By Sterling E. Blackmon, Ph.D.
There is an old Native American proverb, “Never criticize a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins.” The meaning of this was made all too clear to me in the last two weeks since my wife of 20 years has been unable to do the things around the house that I took for granted: cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking the kid to daycare, buying food, paying bills, dealing with family issues, and cleaning up after me, just to name a few.
I want all my fellow males to read this because until it happens to you, there will be that “suspension of disbelief” constant to deal with, and for me, hearing it from another male might make you believe it. I changed a little of the story to protect the anonymity of those involved.
Since she has been down as the result of an unplanned medical condition, I have had to step up, and let me tell you men out there, no amount of training prepared me for the day-to-day rigor that a wife and mother has to deal with.
Most days, usually around 7 a.m., I get up and go to the office, and my wife and child are gone. So, this means that on a bad weather day, she must be getting up around 5 a.m. to get my daughter to daycare by 8 a.m., or she doesn’t get to go to the field trip. But more about this later. I just wanted to set stage for the real story.
Now, this is what I found out in my new role as wife and mother (laugh if you want, and I will come over and punch you, because that is exactly what you are when you step into the role). You are not daddy anymore, but something in between — maybe mom-dad or something from a parallel universe trying to figure it all out.
Anyway, I get up to take her to daycare. Now, for boys, it’s easy — you just tell them to S.S.B., and they do it. But for girls, this doesn’t work. They have to do their girl things in the morning; I swear to God she must brush every tooth individually. Then, you fix them something to eat, unless you’re clueless, like me, and don’t know that if you take them to daycare early, they can eat there, DOH! So, that takes care of the kid, but you still have to take care of the home, and in our case, we have a pet, so he has to be taken care of. Minor issue, unless you are already running behind — and for me, that was every morning.
So, now that the pet and the kid are handled, I have to help my wife. Remember, she is down, so I have to take care of her (sort of like when I have the flu and act like a 5-year-old, only I’m 10 times worse). I get whatever she needs me to get so I can leave and go to the office. After all, I am working eight hours a day and heaven forbid I have to put in another eight to take care of the chores to keep my little castle running.
Here is where it gets interesting: cooking, cleaning, buying food, etc. Well, my wife did all that and worked eight hours a day as well. Some days, mind you, I might have meetings after work, but for the most part, I just come home a go to my “man cave” and chill.
So, here I am cooking, cleaning and doing laundry; yes I had to do it or buy new underwear every week, which I actually had to do on a business trip and learned that some stores have a 300 percent markup on the exact same item. Now I know why she buys paper towels by the box load. This gave me a greater appreciation to what actually goes on behind the scenes to keep my little castle running.
By now, most of you guys are saying, “Big deal … you had to come out of your comfort zone and man up, dude — that comes with the job.” However, there is more to this than meets the eye, brother.
Since we were in the process of changing my daughter’s school, I had to deal with the most expansive bureaucracy ever created — the public school system. Let me explain to you a little about how this works for someone like me who waited to the very last minute to take care of this. First, I had to find out where to go to get the registration information to change her school, not enroll her, and just change her school. That required a trip to a building that was teaming with kids and moms in a round robin of forms, computers, lines and germs. The people in this office were the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. They have the patience of Job, I tell you, because I couldn’t take it. I had to go outside because there was so many kids screaming, running, jumping, sneezing and just being kids. The moms were just cool, like it was par for the course; me, I’m freaking out because they called one person out of sequence before me. Poor me, I had to wait an extra five minutes because a mother of five needed to get her kids handled. What a schmuck I am, seriously.
So now that I have all the required paperwork, I now drive across town to the school, which, by the way, is the only day I can register, or she loses her place and has to go where they send her. I get there and the parking lot is torn up for construction, so I have to park two blocks away. Again, I am dealing with some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
The principal of the school greeted me as soon as I came in the area. I guess I just looked like I needed help — and I did. So, after completing all the necessary paperwork, I was finished and could go to the daycare to pick her up, stop for some fast food, take out the trash, knock down a wasp nest (don’t ask), and all the other stuff mom-dad has to do to make my little castle seem balanced.
Now, you are asking yourself, so what? Well, this is so what, my wife deals with this day in and day out. The most I do is take out the trash and kill an occasional bug when my daughter needs me to. I had no appreciation of what my wife was doing until I had to do it myself. Now, I’m no slacker and put in my share of work around the house, but compared to what she is doing, I’m a rookie. So, the next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you’re out of soda and chips for the big game, suck it up. The best advice I can give to you — and now that I’ve been mom-dad, I can — is give your wife a spa day, with a pedicure and manicure, call the sitters, and take her to her favorite restaurant, because frankly, you could do this every day and never match what she does in one hour of castle-keeping.
Rockford resident Sterling E. Blackmon earned a Ph.D. at Capella University, has an MBA in finance from LeTourneau University and a bachelor’s degree from Wiley College. He is employed as an IT professional with Health Care Service Corporation and is an adjunct instructor with Olivet Nazarene University.
From the Dec. 4-10, 2013, issue