I hate holidays.
There! I said it! I said it out loud for the entire world to hear!
Of course, when I was a kid, I loved holidays like Christmas and Easter and Valentine’s Day (which is still my favorite, by the way!). I loved the decorations, the presents, the family gatherings, the anticipation of what would be waiting in the morning.
As I got older, though, and especially after I had kids, all I felt from these holidays was the pressure to give my family a “perfect memory.” Cook an amazing meal, give the kids a fabulous tree, make sure the house was spotless to host a party or gathering–or worse, travel up to 12 hours to attend a party or gathering, with however many small children I had in tow.
For reasons I’ll explain later, I’ve usually worked retail or sales jobs throughout our marriage, so the most stressful holidays usually coincided with the worst work season. I’d work 60-80 hours a week, then have to put on a perfect smiling face at my in-laws’ house.
I. Hate. Holidays.
However, this past fourth of July was going to be different. We were going to go up to the lake, spend the day playing in the sand and in the sun, then watch fireworks over the water.
Of course it rained.
With no plans, no family close by to feel obligated to visit, and no desire to crash any friends’ parties, my husband and I sat in our living room with three disappointed kids, and tried to figure out what to do instead.
“Hey,” I said, “We could paint the desk!” We’d scored a fabulous $10 thrift-store desk, and made cool plans to paint it white and cover certain sections of it with chalkboard surface. We just hadn’t had any time to work on it. Hubby was agreeable, and the kids thought the idea of getting messy with paint was just great.
For the first hour, they even helped us sand. It was a long, dusty process that they eventually tired of, and they later occupied themselves by building stick-and-towel forts with a neighbor kid.
I’d never had a happier Independence Day. I was covered in sawdust, working on something I loved, making plans to beautify my home in my own style. My husband was working with me, my kids were happy…..
….and THAT’s when I said it. “This is the way I’d love to spend every holiday. I hate feeling like I’m working so hard to cook or clean or travel or do presents, and then the next day it’s just gone. It feels like such a waste of time. This is spending a holiday working on something that will last, and I love that.”
Hubby’s face turned dark.
I didn’t understand why. I thought I’d just shared a piece of my heart with him. I thought I’d shared something that made me feel alive and satisfied, but he was obviously upset. “I’m hungry,” he said. “I think it’s time to do some of that domestic work that you hate so much.”
“You keep saying over and over again that you hate cooking, that you only learned it because you wanted to serve me.”
Well, yes, that’s true. Fundamentally true. Before we married, I had no desire to cook. Anything. Ever. I spent too much time absorbing the heretical teachings of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, which basically told me I’d ruin my family, become divorced from my husband, and spend the rest of my life eeking out a subsidized living in a dumpy duplex if I didn’t become the best cook & housekeeper ever. However, despite what Fascinating Womanhood and Created to Be His Helpmeet said, my husband never saw my learning to cook as a gift I continually tried to give him. It just seemed….expected.
Plus, we also tried to follow the teachings of Dave Ramsey, and cut out prepared foods and restaurants to save money. Then, to add insult to injury, I developed food allergies that would make your skin crawl. Suddenly I *had* to prepare most of my food from scratch.
I became pretty damn good at it. I became a fantastic baker. I learned to make Chinese and Cajun food.
The problem is that I was literally spending all of my time cooking, washing dishes, and cooking some more. I felt like I either had to let the kitchen get dirty, or spend my life as a scullery maid.
I started making simpler meals. I started voicing my opinion: “I’m not a cook; I’m a songwriter. I need to spend my time working on what I love, and not what I simply have to do to squeeze by. This is not a life.”
My husband could not process that someone would become so skilled at something she didn’t *want* to do. I don’t think he’s ever really thought about how much work cooking was.
Before we got married, he bought me a set of pots and pans. An expensive, copper-bottomed, high-quality set.
So, I asked him, “Why does my not enjoying cooking bother you? Why do you think this is so bad?”
“Well, I consider cooking to be a skill that a responsible adult simply has to learn. Living off microwave meals and takeout [which is how I’d lived as a single girl!] is just childish, and is not good for your body.”
“So, you’re telling me you want to learn to cook then?” I asked.
He looked at me like I’d just spoken to him in Klingon.
We’ve been married almost ten years, and known about my food allergies for almost three, and he has never learned to cook.
“Well…” he considered his words very carefully. “…I’d always assumed that, if I’m the one providing, then your role would be cooking.”
“That would be understandable, if I wasn’t also expected to bring in an income. Except for the year after Shy Violet was born, and this past year, I’ve worked too. And cooked.”
He stood in front of the garage door and looked at me. Really looked at me, as though he was seeing me for the first time. I remember the expression on his face when I first realized he was attracted to me—a mix of wonder and confusion. I was seeing the same thing now.
“Um…I want to live in a consistent way. And…um…I certainly want to move into a place where we’re sharing more of the housework.”
That is the man I married: when confronted with facts that show a belief of his is fundamentally wrong, he changes it. He changes it almost whiplash-fast. Apparently this is a trait he shares with many other INTJ’s , but I always view it with awe and thankfulness.
“So, do you see now why I don’t like holidays?”
“Well, I’d always thought that holiday cooking was just three days out of the year. I didn’t think about the fact that you were cooking every other day of the year too.”
We came to an agreement that we both had things we wanted to do on holidays: I wanted something that would last, like a craft project or a fun vacation. He did want a memorable meal and traditional family time. However, he would take steps to realize exactly how much work I was doing, help when I requested it, and realize that we have to make our own traditions.
He made dinner tonight. 🙂 Having three daughters gives him a new hate for sexism. He’s just starting to see that I should be free from it as well.
I’m just starting to see it too.