My wife and I have been married for about 14.5 years, and while I the details of our life together before children is a little sketchy I do definitely recall, excepting the laundry which I botched a lot early in our marriage, there being a shared burden of tasks. I did a lot of cooking, tried to vacuum now and again, left my socks around to keep us on our toes. We also were able to spend a lot of time together, and enjoy one another on little weekend trips throughout Indiana (essentially the only place we’ve lived together without children) which was pretty neat. And we were also both wage earners! But once Adeline came, and I started seminary at Nashotah House Jenny was a “stay at home mom” who also worked for the school every other afternoon. And that’s when the traveling started. There were trips to Quincy to meet with the Bishop, a trip to Chicago to sign the Jerusalem Statement, multiple-day stay overs in Sheboygan for pastoral practicums. These were some great experiences. But I was the only one who experienced them.
In 2011 we moved to Boston to complete M.Div. at Holy Cross, where I hustled in several different jobs to make ends meet while Jennifer tended to our family, which now had grown to 5. There were more trips, more flights, to Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, back to Davenport to see my brother. But again it was by myself. Jenny didn’t get to see our old parish family when I flew to Milwaukee to receive an AHEPA scholarship, nor did she get to divert to Pittsburgh on the way back to make a secret trip to Charleston to house hunt. Of course we got to do some really amazing things in Boston (like see the ocean for the first time ever) but I experienced so much while she juggled the household. It’s continued on since I was ordained, too, with the different meetings and conferences I’m expected to go to.
So this year I decided to try and “fix” that a little. For her birthday this I put together a little B&B / vineyard getaway with our koumbara Stacey, and I also finagled my parish travel budget so she could go to the National Presbyteres Retreat in California (she’s there at the time of this writing). Both of these times it’s been my girls and me only. Easy peasy; I give Jenny every Tuesday afternoon to herself, and also we kinda sorta chose to raise a family nowhere near any family. I tend to take at least one girl with me wherever I go. But Jenny’s two “outings” have revealed something to me: I’m a generally lazy guy!
I noticed while Jenny’s been gone that I have an easier time getting out of bed. I noticed I’m more attentive to the mess around the house, and don’t wait around to make supper for them. I’m more willing to put down my book, magazine, or computer and take the girls somewhere. Heck, I took them to two different parks on Saturday, then made grilled PB&J sandwiches and had a movie night on Sunday. What got into me to start deep scrubbing the counter top and range top and replenish the paper goods? What’s this odd feeling I have that I should be putting away everyone’s clothing from the laundry basket even though I have literally not opened my daughters’ dresser drawers in months? I even washed my own anteri on Thursday night. Startling!
I related this all to Jenny last night and she told me she finds that she’s more productive when I’m gone, too. But let’s face facts, here. I still hustle a couple of side jobs while I pastor my parish, and I’ve got my finger in a lot of pies, so when I come home I tend to veg (or sit and think or research something) more than I should. I’m lazy about things at home because, for good or bad, I “know Jenny will take care of it”. Then when she’s gone I step back up and cruise through everything. I call myself a Disneyland Dad which is a pejorative though I don’t mean it that way; I’m not an absent or even distant father/husband. But I do think that I could be more attentive and deliberate in my presence while home, and not just when Jenny’s gone or when I know she’s starting to burn out a little between raising and schooling the children and also keep the house.
I say this over and over but, Good God, Jenny keeps the entire household together. If I could I’ve give her a million days off. I just hope we can all travel together again sometime.