Working out of the home has highlighted an amazing new development in my marriage that I thought I’d share with all of you. Now that I’m the one working out of the house, Dean has taken over the home duties. It’s not to say that he isn’t working – he is! But he is also picking up all the house spouse stuff, and he is SO much better at it all than I ever was. It’s actually in line with what we agreed when we first met. So let me take you on a trip through the past before I explain how awesome Dean is as a house spouse.
When Dean and I first met, I was finishing off my bachelors while he was in the middle of his. I was a serious student, always getting pretty good grades, and I was determined that I’d get some kind of high powered job in politics, diplomacy or some related field. I was working part-time in the PR office for the university, too. After we fell madly in love, I decided to stay in Maastricht to get my masters so that we’d be in the same city while Dean finished his degree. He was studying knowledge engineering, which including AI, computer science, mathematical modeling and all kinds of other awesome things that I had no idea about.
From early on in our relationship, we agreed that it would be awesome if I could earn all the money, working hard in some swanky office while he stayed home. He REALLY wanted to be a kept husband, and that was sort of the goal.
But then he graduated and had a job lined up in South Africa as a Java Developer. I had… nothing lined up because I wasn’t going to do years and years of internships in European government organizations – I couldn’t do it as a foreign national and retain residency. So we’d agreed that I’d follow him to South Africa and figure it out along the way. It wasn’t really in line with my ambitions, but we’d make a plan.
In the following years, Dean was generally the high earner. Being a Java Developer (and eventually senior developer), he could pretty much name his price. Meanwhile, I’d put out my resume only to see tumbleweeds blowing by. When Dean needed to change jobs, it was as if the recruiters were throwing their underwear at him, while I never even got called back by recruiters. I still landed a dream job as a video game and tech journalist, plus that site’s PR manager, but it wasn’t an easy path.
When we decided to move back to the States, I needed work that was really flexible, something that I could do while setting up a new home, moving and getting set up. I’m so glad that I worked freelance in the beginning because I was able to organize my life and get settled. But finally, I was ready to work out of the home, to be that super-powered career woman I always imagined I’d be.
Dean is still working, but he doesn’t need to be the primary breadwinner anymore. This means that he can focus on cool other stuff at home, like cooking us amazing dinners. He’s pretty damn great at it. Most evenings, I come home from picking up the kid and dinner is either prepped or ready. He’ll pour me a glass of wine or a gin and tonic and we can talk about our days. He’s done the dishes, and I don’t need to clean up after dinner if I’m not up for it. At first, I felt like I had to do all the morning stuff, but once I specified the help I needed to get Harley ready in the morning, he’s started doing all of that, too, without reminding.
Even before I started working out of the house, Dean was in charge of laundry. Now, he also does the majority of the cooking, dishes, and cleaning around the house. He doesn’t even complain about it!
I keep thinking about the years when I was working from home while he worked out of the house. I generally decided on what we’d eat for dinner, although I didn’t cook it before he got home because we shared a car, so I needed to pick him up. I would do most of the dishes in the house. I did a lot of laundry, which I HATED. Once we had Harley, I did the bulk of the childcare but didn’t cook or clean as much. I still did the bare minimum, but nothing beyond that.
I think a big part of it was my need to fight against gender norms. I didn’t WANT to be a housewife. I didn’t think of housework as an admirable task. While I enjoy cooking, I didn’t revel in it. I didn’t want to take on all those tasks and excel at them because I didn’t want to be a good housewife. I wanted to be a career woman, and home tasks were secondary for me. Necessary, but not enjoyable. And certainly not something I wanted to do so well that my intelligence or ambition could be overlooked.
For Dean, I don’t know how much he enjoys the various things. I think he really likes cooking. I doubt he likes cleaning. But he is GOOD at it. He is supportive and loving and generally seems much happier to be a house spouse than I ever was. In fact, he generally just seems happier since I started working out of the house.
In a way, it feels like how things were always supposed to be. It’s like the young people we were when we first met are finally getting what they know works best. I get to be the person who goes out and works in an exciting job, and he gets to experiment with fun new recipes to craft delicious food for our family. He and Harley are able to hang out way more now than they could when she was a baby, so he does a lot more of the child care, too. It’s not that I’ve become a slacker or something. I still do lots of stuff around the house, and taking care of Harley, but we’ve settled into a new rhythm and balance, and it’s amazing.
I am not shy to say it – Dean is amazing as a house spouse. He is way better at it than I ever was.
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