Thursday, August 4, 2011

Role Change and Acceptance

Five years ago, S and I had a conversation which defined our roles in our relationship. I was pregnant with our first child together (we each had children from previous relationships) and we were deciding whether or not I would return to work.

At that time, we decided that one of us would remain home with our child for as long as we could afford it. I had a very difficult pregnancy and severe postpartum depression, so I was the one who stayed home. Over the years, our roles solidified. I handled the housework, shopping and primary care of our children. He handled the "making money" portion of our relationship. It was a perfectly acceptable and comfortable arrangement for both of us. We were actually a little proud of our "conventional" roles.

When money got tight due to S being on short term disability after each of his surgeries, I began finding writing jobs which I could do at home. It was enough to bring in the extra cash we needed to make ends meet, but it still allowed me to retain my role as "Mom."

In the last month or so, we have had to re-look at how we handle things. Right now, the chances of S returning to work full-time are slim. I have had to restructure how I work in order to become the primary "breadwinner". This has been a huge blow to S's ego. He prided himself on providing for his family and the concept of not working is so very foreign to him.

It has also changed how I perceive myself and my work. Before, writing was more of a hobby. Something I did in my free time to bring in a little extra cash. I really didn't worry about getting new clients or establishing professional relationships. I was happy with what I had. Now I have to extend myself professionally, and it is taking some time to get used to.

Other role changes have taken place, also. S can no longer do major yard work, such as mow the lawn, shovel snow or weed gardens. I have had to take over those tasks. This is one area where acceptance has come easily for me. Mostly because every week I have at least two hours to myself as I tool around on the riding mower.

In exchange for my additional work hours and the fact that I am responsible for the outdoor tasks, S has taken over the day to day care of the children, the cooking and much of the light cleaning. This is another area where I struggle. The house and kids have been my "domain" for so long that giving up control is hard. I have learned to clamp my teeth hard on my tongue when the dishes sit overnight or the kids get more video game time than I would allow. It is not hurting anything, but my "Mom OCD" starts rearing its ugly head. It also bothers me that he gets more time with the kids than I do. But, I still work from home, so I get more time with my kids than most parents.

Once S and I both grudgingly accepted the change, the transition became much smoother. We are not totally happy with the way things are. It's going to take more than a month to break years of habit and expectation. But, we remember to laugh a lot and we talk to each other. We have always been each other's best friends and we have always communicated well. We make a concerted effort to make this transition as easy as it can be. We may not like it, but we can accept it and, right now, that's good enough.

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