Two days ago, I was pulling a hamper full of dirty clothes from my closet when out of nowhere, a ceiling tile tore free from our attic and almost knocked me out. There I was, toiling away on what felt like my millionth load of laundry when next thing I knew, my ceiling was crashing down around me. And in that moment, my first (decidedly un-feminist) thought was to yell for my husband to come fix it.
Which he did. Right away.
I then went on my merry way, happily leaving him to deal with the work of scaling our closet and putting a piece of our attic back together. But in that moment, something else unexpectedly hit me over the head, too: The realization that my husband does a hell of a lot more than I give him credit for.
I am the first one to complain about the invisible mental load that women carry. It’s absurd how much I juggle many days and yes, it is draining and exhausting in ways that are even more frustrating because they aren’t visible. But I’m also a little teensy bit sick of complaining about my mental load and how much I juggle and how the world would be so much better if men took on the task of remembering to buy toilet paper and schedule the doctor’s appointments and keep track of which kid needs new clothes.
The truth is, my husband has his own “invisible” workload that he carries and that I, frankly, don’t think too much about. Despite all my huffing and puffing about why I’m literally the only person who changes toilet paper rolls or knows where to find things that are in plain sight, there is so much I’m guilty of discounting when it comes to the work my husband does.
Primarily because a lot of my husband’s invisible work doesn’t involve the children.
He alone takes care of things like mowing the lawn, literally every home repair, changing the oil in the cars, rescuing me when I get a flat tire, killing gross spiders, talking to delivery men because I am (again) bra-less and hiding in the kitchen. And if we are going to move forward as millennials in marriage, I think it’s high time I get off my high horse and start looking at what we are accomplishing as a team instead of complaining about who has it worse.
Take that pesky ceiling tile for example. Did I have any idea how the heck to fix it? Nope. Did I just expect him to know how to do it? Yes. Did I walk away, quite happy to do the laundry and let him handle that business that, in my mind, was most definitely not “my” responsibility?
You bet your yoga pants I did.
It’s a simple thing but it represents how easily I expect my husband to take care of things that I am clueless about, just as I’m guessing he views that daunting school supply shopping list for our four children. (Which, for the record, I totally crushed yesterday and also rewarded us all with ice cream afterwards, something my husband didn’t get after he slogged through that ceiling repair.)
The point is, I have been married for almost 10 years and throughout that time my husband and I have been learning what a functional and loving relationship looks like for us. (And I know that looks different for every relationship.) We’ve done everything from having me work outside of the home full-time while he stayed home with our baby to having me stay home and work part-time to our current situation of us both working full-time and through those changes, the dynamics of how we divide our roles has also changed.
Yes, there have been times where I felt like we had slipped into these roles — me as the “domestic manager” of our lives, barking out orders while he runs around like a worker bee — and it wasn’t fun or fair for either of us. But talking about our needs, being open and honest about our physical and mental workloads, and forcing myself to acknowledge that there’s more to our lives than just keeping our house clean and running our children’s lives has made all the difference for me.
Our workloads may look totally different, but when it comes right down to it, I think I’m OK with remembering when we’re out of toothpaste if he will fix our broken back door.
As we head into fall, with the craziness of back-to-school lurking and the meal-planning and the sports physicals and the shopping and the schlepping of children, I am definitely feeling a lot lighter than I have in a long time. Because this time in our life is going to be downright busy — no matter what we do — and dividing up the responsibilities as best we can makes sense for both of us.
So consider this my official white flag to my husband, whose invisible work has gone unrecognized for far too long. Thank you for hanging up pictures and trapping that mole that was in my shoe that one horrifying time in our garage and for always carrying sleeping kids out of the car. I’m grateful for the roles — visible and invisible — that you fulfill, just as I know you are to me. (And guys, that’s kind of key to this whole thing working, just so we’re clear. Recognizing and appreciating each other is the whole point.)
It’s been a long time coming, but I can finally say that I will be happy scrubbing the dinner dishes if you will be happy to rescue me whenever our ceiling decides to collapse on my head next.
Your Grateful Wife Who Sees How Much You Do Even Though Odds Are I’ll Probably Still Complain About How Tired I Am and Try To Sweet Talk My Way Into You Giving Me A Back Massage And Then Fall Asleep Halfway Through