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GUEST POSTING: MAN AT WORK

Why This Husband Loves His Domestic Duties


My name’s David and I’m a Landscape Designer and Contractor. I live a hyper masculine daily life crammed full of “MANtivities”.  Sometimes I’ll come home so full of perspiration that I won’t allow my wife to kiss me until I’m out of the shower. The thing is, I’m usually the first one home anyway. You see, my wife is an attorney, living a commuter’s, pack-mule like existence at a law firm in New York City. And so, most nights, I welcome my spouse at the door like a 1950’s Norman Rockwell wife.

I have shopped for her favorite drinks and picked up good food, on my way home, so she has something pleasurable to come home to. And it pleases me to no end to be able to do it. Not only do I perform my husbandly duty by ending the life of the spider crawling across the clean, Lavender Sachet scented 400 thread count sheets, but I’m the one who chose their design, ordered, washed and folded them!

I’m the one who spends the parties in the kitchen talking recipes with the other wives, sharing my secret tips on removing rug stains or discussing our crazy domestic schedules while my wife discusses the latest courtroom battle with the other legal eagles in the other room.

Now don’t get me wrong, being the only man in a room full of professional men who knows how to change an alternator, use a laser level or build a new front stoop, I do get invited into the bear den too. But after ten minutes of watching the game or being bored by prima facie evidence of a case I know nothing about, I go back to where I feel most welcome. Amongst the wives!

Because my father died when I was four, I was raised in a household primarily surrounded by women. I was therefore allowed to develop a deeper emotional life, mostly because it was the only example I had to follow. And while this led to a bit of a puzzle trying to figure out what it meant to me “to become a man”, (and I tried on many hats), that emotional vocabulary never left me and is still “home to me” to this very day.

When my wife and I got married, I’m the one who wrote a poem describing what the union of our lives meant to me. I’m the one who takes care of the shopping, cradles my wife and makes sure she has Advil, a box of Kleenex, a cup of tea, toast and a kiss on the forehead when she’s sick. When I’m sick? I want to be left alone in my den like any other guy.

It’s a subject I’ve thought long and hard about and in the end I’ve realized it’s all about balance. We all speak about being non-judgmental and putting ourselves in another person’s shoes but I truly believe that my unique marital situation has allowed me to put this into practice.  By understanding what a woman goes through in her day to day battles to run a home, it has made my marriage an utterly different animal than the ones I hear about during my workday or at the quarries I buy my wall-stone at.

My mother told me to listen to my wife. But that doesn’t always mean I always “hear her”. However my experiences, actually doing what many women do, have opened up a more complete understanding of why many wives feel the way they do and allowed me to appreciate my marriage from a viewpoint I never fully understood until I lived it.

Let’s face it, all relationships are about communication – and marriage is the ultimate example. Sure, many men will kick in and help watch the kids while his wife vacuums, maybe even take one child to the doctor while his spouse takes the other to the piano lesson.  But until you truly taste what your wife’s daily existence is truly like, as far as I can see, you are just “listening” to her day, not “hearing” it.

I constantly hear my employees and friends discussing their latest argument, or, for the luckier ones, the latest “conversation” from the night before. They’ll try to tell me what the fight was about and invariably roll their eyes, implying something to the effect that “She just doesn’t get my life” or “The whole issue was utterly ridiculous.” And I want to say to them, “No, YOU are the one who isn’t getting it!”

Even if these husbands listened, they aren’t HEARING their spouse. And make no mistake, these misunderstandings travel across every boundary of race, creed, color and socioeconomic status. Because I often deal with wealthy clients, I see the same levels of miscommunication among the well educated as I do among my employees.

The solution? “A Spouse-cation”. Next time you have a three-day weekend, or even an entire Monday through Friday why not trade places with your spouse for a few days? Isn’t it worth a week of genuine effort to get to truly understand what life is like “on the other side of the fence?” I’ll hear men complain that, “I’m the one who has to wake up and go to work and sweat my cojones off on a daily basis, while she gets to stay home with the kids.”  What they don’t realize is all the planning that went into the lunchbox, the clean clothes on the kids’ backs, the driving, the tantrums and the other things their wife has to deal with during HER day, in order to meet them at the door with a kiss, a dirty martini and a hot meal ready on the table. Trust me – it isn’t easy!

If we simply spent one week of our life living in our spouse’s shoes, I can only imagine how many households could be filled with the love, acceptance and true understanding that I find myself lucky enough to experience. Isn’t one week of our time worth the potential decades of greater understanding we might reach?

Sure, there are always imperfections in any relationship, and marriage is work. But it’s my favorite job now. It is the career I am most proud and despite the complete and utter absence of awards, or other recognition in this area of my life I don’t need a Trophy Wife because I have something exponentially more valuable… a Trophy Marriage.

David Freeman is a Landscape Design & Build Contractor, and a freelance writer growing his life, marriage and gardens in the NYC/Tri-State area.

You may contact him or simply view a slideshow of the work he loves to create at www.dcfreeman.com

13 Comments

  1. Teresa

    September 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Wow, there need to be a lot more men like him. Or at least lets get every guy in the world over here to read this!

  2. Juli

    September 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    So. That’s how it works. I like this attitude.

  3. Jana

    September 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    What a beautiful piece!! The world needs more spouses like him, both husbands and wives!

  4. Dave Jordan

    September 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I applaud this man and I don’t think for a second he is henpecked. But let us not think for a second that this type of man would be respected by the majority of women in this country or on this blog.
    Women like bad boys, men’s men and roughnecks. That has already been proven Writing poetry and selecting linen would
    get boring after a while and most women would run roughshod over any man who displays a sliver of sensitivety – regardless of many women wrote in favor of David’s behavior. Sad, but true.

  5. Rene Syler

    September 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Don’t agree with the “majority of the women on this blog” part. Respect is an interesting thing. Many people try to use force and intimidation to get it when it comes much easier with understanding and must be earned.

  6. Kim Wright

    September 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    My husband does these things, but you know what, our roles are reversed. He is the complainer. He is the one commiserating at work and complaining that I do not help. Sigh…I guess we can’t have everything…He does what David does but does not enjoy it.

  7. Amanda

    September 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I want to hug this man. Really his message is just so beautiful, and true. Being “at home with the kids” isn’t a vacation. Honestly, when my husband leaves for work, he’s getting a vacation from the craziness that is our home, life, and child. I don’t get that. 24/7 I’m with our son, juggling everything that goes into getting him ready for school, keeping our house running, and keeping myself sane…some days I drop that last ball, most I just forget to pick it up all together.

  8. David Freeman

    September 5, 2010 at 3:20 am

    @ Mr. Jordan
    Sadly sir, you are operating on exactly the assumtions I’m trying to get past. You obviously have no idea what my life is like, (and I admit I only had so much room to write due to space concerns.) I’m a guy who rides a Harley, played guitars in bands for years in NYC and dated MANY women. My wife is a partner in a law firm in NYC. Do you think she wants to come home to a wimp? She married me, in many ways, because I’m exactly the opposite. I spent years going out with the girls who wanted to be treated badly. It was no fun to be “the master in the relationship”, I can get that adulation from my dog for alot less trouble. And even for the prettiest ones, and I went out with a few utterly insecure model types, many had little to add to the relationship outside of the bedroom, and even inside of it, were rarely strong enough to ever take the lead in there, let alone outside of that room.
    Just this morning, as I was finishing writing my piece, my wife came home from the gym and brought in and served me my breakfast. She did so not because she wanted to serve her bad boy in hopes of having him stick around, but because we operate on a very simple, equal footing. We want to please one another. Sure there are power shifts in most relationships. But I’ve never experienced such a lack of power struggle as I have with the life I lead in my home. And after running my business all day, the last thing I want to do is come home and lead and be treated like “the boss”. The piece was NOT about being subservient to my wife. As you mention, I am in no way henpecked. I do what I do because I want to show my love & respect for her, and she does the same in return.
    What?, you’re going to “act the badboy part” because that’s what you think women want? Maybe the type of women you desire need to be beaten or treated with disrespect in order to feel loved or desired. My wife is my equal and I treat her as such. (In fact she’s probably smarter than I am on several levels!)
    As far as I’m concerned “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken”. I went over “to the other side” because I didn’t WANT there to be “the other side”, I wanted us both to be on one side. And I’m pretty darn confident in my masculinity, so I had no issues putting on an apron in order not to stain my Carrharts. (a brand of overalls many construction personnel wear.) If my doing that allows us to spend more time in the bedroom when she gets home, I’m willing to pay that price. But mostly I did it and DO it simply because I want to fully understand her and vice versa. Life is finite. There are already too many pseudo bad boys playing their part simply “to get laid” or try to prove to themselves that they are “wearing the pants in the family” or that they even need to pander to damaged women who need a badboy to feel that they are truly feminine beings, or are searching for Daddy. How is that a more desirable or real relationship than the one I describe in the piece?
    This country is supposed to be an effort of a society to be based on equality. It’s sadly rare that this actually becomes so. But in my little microcosm world, there is that equality and it DOES add a large value to my marriage that I know others are missing because, as I also mentioned, I hear their complaints every day. Why would you look on it as a negative that I have no need to play the bad boy part to make my marriage work, or that I lack the need to voice complaints to other men/people, OUTSIDE of my marriage about how henpecked or misunderstood I feel. I get to leave all that behind. Its a pleasure and allows me to take my relationship with the person I chose to share my life with to other places, instead of wasting the energy communitcating my issues to others outside of my marriage. Instead I placing that energy where it belongs, in my happy relationship with my wife. I’m truly sorry if you disagree.
    (And the funny thing is, I meet many other Harley/Motocycle enthusiasts who have some pretty happy marriages on equal footing too! Seems to me that several “bad boys” if they seek to grow at all, find a way to become “Real & Good Men.”) 🙂

  9. David Freeman

    September 5, 2010 at 3:42 am

    @ Kim
    Have you tried sitting down with him, in a quiet and non threatening place, best away from home and the kids, and truly trying to get him to communicate what he hates most about his list of chores, etc? You need to find out if he DOES feel henpecked or emasculated. Because I can see a guy feeling that way, until together, you find a way to make him NOT feel that way. And if it is true that you have no part in making him feel that way, (which you might really need to prod him to tell you the truth as most men would rather just say what they think their wife wants to hear rather than look inside and really try to understand what they feel and why they feel that way. And with a little patience and understanding, maybe you can get him to open up to this part of himself and together you can find a way to make him feel better about the situation.
    My wife makes twice what I make. It was really emasculating for me at first because I’d always been the caretaker of first my family after my father died, and then, later on my girlfriends. It took me some time and a whole lot of thought to get past it at first. I even considered NOT tying the not because of the way it made me feel! But then I also had the luck to get Crohns disease and need a ton of operations. When people go through some travails in life, these other things can become pretty small. But without that or without growing up with an emotional toolbox like I was lucky enough to get from my mother, (and even more from 9 years on the couch later on!), he may not have the tools to effectively communicate with you what is truly going on inside himself to cause him to feel these things.
    Most men truly do operate on a different emotional paradigm, with a different view and vocabulary than women have. (Some men have NO emotional vocabulary!) So you need to find a way to communicate him in a language that he can understand and try to really both listen to and then HEAR him, because it might sound like he’s speaking Gibberish or French to your proper English. So you may need to learn a new language that he speaks but you do not yet. But you probably have more tools with which to figure his language out than vice versa. If you can find a common language this is something you can figure out, and together, maybe even solve or at least better the situation so he is not feeling so resentful or emasculated, if, indeed that is the isssue.
    We all know the cl;iche. “Relationships are about communication.” And its true. But without the common language with which to do it, little ever gets solved. And he’ll probably appreciate just that you put forth the effort just to really see his side instead of complaining that he’s a complainer. It usually takes two to Tango. Marriage is no different. If he really sees you seek to actually understand his problems, he may open the floodgates and you can clean up the resulting mess afterwards, (and maybe even have wonderful make-up sex! See? I AM a guy’s guy at heart somewhere in there.) 🙂
    Marriage counseling is great use for some. But I find if you simply agree on a common language to really discuss your issues in the marriage that you can cousel one another and the marriage is all the stronger for it. And you may backslide or fall into old habits of kvetching after a month or so. Nip it in the bud! Better yet, make a monthly time to get together alone to discuss any ongoing issues in peace, not in the rushed existence of your daily life. The price of the babysitter or having to see your mother in law will be well worth it! Good luck!

  10. David Freeman

    September 5, 2010 at 3:56 am

    @ Dave again
    Not to belabor my points. But I would simply like to point out that I don’t doubt that your experience is valid. It reflects YOUR life experiences and YOUR attitude. But its just one place of many possibilities in life. And I try not to assume that my experiences are “the norm” for all people. I just assume they are my experiences. It is exactly operating on assumptions about others, instead of seeking to understand their experiences why there is so little change in society as a whole. I’ve been to the place you speak of. But my piece is about.
    Ever read any poetry by Charles Bukowski or “Deus ex Machina” by e.e. cummings? I told you I wrote a poem. You just assumed it was some mushy unmasculine mess of wet sloppy emotion in an effort to “play a part to please my wife”. I wrote it from the masculine point of view because I live a masculine lifstyle. In fact I was a bit of “a bad boy”, and this is one of the reasons she married me and why my poem meant so much to her. But I was, and have simply grown into, much more, together with my wife at my side, not a few steps behind me.
    Just saying, man, open up yourself to other points of view and the fact that there are many different life experiences for us all to have and explore. (And it can be done without being a goody two shoes.) Try dating a woman who deosn’t need you to play your bad boy part and see what its like to be treasured for who you are alone.
    New Movie: “Dave Jordan. Starring?…Dave Jordan.”

  11. Faun Reese

    September 5, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I think this man went into his marriage with the right attitude and has maintained that same attitude since. He seems to love and adore his wife and doesn’t seem to mind the chores that he does for their life & home. I applaud his efforts for taking the time to share this beautiful story with us. I wish there were a lot more men like him out there in the world or at least more that made an effort to have that same attitude. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Irene

    September 5, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Well, I loved piece. I think we have a great example of a G.E.D. here (good enough dad)

    You know marriages are so different now from those good ole’ days. My mom often says in the 70s when raising me she wanted me to have a choice to be a professional in adulthood and/or parent/wife/homemaker and/or both.
    What I mean is

  13. Irene

    September 5, 2010 at 11:00 am

    We need to stop and put ourselves and understand like some people do that our life partners need our support not our competition, not our feelings of inadequacy, etc…

    That is wonderful Dave that you think of someone’s needs above your own and that you do it unbegrudgingly. Too many people in our society think everyone owes them something but they wouldn’t give a inch to help their own lives and/or marriages go the miles.

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