“So, I got you a dishwasher,” my husband beamed.
“For your birthday, Mother’s Day and …”
“And our anniversary,” I chimed in.
“Yes,” he smiled. It was apparent he seeking praise for, in his mind, a thoughtful gift.
I just stood there – as if my brain was switching to energy-saving mode – and stared off into my closet. Maybe he thought I was planning my work clothes for the week ahead as he walked away. You can laugh at that, I don’t plan things out like that. I pick out my clothes each morning by mood … or whatever is clean on my closet floor.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. I was torn with two voices in my head – one was screaming “How sexism is that crap?! A dishwasher isn’t for the woman! It’s for the whole family. He unloads and reloads the dishwasher, too?! The other – “That dishwasher is really old, as old as the house. He seemed pretty proud of himself. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, I mean he did kind of miss the mark but I at least I’m getting something. It could be worse.”
Growing up, my parents were stuck in the 50s mindset. Now, let me say that there is nothing wrong with that. Marriages are complex and every marriage is different. I’m not judging your marriage, I’m just sharing a little bit about mine.
I remember one particular Christmas, my mother bawled her eyes out over a Dyson vacuum. My brothers and I were happy for my mom but also confused … and we laughed at her. She told us that someday we would understand. At 32, I understand but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. She cried because she really wanted this fancy vacuum and my dad paid enough attention to hear her request and bought it. Key words there – he HEARD her, he PAID ATTENTION.
That’s all this boils down to, being heard and understood by your partner. That’s all we want – no matter our marital status, gender, race, sexual preference – it’s a basic human need – to be heard and understood by someone. We were put on this Earth for relationships of various forms and like life itself, relationships ebb and flow. And when it comes to marriage, let’s face facts, you don’t always feel on the same page let alone the same chapter in life with your spouse sometimes … and so sometimes you cry over vacuums.
I don’t think I need to explain traditional gender roles in the home, everyone knows how that works. Now let me share what my household is like. My husband cooks delicious meals. He has a real passion for it. I could see us traveling to BBQ competitions across the U.S., he cooks and I am the taste tester (my retirement is going to be baller, ya’ll ). He washes and dries laundry, he changes diapers, he buys 90 percent of our groceries, he helps with the important talks (such as body safety) with our three kids. He doesn’t babysit our kids, he carves out time out of his busy schedule to be present with our kids – he PARENTS.
He is also a railroader like my father so he is away from home a lot. He’s also in the military. If my husband gets off a train at 5 a.m., before he comes home he will stop by the local bakery and pick our kids’ favorite donuts. If he’s home all day, he will have something planned for dinner. I know, I’m lucky. I’ll admit it. But just so you don’t think I hit some mega jackpot – just the winning scratcher – He doesn’t clean up after himself when he cooks. He is not organized. He takes too long in the bathroom. He says you can’t rush things … that’s definitely something dads say. Moms don’t say that. He doesn’t fold or put away laundry. He is Jon Snow (he knows nothing) because of his chronic man blindness to things literally right in front of him – which mean he hollers at me from the other room or calls me at work (I’m not kidding) because he can’t find the TV remote.
I do a bunch of annoying things I’m sure but I can’t think of any – regardless, you get the point.
So how did I handle the Dishwasher Debacle of 2018? We talked it out, he saw my point of view and we agreed to call it “our dishwasher.” We worked out a list of what are acceptable and unacceptable gifts for various occasions. It was a sexist gift to me because for one, we didn’t agree on the gift beforehand, and, second, my place is not in the kitchen … it’s his, because he cooks. Duh
If I had asked for the dishwasher and we had agreed we could use appliances as gifts, that’s entirely different in my book. Life happens and if the budget only allows for the tires that are desperately needed, then you cross out the spa day. We, however, never added the Appliance Clause to the marriage agreement. We have one now. And maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t want my kids to think that’s what moms receive and dad’s get personal stuff just for them. No bueno
I know what you are saying – he should just know what I want. Maybe and then again maybe not – every marriage is different and how often does someone honestly get what they want for a gift every single time without intervening in some way. Yeah, that just doesn’t happen. We are human. We get stuck in our heads. Sometimes we completely tank in the gift giving department and other times, we win Wife of the Year.
Should my husband have stepped up and bought me something else? Maybe, but honestly he spent so much (even his own private cash stash that he was saving up for something he wanted) for the dishwasher so I decided to let him off the hook. He knows better now. And I’m getting pretty good at self care so I just took care of myself. Actually, I still am – I mean it is still my birthday month.
Look, we all just want to be heard and loved for who we are and our spouses won’t always get it right. We won’t always get it right. But by keeping the lines of communication open, there is a better chance for us to be seen and heard. No matter how far off target the gift is, if there is effort, there is love and room to grow.
I did send him a pretty nice selection of microwaves for Father’s Day … I can’t wait to see which one he picks out!