[Guest Post by Sonny Lemmons. One of the most humble and equally funny writers I’ve (never) met. Can’t wait to meet Sonny, an amazing stay at home dad/writer at Story Chicago Conference this Fall. I hope more people stop judging SAHD’s after reading this article.]
I wish I could say that when Ashley and I got married there was a period of adjustment that was difficult.
Because drama and tension always make great stories, right?
I’d heard tales of horror from male friends who talked about the unbalanced selection of decorations in their now joint living situation (saying goodbye to exposed stereo wiring and unframed posters on the wall), the days and nights when everything was done together with no “me time” built into the schedule, or how Saturdays were spent…shopping…filling in the gaps of essentials not purchased from those registries you spent so much time constructing.
But other than an ongoing debate over the proper technique one should use when squeezing toothpaste out of a tube (back to front; is it really that hard to understand?), my inability to be dexterous enough to fold a fitted sheet, or a clear phobia one of us possess over replacing an empty toilet paper roll, it was relatively easy.
We were just two friends who got along great.
Once we became an “us,” it was merely an extension of the dynamic that was already there. For the period of time when we were without a kid, life was more or less simple: everything from cooking to laundry (minus folding the aforementioned fitted sheets) to spending afternoons drinking coffee and hanging out at a bookstore was done in tandem as equals.
And it wasn’t the birth of our son that threw everything out of joint and made living together difficult. It was me becoming a stay at home dad.
And I have to be honest–the bulk of it was my fault.
When Kai was a baby, I fell into a routine of taking care of everything around the house. Part of it was motivated out of boredom (infants sleep a lot, and there’s really nothing daytime TV has to offer), but the bulk of it was motivated by a sense of obligation to Ashley.
She was the one at work, providing for us to have a place to sleep and be able to afford food, so the least I could do was make sure when she got home the apartment was clean, laundry was put away, and dinner was ready. Every day.
Just call me John Cleaver.
She continually told me to not worry about making sure everything was perfect in the house. My priority was to make sure the several-month-old infant I was taking care of was fed, played with, got to see sunshine instead of just fluorescent lighting, and was loved on like crazy.
I never slacked off in those duties, but I always felt like I had to do more, be more, give more.
It was my responsibility to take care of everything. I was obliged to take care of it all. Otherwise, I believed it wouldn’t get done. Or, she might think I wasn’t pulling my equal weight. In hindsight, it might have been beneficial had we sat down and actually talked about these things and my feelings, but I just let it fester and grow. And the loss of love as my driving force to take care of her caused me to start resenting Ashley.
My misplaced sense of obligation to Ashley caused an unhealthy balance in our relationship.
I was swearing under my breath at a bedsheet with rounded corners because I felt I had to be the one to be responsible for it all. The foundation for everything we had experienced as a couple up to that point was in danger of eroding because I was too busy focusing on the “how” of us and not the “being”of us.
To be honest, four years after I became a stay at home dad–we’ve still not completely resolved this dynamic.
Ashley has even stated she sometimes feels an expectation for me to take care of everything around the house because I have done it for so long. And once Kid Number Two arrives in June, things will become even more complicated.
We’ll just all need to grab a corner and learn to fold together.
Sonny Lemmons (yes, that is his real name) fancies himself a writer of stuff, a receiver of grace, and a drinker of coffee. At least one of these can be quantifiably proven true. He and his wife Ashley have one manic ball of energy (Malakai) and are expecting their second diaper creator in June 2013. A stay at home dad for almost four years now, Sonny can usually be found Tweeting (@sonnylemmons), blogging (www.lookthrough.net) or doing laundry while his son is sleeping.
[Photo: Gilzpics, Creative Commons]