What was meant to be one part personal catharsis, one part "another website to diversify my writing portfolio," and one part public controversy, my essay "Feminism Has Enabled My Husband to Become Lazy and Selfish" — and its follow-up response — ended up being what felt like 7,389 parts public controversy.
That is, if I can even use the word "controversy" for most of what was aimed in one direction — a huge public implosion of the highest order (or the lowest?) ensued around a personal issue that I believe had some common application.
It seemed very few in similar shoes to me had the time and energy to show up to the party. Or maybe they were on different websites altogether. The ones that did show up and had been in similar shoes had largely ditched their shoes altogether (read: divorced) for very valid reasons and had landed in positive outcomes.
I see women everywhere wearing shoes that are similar to mine, feeling as though their husbands are not pitching in enough. I see them in other comment strings — fighting with SAHMs about doing it all and then some, when the reality is that there is plenty of work to do for both stay-at-home parents and professionally working parents, and it's really a matter of identifying and shifting to fortify our family weaknesses on a national and personal level — whether those weaknesses appear in work or in home management or in both.
I see these women who are wearing similar shoes to mine; I identify them through the dark circles underneath their eyes at school pickup. I see them when there is a struggle to get parents to participate in early childhood school events and fundraisers that they simply cannot make time for. I even hear them in the voices of the women who write blogs and articles about how they went back to work but felt it was too much, and how they were fortunate enough to be able to scale back.
It's possible that I wasn't adequately prepared for the pressures and stressors of working motherhood. (Does anyone else smell another hypothesis that will make more people hate me who are so far undecided?) But why are there so many pressures and stressors, and what can we do to relieve them?
What this looked like in my household was what ultimately led me to writing a vitriol-producing, personally damaging exposé about a few of the worst decisions my husband and I have made in our journey, while leaving out the best, which I did to get to the point, and instead I muddied it.
It's possible that publishing the piece was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. I'm fairly certain now that my guiding light is actually a disco ball affixed to the forehead of a blind prankster riding a unicycle through the forest.
So I told him.
I told my husband that I'd highlighted my biggest frustrations about him for the public's consumption and that people had concluded that he's an asshole and that I'm an asshole for saying so.
His first reaction was taking a deep breath. He was angry. But instead of blowing up, he said, "I'd asked you to stop using anything having to do with me in your writing." It was a bitter reminder of something important to him that I'd disregarded.
He was angry that I'd continued to use him as material, but mostly that the articles' existence made it difficult, if not almost impossible, for him to keep the positive outlook that he makes a concerted effort to maintain while he balances a.) spending his time in the way that he thinks is best for his personal fulfillment and b.) risking a greater return for his family than if he were to spend most of his time working any old job, all while dealing with my wrath — passive-aggressive though it may be — as it comes.
I wrote about certain behaviors and attitudes of his that are far from excusable, especially if the only consideration is his "positive outlook." But I think we have both faced what could have been a dead end for our marriage, and we pushed through together, knowing that the best choice for us was to use it as an opportunity to progress as a family.
The thing of it is (oh, geez — here we go with "things"), this is marriage — in all of its messy, "gray-area'd" (yes, I just made that a word), highly interpretive, and subjective glory. He proved himself to still be the man that I married, and this wouldn't be the first time that he's shown up as the better person.
I've never wanted him to change. If anything, I wanted him to stay the same, because the man that I married wouldn't want us all to slip through cracks of his own (or, as some would argue, our) making, which I was living in complete fear of when I wrote the first piece.
I submitted it to xoJane back in May, and life happened in the meantime (as it tends to do).
My husband no longer works as a travel sales agent and is still a card-carrying "bro," but he's managed to find and build upon a few professional opportunities that combine his interests, the work he's done within car racing, and a more-buck-for-the-bang paycheck.
I am currently hopeful for us, but I still wonder about where the line is best drawn between one's time, one's passion, and one's paycheck. I still ponder imbalanced expectations along gender lines. I still worry about the working parenthood crisis.
As ill-advised as my approach may have been, at least I'm closer to arriving.