Why Does He Get All the Fun and I Get All The Responsibilities?
While He’s on a Vacation with his Girlfriend, I’m Stuck with all the Responsibilities
Not too long ago, I was in the supermarket where I bumped into a friend of mine whose children attended preschool with my children many years ago. After we exchanged a few pleasantries, we quickly tried to catch up on each other’s lives, since we had fallen out of touch. My friend told me that she had recently been divorced after twenty years of marriage. Knowing that I was also divorced, she felt comfortable sharing her complaints about the legal expenses, the need to sell her house and the dividing up bank accounts. She has three children; two who are now in high school and the oldest one is in college. Feeling overwhelmed, she spoke about how busy her days are without a moment to spare for herself. Tears filled her eyes when she added that, “He’s on a cruise with his girlfriend now and I am stuck with all the responsibilities. He has all the fun and I get all the work.” This is a statement that I hear quite often.
These inequities are not always the case
Before I attempt to address the perceived inequities of household chores reallocation when it comes to separation and divorce, I want to be clear that this is not something that ALL men or women do. Many people share the financial and child-rearing responsibilities as equitably as possible. Unfortunately, those stories don’t make their way into the gossip mill. More often, we hear stories about the guy who leaves his wife, of twenty years or more, for a younger woman without looking back at the family he left behind. Many of my clients have encountered the same set of circumstances leaving one spouse to feel as though they have had all the responsibilities left to them while the other spouse lives the fun carefree lifestyle.
As we spoke, I could see that she was in a great deal of emotional pain. Having been through my own divorce, I understood how she could feel that way, although I have a different perspective on the scenario. I believe that our children are the greatest gifts we have in life. Leaving them to us, by our spouse, as he ventures off with his new concubine, should be considered the highest honor we can be given. Would we want someone who walks out on the family to be with another woman, as the gatekeeper for our children? Men who leave the children with their wives have confidence that she is a good mother and the children are well cared for in her charge.
Raising Children isn’t an easy venture
No one ever said that raising children is an easy venture. Still, we signed up for motherhood knowing there would be sleepless nights, teething, diapers, terrible two’s, sick days, sports injuries, the challenges that come with raising teenagers and college tuition. Although we may have expected to have a willing partner to help with the child-rearing, we must accept that the plans were changed on us. Think about how many times other best-laid plans changed course, in your own life, leaving you forced to carve out a new path. This is just another one of those times.
It is upsetting to have to deal with broken pipes in the house on a cold winter’s night. No one enjoys having to find another lawn guy or take off from work to meet up with dishwasher repair person or to find someone to fix the leaking roof. No one enjoys having their world turned upside down to be replaced by a newer model and to have all the household chores dumped in their lap.
But let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. Who said the galivanting husband is having the time of his life? That is an assumption made by many women as they go through the day-to-day drudgery of living life without him. Maybe he is having a great time and maybe he is not. It is possible that his girlfriend was miserably sea-sick on that romantic cruise they were on or they lost their luggage on that exotic trip to Hong Kong. He and his love interest may have fought the entire time when they were in New York City on Valentine’s Day weekend. The situation is not painted with a black and white brush.
Time Spent with our Children is Precious
As a divorce coach, I hear just as many stories of regret as I do the one shared by my friend. “He” may be having a great time now but, there is nothing as precious as the time spent with our children. Lost time can never be made up. Missing the first lost tooth, school recitals, sporting events, and other childhood milestones are once in a lifetime events; ones that don’t get a Second Act. The perceived fun life with no responsibilities is the life that is being lived in the moment. The best life is the one with the children.
The women left behind will find that the flood in the bathroom, piles of laundry or the worn carpet will be faded memories if even remembered at all; memories completely overshadowed by the precious ones full of kissing boo-boo’s, watching their child ride their bike without training wheels for the first time, sitting in the front row of every recital, standing in the rain as their child made a touchdown that put their school in first place, or eating Rocky Road ice cream with their child who experiences their first broken heart along with a million other memorable once in a lifetime events. From where I sit, as a person who is a long-divorced with children away at college, I can tell you I feel very fortunate to have been left behind, responsibilities and all.
Part of Divorce is Splitting up Once Shared Parenting Responsibilities
When you were a family living under one roof, you may have found yourself with more time for yourself. Now that you are living in two separate households, you have taken on much more. In The Divorce Recovery Ladder, I cover co-parenting as well as self-care.