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Friday Confession: I Don’t Want To Be A Partner

Lisa Belkin wrote a great article about what it means to be a wife, both at our age, and at our mother’s ages. In the Motherlode Lisa talks about the evolution of our marriages. She notes that “Women still seem to want to be brides… and mothers… but we rarely describe ourselves as wives.”

That made me sad.

Being a bride was pretty awesome. Being a mother is incredible. Being a wife is my joy.

I don’t want to be my husband’s partner. In his lifetime my husband will have a multitude of partners. He’ll have partners at work, he will have partners in projects. My husband will have tennis partners and golf partners. If I do this right, my husband will have one wife.

I chose my words with care, you did not misread.

I assign great value to my role as his wife. I may not work outside the house, but what goes on in this house is work. I know people believe that everything can be farmed out. I understand that there are perfectly content families who eat their meals out most nights, where both parents work, and husbands iron their own shirts. Bless you, but I don’t want your life.

When we married we signed a ketubah. I promised to be a good wife, and he promised to care for me. We’ve followed some very traditional roles, and it’s not because we are adverse to a non traditional setup, it’s because this is what makes us both happy.

When it’s 9:00 on a Thursday night, and I’m finishing the dishes and wondering if I have the energy to give the floor a quick swipe with the mop it’s easy to wish that I was my husband’s partner. I’d love for him to do half the housework. Well… but then I remember that what really tuckered me out what the sadist in charge of the 10am yoga class. We don’t work harder than one another, we just work different hours.

If I were a woman working outside the home, I’d be no less a wife. Every moment you are married, you are wedded not only to your husband, but to the concept of marriage. You work together as a team to make a collective dream come true. I don’t know what your dreams are, but I hope you can achieve them with your spouse.

I’m not my husband’s servant just because I’m a good wife.

Being his wife means that I’m special, that he will take care of me, and I will take care of him. Being a wife means until my last breath I have one allegiance. Being my husband’s wife makes me able to be a better mother, a happier and more fulfilled woman. Being my husband’s wife assures my children that they will have a home, not just a house.

Sometimes being a wife means mopping the floor and putting on a little lipstick.

Since I didn’t marry until I was 27 and my husband didn’t marry until he was 32, I fully expect that both my children will need to know how to sew a button, earn a living, balance a checkbook and to live alone. I also know how to take the trash out, catch and gut a fish, earn a living and scoop the dog poop. I don’t actually do these things though, because I’m a wife.

My job is to provide my husband and our children with a rich and harmonious home. I suspect that if you asked my husband, he would say the same.

I’m a wife. I love being a wife. I suspect many women feel the same way.

33 thoughts on “Friday Confession: I Don’t Want To Be A Partner”

  1. fantastically well written and quite beautiful. i really love your perspective on this. it makes me wonder if the term “partner” is a generational term. just the semantics of “wife” vs. “partner” is interesting to me.

  2. You don’t earn a living because you are a wife? Did you not contradict what you seemed to say earlier in the post by saying this?

    I believe that this is what is behind Belkin’s article and why some are saying they prefer to use a term other than “wife.” Because it creates the scene you just described. The traditional wife. When there are so few left.

    Very few of us left in this world even have a choice to do what you do. Most ppl don’t have the luxury of being the wife you describe. If you are middle class or of lower income, being a wife, a marital partner means making your share of the income. It means doing what needs to be done even if it means no time for yoga during the day.

    Working moms know the saying “I need a wife” because at the end of the workday they still have the work that is your full time job. And they’d better believe their spouses ought to be doing their share of mopping floors and drying dishes

    1. I think you read more into it than was there.

      I talk about being a wife in the only manner in which I have been a wife. I can’t talk about being a working wife because I am not one.

      Were I a career track wife, I’d be livid if someone called me a partner. Partners are replaceable, wives are special.

  3. Tony and I met and married before I could legally purchase drinks, we knew nothing of caring for one another as singles, and only learned as a couple. While some girls planned their weddings I planned to marry ‘a tan man with a good last name’. I had been planning my housewives duties for years. THAT was my dream. Tony met criteria A and B and when we he said he wanted his wife to stay at home and raise the family, I knew this was my match. We are partners in parenting and family planning, but wife is paramount. I know I seem like I might have been shaken out of a 1950’s Southern Living catalogue, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    PS-I covet a ketubah, (being that Tony grew up in a predominantly Jewish area of Houston…) a good friends mother writes all of their ketubahs. I have asked that she make one for our 10 year anni this year. It is so superior to renewing vows in my eyes.

  4. Hooray for you. My darling wife is the same way. We have our roles, we fulfill them well, we take care of each other the way we were built to do. “Partner” attempts to de-gender the relationship. You can’t, really.

  5. Pammer, it is not just the hardcore feminists whose minds exploded, mine did as well. As a part time working mom who worked full time when it was financially necessary and my husband was in grad school, I took issue with this post.

    I not only make a home, together with my husband, for two biological children, I make a home for foster children as well. I work when my children are in school. They and my marriage are thriving. That I pay a woman to clean my house and do my laundry, does not make me any less of a wife or mother and certainly does not make my house any less of a home. And I take out the trash when I notice it is full before my husband does. Doesn’t make me less of a wife to do that.

    In 2010 we have choices. Gender roles that were once the norm do not need to need to be assigned in the same way as they once were. Some dads stay home while moms work because that works for them. In some families both work and share equal household responsibilities which often result in both having to work less, and both having more time at home. Today two people of the same sex can marry and raise a family as well, making gender roles clearly irrelevant.

    When I read Belkin’s article, I too felt that fulfilled full time homemakers were being dissed because they deserve to be celebrated just as much as women who make other choices.

    This post seems to be doing just the opposite. Playing the mommy war games in which one is arguing that she does it best. That she is what a “wife” is. She is one wife happy in her choices. She need not disrespect the rest of us.

  6. I do not think that Jessica was denigrating the decisions of others. Regular readers know that, outside of abuse in any way, she supports the decisions of other people that work for them. She simply expresses her own opinions and perspective here.

    This post was possibly my favorite blog post anywhere, ever.

    1. Thanks Sarah, I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger and I write from a first person perspective. This is my lifestyle, I can’t talk with any sort of authority about a lifestyle I’ve never lived.

  7. Sarah, glad to hear. I am not a regular reader, was referred here as I thought this was going to be a fisking of Belkin. Perhaps I should visit more often. I apologize if I misinterpretted the tone.

  8. Jessica, I adore you and consider you a friend. So I know you will taake this in the spirit of friendly and respectful debate. I work outside the home. In fact, I’m our family’s breadwinner. My husband is ‘Mr Mom.’ He shoulders much more of the domestic burden; that’s our arrangement. As for our son, I am passionately and devoted to being the best possible mother and despite my office demans am an active part of his parenting. So here’s my question: am I less of a wife because I’m not the one Swiffering or cooking the majority of the meals? Or (god help me) ironing?

    1. “If I were a woman working outside the home, I’d be no less a wife. Every moment you are married, you are wedded not only to your husband, but to the concept of marriage. You work together as a team to make a collective dream come true. I don’t know what your dreams are, but I hope you can achieve them with your spouse.”

      I’m quite certain that you wouldn’t have the same career now if you weren’t providing for a family. Why? Because you’re a good wife and mother.

      I’m not saying you have to have a marriage like mine, I just use mine as a reference point because it’s ALL I KNOW.

      I think calling ourselves partners instead of wives changes things. Wives are willing to give 90% and accept 10% because they know that tomorrow he may give 90% and we may only have 10%… partners want to only do half the work. Partners are replaceable, wives are not.

      I don’t care who swiffers the floor. I only care that everyone moving forward together.

  9. I think it’s all semantics. Wife-partner-spouse-significant other doesn’t really matter. What matters is what works for you. Jessica, in your post you say that in a marriage the couple works together as a team. Yet a team is made up of partners. It ‘s all just words.

    I think it’s wonderful that you are able to stay home, take care of the kids, and do all those “wifey” things that you and your husband find so important. You’re very lucky to be able to afford that type of lifestyle. But what if your husband lost his job and couldn’t find another? What would you do if money was running out and you were about to lose everything? Would you take a job if you could get one? Would you then feel you were less of a wife and your husband was less of a husband? Personally, I don’t think you would. I think you’d step up to the plate until your world could go back to the way you wanted it to be.

    Jessica, for claiming to be such a traditional woman and wife, you certainly have some very independent thoughts. You have strong emotions and ideas and you present them very boldly without apologies. It’s one of the things that I respect about you and makes your blog so enjoyable to read. I know that you are not putting down others whose lives are not like yours; you’re just presenting your world as you see it. And I thank you for sharing it with us.

  10. Since marriage is a traditional institution, most marriages that follow a traditional plan are usually more successful than those that do not. That does not mean that situations between
    same -sex partners, women as the main bread winner, or stay at home dads are doomed to fail.
    I think they have as good a chance as any other marriage in staying together. But when people start making their own rules about marriage, that could be when things start to fray.
    But it is funny that the term “wife” is seen as almost insulting to some people. If that is the case, maybe they should re-think the idea of getting married in the first place.

  11. Thanks for responding to my comment earlier, Jessica. I actually think Preston nailed it up above–it’s semantics. I actually *do* think a good marriage is a partnership–whether the wife works or not. But that’s because in my definition partners represent a union of equals who together are greater than the sum of their parts. which is kind of how I think you were describing your marriage. I neglected to mention in my earlier post that as always, your post was beautifully written. Even when I don’t see things exactly from your vantage point, I love your writing.

  12. I’m a feminist and my head didn’t explode. I think your response to the comment about wife/husband means 90/10 and then 10/90 in comparison to partnership which implies to you 50/50 all the time most clearly expresses your point. But, to me, the term partnership doesn’t mean 50/50 – in fact, what it means is people – a couple or a bunch of lawyers (since that is what I am) – working together for a common goal. So, if that is really how you view husband/wife – a common goal of a lifetime together – it becomes really a matter of semantics. The thing about the term wife is that it can embody a parochial view of the role of a woman in a marriage, which excludes working outside the home. But I do love being a wife, and I love being a mother, just as I love being a lawyer and working outside the home (most of the time), just as I love being a daughter, a sister, a feminist, etc. I am woman, hear me roar. Or, more appropriately, hear me blog.

  13. I did not take offense to this post and thought you wrote it from your point of view (which you always do) and it was beautifully written. I do not have being a mother, wife, blogger or working woman figured out and I cannot claim to be perfect at my many roles everyday but like Jennifer says, I love wearing many hats – it makes me happy.

    I also think that partnerships work towards a common goal and in my marriage there has never been 50/50 but at times the scale is tipped in my favor and other times it is not. We work to find balance regardless of how the scale is tipped. That to me is marriage -working on the balance so that both people are happy.

    Great post Jessica.

  14. It’s not about what each of two persons does at the home, it’s about getting things done that matters. Sometimes people just have to do things that don’t always feel so nice in itself but often those things are ones that make the difference in life.

    I feel that people should respect marriage more these days. It’s not about what someone does and someone won’t do (that’s just distribution of work and tasks; there are many ways to deal with tasks). Most important thing in marriage is that husband and wife love each other and want to be together even in the middle of problems and storms. Man is responsible for loving his wife and wife is responsible for respecting her husband.

    Sometimes life is not easy but it’s comforting to see how much more marriage means when people are deeply committed to each other and do everything they can to make life better to live, together.

    At the time of writing, I’m not even married myself (hopefully in the future, I wish…) but I’m surely trying to do things as well as possible to be a good husband when that time comes (hopefully) in the future.

  15. I think it is all in the roles we take in our unions and what works for one may not work for another, but Jessica was speaking to her marriage, not all marriage.

    This post resonated with me because I love that my husband let me choose my path and is providing us with the life we live. I feel lucky that I am able to stay home with my son. Our home is happier, I am happier, or marriage is happier with me at home and Dave working. And this from a hardcore liberal, raised by a single working mom… this is not something I learned or was told. It is who I am.

    Feminist heads aren’t exploding, they’ve worked their asses off so we have the choice to make whatever decision we’d like. Whether that is working or not, no matter the dynamic in your marriage, you have the choice to be the woman that you’d like to be.

  16. This is my favorite line: “it’s not because we are adverse to a non traditional setup, it’s because this is what makes us both happy.”

    My husband left his job as an undercover Det. for LAPD for a lifestyle that would allow his son to have a better chance of having a father who was alive, present and engaged and his wife to have a husband who was home more than he was away.

    Does he miss it? I am sure he has moments of where the excitement of that job seems glamorous, but I am confident he wouldn’t trade the past 7 years of being a stay-at-home dad.

    My husband actually does the laundry, vacuums, washes the dishes, mows the lawn, and kills the bigs. I clean the bathrooms, change the sheets and make the dinner. He also is my son’s Little League coach, the CEO of our company and my biggest fan.

    Did we divide these “jobs” up purposefully? No- over the last 11 years, our household has evolved. Its happy and harmonious. It works for us.

    I have had the pleasure of seeing you and your husband together. The mutual respect and adoration is as obvious and tangible with him as it is with your children. And, that speaks for itself.

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