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Role Reversal

I mention role reversal in the tag line of this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually tackled it before. It refers to the fact that, once I’m done with school, the likelihood is that I will be returning to the work force while hubby becomes a house-husband. It’s a huge role reversal for both of us, as we both come from the mindset of either both adults work, or the man does and the woman stays home. Yes, I know that’s an antiquated mindset, but it was what we grew up with. My mom was home with us until I was twelve, when she went back to work, but only part-time so that she could be home when we got out of school. Honestly, it had nothing to do with gender roles. Dad had the job that earned the larger salary; it only made sense that he worked full time. Since they were adamant that we would not be latchkey kids, this was how things worked out.

In our case, hubby has myoneuropathy in his extremities. It’s a nerve disorder, and it means that for him, confining his feet in shoes or socks causes excruciating pain and swelling, so he is barefoot year-round, even in the snow. It’s a huge issue for him, as he is one who has a workaholic personality and hates being jobless. Sure, he has a disability income, but though that allows him to contribute to the bills, it does not stimulate his mind or allow him to take care of his family in the “traditional” ways, which drives him bonkers. But where can you work when you can’t wear shoes? We haven’t yet found the medication that works for him; the problem has only recently finally received the proper diagnosis, so we’re really only just starting down that path.

It’s also a huge issue because there are precious few places that won’t toss him out because he has no shoes on. We’re thinking of asking the doctor for a note or something that he can keep in his wallet that he can pull out to prove that yes, this is a medical problem.

The whole thing really stabs at his pride. He doesn’t do idle well, and to a certain extent still believes that it is his job to provide for himself and his, not mine to provide while he sits at home and does nothing, as he sees it. Not that he’s actually doing nothing, since he does all the housework now, but he doesn’t consider that work, just the price of having a home. And okay, yeah, if you work outside the home, you still come back and have to cook, clean, and do laundry, so I understand that.

So that’s his side of the role reversal. For me, the hard part of it is letting go of the familial reins. I liked staying home with my kids and shaping their childhoods, driving them around to see their friends, baking cookies, going to the playground. I hated the housework and don’t miss it at all, but at the same time I think no man washes dishes as well as a woman, no man knows a thing about laundry, no man knows how to cook (this last is absolutely true in his case. Mac and cheese is the extent of his culinary expertise). He does things differently than I do, and that drives me bonkers. The first thing he did upon taking over the household was rearrange my kitchen, and proudly show me what he’d done when I got home. I smiled through clenched teeth, said it looked wonderful, and did my best not to murder him on the spot. Eventually I got used to the changes and tweaked them a little since the fact that he cannot cook means that essentially, the kitchen is still my domain, and I want things where I can find them when I need them.

The switch is difficult for both of us, really. Nowadays, he’s more mama than mama is, and it’s not a role that particularly suits his personality. He loves our kids, don’t get me wrong, but his level of patience is much lower than mine. I’m more philosophical. The kids have been acting up all day? They’ve been fighting over the most idiotic things they can think up? You’ve been asking repeatedly for chores to get done, in increasingly louder tones of voice until you are finally invoking a trip to Kingdom Come if (insert chore here) is not done immediately? His response is more likely to be a blowup of epic proportions, almost right off the bat. After repeat number three, he’s had it. It takes longer for me to reach that point. They’re kids, and this is what they do. It’s in their job description. Check the fine print. But even I will reach that point with them. Bryony, in particular, is very good at pushing parental buttons, and she has a shriek that could break glass. Aneira’s specialty is needling her sister – quietly – until said shriek is employed, at which point I detonate and both children wind up in either the corner or their respective bedrooms.

Okay, neither of us is perfect. And it’s going to be awhile before we each get used to our new roles. Of course, just as we do, things will undoubtedly change again!
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