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I honestly never thought I'd find myself in a position where my primary "role" was as Mike's partner. For one thing, with our plans for Mike to be a stay-at-home parent and me to be the primary breadwinner, it seemed unlikely that we'd end up following his job path ahead of mine, but that's what happened. It was unquestionably the right decision for us to move out here, and I know I'll land a great job soon, but it's definitely not a situation I would have predicted.
So my primary responsibilities the past month, aside from applying to jobs and making connections in the area, have been:
- Getting us "settled"
- Supporting Mike in his role as hall director
Of course, I've also taken care of basic errands, running to the post office, the bank, the grocery store, and so on while Mike was in training all day every day. I took our car for an oil change. I take out the trash and unload the dishwasher (we have a dishwasher now! yay!) and try to keep things picked up around the apartment. Mike has done a few loads of laundry, but it just makes sense for me to be doing the household duties when he literally has work to do until late every night in these weeks leading up to classes starting.
The second responsibility has been interesting. Our apartment connects to Mike's office, which he shares with the assistant hall director and his RAs, and we keep the adjoining door and our main apartment door open most of the time. So our living space is somewhat of a communal space for his staff. We've had the RAs over for breakfast and for milkshakes. People are always stopping by looking for Mike while he's off at meetings, and I have to keep up on a general sense of what's going on so I can direct lost students, etc. I baked two batches of cookies for the students on move-in day.
I realized that I was forgetting to tell people my name most of the time because it seemed more immediately relevant to say that I was the hall director's wife. (Example: People knock on the door, then say, "Are you the new hall director?" "Oh, no, I'm his wife.") It cracks me up how many people are surprised that we get to live together, even though we're in a co-ed dorm and the previous hall director was also married. Because we live on campus and most people I interact with are primarily concerned with campus- or hall-related activities in some way, my main value to most of the people I talk with is directly correlated to Mike's job responsibilities, and so most of what we talk about is related to Mike's/their job.
You'd think I'd hate being in this kind of position, and I would have thought so too. But it hasn't been the case, and I think there's several reasons for that.
1. It's temporary. If I was staring down the possibility where my main contribution to the world for the rest of my life was in the form of supporting the work that Mike was doing, I would probably go crazy. But I know that's not the case; I have multiple job prospects, and I'll be back in a job of my own before too long.
2. It's community in action. Despite being a serious introvert, I have surprisingly liked being back in a college setting and having our home be so open. Rather than struggling to find people to spend time with, we're constantly surrounded by people who want to talk to us and hang out with us. I've found that even during the day, when Mike is off running around campus, I like to keep the doors open to stay connected to the pulse of activity going on in the office and hallway.
3. Our marriage is a model. All the RAs and most of the other hall directors and assistant hall directors are single, and many of them seem very interested in our relationship. Everyone here met us at about the same time, so people know me as an individual and actually see firsthand how we treat each other. In previous positions it's seemed that Mike's coworkers would talk about me in some general way that matched the stereotype of what "a wife" is or does: "What would your wife say?" or "I bet your wife..." Here I get to actually "play myself" in the story of our marriage, as well as to be part of this model of what a healthy relationship looks like.
4. I get to see Mike at work. This has been the most fun for me. I knew that this job was a great fit for Mike, but I didn't think about the fact that I actually got to watch him being awesome at his job. It makes me so proud of him.
5. Our relationship is great. Even though Mike is insanely busy most of the time right now, I feel a lot closer to him because I'm already connected with his work in certain ways, so it's not like this separate thing that he does that he can only attempt to describe to me, as with his restaurant jobs. And more than that, he is way happier here than in his previous job. Before, he was angry all the time about things going on at his job, and a lot of tension occurred because he would want to come home every night and rant about his job for an hour or more. Now he's energized and excited about his work, and when he does run into times of needing extra help, I can literally step in and help him (e.g., reading a list of room key numbers to him) rather than simply being a listening ear. Plus the fact that he doesn't have to wake up at 4:30 anymore, and I don't have anywhere to be, means we can actually stay in bed with each other in morning until he has to get up.
6. I'm still pursuing my own interests. One of the great things about being temporarily unemployed is that I'm getting to pour my skills and talents into as many different places as I want. I've volunteered at the local food bank twice, helped a non-profit health center fix their website, and signed up to write for the local LGBTQ center's blog. I helped my aunt (non-blood-related) research her family tree. I got through some personal projects like scanning and shredding a bunch of old files I'd wanted to get to for months. And next week I'm traveling to see my cousin and help her out with her new baby, because I can.
So although it's not a position I want to be in long term, I like that my current responsibilities are mainly supporting the home and my husband. As I've been reminded by several feminist bloggers in the past week or so, feminism means having the freedom to choose whatever roles or activities are right for your life. And right now, this is a good place for me to be, and I feel extremely fortunate that I'm not pressured to find paying work immediately.
Have you ever found yourself in a life situation completely different from what you thought you needed to be happy?