One of the reasons I knew Cyn & I were a great match was how we complemented each other. We’re very similar in a lot of (most) ways, but there are ways in which we are quite different. Those differences sometimes create tension, when we discuss them, they create a synergy that is one of my very favorite parts of being married.
A great example of the tension would be how we relate to our kids. Though I long thought we had figured out a good balance in our roles, she recently let me know that she thought she carried a disproportionately large amount. In her characteristically loving way, she shared with me an article about “the mental load” that a lot of wives feel they carry at home. The basic idea is that: wives often carry a disproportionate load of home duties while husbands are blissfully unaware because, while he may have a number of duties he performs regularly, she has both duties while simultaneously planning and managing for those duties.
The article hit me with an uncomfortable squirminess- a reaction I often get when convicted. I shared this with a group of friends (who are also husbands/dads), and they had the same reaction. In fact, their wives had already shared the same article with them! All of us felt convicted that we needed to do something about this… but I’m not sure any of us had an immediate answer as to what.
Recently, I’ve come up with a provisional solution: I can be the “Experience Maker” in our family. Cyn’s personality lends itself much better towards regularity, and habit, while I tend to be more spontaneous. We’ve decided that our parenting roles would reflect these differences.
The “Experience Maker” is the person who dreams and plans for everything new, novel, adventurous, and ‘additional’ in the family. Activities, extra-curriculars, sports, arts, vacations, classes, walks, places, presents, all fit into these categories. My job, going forward, is to find the “extra” things we want to do in life that make life special, and make sure they fit into our calendar and budgets.
Being the Experience Maker has been an additional responsibility for me. I notice that it takes more time, energy, and deliberation to make sure that I hear what everyone wants to do, and how we’ll do it. I comfort myself by remembering all worthwhile things have responsibility attached to them. It gives me comfort to know that, even in a small way, that weight that I’m feeling is weight I’m taking away from Cyn.
Like anything else, I don’t pretend that this step “solves” the problem once and for all… just a little step towards a solution. But little steps can make a difference, if they are cumulative and taken in the right direction.