Tulsa, OK

Opinion: My Husband Is The More Nurturing Parent

Aimée Gramblin

Before COVID times, Pie Nights were a thing here in Tulsa at one of our local bakeries, Antoinette’s. They even had one option for a vegan and gluten-free “Almond Joy Pie.”

Turns out pies are nostalgic for many of us. Almond, blueberry, apple, rhubarb, key lime. Which pie brings you back to family potlucks, church gatherings, or special treats?

Nostalgia for childhood days baking at home

When I was a little girl, elementary-school-aged, my mother let me loose in the kitchen to cook. Baking and making sweets is what I liked to do best. I remember making no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies, chocolate sheet cake, and lemon meringue pie for my mom. It was her favorite. She delighted in the food I created for her. And, I delighted in her appreciation.

Fast forward…I’m now 42 years old and I no longer enjoy nurturing with food. I want to want to cook and serve my family. I see other people with this spirit of nurturing that brings them great pleasure. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, it’s a very 2 (The Helper) way of being. Although my husband, is likely a 6 (The Loyalist) on the Enneagram he derives great pleasure from serving others. For example, he’s a great party host.

Me?

I’d rather hide in a spare room until the people leave the party. Perhaps that’s not shocking for an Enneagram 4 (The Individualist). And, we’re both introverts. So, it’s not a matter of being shy or introverted that gets in the way of being a good host.

I’d rather be served than serve. I’d rather have my pie and eat it, too. I’d rather buy my own presents for the holidays and my birthday. No, really. I’ve done that several years in a row now. And, it drives my husband crazy. The time and effort spent deciding on what to gift are meaningful to him.

I’d rather be served than serve.

I told a friend the other day that “I’m a dude-ish wife.” I don’t fill the traditional mom shoes of someone who has to/enjoys cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping. It’s something I used to do when the kids were young because I stayed at home and considered these duties my job. This may be a perpetuation of stereotypes to call myself “dude-ish,” but I think there are some qualities in our culture that we characterize as stereotypically feminine.

I’m a dude-ish wife

Then, I got a part-time job outside of our home and on top of chauffeuring our kids to school, gymnastics, birthday parties, and everywhere in between, I was working as a part-time gardener. It was fun and also hard manual labor.

At some point, I decided the kids could eat cereal for dinner and everything would be okay. I quit cooking. My husband decided this was unacceptable and took up the reins of the home chef. He happens to be a really, really good cook — like so good that our home smells like a restaurant sometimes. But, he works 60+ hour weeks as a graphic designer, and taking on the cooking is a lot of extra work.

I quit cooking. My husband decided this was unacceptable and took up the reins of the home chef. He happens to be a really, really good cook.

Making pizza pies is a new skill in which my husband excels. He’s even mastered making a gluten-free, dairy-free version for me. It’s a delicious flatbread-style concoction with drizzled olive oil, fresh basil, pepperoni or sausage, zucchini, and mushrooms — whatever I request. He makes traditional pizza for the rest of the family.

Back when I cooked I enjoyed making shepherd’s pie. It was fairly simple. Cook the beef. Add frozen veggies. Boil and mash potatoes for the topping. Bake. Sprinkle with cheese towards the end. Tada!

Part of my cooking strike now has to do with several dietary restrictions that came up for me early in 2020. But, I went on strike before I knew about these restrictions. Now, were I to attempt shepherd’s pie I’d need to make a vegan, gluten-free version. Probably pretty easy to do. Maybe that’s the pie to get me back in the kitchen.

I wonder what it is about me that does not want to be nurturing to the ones I love? I wonder if my version of nurturing is simply different than the general, stereotypical one we think of belonging to moms.

What does nurturing mean to you?

My nurturing consists of gardening, teaching, and analyzing emotions. My nurturing does not consist of cooking, shopping for new clothes, or ooohing and awwing at my children’s accomplishments. At least my nurturing is more heavily weighted to the first set.

My daughter helped me plan my husband’s 40th surprise birthday party at our home. It was her idea. She was six years old. Her love language is gift-giving. She is very organized. She has been drawing/planning her birthday parties since she was four years old. And, she loves to cook. Like her dad, she’s nurturing in this way. My son is a lot like me. He’d rather read and talk with friends than cook. He’d rather be fed than feed.

Is that weird? So it seems what we view as traditional gender roles have been redistributed from reversed for my husband and me back to status-quo in our children.

Everyone wants a piece of the pie, right? Ideally, as mature humans, we both nurture and are nurtured. We get to make the pie and serve the pie and also be served the pie to eat and enjoy. That’s in an ideal world. That’s what I’d like to achieve someday.

I don’t think cereal for dinner or my kids being forced to learn to cook is bad. They’re almost 10 and 13 years old. So what if we don’t cook meals every day? They’re capable of learning this skill. Where My husband sees this as bad parenting I see it as teaching resilience and giving us parents a welcome break.

Nurturing is nuanced

Who’s right? Well, I think we both are. Some nights a free-for-all is fine, but not all nights. Children still need to be served and nurtured by their parents when they’re 10 and 13 years old. In fact, I’d venture to say all humans need some level of nurturing for the duration of our lives.

Am I hardwired like a dad? Sometimes I wonder if something’s wrong with me. I’m glad my husband is nurturing. We each bring valuable skills and traits to this parenting gig.

Meanwhile, I am trying to shift my mindset into treating housework I don’t enjoy as more of a gift to my family and myself. In this way, it feels like an act of kindness instead of a rotten chore when I’m scrubbing pans and cleaning counters. Growth and personal development are lifelong endeavors. This year, I am focusing on being a person who finds joy in nurturing others as well as in being nurtured by others.

Originally published in PS I Love You September 2020.

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