*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
Growing up, my friend Sarah lived in a very religious nuclear family. Her parents were married since they were teenagers and were high up members of their church. They had a son and daughter, Sarah, a dog and a goldfish. Her father worked and ruled the roost, her mother did all the chores and shopping and kept the house and kids in order. They were the perfect little family.
I remember when we were kids, Sarah and I would be on the phone together and she would have to get off the line because it was time to go pray with her family. So you can see, she had a particular idea of what a family was supposed to look like, and she wanted the same thing for herself when she grew up.
Sarah met Frederick in college, and they seemed to hit it off from the start. Frederick was Sarah’s first boyfriend, and when she talked to me about him I could hear it in her voice that she was falling in love with him and thought he was perfect for her.
They dated for a respectable two years before Frederick proposed to her and they married on a beautiful spring afternoon in Boston. So, I thought Sarah would settle into her perfect little life, and it looked like that was happening. They had their first child, they bought a house, Frederick had a good job…
But you see, Frederick was good at a lot of things. He happened to love cooking, and sometimes would kick Sarah out of the kitchen on weekends so he could experiment with making dessert breads, and when he was done he would go things like take out the vacuum and clean the house while Sarah was out shopping, and she’d come back and just feel useless.
This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be, she thought.
It got worse when Frederick started insisting on picking up the kids from their sports practices some nights a week, and took them out for pizza instead of letting Sarah cook for them. One day she even found Frederick in the laundry room, loading the washing machine with whites.
“What are you doing?” She confronted him.
“I’m just helping,” he said, and she chuffed at him.
“Well, I don’t want or need your help. You have your job and I have my job, and I’d appreciate it if you left it to me!”
Frederick was taken aback, as he’d only wanted to help his wife when he had the chance. Alas, that is not the way Sarah thought it should be or the way she wanted it to be.
When she was telling me about this over coffee at her immaculate house one day, wrinkling her nose at her husband’s “strange behavior” and sounding a bit disgusted by him, my head reeled. Isn’t this the dream of most women, to have their husbands be more helpful around the house?
How would you have reacted?