- Posted March 15, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Work and family: Making it work
Life is a team effort
If my wife did not have a career I would expect her to do all the housework. If our relationship were to survive, we each have to contribute somehow. Give and take.
In 1989 I met my wife to be, Dawn. Let me say it was a clash of cultures. My wife's family was loud and the women strong. At the time I was employed at an architectural firm which required that I work up to sixty hours a week. I had custody of my son Michael, less than six months old, and Melissa, eighteen months old. Dawn was in graduate school working on her doctorate. She'd be studying, teaching, working in her lab and then come home to pick up all the kids (daycare, nursery school, kindergarten) and I'd come home later. We lived in a tiny two bedroom house and managed the best we could. She did all the cooking and the housework. We were under a lot of pressure back then, it was difficult to manage everything. I cooked breakfast weekends, pancakes but Dawn did everything else. It was rough.
It came to a climax when Michael was diagnosed with a developmental delay and he needed extra care. It was too much for Dawn, now pregnant, still in school, teaching, and her pregnancy was a high risk. I made the decision to quit a lucrative job and build my own practice. In 1990 my salary went from $45,000 to zero. Now I was home, running my business from the basement. Now I picked up the kids from school, tidied the house, did all the laundry and when she came home she did the cooking.
Looking back it was a slow change, we knew that in order to survive we had to take on responsibilites we might not have imagined in our younger years. When Matthew was born I was his caretaker while Dawn taught and studied. I would take the kids to jobsites when I had to. We relied on her small income and a year later her father gave us the money to build an addition to our house.
Five of my brothers arrived and we doubled the size of the house, working from morning to midnight. Again the roles swayed, while they lived in tents in our yard, Dawn would be cooking for an army and watching the kids, in hundred degree heat and cleaning up using buckets and a hose. One day, annoyed and stressed (after my brother's crazy/lazy girlfriend used up all the hot water she boiled for a bath), Dawn had a meltdown. I still can see the casserole dish go through the screen door. Limits, we all have them. It is not an easy road today for anyone. Now we laugh at what we went through. What does it take? Love, respect, good communication, forgivness and more love. We have always been lovers first.
When the house was done, exhausted and broke, we went back to our routine. We always took up each other's slack. The children grew up seeing and knowing this and they all took on chores and responsibilities. Finances were tight or nonexistent. We refinished furniture we found on the roadside. One time we bought a piano at a church garage sale and had to roll it five blocks home. We looked like idiots. On the big sale days, I'd have to drive Dawn to discount food warehouses where she would buy basics. Fifty chicken, she'd cut them up and freeze them. You don't need a lot of money to make it work or to find happiness.
Ten years after our house expansion we built a huge colonial on forty acres. To save us from a mortgage we built it ourselves, kids included. "It's whatever it takes," I told my kids.
No matter what Dawn does, she cooks. We do not eat any processed food. Usually each day she makes Italian bread. At least twice a week our kids are at the table with their kids. She could easily buy take-out but she won't. I do the dishes afterwards. When she goes to Woodstock, to our cottage, she leaves me food. I don't ask her to but she does. It's not always about chores. It's about mentally accommodating a their needs.
I say, a happy wife, a happy life. My wife, Dawn, wouldn't be very happy without a career, and I wouldn't be very happy without that wife. In a way I'm married to her career too. Her writing, her research, her sense of humor and part of who she is vested in that career. I once told her, "each year I'm married to someone different." Her work contributes to her vibrant nature. It brought her to Woodstock and she bought a cottage with some money her father left her. I was not too supportive in the beginning. But that move and a shift in her career has been great. She's a relationship therapist and has been filming on a you tube channel—in Woodstock. I see it in the same light as my own decision to build my own firm.
We need to realize that the career experiences of our loved ones can also enrich our lives.
If you're twenty or thirty you have not gotten to the place where you can see this. Years back my wife decided to run a support group for adoptees- she was once an orphan. Adopted (raised Jewish), she decided to find her family in Italy. Off she went to Woodstock to work on her project with her Italian friend Cristiana—for months, back and forth. I was at home, managing the teenagers. She found her family. Hollywood-like, it turned out they searched for her for forty years. There we were, living in a castle, working in a winery, having a wonderful family to add to our other family. Had I not lent my support to her endeavor I would have been robbed of the experience. When she told me she was going to write the story, I gave her my full support. Have you ever lived with a writer?
She's had the last semester off, a sabbatical, and for the past months she's been home more than ever. My office is over our garage and she writes hours a day. She's written two books and spends her days looking for an agent. I know nothing about this agent thing but she tells me it is easier to find a needle in a haystack. And that needle pricks at her a lot; she demands solitude. I respect her need for solitude. Yet at dinnertime I can smell the cooking. She poked fun at me when she saw how my mother treated my father many years back. Yet each night my wonderful partner makes meals that rival any restaurant and garnishes my plate. Seriously. Every night I tell her, "This is the best, sauce, steak, chicken, soup, . . . I ever tasted." But I'm not lying. It's always the best.