Having a wife

Friday, April 1, 2005

All this reconnecting lately, I hooked up with someone who I went to university with over 20 years ago — that’s enough to make me feel old! When I last talked to him, his kids were about 2 and 3 years old, and they’re now 9 and 10. I’ve met his wife a few times, but she didn’t leave much of an impression; I always have to look up her name in my PDA before I talk to him. I recall one night when they were over for a dinner party with a group of other people, and one of my ex’s (odd) friends had brought his rather large parrot and let it fly around during the party. My friend’s wife was terrified of the parrot, wouldn’t eat the food that we had prepared because she only like plain cooking, and wanted to go home to the suburbs early. I don’t think that I saw her again after that, although I did see my friend occasionally for lunch or drinks after work downtown.

We had a chat on the phone to get caught up, and as it turns out, he’s out of work (seems to be an epidemic amongst my IT friends) so we talked about contracting and looking for work. He mentioned that he spends as much time looking for work as he ever did working — a very similar comment to one that I heard from another out-of-work IT professional friend a few days ago — but that when his wife came home the other day and found him working on fixing something around the house, she asked him why he wasn’t looking for work. Naturally, to be polite, I asked where she was working these days. “Oh, she never went back to work after the kids were born,” he said. I paused probably a bit longer than I should have (I don’t want to appear judgemental, even when I am), and he hastily added “but she does volunteer work.” I confess, I did judge them, and I feel bad about it. Even as I write this, I’m torn between wanting to rant about a woman in her early 40’s who chooses to not work even when her kids have been in school full-time for at least 5 years and her husband has been out of work for at least 8 months, and admiring them for making choices that they presumably feel is of benefit to their family. My inner feminist rebels, however, and she just won’t shut up.

I know that this is a feminist backlash effect, because I know another couple where the man stays home, looks after the house, and writes (although, after five years, he has yet to publish anything). They don’t have kids, but he’s every bit as much a househusband as my friend’s wife is a housewife. Yet somehow, I feel that the househusband arrangement is okay, even a bit amusing, whereas the housewife arrangement is retro, and not in a good way.

It’s always a shock when my well-hidden prejudices jump out and bite me on the ass.

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