Monday, November 7, 2011
The Business of Marriage
At the heart of it, a marriage is a business. A business whose success is reflected in a well-run household, secure finances and happy children. The people who make that happen? Mom and Dad (or Mom and mom or Dad and dad or whatever combination thereof...). There are a few different ways this business can be set up. The 2 most common (stereotypical and generic) ones are outlined below:
1) Equal partners. Both parents work full time and share household/childcare duties.
2) Separate Divisions. One parent stays home, the other works. In this situation (USUALLY), the stay at home person is in charge of the household, the schedule, the meal planning, and for the most part, the raising of the children. This person does the bulk of the childcare, housecleaning, cooking and scheduling. The other person brings in income. In this relationship power is split. Each person has their domain and works within it.
And then there's the method we use - which may possibly be the worst way of running the marriage business. So. Peter works about 72 hours a week (including overtime). I work 15 hours a week. I also manage the schedule, the household, the meals and the bulk of the childcare. Because I work 15 hours a week. Here's the problem though. My work hours are in the middle of the week, during the day. Leaving Peter to handle the daily childcare, household duties and, often, to cook dinner on those days. Which means I am telling him what to do for the day when I leave for work because I know the calendar, know what each kid needs to do and made the meal plan and shopped for dinner groceries. He basically has to implement the plan. Which ends up kind of like me being the boss and him the employee. Which is no good. Because:
1) He hates being told what to do (juvenile I know but we are who we are)
2) this puts me in the position of checking up on him to make sure everything got done OK and see #1.
It's endlessly frustrating for both of us. He feels like I don't trust him to take care of stuff at home and I feel like he doesn't respect the systems I have in place and the work that I do. In the end we are stuck. Financially, the family needs me to work. Logistically, we need me to stay at home. This has been the impossible dichotomy I have been working under since Miss E was born. I think quite a few fire families end up in this boat since for several reasons (the fire schedule being the main one) regular day care is not a practical option but at the same time, while Peter makes a good living, it's not quite enough to get us by.
My main problem with this system is that nobody ever gets to claim the credit. He never gets the props and sense of pride for earning all of our money and I never get to fully claim ownership for how well the house and kids are doing. It's like an endless competition to the point where when I come home from work, if he has cleaned anything he immediately lists it out for me like he's waiting for a gold star and I let him know whenever I'm covering the family's extra expenses out of my bank account. And then I get annoyed that he's making a huge deal over the fact that he cleaned the sink and I'm sure he gets annoyed when he's reminded that he doesn't make quite enough to support us.
Add into this that we disagree on parenting methods (oh boy is this a big one...) and it ends up feeling like constant tension. And competition. And having winners and losers and constantly having to prove or defend yourself. It really is, I believe, the worst way to run your business.