught your kids that there is a place for everything and their bedroom floor is not it. You wipe off the sink after brushing your teeth. You drop last season's too small shoes by the donation center on your way to return library books. Your Househusband will neither give a damn about hanging up the pool towels, running errands or returning the crayons to their properly-ordered rainbow positions in the box. But, within a couple of weeks of my kids being home in the afternoons with only my husband, my ten year old was doing her homework without being asked. Both her initiative and her grades improved. My five year old was laughing and running outside at 6:00 p.m., instead of zoning in front of the TV. They swam, played catch, learned to ride bikes, and generally became more active, more independent, and actually tired by bed time. It appears Daddy does not put up with as much as crap as Mommy. See Number 2 for a refresher.
Want the good news?
He will cook. It will be yummy. You will forget how hard it was for him to accomplish this while juggling the kids' activities. He will not say a word about how hard it was. You will love him for this.
The bad news?
He will use every dish in the house. He will spend a great deal more money on the ingredients. You will still be required to clean up afterwards. You will still love that you did not have to cook. And you will still love him.
Ignore the kid-concocted outfits. Avert your eyes from the unusual hairstyles promulgated by your child's newly discovered “independence". Arrest your desire to comment on the laundry pile. (It will not get done, if you don't do it.) Breathe, accept and demonstrate love and gratitude.
Who doesn't love surprises like these?
The sight of the growing laundry pile may have a shock and awe effect when you are attempting to take off your bra and kick off your high heels, but your man will amaze you in unexpected ways while you are gone. The car’s oil will be changed; your car washed; your garage organized; the ceiling fans free from dust; the fireplace may be warming the house at dusk; the dog's medicine will be administered; the shoe box project will be a masterpiece. Overall, all the dirty jobs from which you recoil will top his list of accomplishments.
In short, trading places takes adjustment. Do not let your skepticism and lack of confidence in Hubby, prevent you from really enjoying the possibilities of surrendering your domestic duties to the care of a loving, devoted Househusband, despite his unorthodox approach. All parties to the restructuring will need to adjust, but with an open mind, some honesty about your fears, and just a dash of willingness to try something new, you may just find domestic bliss by departing the domicile.
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Kari writes for Chillibreeze.
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