This is another 'Blues' story. It is also a collaboration. It was written, as was the previous story, in February of 2000. I won't say much about it since from looking at the hit stats and the comments only Connie is reading this journal any longer. Thank you for sticking with me. I'll keep posting them until all my existing short stories are here. (The ones that clear the AOL TOS anyway).
There I was, trudging along the somewhat muddy path through the woods, kicking at rocks, and generally feeling sorry for myself. I was less than a year short of my 40th birthday, an aspiring writer with no sales to his credit, and frankly, no real effort expended recently. Lately it seemed that all I wanted to do was sleep. It had even become an effort to crawl out of bed to care for the kids when they needed me, a duty which fell to me since I was the stay-at-home parent. It had never seemed like a burden until recently, when it had become as wearing as the rest of my life.
One of the worst parts was living with the perception of others that I "should be happy." After all, being married to a very successful woman, and not being *required* to bring home a paycheck, gave me financial security as well as time and freedom. But even though I had all that, and I knew deep down she loved me very much, I was still feeling such a void. It was an emptiness I tried to explain, justify, defend, and even ignore... but it kept creeping back and I couldn't shake it.
With the strenuous hours she's been working lately, her basic routine is coming home mid-evening, eating a late reheated dinner, playing with the kids a bit, and then falling asleep. And when I do manage to catch her awake in bed, and try to initiate some intimacy, I'm met with indifference at best, and at worst a feeling of "let's get this over with." I eventually realized that the ironic truth is, with all the benefits that her professional efforts provide me, they're forcing me further out of her life as time goes on.
I've been feeling more and more isolated. It seems that everybody but me has friends. Over the years, I've found that people in general don't seem to understand a man who doesn't have a 9-to-5 job in this day and age. Some assume I'm unemployable, some probably think that I'm just lazy; and some may even believe I have no control or say in our marriage. Only a very few stop to think of the rewards and recognitionmy wife receives that I don't, not to mention her opportunities for social interaction, of which I see little. Not many realize that unlike most wives, mine has very little housework to do, and her children are always attended by a loving parent in their own home. But even as I utter those words, I'm even questioning how much care and affection I'm capable of giving them anymore.
There I was, stuck in the same traffic jam that slowed me down every morning. When we started a family, my husband and I agreed that since my career was taking off, I would be the one who supported us financially, and he would stay home with the kids and pursue his writing vocation. That always seemed like the perfect setup to me, as I knew I had always been very fulfilled in business. But recently, it had become tougher to go to work, for so many reasons. I used to love my job, as it was usually challenging, and my efforts were measurable, visible, and appreciated. However, lately there had been lots of sporadic talk of layoffs at the management level. And since I was being assigned more "busy work" than major projects, I was more than a little worried.
One of the worst parts was living with the perception of others that a woman should have a natural "maternal instinct" and choose to stay home and raise her children if at all possible. But I had practically done that already with my own younger brothers and sisters, and although I wanted more than anything to be a mother, I could not see myself spending 24 hours a day with my children. I always knew that our preference for my husband to be the major caretaker while I continued to work was not the most popular idea to discuss, even though deep down I also knew it was no one else's business. And as long as I was able to separate and maintain those two worlds, I was alright. But now that I have to put in extra hours doing research and proposals for new projects in order to create some job security, it seems I have to drag myself both to work and back home.
With the strenuous hours I've been working lately, I find I don't have the time or energy for my family when I get home. The kids seem to get most of what there is, because they are more demanding and persistent, and their needs are more obvious. But I can barely make it to *their* bedtime anymore, let alone my own. I long for the intimacy my husband and I used to share; but when he approaches me at night, I can barely keep my eyes open. I'm sure he thinks it's because I don't want him anymore, but it's not that... I just need more than a few quick stolen moments now and then.
I've been feeling more and more isolated. One of the best side benefits of going to work every day used to be the enjoyment of friendships with coworkers. But commensurate with my career success, I've noticed those interfaces steadily decreasing. Some individuals probably think I'm power-hungry or ruthless, and only a very few have stopped to think that I'm simply doing the best I can to support my family. I think what I fear the most is facing the fact that we may have made the wrong decision all those years ago, about the "separation of duties"; because neither my husband or I seem to be happy... with our time apart, or our time together.