I (still) Need a Wife

Like many of you out there, I’m coming off several days of “vacation” time. I say several, because I’m honestly not sure if it’s seven or seventy. Feels like forever.

It started way back before Christmas when the family (Mom) packed up for a pilgrimage to Florida to visit the grandparents. All five of us, plus Older Son’s girlfriend, headed out in the pre-Christmas dawn (on THE busiest air travel day of the year, according to our shuttle driver), to bask in the tropical sun and have some much-needed multigenerational together time.

In the weeks leading up to the trip I booked tickets for six, figured out airport transportation, reserved rental cars, packed up and mailed boxes of gifts and decoration for eight nights of Chanukah, counted luggage, herded cats, and ordered a partridge in a pear tree on Amazon.com. Well, not that last one.

After a few blissful days of eating and drinking too much, making a small dent in the pile of reading I’ve collected, and spending lots of time with the people I love most in the world — never mind that much of it was spent preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards — we all shifted gears and headed north, with the grandparents in tow, to join more family and honor the 90th birthday of our beloved Aunt Ruth.

This leg of our journey required another set of air reservations (curses on Continental Airlines, who apparently believes it’s perfectly alright to toss those seat assignments you spend hours choosing online and randomly spread your party of nine in middle seats all over the plane), hotel rooms, cold weather clothing, two more rental cars, and a whole new set of logistical gymnastics.

After a wonderful celebration that made it all worthwhile, we headed home to a new house we moved into just three weeks ago, where mountains of cardboard boxes awaited. And did I fail to mention that we’d innocently evited 75 of our closest friends to an open house gathering on New Year’s Eve, just three days away at this point? Yes, I  am a certifiably insane overachiever. You can undoubtedly fill in the rest of that story.

I just noticed this post is a series of run-on sentences that read like a grocery list of overwhelming, unenviable tasks. That’s perfect.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining or looking for sympathy. I’m not bashing Husband or my wonderful children. Far from it. They’re independent near-adults who do a great job of taking care of themselves and enthusiastically offer help whenever they can. But that’s just it. They help. They don’t organize. They don’t manage. They don’t take responsibility and handle stuff. They help.

And you know what? I’m to blame. It’s my fault. Mea culpa. Because I jump on all of it — every last bit. I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I took care of every detail. Did something slip by? Did I confirm all thirteen car rentals? Did I order enough food for hundreds? Are everyone’s emotional needs met? Have I made sure no one will ever be let down? Double sure?

It’s exhausting, and I’m willing to bet almost every mom reading this — no matter how helpful and hands-on your partner is — can relate to the feeling.

We take it on and we figure it out. We delegate what we can and oh-so-efficiently handle the rest. We make the sun rise in the morning and the moon come up at night. Seriously. And most of us have full-time jobs on the outside at the same time. We’re livin’ the dream.

Back in the dark ages of the 1970’s, Ms., the nascent feminist magazine, published an article called I Want a Wife, by Judy Brady. It outlined all the things we women provide, all the roles we fill, all the under-appreciated tasks we perform to allow the comfortable lives lived by our families. I read that article some years later when my own kids were small and thought, YES! A wife is exactly what I need.

What surprises me after all this time is that not much has changed. My family has grown up, I’ve shifted careers a couple of times, and we’ve all learned and evolved. But at the center of it I’m still organizing and managing like a crazy person. I’m care-taking as fast as I can. Deep down, I suppose I must like it this way. But what I’d really like, Gloria Steinem, is a wife.

How ’bout you?





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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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One response to “I (still) Need a Wife”

  1. Hazel M. Wheeler

    Oh, I’d love a wife. Someone to say ‘Oh, honey, don’t worry about the vacuuming–I’ll do it tomorrow while you’re at work.” or “You’ve been working so hard on the dishes and making this week’s menu–why don’t you let me take care of folding the laundry/playing with Kiddo/getting lunches ready?” Perhaps it would have the same effect it has on many men and lengthen my life expectancy? Already a bonus…

    I think the best part would be having someone who could directly and immediately relate to all of the ‘stuff’ that goes on in our homes, and have those same abilities to sort it all out, put it together and make it happen. A built in girlfriend who’d share the work.

    And if she could meet me at the door at the end of the day with a martini in hand? Soooo worth it.

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