Monday, February 7, 2011

Executive Household Manager

The other day, I went to the doctor and had to fill out a bunch of forms, one of which asked for my current occupation.  Hmm, tough question.  After some deep contemplation, I decided on “freelance writer / executive household manager.”  I purposely avoided using the term “housewife” – it makes me think of a 1950s subservient woman whose sole purpose is to fetch her husband's slippers and wait on him hand and foot, and that is definitely not part of my job description.

I consider marriage to be more of a partnership, and since my husband has a more demanding work schedule, it’s only fair that I take on more of the responsibilities outside of work: cooking, cleaning, shopping, running errands, making travel reservations, managing our social calendar, etc.  But I want him to remember that I’m performing these tasks because I want to contribute, not because they’re expected of me.  If I feel that he's grown too accustomed to home-cooked meals, I make it a point to disappoint him; the next time he’s hungry, I’ll hand him something freezer-burned and completely unrecognizable and say, “Here, heat it up yourself.”  Then if I choose to cook dinner the following night, he appreciates it more.

One might think that these non-work related tasks are trivial and not stressful, but you’d be mistaken.  It can be downright challenging to plan a vacation when you’re both cheap and have a taste for luxury.  And considering that my husband and I are both reclusive misanthropes, creating a social life for the two of us requires some serious effort.  Finding couple friends, arranging events, convincing my husband to show up… it’s no easy task.

Grocery shopping might sound easy, but it can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming, especially when you take into account my husband’s phobia of running out of things.  As soon as the mustard bottle gets to be one-third empty, he gets all panicky and starts to cut down on the amount of mustard he uses, rationing it out as though he’s trapped on a deserted island and the mustard is the only thing keeping him alive.  He’ll look at me with fear in his eyes and say, “But what if I want a hot dog and there isn’t enough mustard?  You have to go get more mustard!”  In order to avoid such a scene, I have to constantly monitor the status of all of our food items, which come from three different grocery stores.

It's a struggle, yes.  But by efficiently running our household, I alleviate my husband’s stress, thereby allowing him to be a work superstar.  I seriously doubt that he would be as successful as he is without a lifetime supply of his favorite super-soft socks – made from 100% viscose – that shed black lint all over the carpet.

For the most part, I don’t mind being in charge of our non-working life.  Like most women, I’m a natural multi-tasker, I’m organized, and I like things done a certain way.  My husband, on the other hand, has a strong aversion to planning and the minutiae of daily tasks.  He handles the stress of his job remarkably well, but if you ask him to organize a Saturday night out, he’ll completely fall apart.

When we got engaged, he was more afraid of the wedding planning than of the actual wedding, but I was completely in my element.  Obviously I put myself in charge, although I did make the occasional attempt to delegate.  In the beginning, I emailed him an incredibly detailed to-do list, full of links and suggestions and timelines, and he replied with the following email:

Subject: COULD NOT DELIVER: RE: Wedding To-do list
Your message could not be delivered. The recipient's mail server was unavailable or busy, or perhaps he doesn't like responsibility.

I don’t mean to say that he never helps me with anything.  He totally does.  Sometimes it requires a little arm-twisting, but other times he does it on his own accord.  Like the other day when I was planning a trip for our third wedding anniversary, he actually volunteered to book the flights.  When he was done, he forwarded me the flight confirmation and pointed out what great times and seats he managed to get.  I was totally impressed… until I realized that he had booked the wrong destination.  “Um, honey, we’re going to Turks & Caicos, not Grand Cayman.”  Now, see, I would never make that mistake, but I guess that’s why I’m the executive household manager.


  1. Jami -- Hilarious post, as always.

    You know, I completely agree -- "I consider marriage to be more of a partnership, and since my husband has a more demanding work schedule, it’s only fair that I take on more of the responsibilities outside of work: cooking, cleaning..."

    I was thinking along the same lines when I took on more of the household chores because I didn't have a full-time job. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my mother-in-law that I was doing more of the cooking. I ended up with two GIANT cookbooks for my birthday present, each containing (no joke) 800+ recipes. I have managed to use their advice that I should freeze a steak a half an hour before I plan to cut it, so that it won't flop around as much.

    When I got my job, then, my mother-in-law's reaction was, "Oh! You'd better get busy, cook a bunch of stuff up and put it in the freezer!"

    Uh, no.

    My husband will start to do more of the cooking again. He's okay with that -- and I'm thrilled. Sorry, mom. :-)

  2. I just found your blog via Lauren's blog roll & I love it!!!

    I'm in the funky twilight zone between getting my degree & getting a real job, so this post of yours was awesome to read. I also feel compelled to try to pull my weight in housewifery, but after reading all that you do I think I can definitely take it up a notch. You sound like a kick-ass Household Executive Manager.

    Your idea about occasionally cooking crappy dinners is brilllliant, by the way. Totally going to try that.

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