Can get Rachel to ride the swings (when I can’t).
Is more stubborn and strong-willed and intelligent than I am.
Yet is different from me in so many ways.
Loves maps as much as he hates traffic,
Says, “It’s 8 minutes away- I’ll get us there in 5.”
Takes an undiscovered route each time.
Is wrapped around his little girl’s finger.
And the other way around (see above).
Will mock anything remotely sentimental.
But says the sweetest things when least expected.
Works much, much harder than he lets on.
Does not have a “game face” but delivers in the clutch.
Wins Man of the Year every year in my book.
Is adaptable and adventurous and so many things I wish to be.
I’m so lucky you’ve chosen to bring me along on this ride.
xx00 (and prepared to be mocked),
your better half
So I thought I’d take a departure from our adventures and talk a little bit about how we Maddens get through the day-to-day. If you don’t know us in person, you may not know that I work full time at an 8-5 office job and Jim works part time, goes to school part time, and stays home with Rachel the majority of the time. People ask me all the time what it’s like to be the primary earner in our family but I never talk about that here. I do refer to our tag-team lifestyle from time to time, but those have just been hints of what our home-life is like.
We’ve had this setup (give or take the extra caregivers) for all of Rachel’s life, and it has definitely been a challenging dynamic. I often wish I had more time with Rachel and Jim often wishes he had more time at work. I have now gotten to the point where I sometimes just wish that I had more time in my home. I feel (whether it’s true or not) like I’m the person who spends the least amount of time there, and I fight the frequent primal urge to be the queen of our hive, the keeper of our nest. It’s not a feeling that I ever expected to feel, so there must be something biological at work.
When I was a teenager, I was known for being tough. I was a pretty good athlete with really tough coaches and sometimes I would push back on them as hard as they would push me. One day one of them said to me, “Whatever man ends up with you better have a big pair of pants,” and just remembering that comeback stings a little bit. What was he saying? That I’m tyrannical, control hungry, not easily tamed. But also that women need masters, someone to control them, that no matter how tough I was, I would still someday rely on a man. So much distortion tied up in that quip…
Needless to say I never wanted to wear the pants, or bring home the bacon, or whatever the f expression you want to use. Eight years ago I met a man and I fell in love with him and I wasn’t thinking about any of that. Eight years ago I had the mindset of any college-bound kid our age: that I could do anything…and then I made some bad decisions, and then the economy went to crap. I never thought of a career. I never thought of earning potential. I don’t really think that Jim did either.
Then we became parents, which changes everything for sure, and I think one of the number one things that it changed in our household was the dynamic of who is responsible for what. Who does the cooking, who does the chores. (It’s not all about who brings home the bacon, when you get right down to it. It’s also about who tends to the nest.)
I think about how my parents ran our household growing up. Mom took care of everything inside the house; dad took care of everything outside it. Arguably there are more “inside” duties to be done, but that’s why they had three little girls, my dad would remind us. My mother was in no way a slave to the household chores. She was a master delegator. Everything inside that house was her domain. She was the queen.
It was so typical. And society’s commitment to these roles is a tale as old as time.
Then I think about how my current household runs: we don’t own a home yet so there aren’t really any outside chores (though I very chauvinistically suggested to Jim that taking out the trash was a man’s job.) At this point, everything that needs to be maintained inside the house is maintained by both of us. When Jim’s home, he cooks; when I’m home, I cook; but to be completely honest, when we’re both home Jim does most of the cooking. We both do the laundry. Jim does most of the washing/drying; I do all of the folding. Jim takes the lead on handling the mail, giving me the items that I need to follow up on. We would probably both say that we do the dishes more often than the other. We both pick up the clutter. Neither of us ever dusts. We could both improve/do more in many arenas, but when it comes to running a household there’s always something more that can be done, isn’t there?? We honestly do not follow any sort of housekeeping routine or schedule. We both keep our versions of to-do lists, but by and large we just go with the flow and get things done.
It was definitely a long road to here. With Jim suddenly spending the most time inside the home, I think he was forced to learn a lot of things very quickly. None of that stuff is hard (technically speaking), mind you. Housekeeping is menial, mindless work (amen to those who do it with dignity, and shame on us for not paying those more who do this professionally), but you still have to know how to do it. The hard part of it is wearing the role.
During all of this time, I’ve had times where I’ve felt like I’ve done more than my fair share and times I’ve felt like I haven’t done enough. A cycle of resentment and guilt. I’ve felt like I have no authority within my own home, anger that the house isn’t orderly enough, that the laundry isn’t in the right place. (Ridiculousness!) At the worst I felt like I’d be better off doing everything myself. A dream of an alternate universe in which I was only responsible for myself and my space and did not need to coordinate with anyone else.
That’s a selfish and ungrateful place to be.
Amidst the clashing and negative emotions I acknowledge a few things that seem too true to ignore:
1. We did not set out to buck some trend. We did not choose to challenge gender roles or seek to conduct some experiment.
2. We never desired a traditional household. The roles society expects of us do not match what we expect of each other. We are known to dream of and do things that are unorthodox and the way we run our house has ended up being one of those things.
We’ve always questioned what equality looks like in a marriage, and tried to cultivate it, acknowledging that it might constantly change for us and will require constant effort. We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we work really hard. We try to have harmony. I think we do pretty well. When I stop to really think about it, I feel swept up with gratitude. All that I have, that we have as a family, is unique and wonderful and a blessing. It’s not what we planned but it is what we wanted. And yet, it’s all fleeting, isn’t it? A few years from now Jim will be a lawyer, and who knows what I’ll be doing, and Rachel will be in pre-school. I’ll miss my husband, who’ll be working long hours, and I’ll probably always wish I had more time with Rachel. And frankly, who gives a shit if the laundry is in the right place. When Jim comes home from a long day at the office and sees a messy kitchen he’ll probably cringe but he won’t wonder why I didn’t clean it. He’ll never make me feel like he’s wearing the pants in the family, because let’s be honest: there are no pants here.
I usually like a cloudless sky, but this sky on Saturday was just incredible: dusk-ish, sunbeams shooting beneath fluffy cloud forms. I drove by – snapped this photo – and thought about how lucky I am. I had that thought quite a bit this weekend. Between all of our activities on Saturday: shopping with Rachel, an afternoon bridal shower, then our much-awaited date night, I thought over and over of how fortunate I am to live this life, to be in this family and live in this city.
Philly gets a bad rap, I think. I give it a bad rap sometimes. Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a love/hate relationship. My first year in this city was pretty lonely in many ways. I was surrounded by lots of people, doing good work, but there was no family around (and no sense of family) and I was slowly, unconsciously losing my sense of self. It was overwhelming.
As I expected myself to be, I was constantly broke, but some days I would have a little extra money in my pocket and I would go to the Spaghetti Warehouse, which was nearby my apartment at the time, and treat myself to lunch. It sounds lame as I’m recounting it now, but something about it reminded me of normalcy with just a splash of indulgence which was a great comfort at the time. I would sit and bask in the anonymity of eating alone and as the waiter would try to hurry me through my meal I’d be sure to consider what I wanted for dessert.
Recently, they closed down the restaurant. I don’t think a single person in Philadelphia was sad about it. There was much speculation as to what the building, a cavernous old warehouse formerly used to house train trestles, would become, and eventually it became a concert venue. And that is where we ended up on Saturday night to see The Heartless Bastards.
Jim made sure to get some gritty pictures:
The place was totally transformed, yet familiar. These pictures are from the cool lobby/bar area, where we hung out for most of the opening acts.
The show itself was absolutely incredible. The Heartless Bastards are actually a band that Jim was introduced to when he saw them live in Portland (the same year as my first year in Philly). It was his own little indulgence in a similarly themed year on the opposite end of the country. We both love this band now, and we both savored the experience. There’s something intimate about seeing live music with a loved one, isn’t there?
We’ll definitely do this more often.
After dinner we ran across the street over to Silk City diner, a beloved Philly landmark even as it’s reinvented itself over time. We ate and talked late into the morning and it was not like old times at all. It was entirely new. We are entirely new. And even though I feel old sometimes and like I’ve been with this man forever, and lived in this city too long, I am still just learning who I am, and we are barely learning who we are as a couple and a family, and the city is giving us ways to learn it and each other anew.
How lucky for all of us.
Nothing tops you two. Nothing.
I love you more than most people love naps.
More than mac goes with cheese.
More than everybody loves Raymond.
More than sunshine on a cold day.
I love you more than baseball,
And the beach.
More than winning.
More than cuddling.
More than we all three combined love books. (a lot.)
I love you more than Pooh loves honey.
More than being on time.
More than perfectly placed hair.
More than compliments, and balloons, and our favorite song.
And more than anything, I love you more
today than I did yesterday.
Happy Valentine’s Day my loves.
Jim and I went on an awesome date night on Saturday. This is the awkwardly happy picture I took of us while we waited for our table:
Some highlights: First of all, the couple we dined with was so fun. They were such great company – warm and witty, with lots of great stories to share. It was so great to meet them.
Second, Audrey Claire serves up an amazing meal. Every single thing we ordered was delicious. My favorites were the bosc pear and gorgonzola flatbread, the grilled haloumi, the potato crusted tuna, the cinnamon rice pudding and the dreamy olive oil citrus cake. Uh-may-zing.
Speaking of amazing-ness. My super charming husband charmed our super charming waiter into free haloumi cheese! It started with Jim quizzing the waiter about the origins of the tile fish. (Straight out of a scene in Portlandia, I swear. Jim asked, “is is wild caught?” “Yes,” replied the waiter. “From which ocean?” countered Jim. “The one with water,” he replied.) The friendly banter continued when the waiter described the haloumi cheese as “Tunis haloumi.” “Like, from Tunisia?” Jim asked. Just like that, the waiter was smitten. We oohed and ahhed over the Tunis haloumi when he came back to check on us (It was seriously to die for), and before we knew it, somewhere in the middle of our second course, another serving of haloumi cheese magically appeared on our table as the super charming waiter dashed past us to tend to other (less charming) diners. Our street cred is sky high right now.