My husband was on vacation, but I use the term loosely. There were no suitcases or plane tickets and no cruise wear. He simply took a week off to catch up with life.
He worked in the yard, laying down mysterious granules and mowing the grass and weed-whacking around the edges of everything.
He cleaned the garage and carted stuff to the sidewalk for bulk trash pickup and he got the oil changed in his car.
But in addition to doing all those guy things, he took my daughter to the orthodontist and kept her vaccination appointment with the doctor and remembered to take her to her piano lesson.
He took my son to the mall for shorts and to baseball practice and to the batting cages for a little extra hitting.
He went to the grocery store and purchased what he needed to pack lunches the next morning and then threw together dinner around practice schedules.
He negotiated homework with both of them and listened to my daughter pour out her sixth-grade troubles.
While my husband was doing all of these things on his vacation, I took a week to catch up with work.
And it felt like a vacation.
I left the house early, unencumbered by my usual assortment of grumpy kids and overstuffed backpacks.
I sorted through the piles on my desk and returned weeks-old phone calls. I did not glance feverishly at the clock, as is my habit, watching the hands move toward the last possible pTC moment when I must leave to begin my evening shift.
I came home to something resembling dinner after doing long-postponed errands on the way. (I think the people at the dry-cleaners have actually started to wear the clothes I have left there for so long.)
At the end of a busy but stress-free week, my husband and I took stock.
"You know," he said over coffee Saturday morning. "I think when one of us is home, we just about have all the bases covered."
"And it doesn't even matter which one of us," I agreed, remembering fondly the weeks I have stayed home and done just one of my two jobs.
"We need a wife," we said, almost in unison.
That is exactly right. Our family needs a housewife.
We need an efficient, capable multi-tasker who can handle everything from meals to medical emergencies, but who has enough of an emotional stake in the group to manage its members with tenderness and laughter.
As a stay-at-home dad wrote to me, "Prerequisites for this job should be expertise in planning, scheduling, negotiations, crisis intervention, quality control, time management, excellent physical stamina and a degree in medicine and psychology."
We need one of those old-fashioned housewives - the kind that wore a shirtwaist and pearls - and it doesn't matter if the candidate wears the pants in the family. We just need somebody to nail things down on the home front while the partner is out earning a living wage.
Even before home life became so complex - with a matrix of children's activities and a list of new horrors from which to protect them - every family needed a wife. It is more true now, yet all of us wives - and our potentially wife-like husbands - are scrambling out the door to other jobs, leaving all those jobs at home undone or half-done.
My husband is correct. We need a wife.
The only question left is, which one of us goes out and finds one?
Pub Date: 5/10/98