Darn, I knew I should have come back in this lifetime as a person rich enough to own a four- bedroom West 10th Street townhouse between 6th and 7th with a private yard and an office on the top floor. Stupid karma.
But as far as this lifetime, Nate has expressed–fairly so–that he can no better manage the responsibility of day-to-day parenting with me venting to coworkers on the phone during Thalia’s naptime, than I could pour out Cannes Lion-winning ad copy while he and Thalia dance along to Mr. Noodle in my office. And so, several weeks ago, I agreed to go to work.
Go to work.
I am officially a go-to-work mom.
Whether or not I have a full day of work to do, I go to work. And Nate, in turn, stays home.
It seems less than extraordinary, I know, for a working mom and a stay-at-home dad to actually…well, work and stay at home. But it’s new for us. We’re rebels that way.
What is extraordinary, however, is that over the past several weeks, Nate–Master of boxer shorts on the floor, King of “I’ll do the dishes tomorrow,” Grand Archduke of saliva-encrusted sunflower seed carcasses that litter every available surface–has been put in charge of managing the household.
And managing is exactly what he has been doing. Splendidly.
Get out the ice skates, Beelzebub. We’ve got a date and the hot chocolate’s on me.
You can imagine my delight at coming home each night to a made bed, a bathed baby, a nicely chilled bottle of wine, and a spectacular homemade Oriental chicken salad with alternating orange segments and crisp asparagus tips around the rim of the bowl. To say nothing of the toasted slivers of almonds. C’mon, who doesn’t like toasted slivers of almonds?
There’s something wonderful about handing over the homefront. Something invigorating about diverting brain cells from shopping list-remembering to useless pop culture trivia-remembering. Something liberating about…
oh my God.
I miss it.
I can already hear your repsonses in my head: Oh, I’d looove not to have to pick up the toys from under the couch. Oh I’d loooove if my husband washed the bottles. You’re crazy, lady. Be grateful!
And I am grateful. For a million reasons. But I also have to tell you that it’s hard.
Not doing housework I hate is hard.
What’s not to understand? Stop looking at me that way!
How could I possibly miss any of this? Me, who didn’t know that there were mice living in my broiler for nearly nine months in my old apartment, because that was the last time I had turned the thing on. (And let’s just say that if you ever have mice living in your broiler pan, you might not want to preheat the oven. Especially not to 450.)
It’s not that I enjoyed cleaning or grocery shopping or cooking, none of which I did very often or very well. But it was my cleaning. My grocery shopping. My ordering Thai food in lieu of cooking. I think it was the control I loved. Over my environment. Because the only thing I hate more than doing it all is doing half. I’m not good at that at all. I’m going to need some practice.
And now Nate is doing half, as he should be. And he’s doing it well. He’s not even failing, just a little, so that I can come in and save the day, show him up, roll my eyes and say gawwwwwd Nate, don’t you know that’s not the right vacuum attachment to get the cat litter out of the corners.
I bet he’s doing it to spite me.
Like an amputee with a missing limb, I keep reaching to fulfill responsibilities that are no longer there for me, and I don’t know quite what to do instead. The strange thing is, I knew how hard it would be to have to ask Nate, “what’s the baby eating these days?” Or “does she need a bath tonight?” Hard and heartbreaking and probably an essay unto itself.
But I never imagined it would be so tough to have to ask Nate, “why did you change paper towel brands?”
He did, he changed them. Didn’t even ask me. Just went right ahead and tossed my lifelong loyalty to Bounty aside without a second thought. Bounty out, Brawny in. The bastard.
And so what I’m learning is that I can’t tell Nate to get the Bounty instead. I can’t tell him about the super absorbency and the handy select-a-size feature, and how you really do need two Brawny sheets to one Bounty. It’s his domain now. I’m trying to let him find his own path.
This weekend, Nate called to me from the kitchen while I caught up with my emails in the bedroom.
“Liz!” he yelled. “You left the milk out again.”
“Sorry,” I murmured rather unconvincingly from behind my computer.
“This is like the fourth time this week. I’m tired of putting it away for you every day,” he huffed. I heard him slam the refrigerator door shut in exasperation, and then stomp off to the kitchen sink where half a dozen soapy bottles awaited his attention.
“Sorry,” I said mindlessly shoving another potato chip into my mouth without averting my eyes from the computer screen. “Sorry.”
“And don’t be getting crumbs in the bed either!”
The transformation is almost complete.