Image: freedigitalimages.net. 'Love' by graur razvan ionut
Episode one: January.
The festive season is officially over. The Christmas baubles are back in their boxes, the New Yearsí liquor has been drained of its last drop, and my partner, has gone back to work. I didnít take a holiday, but as a freelance writer I work from home, which is often confused with not working at all, and falls within a similar pay bracket.
Money is a problem in most relationships, as one partner is always able to contribute more, financially, than the other. In our relationship, however, the point of contention is not actually monetary Ė my guy makes a good living and we are not struggling Ė the issue is a matter of respect. Namely, my ability to look myself in the eye in the mirror each morning.
Iím sure Iím not alone in this. Whether youíre just starting out in your career, a struggling artist or undiscovered thespian, or even a Ďkept womaní, we all need to feel that we are making a meaningful contribution to our households and to our relationships. Which is oddly difficult when we donít have the dollar signs to back it up.
So, how do we earn our keep, when weíre not earning our keep?
In an effort to find a solution to this problem, I recently suggested to my partner that the housework become my Ďjobí. Thatís right, I risked the wrath of my third-wave brethren (Ösistren?) and offered to become a *gasp* housewife. It seemed like the obvious answer. Unfortunately, however, George is even more averse to gender roles than I am, and wouldnít have it. Besides, our daily chores already run on a sort of bartering system, the current trade-off being that if I cook, heíll eat vegetables.
(First world feminist problems)
Still, I feel guilty if he gets home from work and there is still a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, or a load of laundry in the machine. Particularly if he happens to have run out of clean underwear. I feel like, from his perspective, this just isnít a mutually beneficial arrangement. After all, why should he have to go to work each day Ė to a job he hates, I might add Ė while I get to sit around on my bottom, achieving nothing but the occasional tap at my keyboard. In my pyjamas, no less.
The grass is always greener, however. At least he gets to leave the house each day, where as Iím locked inside going stir-crazy and ripping out my own eyelashes. He goes out for lunch every day, while Iím stuck eating whateverís left over from dinner the night before. He gets social interaction.
Itís not like Iím sitting around watching television, either. I work hard at what I do and spend hours (days, even) on research and development, but it feels like the worth of our labour is judged solely by the number of zeroes on our paycheques.
Sometimes I tell myself that itís okay that I donít earn much, and that I donít contribute financially to the household. Itís not like Iím taking advantage of Georgeís income, Iím just doing exactly what I would be if I were single. Then I remember that Iím not single. This is a relationship, and I have to consider the needs of the unit, not just my own aspirations. It wonít work if only one of us is happy, so we must be miserable together.
Sigh. Stay-at-home parents are valued for their contribution, despite not making any money, so maybe Iíll just pop out a few babies. Then Iíll be able to write in peace.