Becoming a wife..

I have written about this before.  Perhaps it is something that ebbs and flows through my thoughts.  I have been thinking about when did I become a wife?  I don’t mean it in a bad way because I love being a wife.  I am talking about the categorization or 1950’s description of a wife.  Someone who stays home and just makes life work for everyone because she is the perfect wife. 

Granted, being a wife is not all I do but sometimes I think it is.  I am probably not the only wife/mother who feels this way.  When you work and by that I mean going to work every day from 9-5, you are part of a team.  You have to pull your weight and your intellect is part of the process of getting things accomplished at work.  You are seen for your ability to think out of the box, get projects going, make sure businesses are profitable, direct the client, secure the legal documents.  Whatever it is, your abilities at work are appreciated at a completely different level than being at home.   You aren’t a wife, you are a player.

Don’t get me wrong, being home has been great for everyone including me.  My time is very flexible, my kids have a support system at home, my husband can truly focus on his business because I take care of everything else and having one person at home creates a good balance.  But sometimes, the balance is frustrating.

Helping the kids navigate their lives without passing any judgment on their thoughts is truly exhausting.  I am the support system.  Not to say that my husband isn’t completely involved but there is something about being the Mom, it is just different.  Just like being the Dad is different.  Even if there are two people who are married of the same sex with a family, one takes on a role that is more the Mom role.  The person who manages their lives.  Dates, food, dinner, vacations, events, clothing, camp, shampoo, etc.   There has to be a breakdown of everyone’s role in the family unit.  Each person just takes on their role as time goes on.  That is how one person ends up being the wife.  By the way, in some cases the man becomes the wife. 

You get married, have kids, both have jobs and then all of a sudden, one of you stops working.  That person would be me.  Granted I waited sometime before making that leap but in some ways it was just an evolution.  Yet I still yen for the information and intellectual conversations that I got out of work.  It wasn’t like I was solving world peace but I was solving problems and my mind was working.  My husband comes home after a long day and needs to chat with the kids, help with their homework, have dinner with the family etc. and talking about the latest at work or the political crisis our country is in is just not in the cards.  I get it.  Sometimes I could care less, life is good.  Other times, I feel frustrated and an overwhelming desire to return to the days of college when we had really thought provoking conversations until 2am.  Now I barely make it until 10 so that isn’t happening.  But those are the times when I feel, when did I become a wife?

Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed to have 3 great kids and a wonderful supportive husband but at times I feel lonely.  I spend a lot of time by myself during the year.  I always have projects going on but being part of a working team is just different.   I had an opportunity recently to go back and roll my sleeves up and be involved in a start-up again but reality took hold and I realized that not only did I not want to return to working 40+ hours a week, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t because my life and my responsibilities to my kids and husband didn’t allow me to.  I could have if I wanted to but truthfully I couldn’t because I didn’t want to work like that again.   

I am involved with plenty of things, don’t get me wrong.  I sit on the school Board, I am helping with the 10th Anniversary of MOUSE, I am heading up a real estate project that we are working on ( a new home and building), and about to become involved in something else that I am incredibly excited about.  But, I still feel like there is something missing. 

I am working on figuring out the right balance.  In many ways, I am always working on having the right balance.  Perhaps it is my generation who feels like I do.  I have some friends, my age, who are so happy to be at home and never feel the way I do.  They tell me I always have been competitive and enjoyed the challenge of work.  Perhaps, perhaps not. 

I hope that my girls will be able to balance the life/work thing easier.  Maybe they will, maybe that won’t.  I definitely enjoy the life we are living to the fullest but once in a while that tide comes in and I begin to feel the desire to do more than the mental challenge of the New York Times crossword puzzle every day.   

Comments (Archived):

  1. artifact

    Thanks for sharing that. It is tough to have it all. One thing I will assure you is that your kids will be independent soon enough and you will have the time to pursue more and I’m certain you will.

    It is hard to remain vital and interesting when one has so many responsibilities. I try everyday to defy my age regardless of how tired I get. I too want to have those carefree days, but rather then recreate them I push myself in other directions that are satisfying. I think redefining your expectations sometimes helps.

  2. Kylie Sachs

    Joanne, I have been reading your blog for some time now (I got to it because I am a VC – and a woman…yes a woman VC! and I keep tabs on Fred’s blog). I have to say, this is a wonderful post. It’s rare people speak so honestly in a public forum. I really admire you for sharing these thoughts. I think only the bravest of folks are really honest about the bad and ugly…it’s easy to be honest about the good.

    I am about to enter motherhood and wonder what I will be doing in 10 or so years. I have friends now who worked for only a couple of years after business school and I hesitate to ask them how they feel about not working. I hope they are happy and would not want to put them on the defensive – but there is such pressure to always say you love your choices, and sometimes our real feelings/doubts get lost in that. I am truly curious what it’s like to have a big fat MBA and not to have a job outside of the house. Your life sounds rich and vibrant, and I have always wondered as I read your blog – how does she do that? Always sound so fulfilled. And now I have another reason to admire you. Thanks.

  3. erin


    But your definition of a “player” is all about how others see you and judge you. Everything you describe in terms of the skills necessary to get things done, you likely use daily. It’s just not appreciated in the same way—which you say. But with work, you can leave, or even have one of those days where you downshift. At home, the “wife” is always on. Unless the kids are at school or there’s a nice nap happening (which is just the case for me right now as my 14 month old is sleeping).

    I also find it so hard to fathom that with the projects you describe that you aren’t a part of a “working team”? If this is what you need, find a new project? I hear you about going fully back to work. Family balance could suffer. But you are educated and capable and can customize your life any way you want and maybe THAT is the problem…having so much. With choice and privilege come responsibility.

    I’ll never forget a conversation I had nearly 15 years ago. I had just started working on the trading floor of a big Chicago bank. I was trading interest rate derivatives. I loved the cache of the position. I was also getting my MBA at nights. Anyway, I would walk to school with a very good friend. We were so type A that we would synchronize our watches so that we would not chance making the other wait at our designated meeting spot. On our walk I told my friend that while I loved my new job, was learning tons etc., I found it a bit vacuous. We didn’t make anything. We just moved stuff around. She said, Erin, we make money! And that was it for her and drove her.

    It wasn’t until my husband and I formed our own company that I finally understood what having passion for work was all about. Finally. And now as a “wife” I have this company as an outlet for my need to be productive outside the wife role. Joann, you have this too. And this is a blessing. I sent your blog post to my playgroup. Many of the moms share the struggles you describe (we’re all parents of 11 to 18 month old toddlers). But many also do NOT have an easy outlet. It’s more of an all or nothing scenario.

    So back to my original point…maybe all these annoyances/frustrations have nothing to do with what’s bugging you. Or, better yet, and I like this point of view much better, maybe it is because you are smart and able that your mind constantly is evaluating what you are doing and you are always trying to better yourself for your family, friends, and the world. Not being totally happy is a great motivator.