The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Musings of a golf widow

There is a little boy who goes to Julia's school who has two mommies. His parents have two sons around my kids' ages, both conceived with the same donor's sperm. Each woman carried one of the boys and then adopted the other one after the fact, ensuring the children a biological connection while enabling both mothers to have the pregnancy and childbirth experience. Both women are very active in the school community and I'm enjoying getting to know them. I still don't know them well enough to ask, but lately I've found myself wondering quite a bit about how they handle the division of parenting labor. More specifically, I wonder if they've managed to bypass all of the "my husband doesn't see this like I do" issues my friends and I seem to have.

This seems like a good place to mention that I have the gold standard in parenting partners. Paul is an active, involved, knowledgeable father and I never think twice about leaving him alone with the kids. He's changed more than his share of diapers (though I always seem to have to sniff them out for him), given more than his share of baths and handled many of the other routine, mundane parenting tasks with ease and skill. He does these things not because I ask him to but because he assumes that it's his role to do so. He's a natural teacher who does a brilliant job of introducing Julia to new concepts and skills and he has an easy way with our kids which I both admire and appreciate. Both of my kids adore him, and I adore watching him with them.

That said, we view things (ahem) differently. Some of the differences are philosophical in nature -- we don't always fundamentally agree on priorities and policies for our household. But I suspect that would be true of any pair of parents -- it's rare (and I would imagine a bit creepy) to find two people who wholeheartedly agree about everything. I'm thinking more of the differences in how we view our roles and commitments to this family. And I'm thinking about that a lot lately. Because, you see, it's golf season again.

I'm of two minds on the whole golf thing. In the abstract, I think it's a good thing. Paul works hard, both in the office and in our home, and he deserves some recreation and time out with his friends. I really do believe that. But in practice, it drives me nuts. It makes me crazy that when we wake up on a sunny beautiful Saturday, my first thought is a family outing to the zoo or a picnic in the park and Paul's first thought is a day on the course. It pisses me off that he wants to bargain his and hers time with the kids (like I haven't had enough of that during the week) so that he can go play when all I want is time together to enjoy our kids and each other and share the parenting load. It equally infuriates me when he takes days or afternoons off work to hit some balls -- I should probably appreciate the fact that he is saving the weekends for the family, but really, I just end up annoyed that I don't get to decide to take time off that easily. I end up jealous of golf a lot during the summer months -- jealous of the time that it takes Paul away, but even more importantly, jealous of his heartfelt belief that it is fine and important for him to take that time.

I want to feel the same way Paul does, but the bottom line is, I just don't have that mindset and I can't seem to get it. While Paul encourages me to take more "me" time, I tend to race around and do what I need to do and then rush home as fast as I can, fearful that I've taken too long or asked too much of him if I linger. I'm certainly not stopping for a beer on my way home from working out or hanging out with a friend chatting for an hour after I get a pedicure. I'm all for "me" time and I fight for my share of it, but I just can't enjoy the feeling of freedom I had before I became a parent. I can't ever fully leave my role as a mother behind. I feel like my primary responsibility is being home with my family. And Paul feels like it's one of his many responsibilities.

This could be a stay-at-home thing, but I don't think it is. My friends who work tell me that they feel equally responsible and encumbered in a way their husbands do not. The bottom line seems to be that like many couples I know, Paul and I just think about our families and our responsibilities to it differently. I don't entirely blame Paul for the differences between us, though it might surprise him to hear that. I suspect that most of the problem is in my mind. While I'm happy to spend time away from my kids, I don't know that I'll ever escape the feeling that I'm racing against the clock to get back to them. And I know that Paul won't ever feel that way.

I suspect that this is a Mars/Venus thing and that it is as stereotypical a marriage dilemma as a couple can have. But the bottom line is that when all things are equal, Paul and I still don't view our roles as equal and that's always going to be a sticking point between us. I know that lesbian couples face many, many other obstacles a heterosexual couple doesn't need to face and I'm certainly not interested in switching teams over this issue. But if Sam's mommies have managed to bypass this particular marital sticking point, well, then I have to say I'm a little jealous.


At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Gretchen C. said...

Very interesting topic. I do know what you mean about "me" time -- I get very little, and if I end up getting off work early because it's a holiday weekend or something, I tend to go pick up the kids early instead of goofing off until their usual pickup time! It's a strange mix of duty and pleasure. I honestly want to be with them, although sometimes I rail against the dearth of "me" time.

Ben doesn't have anything like golf that takes him away, and I'm sort of glad -- I would be jealous, too, and like you, even if he encouraged me to take equal time I would tend to cut it short or feel bad about it. All this despite the fact that I often tend to be much more Martian than Venusian. Must be a universal mommy thing and definitely not limited to SAHMs.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

I'm not ten minutes out from an argument with my husband as to who gets next Wednesday night -- me with my Stitch 'n Bitch or him with his Volleyball. He won. So, though I have a decent amount of "me" time, you better believe I still feel like I end up getting the short end of the deal whenever there's a conflict.

But ONE advantage to our single-income lifestyle? I'm no longer a golf funds for that anymore. Two years ago? Sheesh, golf isn't a summer activity down here, it's YEAR ROUND. He played at least once a week...every week of the year!

Thanks for giving me the chance to find ONE thing I'm happy for being on a shoestring budget ;-)

But, otherwise, I'm with ya on this one. All the way.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger gkgirl said...

i think that if i was reading this post 2 years ago..i would have been right there with you but now my own kids are a little older, 5 and 9 and
i can't tell you the difference...
my husband didn't play golf BUT
he worked out at the gym...
for at least 2 hours at least 4 days a week...and that drove me nuts...
but now that i am the one wanting to get out of the house more i can kind of see where he had been coming from...its a hard line for sure, especially when the kids are young..

so i guess what i really wanted to say was...hold on tight, take your own me time and enjoy it, and hopefully, this will all pass :)

At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Heather Romano said...

It's funny, I often read your blog and it sounds like my life and today is no exception. I was just having the same conversation with my DH. His response to me was - well what is it exactly that you want? My response to him, was, well I really don't know, I feel like I can what I want pretty much when I want and he will be there, I just don't do it. I get my nails done and can do shopping without the kids if I want, but I just don't. Why is that? Might be a good question for the board. It's funny, if given the option to go to the store alone or with kids, I choose with kids :S


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