Friday, November 9, 2012

Household inequality and adjustment

There are all kinds of inequality within a household. It's well documented that women do more housework, childcare, etc. One thing that's gotten a lot of press recently is that women are now starting to out-earn men, and all the stress that's causing.
Now that Shane's home, we're having to deal with inequality of our own sort. First of all, there are chores. Out of three adults, I am the only one with a job currently. The Boy not having a job is a point of contention and irritation in our household, so I won't go into that topic. However, he does have a "job" in the form of school and homework. Shane currently has neither, though he is taking a short go-at-your-own-pace course online for something he wants to learn. So, how do we divide the chores now? What factors do we take into account when deciding what counts, what counts *more*? The only thing we seem to have resolved is the issue of the dishes, with the Boy doing twice as many loads (Shane - Boy - me - Boy - Shane....) since we do more of the cooking. It's a given that I will still be doing all of the laundry (but just for me and Shane, the Boy does his own) because Shane doesn't have the inclination and if left up to him laundry would be done twice a year.
For the others, though? I got into the habit of trying to make the house clean before Shane got home so that he didn't have to deal with messes which clearly weren't made by him. When he was home he'd take care of a couple of chores (cleaning the litter box, doing dishes) so that I'd get a small break from them. Now, when I'm the one out of the house so much more, we'll probably have to reverse that. I think it will be more difficult on Shane than it was on me, actually. He has more exacting standards of cleanliness, but I'm the one more likely to actually do the cleaning. I think that he allows his standards to get in the way of actually doing something because it seems like such a monumental task.
As a small matter, we have the issue of Christmas. I told Shane that I didn't want a present for Christmas because I'm already getting what I want. He still hasn't told me if he wants a Christmas present, however, in part because he said that if he asks for one he'll feel like "a selfish douchebag". I did a very poor job last night of re-explaining that I'm already getting what I want (an incredibly extravagant trip to see my family over the holidays). It doesn't seem to make him feel any better, though, so this is a question we'll have to keep exploring. I know I need to ask questions like, what would he want from me for Christmas? Also, to reassure him that asking for a Christmas gift doesn't mean I'll think of him as selfish. We both stopped buying anything for a while beyond basic necessities, including not replacing things which were worn out. I indulged a little bit over the summer and bought myself a few things I'd been putting off for a while (and obviously still passed the test of, "Will this be useful and fill a need in my life?") but Shane, being gone so much, didn't have that same opportunity that I did. If there are things he's held back from buying but wants or needs, I want him to let me know.
Perhaps the biggest current inequality in our household is just this: jobs. Shane's ego is still (in my opinion) far too closely tied with his employment situation. He feels like he's not contributing anything to "us" if he's not employed. I was hoping that having such a good job over the summer would mitigate some of this but it didn't, and am I a terrible person if I admit a little weariness in having to frequently prop up his sense of self every time he's unemployed? It's been less than a week and I already want to snap and tell him to stop throwing himself a fucking pity party all the time. Instead, I keep reminding him that I'm glad he's home, that there are lots of things he missed out on over the summer because of his employment (like having any kind of a social life), that there are projects around the house I need his help with, that there are things he wanted to learn and do which he now has time for. With just a hint of irritation I even pointed out to him that despite the short duration of his job (May-early November) we managed to save more than my yearly salary, without adding, "so fuck off, whiner" at the end of it. Makes for a good discussion when I can rein in my irritation that way. We'll see if it holds up.
What we're both trying to do is to keep Shane occupied while he transitions from being gone nearly all the time to being home all the time. It's a big transition, and I'm having my own problems with it. Like, I got used to sleeping alone and pretty much being autonomous (except in financial matters). Now I have someone else to answer to (like if the kitchen isn't clean, or on the matter of, "What movie did you want to watch?") and I've been waking up during the night because having him around disturbs my sleep. (Might be part of why I've been so irritated...just a little.) So while I'm happy to have him home, it's more of a mixed bag than I expected. I imagine he's feeling the same way. Coming up with projects and plans--things to do together and things for Shane to do during the day while I'm gone--is our way of adjusting.
I'm also trying to focus on the good things. It is nice to have him home, and I don't want to sound like I'm just complaining. He makes me laugh so hard my stomach hurts, it's lovely to have someone to talk to, and even enjoying the funny things the pets do is better now because I get to share it with him rather than describing it over Skype. So the transition will come along, it's just the unexpectedness of the adjustment period that caught us both by surprise.
Any advice?

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