Second shift

Another blog comment run long.

A friend of mine recently posted about one of the benefits she sees in not being married yet. (She wants very much to be married, making this an especially interesting post.) Summary version: Working her office job and coming home tired and not wanting to cook, clean, or do other household stuff, and just wanting to unwind is providing her with experiences that will help her empathize with her husband in the future. When he gets home from work not wanting to do anything but unwind, she’ll know how he feels.

One of the comments says she’s being sexist. To quickly address this (because I can’t help myself)…

  • I didn’t see anything there that said that all women should be homemakers and all men should work in an office, it’s just how she sees her future.
  • If she’s decided she wants to find a guy that works an office job and she wants to stay at home, keep a house and raise children, that’s her choice.
  • It’s just as sexist to assume that a woman shouldn’t aspire to being a stay at home mom as it is to just assume that women should all be stay at home moms. Each woman can decide for herself and y’all can just step off!

Ahora… after noting that being able to empathize with your partner is always helpful (as I see it anyway), I started flashing back to conversations with friends studying to be marriage and family counselors….

Though from what I hear, taking care of kids all day, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining a house isn’t as easy as we sometimes like to think, and whoever stays at home with the kids is probably just as burned out as whoever’s getting home from the office.

I remember talking a lot with friends in marriage counseling about this “second shift.” It’s a time that can really set (or show) the tone of your relationship. When you’re tired and you know your spouse is tired, how do you divide up the work that needs to be done?

How much do you give, how much do you take, and how do you balance it so you don’t drive each other (or yourself) crazy? (Giving all the time doesn’t work nearly as well as we sometimes think.)

Love will make a way, and love certainly helps when you’re working this out in a marriage, but there’s probably things we can do now to make this easier down the road. (Principle still holds for living together, but this was originally written for a marriage minded crowd.)

Whether alone or with roommates, we can learn to do more in the sometimes unfun after work time. Some extra clean up so nobody has to worry about it later, a nice meal without there being a fancy occasion, even if it’s just for one (the process will be roughly the same when it’s 2 or more).

We’re building capacity to do these things when we’re tired (though I’m banking on the exercise leading to less tired). The holy grail here: enjoying the doing. We may never get that far, but even if we “only” develop an attitude of “somebody’s gotta do it sometime, so I’m gonna do it now” that puts us in a good place.

There will be some adjustments to make bringing that into a marriage, since there are hopefully two people with that attitude giving and taking on it.

Now if only I did all these nice idealistic things as well as I idealize about them. Always more work to do.

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