Sunday, March 22, 2009

I am not my grandmother

I got a dressing down from my grandma yesterday. She was the quintessential 50s housewife, married to a doctor, and the mom of three little boys. (Although she had hers in 6 and half years, not 4 and a half.) She also had a cleaning lady for the majority of her adult life and since parent volunteering in school was almost unheard of in those days, she was a woman of leisure, I guess. I am actually not sure what she did with her time, to be honest.

Anyway, I had the nerve to complain to her about Rob's impromptu phone conference last Sunday night and (this was my major mistake) I told her I had conveyed my displeasure to my husband. YIKES.

Proceed directly to the "You should be grateful he is committed to his job, that he wants to do a good job, that he is accountable to his team and works hard to contribute, yada yada yada," lecture.

And don't get me wrong -- I AM. I am grateful he has a job. I am grateful he has had this opportunity to go to school. Grateful that he is good at what he does and that he is a person who follows through on his commitments. I love my husband. I am proud of him. Even when I am annoyed at him. Honest.

And she was a doctor's wife, so I KNOW what she went through. Nights, weekends, holidays on call, missing dinners, family events, birthdays and anniversaries to go take care of a sick child, deliver a baby, fill out the Coroner's report after a terrible accident. I know because I remember Christmas Eves where Grandpa got a call just before dinner, or times when his beeper went off just as we were all going somewhere.

BUT. I didn't sign up for that. She knew what she was getting into when she decided to marry a doctor. AND. It was the 50s. The role she chose for herself, the role she really always wanted and that she excelled at (with some handy domestic help) was the only role society really had for her then. And the husband who worked but was not really a part of the child rearing or daily domestic chores? He was EVERYBODY'S husband. Things were different back then.

I have never wanted to play second fiddle to my husband's career. I really feel he has done an admirable job balancing everything in his life. The last few weeks have, predictably, been stressful, with papers coming due, class weekends piling up one on top of another, and the general chaos that is life in the springtime. It seems like there are more activities at school, more demands on our time, and this year, well, there are extra things pulling at us, especially Rob's MBA program.

I am a little surprised at HOW annoyed I was at my grandma, though. I mean, I don't think I've had it a lot easier than she did in many ways. I had my kids very close together, I have NEVER had help with cleaning, cooking, ironing, or any other indoor domestic task. I have never had a regular babysitter or "Mommy's helper" who came in to watch the kids so I could run errands or get things accomplished around the house. The fact that I stay home full time means that our budget doesn't accommodate that stuff except for a rare occasion here or there.

And the hours my grandpa worked? Yes, there were a lot of them. But my husband regularly works 10 hour days. When the kids were very small, he would leave by 6:30 am and come in the door at 5:30 pm if I was lucky. Five days a week. Yes, he helps around the house (less so since I am home days with no kids to feed, change, chase, read to, and the like). Yes, he gave baths when they were small, and he is a very involved dad. But dang, am I not entitled to just let off a little steam now and then?

My husband will ALWAYS be the guy who is out the door by 7:30 am and home at 5:30 or so. He will always be the guy who brings his work laptop with him on every family getaway or vacation so that he can use downtime to get through emails or at the very least keep up with what's happening while he's gone. It's going to be very difficult for him to be out of the loop from work for 10 days plus jet lag time.

We've learned to make it work -- he goes in earlier because I prefer he be home in time for dinner. I have tons of friends in Silicon Valley whose husbands are rarely home before 7 pm, and that was before the economy went south. I have learned to accept that he will log in to work several times during a long weekend. He fits work in where he can in his off time and tries not to let it dominate the day or take away from fishing or canoeing or the evening campfire. I let it slide and read a magazine or a book, because if the kids are tucked in and we've had a good day I don't mind his odd brand of relaxation; that is, checking in to see that things at work are running smoothly.

I don't know where I'm even going with this other than to say I don't think I've whined all that much over the past 2 years about the time commitment this school thing has required. And when I tried to vent to somebody I was really irked that instead of a little sympathy I got slammed.

My grandpa was not the same kind of father my husband is. (I don't think he was the same kind of husband, either.) I'm not saying he was a BAD husband or father, just that what he knew of fathering, what society expected of fathers, what his wife expected of him as a father, do not come close to what my husband learned about fathering or what society or I expect of him. Different time, different world, different people.

And the fact that I have different expectations doesn't make me bad, either. It's a different world. I am grateful to live in a time where dads are involved in the lives of their children in a way that is unprecedented in our society. I am grateful to have a husband who honors his commitments to his work and to our family. And I really am a little bitter that a woman who didn't do her family's laundry, make their beds, wash their dishes or do their ironing for YEARS had the gall to tell me I was being selfish and petty and that I should just sit back and support my husband even when what he's doing pisses me off.

Damn. I totally get the Valium-Martini combo now.


  1. I've heard similar things from my own grandmother, though it's usually not spurred by my complaining about my husband...just rather her observations as he diapered a kid or played with them. And I would hear it from the women at church about how he's such a good dad because he helped the kids pick out a donut after mass while I was in the kitchen serving donuts to everyone.

    Truth to tell it always made me a little sad. Dave would be offended if he knew people thought it was special that he did things like that. He's the dad. Dads love and do for their kids.

    Bless your grandma, but it IS a different world and impromptu things, especially when they come on the heels of other recent disappointments...that's tough to take. (And you know, I think she may have a bit of a selective memory regarding this as well. Somehow I doubt she's remembering her genteel selflessness exactly as she lived it.)

    I know you're frustrated, but the end of this crazy school schedule is near. And it always gets worse the closer you get to the end. You can do this.

  2. Its definately a grandmother thing to say!