Christina Vercelletto believes she is a great mom at the sacrifice of being a “crappy wife.” Welcome to the world of motherhood. Her problem, however, isn’t that she’s both primary caretaker and primary breadwinner. Her problem is that she’s trying to do it all on her own.
Six weeks into our son’s birth I collapsed in front of a television for fifteen whole glorious minutes. The only thing worth watching was the Steve Carell comedy Date Night. I caught it just as his character told his wife that her life would be a lot easier if she would just let him help her. Help her with the house. Help her with the kids. Help her with life in general. And talk to him about what’s bothering her instead of constantly sucking it up and running through life like an endless race that needed to be won alone. Why did this monologue (and film) resonate with so many mothers? Because he was right.
We are women. We do it all. Proverbs 31 tells me that I am a wife, mother, business owner, crafter, cook, cleaner, preparer and all-around do-er of everything to the pride of my husband and children. Modern feminism tells us we can do it all — “it” being whatever we want it to be. What we usually fail to recognize until we’ve hit burnout is that we can’t do it all alone.
Here is the difference between Biblical and contemporary feminist cultures. Biblically speaking, we aren’t meant to handle life alone. Contemporary feminism, on the other hand, tells us to suck it up and deal with it through self-deprecation. Tell the joke, or if you’re like Ms. Vercelletto, tell the woe-is-me tale. Solace in the sympathy of the sisterhood is your only reward.
When we set out to do the whole parenting thing, I had it in my head that I would be in charge of the baby 24/7. After all, I’d made the decision to quit my full time job and stay at home. Wasn’t our son my new career? Didn’t I have a responsibility to succeed at it? And didn’t my husband, the primary breadwinner, have to focus on his work? The expectations were realistic, the planning was not.
Fortunately, I gave into reality early on. I started waking my husband up in the middle of the night when our son refused to sleep. Now, we trade shifts juggling feedings, changings, coddlings, and house chores. I’ll take over during the day so he can take a nap. He’ll take over at night so I can get a few extra Zzz’s. There is no me versus him, there is only us, the cogs in the machine that keep the family running together.
Sure, I felt like crap about this for a few weeks. I had failed at my goal and my new job. “He’s my responsibility,” I whimpered to my husband at 4 a.m. “No,” he kindly replied, “he’s our responsibility. He belongs to both of us.” Giving into that reality has been such a relief.
Ms. Vercelletto hasn’t given into this reality yet, and okay, poor her. From the crowd of the sisterhood I send her my deepest regards, but no sympathy. I can’t sympathize with anyone who willingly chooses to suffer and expects to be rewarded for it. They aren’t her children; they are her and her husband’s children. If she remains unwilling to share the responsibility, then she is a crappy wife. And you know the saying: Crappy Wife, Crappy Life.
The only sorrow I can muster is for the fact that she isn’t alone, that for so many mothers expecting more means expecting less when it comes to a fulfilling partnership with their spouse. The fulfillment isn’t in doing it all yourself. It is in doing it all with your partner by your side.