March 16, 2010...5:12 am

G’day mate! (pun intended)

Hello from Downundah! I’m so happy to be here in Sydney with my sister, but I’ve been traveling so much lately, I really miss that tall drink of water I call Jim. This time I am away from home for 10 days. I frequently imagine sharing my experiences here with him (walking Bondi Beach, seeing the 5-day old baby elephant at Taronga Zoo, and trying Vegemite for the first time). Of course, I am comforted that before I left home, I organized meals for my husband, wrote a to-do list for him to accomplish while I’m gone, and even suggested some playdates with friends to keep him entertained when I’m gone.

Jim doesn’t do this for me when he travels on business. There’s no need. In fact, when he goes away, I find solace knowing I’ve packed protein bars and snacks in his carry-on, matching clothes in his suitcase (Jim is color blind and doesn’t always like to be left to his own devices when entering professional settings), and a schedule of times we can call one another in his briefcase.

Am I his wife or his mom? Am I a control freak, or a caring, loving wife? Wait. Don’t answer that.

I’ve considered letting him take care of himself completely, but we’ve both established this pattern over the past six-and-a-half years of marriage, and I don’t want to pull the rug out from under the guy. And he takes care of me in lots of ways too (more on that in future posts). Plus, if it works for us, I guess it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Yet, though it gives me peace of mind to be an überhelpful wife, I wonder if adopting such a care-taking role is somehow damaging. Will I end up resentful at some point? I’ve teetered on that precipice before.

Is it natural for women to nurture their spouses? Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed?

As I left for my Australia voyage, I outlined for Jim all the easy-to-prep meals for him in the fridge. I told him he should eat fresh fruit and vegetables each day, and that he should get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. I had to laugh. Really, what harm is there if he devolves into his old bachelor-like lifestyle while I am away? I fell in love with that guy, after all.

I’ve come to realize: While we’ve chosen not to have kids, part of the enjoyment I get from my marriage comes from being able to take care of another human being.

Oh and Jim – by the way – I haven’t forgotten my promise to determine what direction toilets flush here in Australia. My guess is: downward. At least that’s what I hope.

- Robyn Okrant

12 Comments

  • When I was studying to be a mental health therapist, I took a course in Couples Counseling. I learned that the single biggest predictor of marriage failure was the level of resentment by one (or both) of the partners. It was not the level of arguing…in fact, the arguers often stayed together forever. No – it was the level of resentment. I love knowing that.

    Marianne

  • Robyn, I was enjoying today’s post while eating one of my frozen meals. Mexican Casserole. It was like a Mexican lasagna. Cheesy. …Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for helping me stay fed. I think I could have handled meals on my own but this way I think of you every time I eat. But I still miss you. Love, Jim xoxoxo

    • oh my goodness, this is so sweet, Jim!

      Robyn, I feel I play much the same role in my relationship w/Brett: I make his lunch everyday (even the days *I* don’t need one, though it started by my making both our lunches when we BOTH needed one everyday); I make lists (grocery, travel, appointment, etc.); I get the prescriptions; I make the doctor appointments; I make the entertainment plans (get the tickets, etc.); I generally make dinner and do the planning for dinners and the shopping. But when I can’t think of another thing to make to eat, when I can’t face the kitchen, when I need to be taken care of and have dinner just made FOR me, he is so easygoing and so ready and able to do it. I sort of feel that at least 3/4 of the time, food prep is my responsibility since I work at home and have more freedom and flexibility that 3/4 of the time, while he is working a regular 9-5 job.

      Brett surely pulls more than his weight; he does all the laundry every sunday while I’m away at church; he generally does all the heavy cleaning (floors, etc. – I HATE CLEANING); he helps keep our billpaying on track; he is a much better saver ($) than I; and most of all, he puts up with my (more crazed performance) schedule and is ALWAYS waiting at home for me, telling me he misses me, and telling me to drive safely (I mean, EVERY TIME I leave, he says to be careful, with an emotional pull in his voice; how wonderful is that?! how lucky am I?)

      Here’s an example of how loving he is and how loved I feel: The other day, I went out to breakfast with an out of town friend and it was too early for him to want to get up; however, knowing I had another appointment later in the day he texted me to say he had gone ahead and gotten up to go do one of the shopping errands that he was going to have to do alone later, “so we can spend more time together.” I mean, wow!

      So our marriage is truly a partnership, and while sometimes I just don’t *want* to make a lunch on a day *I* don’t need one, I can’t imagine not being together and sharing all this load.

  • Wow, this is so me. I am the eldest the three (2 girls and a boy, in that order). When we were growing up there was a rule for my brother and a rule for my sister and me! My mother would make my brother’s bed, tidy his room and leave meals for him and my father when she was away. My sister and I had to make our own beds, tidy our own room and, clean up the kitchen when mum was away.
    The men in my family are they way they are because of the women in my family!
    I too did the same things for my husband for 25 years. I would pack his lunches (he was a farmer), work side by side with him, knock off earlier to get meals ready or make up wages, get up earlier than him when he was going away to pack/help him pack. Then I stopped. And he left me.

    PS Watching you on Aussie tele ‘Today’ show right now!

  • I think that both spouses should do nice things for each other and should try to make a point of being grateful. Sometimes I joke with my husband and kids that I made this treat or whatever “BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!” Of course, sometimes I really don’t feel like cooking and if I start to resent some things that I do, I step back and regroup.

    • Grateful. In my marriage I was so heartily sick of being grateful! In my present relationship things are totally different. We are friends. We are a team. We laugh at the same things and … my partner does the cooking! Now I am grateful. But I’m not married. Is it possible to have both?

  • Not directly related to this post, I just wanted to say how excited I am by this new project. Am following with great curiousity. I’m unmarried but in a long-term relationship and have never really felt a mad urge to get married but am finding the family and peer pressure harder and harder to deal with. I haven’t thought much about why I would or wouldn’t want to get married, so I’m interested in what pops up here in the blogs and comments that I can relate to.

    Enjoy downunder. Vegemite is evil and Jim should consider himself lucky to have escaped trying and smelling it.

  • So glad to know I am not the only woman that makes food for the hubby before leaving. I pack the freezer with ready made meals. I don’t want him to eat pizza and cheetos as main meals while I am gone. Which I am certain it would be.

  • I think we each have to go with our strengths, and appreciate each other. When that path is followed, peace happens. Otherwise, resentment and anger spring up. That said, neither of us likes to sweep or do dishes, so that’s left to me. Perhaps if my hubby went out of his way to appreciate me, it would be better. As Oprah always says, each person wants to be noticed and valued.

  • I’ve often struggled with the same thoughts about whether I’m doing too much for my husband, spoiling him, mothering him, but like you said; if it feels alright for you then who are worried about. We’ve been married 35 years, no kids, so I do believe I needed to have somebody to mother — a dog, a cat and my husband.. It’s enough for me, and my nurturing instincts are fulfilled.


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