Ok, I have to admit, I started reading the book Leaning In and I couldn’t get past the first chapter or two. The part that kind of turned me off when when she started talking about asking your partner to help more at home so you can work harder at your career. While I am a feminist to a point, I just have a different perspective on marriage and partnership.
My grandfather told me a long time ago (he passed away when I was a senior in high school) that marriage is a compromise, that it isn’t what is “your job” or “my job”, but rather you do what needs to be done to get things done. I firmly believe this. I don’t mind building furniture, handyman stuff around the house, or changing the diapers. I do these things because I like to do them (except diapers) or I am good at it. I pride myself in building things, completing tasks or just being the one around for the kids.
My husband, on the other hand, is good at his own responsibilities. The big one – bringing home the bacon. With a Ph.D, an extra MS, and an engineering mind, he is SO much better than bringing in money than I am. He also works an insane amount of hours. He is also the financial leader in the family. He is dialed in to our finances on a macro level I have taken years to learn. I know the cost of milk and why it takes $200 to get out of Target, but he knows how to balance our retirement accounts and how to budget for the big things I don’t even think of. And he is also my greatest supporter, and the first one to tell me to get the babysitter to help take some of the load off.
We each have our gifts, and I knew when I took on the role of “mom,” that it became my part of the bargain. It isn’t so much “my job” but my compromise that if I want a certain lifestyle of not working a full time job and sending my kids to daycare, then I assumed the responsibility of being the primary caretaker of the kids. And there are days my husband wishes he could stay home with them. He is bone-tired after work and is worn out on the weekends. He enjoys our kids because he isn’t locked in a battle with a three-year-old about the state of her room everyday.
I have learned to give my husband a break more. Coming home to a litany of complaints and a thousand questions during the day is just not what he can handle. I learned that I have carte blanche to make the small executive decisions that make the house run smoothly. He wants the kids to have extracurricular activities, my daughter to have a nice birthday, and for me to get whatever we need to make the house a home. Within reason, of course. If I don’t feel comfortable spending money on something without his input, then I wait to talk to him when he gets home from work on the weekend. Purchases of that level should never be made that quickly.
I also learned to expect less and be surprised more. He may be exhausted and overworked, but he still notices things, tells me when I am doing a good job, and corrects my daughter when she is acting poorly. And he is more intuitive and concerned for our family than I give him credit for. As much as I worry about all the little things, he worries about the big things. And that is why we work.
My husband doesn’t ask me to go to work for him, just like I don’t ask him to cook dinner. We would be having McDonalds. But you know that when our son was in the hospital for a week with complications from acid reflux, he handled our daughter without batting an eye. The compromise of the marriage is the active and passive taking on of roles and tasks that are needed to make the marriage and family run.
To me, leaning in is about taking your roles and throwing yourself into them, not trying to re-write your marriage contract.