Thursday, November 29, 2012

Challenge #1: The Definition of a Good Wife

Stay tuned to tomorrow's post for my update on Day 3's Good Wife Challenge effort--today, I'm doing something a little different.  When Dan was getting ready to head up to bed last night, inspiration hit me: We all have preconceived ideas about what makes us good at what we do--what makes a Good Housewife, what makes a Good Parent, what makes a Good Partner...but I hadn't asked Dan to give me his definition of a Good Wife before I embarked on this Challenge.  I decided to interview him so that I have a better idea of the standard for which I'm striving.  As a caveat, he refused to sit down for the interview, wanted time to think about his answers and write them down more formally, and was begrudging about the process because he wanted to go to bed...but I pressed on anyway, and may or may not have gotten his best definition of a Good Wife!

Q:  What is your definition of a Good Wife?
A:  Someone who doesn't give me a hard time about buying Christmas lights and spending time putting them up.

(He had just spent the last hour putting up lights outside...his 3rd attempt after as many runs to the store to get more strands.  Clearly, he wasn't taking my interview very seriously.)

Christmas lights 2011 on our row--this year, we got more strands!

Q:  No, seriously--what makes a Good Wife, generally and for you specifically?  I'm serious!
A:  Cooking, cleaning, and doing all my laundry.  I'm kidding, please don't write that.

(Behind every joke is some element of truth, wouldn't you say?  I totally do all of those things for him--except all the cooking, because he does, in fact, help with the cooking.  He also pointed out that he makes his own bowls of cereal for dinner when he doesn't want to eat what I've made--I don't know why he thinks that's a good thing, or why it was important to highlight here, but he felt that it was.)

Q:  Okay, please answer--I honestly want to know:  What does being a Good Wife mean to you?
A:  Someone who is supportive of me and accepts this military lifestyle, which forces us to move and unearth our family every 2-3 years for something that is new and potentially not nice, like Texas or a deployment.

(I view my willingness to move with him as part of my commitment to him and our marriage and family--not necessarily as a show of support, although I am supportive of his job.  He explained that a lot of military spouses don't feel that way, and their marriages end in divorce or the military spouse gets out of the military for the sake of the marriage.  If I didn't move with him, I would be a single mom with no income...and I would miss him, so that's not really an option!  I do want to try to be more supportive of him in other ways.)

the life of a military child--Abby during a move in 2008

A:  Being a Good Wife doesn't mean always giving a kiss when I wake up or when I come home...although I do love that because it shows that you're thinking about me.

A:  Someone who is patient with my mistakes and idiosyncrasies and failings.

A:  Someone who is interested in what I do, even if not interested.

(That one made me laugh!  How can you be interested if not interested?  Someone who feigns interest but is actually bored out of her mind??)

A:  Someone who is romantic/affectionate, and tries to find "couple time."

(When pressed for more detail on this one, he said that some married couples become more like roommates, and it's important to him that some romance always remains, and effort is made to seek out time together.)

A:  Someone who is surprising.

(I wasn't sure what this meant, but he explained that he likes to be surprised--like the time when I rented a ritzy hotel room and decorated it for Christmas unbeknownst to him, and I took him there as his Christmas present that year.  He liked that spontaneity and fun.)

A:  Someone with whom I can have good conversations that aren't necessarily about work or the crappy things that the kids do all day.

(This is something that I have been worried about--when we weren't married, it was endlessly easy for us to come up with things to talk about, because we led separate lives and everything about our days was new to each other.  Separate lives also worked in our favor during Dan's deployment in 2010, oddly--we had a lot to talk about, because we weren't sharing every part of our days together.  Now that we live together and our lives are so intertwined, it becomes more difficult to come up with things to talk about beyond work and the kids.  I think this is a struggle that a lot of married couples have.  He said that he doesn't like to be bombarded with the negative things that have happened at home when he gets home from work--he likes the positive kid stories, but not feeling my stress level hit him in the face when I've had a rough day.)

A: Someone who is not complacent about our relationship.

(I gave him a funny look when he said this--sometimes I feel like I overthink everything, including our relationship, and it must drive him batty.  We spend a lot of time talking about how to improve our relationship, mostly at my instigation, and he countered that trying to improve is better than not caring.)

A:  Someone who is complementary to my skills and strengths (whose strengths are my weaknesses, so we even each other out), and "checks and balances" me.

I read this list back to him and asked questions for clarification, then asked if that was it, and he said yes.  I asked if he had anything to add to the list (multiple times), and he said no.  I asked him if these list items were things I fulfilled, or if they were things that he wished I would do--and mostly, they are things he feels I fulfill, so that was good to hear.  He finally sat down, and we had a really good conversation about the list and how it applies to us.

I told him that I was really, really interested to note that he didn't once mention that a Good Wife for him would also be someone who is a Good Mother to his children--so that he wouldn't have to worry about the kids' safety, health, and well-being while he is gone all day.  He defended that omission by saying that in his mind, being a Good Wife and a Good Mother are two separate things--so while he thought of adding something about taking care of the kids, he decided against putting it on the list because I wasn't asking about being a good mom...and also because he feels like being a Good Mother is a given (um, it's totally not--does he not read the news?  Tons of examples of terrible parenting out there!).  I drew him a Venn diagram showing how in my mind, Wife and Mother greatly intersect and overlap, and I spend most of my time in that being a Good Wife is sometimes synonymous with being a Good Mother for me.  

My overlap is probably even bigger than this--not much room for just being a wife!

I found the whole discussion very enlightening--it was a little hard for me to hear that my full-time job of staying at home with our kids doesn't rank on his list of things that make me a Good Wife to him...especially when having a husband who adores our kids tops my list of what makes a Good Husband.  My list would also include a husband who is a good provider for our family, so I would include both his job and his role as a parent as vital parts of what makes a Good Husband.  He didn't mention either my job as a stay-at-home mom or my parenting on his list.  He wasn't at all intending to discount what I do with my life right now--I do understand what he was saying about how he doesn't think being a mom is part of being a wife, and just gaining that insight into his thinking is helpful for me.  I define myself as a Mother so much that sometimes I forget to maintain a separate identity as a Wife only...and that is something that Dan really needs for me to do.  Being a Good Mother does not automatically make me a Good Wife--something I need to remember even when I feel like I have little energy left after being a Good Mother all day.  I need to seek more balance in my identity.  I love that this Challenge gave us the opportunity to have this conversation, and I'm really glad I asked!


  1. This is a very interesting post... I have honestly never asked Sean what HE thinks is a good wife. It's definitely interesting to see their perspective. I think I might be a little nervous to hear those answers. I think that was brave and a great idea! I might have to do that! :)