My therapist says…

Men can’t have it all either

This isn’t the first time that I am baking cupcakes in the middle of the night, wrap presents, blow up balloons and dash to the store to get a missing ingredient, leaving my sleeping children home alone. It isn’t the first time I am preparing my child’s birthday by myself, and yet here I am, sobbing into the cake batter and eating half of it raw.

After all the talks we had about the importance of sharing family stuff, I had somehow believed I would get more than a calendar notice about my husband’s absence the night before the event. That he’d come home when he said he would. That he’d take his fair share of our responsibility. 

I never said I wanted to be the one to buy all the presents, invite all the children, chase all the parents, write all the thank you notes… and yet here I am, at ten to midnight, waiting for the cake to cool and hopefully with it my raging anger and disappointment. 

Those last couples of weeks have felt like going round and round in circles. I have been obsessed by the question of how I can organise myself around work, children and household. I have been planning and scheduling, rescheduling and cancelling, drafting and grafting. Progress is slow, and today, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment in terms of why this is so incredibly hard. 

Because in the whole process, I have been relying on an unreliable variable. Not only that, it seems like I am living with someone who is not owning and certainly not living up to his truth. 

My husband says that he wants an equal partner, that he finds it sexy that I am pursuing my own goals. But the life that he lives and the space that he takes up in our relationship is that of a guy who is married to a 1950s housewife. 

He says that he would love to take turns at being the main breadwinner every couple of years. But during his two-year-long gardening leave, he was still chained to his computer on most evenings, and picking up the kids from school still fell into my responsibility. Despite the fact that I was the one who was actually working. 

For the longest time, I have been buying into his story about how he loves for me to be independent, but finally, I have come to realise that things don’t add up. Independence, yes, but only if this doesn’t require any concessions from him. 

Of course, I knew most of this before. The big difference this time is that we talked at length about how we would need to change our routines to make this work. We moved to a new country under the promise that things would change. That his next business step would be a more relaxed affair that would leave space for me to grow. That he would actually help me. He doesn’t. It took him more than a week to look over an email I had sent him. But he’s always jumping at it for other people. 

Men can’t have it all either.

Silvia, therapist

My therapist says, my husband needs to realise that he can’t have it all either. If you want a successful wife and a family, you need to make space as well as step up on the home front. If you want a homemaker who is having your back, taking over full responsibility regarding domestics, you need to communicate this clearly. But promising me one thing and then not pulling your weight is turning this into a perpetuum mobile. It is tiring, it is frustrating, and it is impossible. 

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