Relationship Role Reversal

I’m feeling swamped. Not in a bad way, but swamped all the same.

Not with mother duties. Certainly not with household chores, as anyone stopping by for a visit might agree, raising an eyebrow and thinking I ought to man the mop and dash for the dust cloth.

In fact, I’m up to my eyeballs in the usual and then some – a few things I’ve recently plunged into professionally (all good), but with a learning curve involved, and a new routine. And both require adjustments.

My kids have been gone for much of the summer, and one has just returned with the ensuing onslaught of drop-ins, car requests, Empty Fridge Syndrome, and the added worries (as well as delights) of having him home.


It’s been compromised along with healthy eating and regular exercise, and we know all of the above are essential to feeling our best.

Oh Yeah. Exercise.

And speaking of exercise, the latest word from the research community (as if this wasn’t common sense) – we need to move our butts, and other assorted parts as a recent article claims that lack of exercise is as deadly as smoking.

According to the study referenced in Time Healthland:

About 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008 could be attributed to inactivity, the new report estimates, largely due to four major diseases: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer. The study finds that if physical inactivity could be reduced by just 10%, it could avert some 533,000 deaths a year; if reduced by 25%, 1.3 million deaths could be prevented.

So do we really need to get back to “basics?” You know. Basics! Healthy eating, a good night’s sleep, exercise?

And respect? Pursuing what we love if at all possible? Giving back? We know these ways of being and seeing matter enormously, though occasionally we need a nudge in the right direction.

Good Guys Help (Because They Can’t Imagine Not Helping)

Call it chivalry. Call it good manners. Call it common sense. Call it smart.

Good guys help, and I have the good fortune of a Good Guy in my life at present, and I deeply appreciate him, and his assist.

Domestic Goddess?

Pas moi. But I’m nonetheless particular about certain aspects of my household, and not entirely used to sharing my space even on a part-time basis other than with my kids. That said, after a decade of the juggle on my own, wouldn’t it be silly not to enjoy a Good Guy who can also cook and clean up?

The strange thing is, I’m constantly pinching myself. Among other things, the elements of role reversal feel more like partnership than anything I’ve ever experienced before.

It’s an exchange that seems balanced at times, and more one-sided at others logistically speaking, and in June and July, I’m the one on the receiving end. He has summers off, and I work (and/or write) virtually every day.

I also consider these facts relevant: we both have one marriage behind us, at midlife we know ourselves well, we’ve learned from our mistakes (which doesn’t mean we won’t make new ones), and we share values as well as our approach to relationships.

Post-Divorce Pick-Up Sticks

While his post-divorce life doesn’t resemble mine, his openness to the experience of others sets him apart (from most people I know), and we don’t worry about roles; we focus on what works for us.

As a mother, I also recall the times when my boys seemed more like the parent than I did, at least to me. They were rare moments, but compassionate kids can recognize when a mother or father needs to be treated to laughter, to rest, or to comforting.

As for gender role reversal, I need to toss my guilt and my persistent surprise. I should accept the logic of this arrangement, my Good Guy’s lesser complications and responsibilities in the summer, his good-natured willingness to help as my cup runneth over with professional tasks and temporary tempestuous teenage parenting.

His support boosts my spirits after a frustrating day, and he genuinely shares my good moments after a wonderful one. Isn’t this what women have provided to their partners traditionally? Should we really be stunned to receive the same?

The Ultimate Role Reversal?

After yesterday’s musing on motherhood and work (not to mention the many articles in print and online concerning Anne-Marie Slaughter and Marissa Mayer), I particularly enjoyed this post from Greg Marcus, on the issue of her Mayer’s husband.

We live in a time when we chant the refrain of “having it all” and I believe we’re worshiping a false god on that score. Men are reminding us they don’t have it all; they never did.

What they have had is more options professionally, greater financial security, fewer preconceived notions, and more opportunity in the acquisition of a caring partner (spouse) – even as they age. None of this changes the fact that they, too, have obstacles to overcome in the stereotype (and role) department.

Do read the Marcus post. It’s short and to the point. Shouldn’t the question of who does what concern role fluidity – rather than role assignment?

© D. A. Wolf



  1. says

    I find it interesting about all the talk of Marissa Mayer and her pregnancy. Yahoo has on site childcare. She can work and be with her baby as well. I believe she will bring a nanny to work and do both. Obviously, we can, as women do both.
    Great to hear your relationship is going well.

  2. says

    So happy to hear that things are going well in the relationship area of your life. You know my feelings on that topic — so essential and primary for a complete life. And of course, relationships need not be the “conventional” heterosexual couple type — best friends, of whatever gender, can mean as much.

  3. says

    Maybe I have become “frenchified”, but I look at her family situation as not being the concern of ANYONE, let her set her own course. As for my “professional past”, I was in ADMIRATION of working mothers and had the inclination to believe they were “more” competent than the status quo…she is more creative and certainly more talented at multi-tasking.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      LaBergère, I’m so glad you brought up the French perspective. One’s private life (as well as family status) is both more one’s own business, and more readily integrated as a whole – at least, as far as I’ve experienced.

      Then again, it can be, when schooling is better synched up to the rhythm of work life (perhaps not on the farm, but far more than in the US), when basic health care and basic social safety net is provided whether you’ve lost your job (or your husband), when maternity doesn’t require unpaid leave (if you’re lucky enough to even have accrued that “right” through tenure at your current employer), when families actually have a bit of time for vacations …

      I do not mean to compare all systems, and the deeply rooted cultural differences (and mindset) are many, obviously. But I admire your perception that working mothers are more creative at multi-tasking. The breakdown by gender of those competence / nurturing studies would be interesting to dig into.

      Merci, as always, for stopping by with your more global view.

  4. says

    Yes, yes to what works and not adherence to parameters that don’t.
    Another aspect/benefit of age is not worrying what others think about the way we live.

    Baby steps, baby steps. We’re slowly making progress.

  5. says

    For me, I found it felt strange to be on the receiving end of care and help after so much time fending for myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it (I very much did!) but it was new, and I had to learn to receive it without looking for the negative. In my past, I always paid in some way for kindness from my partner.

    Enjoy these days and do keep us posted!

  6. says

    Thank you D.A. – I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m glad you are taking the help of the Good Guy. Shared values are the absolute key to a successful relationship. If my wife thought the new Mercedes was the most important thing in the world, she never would have tolerated my departure from the corporate world.

    I think you really nailed it when you said “Men are reminding us they don’t have it all; they never did.” I never thought of it that way, and until recently I doubt many men ever did. These traditional roles put mental shackles on us all.

  7. says

    I love what Greg said in his post about the barriers making it hard for men to take care of their families, meaning, among other things, to nurture their children. This is the great opportunity that men have not had much of, until very recently.

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