Driving past the local hospital, the white and red emergency sign echoes a visit from a few years ago. As I drive, I spy the faded grey buildings in my peripheral view. I remember wheeling her to the car as she protectively clutched the tiny figure that had occupied her stomach only hours before. I recall driving carefully as if the wheels were made of eggshells. I was usually never so vigilant, but I wasn’t about to take our current good fortune for granted.
After we had put our healthy baby boy to sleep in his, until then, unused light blue and white striped cot, we gazed dotingly upon what we still couldn’t believe was in front of our grateful eyes.
After a few weeks of establishing a routine with as new parents with Benji, life seemed to finally be coming together and proving that second chances are perhaps not just a figment of hope.
As we put the baby down for a nap, Jenna exclaimed, “Can you believe we’ve been doing this for a month.”
“I know. In a few weeks, you’ll be back at work.”
“Well… I actually thought we might discuss that.”
I wasn’t sure how to react. I just responded with “Oh.”
“I just feel like… I need to spend more time with Benji.”
“So, what are you gonna do then? It’s not like you can bring him to your office every day.”
“Well, I thought that maybe I would stay at home for a few more months. I know that I’ve already been away from work for a while, it’s just…”
“Jenna, you know that we can’t…”
“…it’s just that I’m his mother. I can’t just leave him. Being at work all the time means that I miss everything… all the important milestones. His first steps, his first word… A mother should be there for all of that. I just can’t do it.”
“Well, how the hell are we going to manage that?”
“I don’t know. Can’t you ask for some kind of a raise?”
“Are you mad? I’m already stressed, nearly redundant and replaceable. This will just push me over the edge.”
“Well, perhaps if you worked harder and were more qualified, the odds would be more in your favour.”
I couldn’t believe she just said that to me. Instantly, I felt anger and shame. Obviously, it would be wonderful for Jenna to stay at home with Benji. She needed more time with him. She wasn’t keen on a nanny. Her maternal instincts wouldn’t allow for any strangers. She needed time before she could let him out of her sight, especially after what had happened already. But, with my job, we just couldn’t do it.
I do embrace feminism… really… of course I believe that a woman can support a family and have a career. But, deep down inside, a voice told me: “You can’t look after your own family! What kind of a man are you?” Sometimes I thought that Jenna felt that way. I knew her parents did.
“I can’t deal with this right now.”
I grabbed my car keys and walked towards the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I just need to get out of here!” I snap back.
I slammed the door as I stormed out of the house. In my anger, I sped to the nearby gas station. Perhaps a cigarette would calm me down. My body’s deep craving for nicotine only made things worse. I took a slow drive, giving me enough time to straighten my head and regain composure. Leaving the store, I lit up and slowly began to inhale the sweet smoke. As the grey fumes dissipated into the darkness, I thought about our argument, the outrage and the shame. I stood there, doing my best to prolong this respite, postponing my return home for as long as possible.
Tell us what you think: Can an ambitious spouse ever be with one who isn’t? How do you feel if about your partner making more money than you?