Le Marriage et Le Travaille
January 31, 2009 1 Comment
I think you are wandering in a forest somewhere. Perhaps in the fog or at the buffet in a boat-shaped restaurant? Wherever you are, I hope you return to us soon. Our cozy tearoom is lonely when all I have to chat with is the embroidered floral chair across the way (it’s next to the picture of you on the camel (sepia tone, of course)).
I’m writing because of a convergence of blog posts and my own life. As you well know, Mr. Carla Fran and I have the same profession (if either of us can actually boldly claim “writing” as our profession, but it is on our tax forms, so…). Many are warned not to marry within the profession: too much jealousy, not enough money. And one of our great gripes is the balance between work. His work is part of his every day routine, and almost as much a priority in his life as a cup of coffee. My work (while I would say equally important) is not as daily as coffee, and I tend to eek and squish it into my schedule when nobody is looking. This means that I often witness his focus, and he rarely sees mine. It also means that he often changes plans around his work, while I often change my work for plans (thus the eeking and squishing). Neither of us is wrong in our behaviors, but it does make us (mainly me) a little, shall we say….itchy…every once in awhile. Today, I got itchy.
Yesterday, I read Courtney’s post at feministing about “The Pandora’s Box of Cohabitation” , about how one is caught in the vice of “to nag or not to nag.” She writes about a box her boyfriend won’t put away, and how she mainly aims to remain calm and not freak out over the box that is driving her crazy. He does eventually put it away for his own reasons, but for her, the worry blooms into a model of what shared responsibility might be in their future: her bending, trying to be patient, silently quite irked, while he does what he wants. She threads this into a reverie of what childrearing might look like, and the devastation such a model could plausibly create.
Today, there was a discussion on the Huffington Post and NY Times about the same thing, but now totally focused on the parenting aspect. Apparently there are many moms that feel like they do the majority of the managing of parenthood. It boiled down to moms doing all of the mental work (shoe sizes, valentines for class, friends) while dads popped in and drove the van every once in awhile.
When I first read Courtney’s post, I thought it was a little hyperbolic, but I think I understand the worry that she was simply brave enough to offer in its full articulation. In general, we do bend more, put more aside, hold our tongues and rearrange (some of this due to the fear of looking like the dreaded bitch/nag)? Or, maybe many a marriage crisis is based on both partners thinking they are doing all the bending. The NY Times article mentioned that no fathers gave their side. I’m sure a good reporter could find some dads that are rockstars at shared work, but would that be representative?
Mr. Carla Fran is a bit of a rockstar in considering my needs, but (and I might agree with him on this) when it comes down to our argument about rearrangement/itchiness/bending, the answer usually is that I am the one with the negative behavior; I am the one putting myself in the overextended situation that I am then mad at him for. Is this ultimately one more repetition of the model, or a possible me-shaped door that I can learn to open?
In short, everybody thinks they are working quite hard, but is there a way to navigate this common place without turning into Balky (yes, I am referencing “Perfect Strangers”) or Andy Capp (not the hot fries, the comic strip, where he is always on the run from his terrible hag wife)?
(For other posts on marriage and work, see “Beowulf and Marriage, Gifts and Work.”)