A funny thing happens when you become an adult and start to do adult things with your husband, such as shop for a house or meet with a financial advisor.
The “important” people of the world generally choose one of us to talk to as the main person of contact. You know, the one they will address questions and concerns to, the one they deem as the decision-maker, the leader, the person of importance in whatever we happen to be discussing. This occurs whether it’s a purchase, consultation, or heck, even just a casual run-in at the grocery store.
It could be a couch, life insurance, car, or house we are looking to purchase. It could be a question about our pay stubs for our taxes. It could be a discussion involving our children’s college funds. The situations may vary, but one thing remains the same: The person they turn to is always, always my husband.
I sit there with a confused half-smile on my face as I wonder what to do in this awkward moment. Because it’s not going to go well for either the important person or my husband (who is assumed to be the important person) — unlike me.
My husband will look at me for an answer or reassurance, prompting me to either jump in or at least nod my assent to whatever he is saying. This charade will continue on for a few minutes until I observe the realization on the face of whoever we are talking to that my husband is not necessarily the person to talk to.
It just so happens that in our relationship, I am the financial manager and often, the primary decision maker. And this is not to be a jerk; my husband actually prefers it this way. It’s apparently a hard truth for important people to grasp, because even though I am a mother and a woman who happens to look younger than I actually am, I am also an important person.
So why is the first assumption always that my husband is the important person to talk to?
Maybe it’s an incredibly small thing and maybe it shouldn’t bother me at all. I should just smile sweetly and wait for my chance to talk, like a good little wife. But it’s starting to get really old. Could everyone just do the world a favor and stop assuming women don’t know anything?
Every relationship works differently. We all know women rule the world anyways, so why the charade of gearing life’s important questions to men alone? I don’t get it. I should probably note that the one exception to this rule is in matters of health care. Medical staff tend to direct questions to woman because, of course, caring for the health of a family is a woman’s responsibility.
I’ve noticed this dynamic plays out in casual day-to-day stuff, as well. At parties or backyard barbecues, friends ask my husband how work is going for him or what progress he has made on some project. In general, questions directed to me are centered around the children, as if I exist only as a branch of them. Or, people will skip right both me and the kids entirely and inquire about my husband’s job.
And I get it, because small talk is hard. I know I’m guilty of the same thing. Sometimes when people do ask me how I am, my mind goes blank because a lot of my life is centered around my children at this stage in the parenting game. Sometimes I genuinely do feel like I exist only for and through them.
What have I been up to? Um, I picked up my couch pillows approximately 194,475 times today and broke up 20 fights, including one that involved my son wearing no pants and his sister hitting him with a curtain rod they pulled off the wall.
Although it may seem like a small thing when an accountant speaks directly to the husband or the realtor pushes papers in front of him to sign first, these small things over an entire lifetime as a woman speak volumes.
They are like small reminders over and over again that insist that women don’t matter as much as men. These little jabs tell us the world and all the decisions within it are automatically geared toward men first. And we women have to fight to be seen and heard in the seemingly most insignificant ways.
These things are not small when you look at the big picture of what it means to be a woman and a wife and a mother who will struggle her whole life to simply be good enough.
So I am here to say to the important people of the world: The next time you have a very important question to ask, please direct it to both of the very important people in front of you. Because I matter, too.