A note: This article was written by my husband, Brett, as a joke. He emulated my writing style and vented about me the way I always do about him. And then I read it and laughed and decided it was good enough to appear in the newspaper. My editor agreed. Enjoy!
“A.M. or P.M.?” I asked my wife, Julie, as we sipped our morning coffee. It was a lazy Saturday and we were catching up, preparing for the week ahead.
“What do you mean?” she asked. I pointed to the email she had forwarded to me the day before. “According to this itinerary, you are leaving for Miami on Monday night, at 8 PM, not on the 8 AM flight you told me you were taking.”
“WHAT?!” She ran to the computer to verify her mistake and then immediately got on the phone with the airlines. Julie was on the verge of tears. Now, not only was she going to be late for her beloved Saturday morning Spinagogue, but also she wasn’t leaving for her three-day junket until a full day into it. She’d arrive just in time to pick up the tab for the dinner she had just missed. She had no choice but to pay an extra $300 to secure seat 19F on the 6:00 AM nonstop.
Readers of her articles know that Julie prides herself on disorganization and last minute decision-making. Remember, she was “born this way.” But here is the funny thing: she is hyper-organized when it comes to getting out of town. She’s been known to book family-free getaways nine months in advance. This trip to Miami had been in the works ever since her friend Gaby announced last winter that she and her family were moving to Missouri. Before Gaby had even sold her house or packed a single bag for the Midwest, Julie decided that a sympathy sojourn was a necessity, a must-have that would save her friend from a life of utter misery. “We’re going!” she told me, trying her best to make it sound like a request instead of a de-facto conclusion. “We’ll make sure it’s not over a weekend.” She was already logged on to Expedia.com. “The kids will be in school most of the time I am away,” she said, tapping furiously at the keyboard. “It will be easy.”
My wife sleeps in late. Like everyday. She claims she’s catching up from her days and nights of breastfeeding. Mind you, that was almost a decade ago. Julie is just not a morning person. In fact, she isn’t an afternoon or evening person either. Brunch and naps are more her style. But at 3:43 Monday morning, Julie was up and about.
Frankly, I was impressed. She proved that she could motor. She awoke without an alarm, dressed, brewed a cup of coffee and jumped in a cab within fifteen minutes flat. I promised not to take this personally. But Zoe did. She awoke at 6:30 and asked, “Did she leave? Already?” And with her big black “Puss in Boots” eyes and her tiny quivering lips, she declared, “It will be okay. We’ll be a family again on Wednesday.”
“We’ll be a family no matter how broke or hung-over mommy will be when she returns,” I assured her.
Andrew and Zoe are fairly independent. They are intimately aware of their responsibilities, A-F day schedules, extra curricular activities, pick-ups and drop-offs. So it was a surprise to them that Julie left us two pages of notes to aid our stay-at-home adventure. “It makes mommy feel better.” I noted. “This way, she’ll be able to blame me for anything we didn’t do.”
I am entirely comfortable and capable of taking care of things around our house. Julie affectionately calls me her “house husband,” because shopping, cooking, cleaning, carpooling and generally having things in order keeps me sane. So the hour-by-hour, meal-by-meal breakdown my wife prepared made me chuckle. “Really, the kids eat dinner… every night?”
However, Julie was kind enough to leave several things off the list. Like the fact she had no gas in her car. I guess, in her world, SUVs run on rainbows and butterflies. And there were no instructions on how to comb Andrew’s hair so he’d look good for his debut performance at the Fox Meadow Classical Cafe. “Dad, it’s in front of the entire fourth grade, so don’t make me look like a dork!”
Julie also neglected to inform me that our cleaning lady was not coming on her regularly scheduled Tuesday, but rather on Wednesday. This happenstance threw the whole ratio of ready-to-wear vs. ready-to-wash smiley face sweatpants out of sync and added a late-night load of laundry to the list, since Zoe only wears one kind of pants these days. Disposing of the now moldy meat lasagna that Julie lovingly made two weeks prior would have to wait too. “Have Maria take care of that.” Julie texted.
I couldn’t. Nor could I leave the beds unmade on Tuesday. Even though I had an important meeting to get to in the city. The thought of a sink filled with pots, pans, bowls and dishes from Monday night’s taco and pasta fiesta made me lightheaded. The least I could do was organize the mess for Maria. Perhaps I could stack things by size and color? I’ve done so before. Instead, I cleaned it all and missed my train. But at least I could think clearly again.
On Wednesday I was feeling a bit fatigued. And this is how I made a fatal error. I decided that designer cupcakes for the kids would be a just reward for having been exceptionally well behaved while mom was away. The candy-by-the-ton and the Entenmann’s chocolate loaf cake my mother-in-law provided just didn’t spoil them enough. But I forgot about the principle of multiple choices. More choices = more happiness. Rushing home from the city to pick the kids up from school, I didn’t leave enough time to find the “right” cupcakes. Instead, I settled for two, fancy we-hate-those-kind-of-cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. In an instant, I went from “you are the best mother-father” to feeling like the dual role was one too many.
Tears flowed as the “I miss mommy” time bomb exploded. My tears. Now, I was on the verge. I had endured the kids’ anxieties and insecurities. Tickled their backs “like mom does” to help them fall asleep. Completed the list and then some. But one $3.50 dark chocolate cupcake brought me to my knees.
Just then, Julie sent me a text. With emoticons! Sweet relief was on the way home. While my wife had bonded with her best friend, got inspired about her writing and generally enjoyed her three days of freedom, I was here, holding down and decluttering the fort for her inevitable return. Which, by some divine interruption, was delayed, and so Julie waited past midnight for her 47-pound duffle bag to arrive on a separate flight. It too had its own itinerary and up-charge.
I missed my wife. I really did. Not because I had to fill in for her. Not because I had to supervise the electrician, or pitch in at the elementary school, or car pool for karate, Nutcracker rehearsal and Hebrew school. And not because I had to make beds, brush teeth or bathe babes. I missed her because she wasn’t here to laugh at – or with – me.
I am looking forward to taking a solo trip to Miami someday too. I think I’ll take a break from being my wife, by being my wife.
Brett Gerstenblatt makes frequent appearances as a character in his wife’s humor columns. Currently he is considering starting up a house-husband-for-hire service in Scarsdale.