A friend of mine recently indicated that the term “Wifey” that I’ve been using in these columns could be construed as derogatory toward women.
“Yeah, maybe. It was my wife’s idea though,” I respond.
“That doesn’t change anything for me,” my friend shrugs. “I don’t call my wife that and she wouldn’t like it if I did.”
“Hey, it was just a sassy nickname that evolved, you know… she prefers it over anything cheesy, like Sugar Plum or Honey Bunny.”
“That’s all well and good,” my friend countered. “But that doesn’t stop people from forming opinions based on preconceived notions.”
“No it certainly doesn’t. You’re right.”
Hmm… Is “Wifey” derogatory or just fun? Am I overthinking this little veil of anonymity that Wifey and I selected or is my use of the term actually stirring the pot and upsetting some folks?
Gender roles and terms have shifted so much in the past decade. It feels like the traditional expectations for marriage, sexuality, and what a husband and a wife should do in a relationship have blurred. The primary caregiver can no longer be assumed to be a woman. The primary breadwinner can no longer be assumed to be a man. And what does the concept “primary” mean anyway? Is it more primary to raise kids or to make money? I know that our little family couldn’t afford to live in Tahoe if Wifey and I didn’t both contribute financially. And what is the tougher job: childcare or a profession? That’s undoubtedly up for debate as well. I still feel that being home with two kids under the age of two is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You’re on 24-7, no sick days, no matter what. But it also is arguably the most rewarding job, especially now that our children are slightly older and are actually playing together and learning to read, and ski, and share, and help around the house.
My parents were over for dinner the other night and this time I did all the cooking and even cleaned up afterwards. We had some things to discuss with them and Wifey took the initiative with a detailed list of ideas to share. I was quite happy to just do the kitchen thing. It was natural. They listen to her more than their own son anyway. But then again, I listen to her more than my parents, so it’s logical circle.
I also really like cooking. Seriously. Making bread—I’m on it. Thanksgiving dinner—no problem. Wake up at 4:30 to start the dough for cinnamon rolls—heck yeah. I’m not sure why I’ve gravitated to the kitchen. I never really cared that much about cooking elaborate meals for myself, but with a family to cook for and kids to persuade to eat something more than mac n’cheese, I like the challenge of making healthy enchiladas or preparing staggered courses from salad, to soup, to quesadillas in order to bribe our kids progressively from raw vegetables to cheesy tortilla goodness. That being said, Wifey cooks some magical baked ziti and can make a mean chicken soup, but generally follows these performances up with a Herculean effort at dish duty avoidance. In fairness to her, I try to avoid bath time with the same persistence so it’s probably pretty equitable.
Then there are Fridays. The end of the working week has become my Daddy Daycare day. It’s great, really. I have to plan business trips and other work around the expectation that come Friday morning at 7, I’m the front line of childcare at our house. Granted I’m still answering phone calls and sneaking emails, but I also get to go on adventures with Michael and Jane as well as take them to a short morning program. I like having that day when Wifey is at work and it’s just the kids and me.
So in quite a few culturally traditional ways I’m the “Wifey” in our relationship. Last year for my birthday, I even requested a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Happy Husband Homemaker.” Satire on cultural perceptions, maybe… but it’s the truth and I embrace it. Happy Husband Homemaker is part of my identity and honestly I’m totally stoked about it.
After finishing the dishes, I approach the bathroom and the telltale sounds of Michael and Jane’s splashing anarchy. “So how do you feel about the term Wifey if people might view it as belittling to women?” I ask as my uber patient wife attempts to wash the remnants of tonight’s chocolate dessert smudged all over Jane’s cheeks.
“I like Wifey. Who cares what the PC police and soccer moms think?” she says amidst Jane’s mouth-scrubbing protests.
“OK,” I respond grabbing a towel and preparing to extricate Michael from the tub before he contributes any further to the minor flooding on the bathroom floor.
“Besides if there was a huge imbalance in our relationship one way or the other then maybe it would be an issue for me, but it’s not.” She ducks Michael’s flailing wet feet. “It’s 60% give, 40% take on both sides, remember?”
“Oh yeah. I’m definitely topping 60% tonight.” I say while ensconcing Michael in his Lightening McQueen towel.
“Funny, I was just thinking the same for me.”
1. Take yourself too seriously, be “Hubby” or “Wifey.”
2. Let old stereotypes about men’s and women’s roles dictate your relationship.
3. Forget the old adage: marriage and family is 60/40 on both sides. Meaning that you both will feel like you are giving 60% of the effort to make things work and the math is a bit off, but that’s OK.
1. Cook weird stuff.
2. Figure out what you enjoy about domestic life and embrace it.
3. Start chore distribution as early as possible. Even a 3 year-old can sort clean silverware while standing on a chair.
4. Get kids to eat raw vegetables by any means necessary.