Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Cheese Stands Alone

Scene: Last night, in the car.

Jill: I'm not sure what to do. I wasn't expecting the callback to interview today, and I'm overwhelmed with mom's health. Do you have any advice or thoughts on this?

Husband: Do what you want to do.

Jill: What does that mean? Do what I want to do?

Husband: Do. What. You. Want. To. Do. It's that easy.

Jill: Helloo. I'm talking about uprooting our home, our jobs, our lives. There's nothing easy about this!

Interesting article in the March issue of O Magazine titled, "Women Who Outearn Their Husbands." It talks about the emergence of the Alpha Wife - high achieving and high earning - pairing up with a Beta Husband - men who are comfortable pursuing jobs that don't pay well or....steadily.

The author of the article (Amanda Robb) is also married to an artist. She understands my plight. This kind of existence is as wonderful as it is frustrating. My husband oozes creativity. He's warmheated and great with kids. He acknowledges our workload discrepancy, so he does all of the laundry, the dishes, the cleaning, the pet care, and the errant errands. Conversely, he has also handed over the Steering Wheel to our future. Do we stay or do we cash out and build a quieter, easier life in a less expensive area? He won't engage in the discussion, review the plan or discuss the long-term implications on the adoption or our retirement.

This is probably all my fault. I enabled this set-up in our early years of marriage. When I was intensely ambitious and energetic. Key word: Was.

I remember, many years ago, some sage advice that was dispensed by an older, wiser woman. "If you do something once, you should expect to do it forever." She illustrated this point by telling me about a dear friend who had an agreement with her husband. She did all of the shopping. When she arrived home with the grocery bags, she pulled the car into the garage, honked the horn twice, and then departed to go into the house. The husband was responsible for carrying all of the groceries into the house. She had never done it, not once. And she wasn't about to start, because she knew that it would change their arrangement and his expectations, forever.

My husband is not planning to get a traditional job, ever. He's quite comfortable with my earning power...despite the total, physical breakdown that I've suffered since the death of my sister. The Rules were established in our relationship years ago. I was to be the Breadwinner, no contest.

My husband has no interest in guiding me toward any job decision, and this has me so befuddled, I don't know how to feel. Is this a blatant outpouring of apathy, read: "Do what you want, and I'll just keep doing what I want." Or is this a blessing, because I am Empowered to Make My Own Decisions, free from any husbandly dominance?

Is this feminism at its best...or its worst?

I'll make the callback because this is my dream job. I'll put my life circumstances on the shelf...for now. But who will I talk to? Who will help guide me and make this decision with me?

I wish I had done a better job setting up our partnership expectations as husband and wife. I wish I was better skilled at motivating extreme change in our marital dynamics. I wish I could get this incessant voice out of my head, taunting and goading me.

"You asked for this. You got what you wanted. The Cheese Stands Alone."