The Bad Wife

I dreaded my husband’s business trips when our kids were young. Parenting alone for a few days several times a month left me in need of therapy, a vacation, or at the very least a case of wine and a visit from the fairy housekeeper. I missed his help more than his company when he traveled back then. Perhaps that sounds coldhearted and selfish, but anyone who has single-handedly wrangled a baby or toddler will understand.

Nope. That's not me. (Image source:

In the tween and teen years, parenting alone is trying but manageable. The angst, attitude and backtalk stress me out, but at least my kids are old enough that I can reason with them some of the time. And because they are independent and more or less self-sufficient, this mother’s work actually is done at the end of the day. When my husband is away now, I miss his company because I do fine without his help, usually at least.

His latest trip has been a different experience for us here at home. One of our kids is having a tough time, and life has been more than a little challenging. (As much as I would like to talk about it here, I can’t, because I have to respect my child’s privacy. I’m starting to understand why people blog anonymously. Self-censorship sucks.) In light of our struggles, you would think I would want my husband here with me.

Instead I’m enjoying a few days of freedom. There’s nothing sordid to tell. I haven’t been out boozing, gambling or carousing — at least not yet. Actually, I’ve been home every night since he left.

I’m a bad wife not because of anything I’ve done while he’s away but because I’m relieved that he’s gone.

For the past few days, I haven’t worried a bit about being unemployed for the past four months. While the kids are at school, I write and work out at my leisure because he isn’t here to see me slacking. In the evenings, I relax on the couch in front of the TV without a twinge of regret because he isn’t still working in his office upstairs. I do whatever the hell I want, when I want, and I revel in it.

I’m a bad wife because even though my husband has supported me lovingly and completely ever since I lost my job, I still think I’ve let him down. He’s given me no reason to feel this way, none whatsoever. It’s all in my insecure, delusional head. He wants me to be able to relax and do the things that make me happy. Instead, I’ve relegated myself to serf status in my own home because I think I am not carrying my weight financially.

I’m a bad wife for the same reasons I’m a good mother: I would rather give support than receive it. I want to be the caregiver not the patient. I want to heal my family’s wounds, while ignoring my own. If I want to be a good wife who is worthy of my even better husband, I have to allow him to take care of me a little. I have to admit I need the emotional Band-Aid of someone telling me it will all be OK.

This bad wife could really use a good husband right now. Thank goodness he comes home tomorrow.

Working Girl Me

When I signed on to my computer that morning, an instant message popped up from my boss: “Please call me as soon as you get to your desk.”

He was not given to chitchat or small talk. We both worked remotely and when we communicated, it was via email or instant message. Before I could consider why he wanted to speak to me, my phone rang.

“This is going to be a difficult conversation,” he began.

Fifteen minutes later, I was unemployed.

It didn’t matter that I was being laid off because of a corporate restructuring at a foundering company or that my boss said he had pushed hard to keep management from eliminating my position.

I had lost my job and, along with it, a crucial chunk of my identity. What if I couldn’t get it back? I needed working girl me. She kept me sane. She was confident, self-assured. She paid the mortgage and car payment. She provided her family with health insurance. She showed her daughter the importance of working hard, being respected and standing on her own. She was the me I wanted to be.

I had willingly given her up once before to stay home with my young children. I thought I would be happy without her, that I would find the personal fulfillment I needed in being a mother. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted her back. Slowly, I worked her into my new life as a parent. I did some freelance writing and editing for a few years, and when my son started kindergarten I took a part-time job working from home.

She was back, and I was happy. We all were.

Then my husband lost his job. I was able to expand my position to full time, which helped, but it was still a frightening, stressful period for us financially. At the same time, it made us refocus on our family and our marriage, and it brought us closer. It also motivated my husband to start his own company as he had always wanted to do. Out of what he had perceived was failure came success. She, working girl me, helped make it possible.

And now she was gone.

How could I tell him? Could we get through this again, without her this time?

As I climbed the stairs to the master bedroom where my husband was dressing for work, I felt like a child coming home with a bad report card. I had failed, and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I was afraid of what he would think, what he would say, how he would see me — the me without her.

I saw the shock in his eyes, the fear, but he was there for me. It was his turn to be supportive, and he was.

“We’ll get through this,” he told me, as I cried into his T-shirt. “You’re good at what you do. You’ll find another job.”

I didn’t believe him. But she did.

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