Battle of sexes hits homefront

   One of the most difficult aspects of owning your own business is convincing those close to you that you actually work for a living.
   There is a general public consensus that self-employed people put up a monumental struggle to survive, working long hours for what they hope will be future reward. But unfortunately, that consensus does not always extend to spouses. Especially those spouses who stay at home with young children.
   "So, what did you do today?" asked my wife, Fidelity, as I trudged through the door of my home the other night after another grizzly stint at my business.
   I detected the usual note of suspicion in her voice, but I tried to ignore it. "I donít know," I replied, wishing to change the subject. "Lots."
   "Like what?"
   I had been gone 10 hours. I knew I had accomplished many valuable tasks, but as usual, I was having trouble recalling exactly what they were.
   "You know, the regular," I said. "This and that."
   Fidelity wasnít sure whether to press further. But the look on her face told me that once again I had failed to convince her of my invaluable contributions to the day-to-day operations of my company.
   "All right, you got me," I said, slightly perturbed. "I got to work and Ms. Ferguson (my loyal office manager) had already spread the blanket across the office floor. Then she opened the wine, laid out the cheese and crackers, and we spent the day having our usual picnic!!!"
   "Oh," replied Fidelity as she folded the laundry. "Lucky you."
   This, of course, is not a problem associated solely with the self-employed. With marriage firmly defined as a competition in suffering, almost all spouses battle over who had the toughest day and deserves the most sympathy.
   My problem is that I always lose. Fidelity, who have up her budding career as an environmental consultant to be a full-time mother, stays home with a 2-year old and a 3-year old.
   I can say without equivocation that I would rather dig ditches for 14 hours a day than trade places with Fidelity. But that doesnít mean Iím giving up the battle for sympathy. That would be suicidal.
   Iíll continue to struggle to find a way to adequately describe what I do. A truck driver can come home and report that he did 800 miles. A bank teller can wave her paycheck and boast that she put in 12 hours of overtime.
   Me? I get no paycheck and all I can report at the end of the day is that things are continuing to run somewhat smoothly and I think I had something to do with it.
   But Iíve got to come up with more details. Otherwise, Iíll be faced with more incidents such as last week, when smack in the middle of my busy work day, Fidelity stopped by and dropped the kids off.
   "Fidelity!" I cried. "This is a business. Itís not a place for little kids."
   "It will just be for a couple of hours," she replied, giving me that look that clearly inferred I was an insensitive slob for thinking my inconsequential piddling around the office was more important than spending time with my children.
   "Donít leave me!" I wailed as the 2-year-old eagerly headed for my desk drawers and the 3-year-old began to dial Moscow on my phone. "Iím really busy, I swear."
   "Iíll be back as soon as I can," she chirped, closing the door.
   She returned 2 hours, 12 minutes and 32 seconds later. It was the longest 2:12:32 of my life. My office was ransacked, the floor a sea of scribbled drawings and paper clip trains. I had tried to get some work done but had been interrupted every, oh, 3 seconds or so.
   "How did it go?" asked Fidelity upon her return.
   "Wonderful," I lied. "The boys were great." I couldnít resist a little honesty. "It was a little tough getting any work done, though."
   It was exactly what Fidelity was looking for. "See how hard it is," she replied.
   The battle had begun again. "Hey, my job is tough, too," I said, "Iíve got tons of miserable things to do that canít be interrupted by playing daddy during the work day."
   I cringed, knowing it was coming, knowing I would lose again.
   "Like what?" asked Fidelity.


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