Does my husband rant about me?

It’s 2014. Men and women are sharing, though perhaps not equally, more of the household and parenting responsibilities than ever before. So I was aghast when I recently read on a doctor mom site I have been following recently a “husband rant” from an exasperated woman who literally does everything in terms of home upkeep (cooking, cleaning, organizing, bill paying) and childcare (feeding, bedtimes, school drop offs) while her husband apparently enjoys his recliner and a beer. Whoa!

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Are there modern men who really do not help around the house or with the kids? At all?

I am struggling to wrap my head around this unbalanced relationship because I have honestly not witnessed this in my generation of women friends across many different career paths. Even among my friends who have chosen to be housewives (if you want to know why I didn’t use the term “stay-at-home mom” read here) their husbands go out of their way when they get home from work or a business trip or just a day on the golf course to help with the kids or do some chores around the house–and not just the traditional male household tasks like lawn mowing and snow shoveling. Among my surgeon mom friends, even among some who are married to other surgeons, the balance of homemaking and child rearing falls on their husbands though there is often a village or a metropolis involved in making it all work.

sea-salt-dark-chocolate-caramelsAs I was reflecting upon this husband rant, I was obvious to me that I am that person in my relationship. “Does my husband rant about me?” I wondered. I don’t have a recliner and I don’t drink beer but if you replace the former with a chaise on the sectional and a dark chocolate salted caramel…..yup, that’s me.

He was travelling for work last week and I was a fish out of water keeping the house and the kids afloat. I had to fend for myself for a variety of daily tasks (making my morning cup of coffee, making my lunch, taking out the trash, charging my phone, setting my alarm, going to the grocery store, putting gas in the car, walking the dog, getting the kids do their homework or take a shower or go to bed or do anything that involved not annoying me, getting the kids to school, making an evening meal that doesn’t involve a frozen pizza, cleaning up after said meal, paying the nanny and the house cleaner, doing my delicates [yes he does my delicates, I am that lucky!]) that I too often take for granted because he gets them done without me ever asking. It’s as if he always has and I honestly don’t know another way of life.

Sure this way of our life started because I was always working a lot more than him. Early on, there were so many days where I was just too tired to even brush my teeth or walk the 10 steps from the couch to my bed that chipping in with housework did not even occur to me. At first, I tried to use my one weekend off to help with household chores but it quickly became apparent that such precious moments away from work were best spent enjoying each others’ company and building memories that didn’t involve Lysol or writing checks (recall, this was the pre-online banking era).

Since my husband’s mom had raised him well, he was able to take over most all of the housework even though both he and I were raised by a generation where fathers were not particularly involved in household responsibilities unless there was a power tool involved. In our life he does everything that his mom and my mom traditionally did around the home and everything that our dads did too. Luckily, as we have grown older and more financially stable, we have been able to outsource some of the more onerous household tasks.

When we had kids, I couldn’t be the one who stayed at home. It’s just not something that exists in the career path that I chose. So, he did. He was a great stay-at-home dad and I was not that person who came home after 37 straight hours at work and offered to take the kids off his hand so he could have a break. I suppose in retrospect it wasn’t fair for me to do nothing (though I did supply 26 months of breast milk that I hoped  offset the fact that I changed <1% of my two kids’ diapers) but I was in survival mode during those years. And he’s done 99% of the school drop offs, doctors appointments, etc. since these kids were born, even when he was back in the work force full time because his 40-50 hour work weeks were always more forgiving and flexible than my 60-120 hour work weeks.

So, as hard as this life must have been for him, we fell into survival mode together. He and I fell into a routine together where he was the rock of our domestic life. It continues to this day. As an attending surgeon with a research focus I have some more flexibility to attend to homemaking and childrearing but still a lot less than him. And, he’s just a natural at it after all this years while I am, well, a fish out of water.

Embed from Getty ImagesI find it heartbreaking that this woman is in a position where she feels so unsupported in her home life and in her work as a parent from the person she is hoping to share the rest of her life with; but I am grateful to her for making me take a moment to really appreciate how lucky I am to have found a partner who makes it so very easy for me to do the many, many other things that I do when I am away from our home and our family. Is it perfect? No. Do we ever fight about chores or kids? Hell yes. Do I say thank you often enough? Nope, definitely not.

I am fortunate that I don’t really have much to rant about when it comes to our home and our family. So, really, does he ever rant about me?

He should. But only after he brings me my dark chocolate sea salt caramels as I lounge sleep on my chaise.

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Why everyone needs a wife.

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Last week, my FaceBook status read, “I really, really need a wife.”

For those of you that don’t know me, I am a woman, married to a man.  No, I am not trying to spice up our love life, and I have not changed my sexual preference.  I am, in fact, a wife myself… in addition to being a mother and a full time academic trauma surgeon.

Two weeks ago, as I was sitting in my office trying to coordinate the schedules for my 3 nannies, arrange for the repair of our hot water heater, and prepare a manuscript about pulmonary embolism while taking trauma call, one of my partners walked in while on the phone with his wife.  She was out running errands, and wanted to know if he needed more undershirts or socks for work.  May sound little to some of you but me?  I just sat there… dumbfounded and jealous.  Here was a person who was #1 – out running errands for the family and #2 – anticipating the needs of another.  In other words, she was working to make her husband’s life easier.

These past two weeks have been crazy, to say the least.  Managing a trauma service with over 50 patients, a manuscript deadline, a broken water heater, a broken clothes dryer, a bathroom leaking through a ceiling, a 2 year old, a nanny who quit halfway through a 36 hour call, and, oh, did I mention my husband is in law school 2 and a half hours away and only home on weekends?  Hello, Tums, meet my new gray hair.

Anyways, I flashed back to a zoo trip that I had with the aforementioned wife of my partner a few months ago.  She is college educated, has three ridiculously cute daughters, and successfully survived her husband’s overseas deployment and frequent moves with the Navy.  Did I mention she has some mad crafting skills?  In short, I admire her.  She is organized, hard working and has hobbies at which she excels.  However, during our zoo date with our toddlers on one of my rare during-the-week days off, she expressed to me that she often felt like people looked down on her as a stay at home mom/housewife.  Because she wasn’t doing “anything” with her life, her degree.  Implying that her current roles and responsibilities had no real world value or worth.

As I sat at my desk stressed, frustrated, and not just a bit overwhelmed, I saw and felt all the worth, the value, and the privilege of having a “wife”.  Someone to be there when it starts raining from the ceiling, to cuddle your child when he is sick, to remember to buy toilet paper so you don’t have to use Kleenex (ummm, totally hypothetically speaking, maybe), and pave the way for you to be the most successful you can be at work is no small thing.  It takes your life from drinking from a fire hydrant to drinking from a nice, perfectly cool water fountain.

I can’t even tell you how much I would have paid to have had a “wife” for the past two weeks.  That, my friends, is value.

And no, this person doesn’t necessarily have to be your legal female spouse in order to be a “wife”.  This person could be your husband, your mother, your best friend, and maybe even your non-stay at home wife.  Regardless of age, gender or legal status, this is the person who helps you live life a little easier… and this person is priceless.  Now, please do me a favor.  Go hug this person as soon as physically possible.  I am guessing they have no idea their true worth, and no one likes drinking from a fire hydrant.

Yes, I do have it “all”, and how you can, too.

 

Two very successful and very powerful women, Shonda Rhimes (creator of the television shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) and Indra K. Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo) have recently been in the news for announcing that you can’t “have it all”.

Honestly, the phrase having it all is becoming as nauseating as being here for the right reasons on the Bachelorette. It really should become the new drinking game for women in their 30’s. Another CEO comes out of that hideous self-and-society-imposed guilt closet and announces you can’t have it all? Take a shot…

My first response to these famous women was, “duh.” But then I really started thinking about it. When was the last time you heard a commencement speech at an Ivy League school given by a man at the top of his profession that centered around not having it “all”? Let me save you the Google search, it hasn’t happened.

The phrase and concept of “having it all” is a strictly female phenomenon. We do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. I always felt slightly insulted when a female medical student would tell me that she would never choose surgery as a profession because she wanted “a life”. I know they didn’t mean it personally, but it implies to me they believe I don’t have a life. I then started asking them, how do you define “a life”? Because I’m pretty sure most people have different definitions, based upon their personal goals, personalities, and hobbies.  For example, one of my friends enjoys running 20 miles a week and this is fulfilling to her. On the other hand, if another one of my friends even looks a treadmill she gets nauseated.  One friend gladly left her office career to stay at home upon the birth of her second child.  Another friend is just as gladly returning to work full time after her 3 month maternity leave.  This then leads me to the title of this piece.

What is “all”? Who is responsible for simultaneously defining this and holding us up to this unicorn of a standard? Is Shonda Rhimes’ or Gwyneth Paltrow’s “all” the same as mine? Or the same as a single 30 year old woman? Or the stay at home mother of 3?  I would bet my paycheck that the answer to that is no.

The phrase “having it all” implies to me having a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life. The reason that I am proud to say that I do have it “all” is because I choose the definition for myself.  My roles as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and physician lead to my sense of fulfillment. The time that I allot to each role in my life changes daily and sometimes drastically so, but the roles are always there. When I am at the hospital, I am still a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. My husband and child don’t disappear when I go out for a girls’ night.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how missing an occasional bath and story time at my home means I am “failing” as a mother.  This isn’t failing, people, get a grip!  This is life.  Things happen.  Workouts get skipped, dinner occasionally gets picked up in a drive through, and sometimes you just have to wear bikini bottoms as underwear because you are behind on laundry.

The people in my life, and the joy these relationships and my work as a surgeon provide are my “all”. I refuse to let Pinterest, Shonda Rhimes, or anyone but me set the definition for what my life is supposed to look and feel like. I encourage you all to do the same. Whatever floats your boat is fine, it is your boat to float.  Say goodbye to someone making you feel guilty (including yourself!) for not being able to squeeze 26 hours out of a day. Let’s stop saying we don’t have it “all” because we didn’t bake a dozen cupcakes, do 3 loads of laundry and accomplish another 1,000 tasks before breakfast. So, f&*! the unicorn that doesn’t exist, and embrace the awesome, amazing, thoroughbred horse that you are.

Housewives vs Stay-at-home Moms

Like another blogger has stated, my child is not the center of my universe, my world, or my life, or however you want to say it.

Let me explain.  I love my child with every ounce of my being.  Especially after having fertility difficulties, we feel insanely blessed to have a happy and healthy child.  Now that being said, he is not currently, nor will he ever be the center of my universe.

I firmly believe that in order to be the best wife, mother, sister, daughter, or surgeon that I can be, I have to be the best person I can be.

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Image courtesy of http://www.hostesscakes.com.

Okay, so what the hell does “being the best person I can be” mean?  For me, it means feeling fulfilled.  My child absolutely adds to my sense of fulfillment, but so does being an trauma surgeon with an academic career, running half marathons, reading US magazines while eating Twinkies that I (may) have hidden from my husband, going to church, having road trips with my girlfriends and cheesy date nights with my husband.

The moment our vernacular changed from housewives to stay-at-home moms, it seems that our culture now expects every single waking moment of every mother to revolve around her child(ren).  The term housewife implies a number of roles and responsibilities that involve the needs of the entire household, not just its junior members.  It seems to me that stay-at-home moms are now supposed to entertain their offspring with an endless number of field trips, learning activities and developmental stage appropriate crafts in order to be worth her weight.  I honestly don’t remember a single staged “craft activity”, outside of school projects, from my childhood.  I mean, we had crayons and Play-Doh.  Although I am admittedly not an expert with a glue gun I don’t think I have been otherwise negatively affected by this.

I am not currently always physically present for my child – I miss some skinned knees, tummy aches, smiles and laughter.  Do I feel guilty about that?  Yes and no.  Yes, because of course there is a part of my heart that rips a little bit when there are days my child only sees me over an iPhone.  But also no, because I know that my career, my hobbies, and my friends make me a happier person.  This inner happiness and fulfillment allows me not only deeper and more meaningful interactions and relationships with my family, but also makes me a more patient and loving mother.

So why the hell am I writing this?  Maybe a little to remind myself that even though I am currently on call for the 5th weekend in a row, I am still a “good” mommy.  But mostly for all my fellow members of this magical club called motherhood.  Where, once membership is granted, it can never be undone.

Give yourself a break.  F&% Pinterest, make a really ugly cake for your kid’s birthday or heaven forbid, buy one from the grocery store.  Drop your child off at a playgroup just because you want to eat lunch without a small human stealing your food or pooping their pants.  Lock yourself in the bathroom and give yourself a pedicure.  It is OKAY.  You are entitled to your own wants, needs, desires and dreams outside of and separate from your offspring.  They will absolutely benefit from having a happy and fulfilled mommy instead of a strung out always-feeling-like-a-failure mommy.  And after all, because at some point, they are going to have learn, they not only are not the center of your universe, but they are not the center of anyone else’s universe, either.

5 No-No’s for Women in Their 30’s

No, this is not a post about the terrifying horrors of mom jeans. Instead, this is another post inspired by real conversations I have recently had with friends. In the past week, I have had two of my beautiful friends upset and a little heartbroken about words spoken to them and it made me realize that although these statements should obviously never be uttered to any woman of child bearing age, apparently it isn’t obvious… so here goes my public service announcement.

 

5 Things You should never say to women between the ages of 20 and 40.

 

  1. Are you pregnant?

NO! For the love of God, I either am puking because I actually get sick like any other non-ovary carrying human or you are seeing a stomach bulge because I ate a damn burrito for lunch. Lesson – unless you see a foot kicking through a chick’s abdominal wall, do NOT ask if she is pregnant! Fertile woman do actually still catch the flu and gain weight for non baby reasons.

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  1. You will understand when you become a mom / You don’t understand because you don’t have kids.

One woman even told my friend who is an ob/gyn that she couldn’t possibly be the best at her job until she has gone through labor herself. Let’s break this idiocy down. That is like saying I won’t be the best trauma surgeon until I get shot by “two dudes…” I’ll take a rain check on that award. And newsflash – Not all women want to have children and another 7.4 million women have fertility difficulties (www.cdc.gov). So please think next time that the person you are speaking to might have gone through the heartbreaking journey of infertility or miscarriage.

 

  1. I’m so sorry you aren’t married.

And I’m so sorry you are on your third. Boom! Just because you have made certain choices for yourself doesn’t mean everyone has to make the same choices. You know how McDonald’s has a menu? Yeah, well, so does life. And when does being single, which is so “cool” in your twenties now something to pity because the calendar year has turned once or twice? Just because you are friendly with someone does not mean you know her entire life story! Maybe their parents went through a terrible divorce that has left an emotional mark, maybe they went through a broken up engagement, and guess what, maybe it just doesn’t matter. I personally would much rather see my friend single than have to watch another friend suffer through a terrible divorce.

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  1. I just couldn’t imagine someone else raising my child.

No one ever says this to my husband, and not just because he is 6’6” and a former professional athlete. Well, okay, maybe, but you get my point. I want to start a professional marketing campaign that states, “ALL moms work.” Whether it is part time, full time, in the house, out of the house, for a large corporation or our own company, we ALL work. Haven’t you heard the saying, “It takes a village”? Because it does, we all raise our children, regardless how or where we divide our time.

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  1. So when are you going to hurry up and have kids? Tick, tock, tick tock.

This again should be obvious, please see #2.  I really don’t think some of you know how these words can slice into the heart like a knife when you are struggling with fertility or miscarriage.  Your friend will tell you if she is trying or wants to get pregnant in her own time.  Please allow her do so.

Alright, PSA is over, you may now return to your normal programming 🙂