A Month In Your Partner’s Shoes – A Real Life Experiment

Would you swap places with your other half? Is the grass greener on the other side? I bet we’ve all had those times where you think “bloody hell, I’ve got the raw end of the bargain here, if only you could be in my shoes for a day, you’d see how hard it is!” You know the days:…where you’ve been up since the crack of dawn because your toddler has suddenly decided that they are part-owl and thus actually nocturnal; you stepped in cat vomit on the stairs because My Fluffy had ripped his way through the bin bag to eat the leftover meat scraps, just to throw them up an hour later; the car wouldn’t start because apparently cars need actual fuel and don’t tend to work so well when you play “petrol roulette”; you burnt your mouth on your coffee because you tried to drink it immediately after pouring it from the kettle, even though you physically saw it come out of the kettle, thought to yourself “that’s hot” then still tried to drink it and wondered why you were picking bits of boiled skin off of the roof of your mouth like PVA glue for the rest of the day; you were 20 minutes late for nursery because your toddler had a sudden aversion to wearing shoes, then when you managed to get shoes on them they laid face down on the floor crying because the shoes matched their gloves (that’s right matched, not ‘didn’t match’, matched…try to work that one out!); you nearly gave yourself a pulmonary trying to get to work on time only to find out that your first appointment had either cancelled at the (very) last moment, or was a no-show; you spent 15 minutes trying to fix the sodding toilet seat at work AGAIN because the idiot who boxed the pipework in originally did so so close to the rim of the bowl that there is no room to get a spanner in and thus you have to tighten the toilet seat bolts by hand every 2 weeks otherwise it’s like auditioning your arse for Disney On Ice; you spent the next 9 hours interspersing teaching, training and cleaning whilst downing as many energy drinks as you can stomach without having to spend an extended amount of time on the dodgy toilet seat; when you picked your toddler up from nursery you had to sign an incident report because they tried to run with their pants around their ankles and face-planted Spike, the school’s cactus; then you got home to your other half playing computer games, who asked whether you had remembered to buy milk on the way home (which of course you had not). Yeah, those days. Those are the days when you think, if only we could switch places for a day and then you’ll see what I go through.

Well, we did. Not so much deliberately mind you, but it happened, like some Freaky Friday shiz (but without that actually body swap, obviously…now that really would be something to blog home about!). One of my instructors was signed off sick in January, so I had to work her shifts as well as mine. I distributed as many of her classes amongst the other instructors as they were happy to take on, but at the end of the day the responsibility fell with me as the owner to pick up the slack. It meant working 8am until 10pm 7 days a week for the month, which to be honest, is what I used to work pre-child, but the crucial difference now is that I have a pet-human to take into consideration. There was a possibility of taking him with me to Pole Fitness & Aerial Hoop classes, and just hope that he didn’t cause the collapse of my business with one foul fart, but even then I couldn’t take him to BungeeFit sessions as it’s just too unsafe for everyone involved. By chance, Dave was in the midst of changing jobs and had a month before starting his new position (like, seriously, legit, you couldn’t make this up!). So, on the days when Joshua wasn’t at nursery, Dave became a stay-at-home dad and I became the main breadwinner (apart from there isn’t a lot of bread to be won in the aerial industry, and it’s certainly not a ‘9 to 5’!). When we were nearing the end of the month, I mentioned to Dave that I might write a blog post about our role reversal experiences and asked if he would like to contribute anything from his perspective. After initially agreeing, he came back to me and politely declined, stating that “it wasn’t really that different to normal”. Well my readers, I can tell you now that it was eleventy billion frickin miles from ‘normal’…

As I have already mentioned, I was working my regular hours, plus my instructor’s hours, meaning early starts, late finishes and very little time with Joshua. However, it wasn’t quite the same as a straight ‘job swap’ with Dave, as normally he would go out to work Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, but come 6 o clock, he could go home, spend some time with the little man, put him to bed, play some computer games, have a beverage etc. I, on the other hand, was working 8am until 10pm at the studio, then from 10pm until between midnight and 2am doing admin. What I hadn’t considered when taking on all of the additional classes was all the additional lesson planning and paperwork that came with it, and any usual daytime admin time I previously had was now taken up with teaching. Similarly, Dave was not exactly mimicking my job, as yes he spent 2 days a week having to amuse a pet human, but he didn’t then have to go out to a second job in the evening, which is effectively what I would do normally. When people question why I don’t work “full time” I point out to them that I have two “full time” jobs – looking after Joshua and running my businesses. I may only usually physically teach 6pm until 10pm on 4 of those days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deal with business admin, emails & phone calls EVERY hour of the day (and night). Equally, if I’m working a full day at the studio and Joshua is sent home from nursery ill, I am first and foremost a mum and have to find alternative arrangements for my classes that day.

I am a big believer in ‘credit where credit is due’, and Dave did take Joshua to baby groups in the time he was at home…though he did cherry pick which he wanted to go to and which he didn’t, for example: gymnastics (i.e. a chance to relive his youth, play in the foam pits and show off in front of his son and other parents that despite being out of the game for 6 years, he can still muscle up on the rings first time) yes; but swimming (requiring the plunging of pasty, sun-deprived skin into a pool of water so cold it could transform even Huge Jackman (not a typo) in to a Ken Doll), a hard fast ‘no’. He did get some useful jobs done around the house, like arranging a decorator to paint the kitchen that was started last year and never finished, and he was around whilst the job was carried out in case of any problems. This wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t have been around, so I do really appreciate it. Dave also did his fair share of the housework, which I physically would not have had time to do with the extra teaching shifts. Though sometimes I questioned his idea of ‘washing up’, which regularly involved washing a handful of the plates, then piling the rest up in a tower to make it look like less, and leaving all the cutlery in an oversized mug until we had completely run out of teaspoons. At this point we’d start making substitutions – drinking milk out of cereal bowls because there were no mugs left, then eating cereal out of take-away containers because there were no bowls left…..until the point where I gave in and did the washing up.

It took Dave a while at the start to settle in to his new role as house husband. Especially in the beginning he faffed around a lot, like he was at a loose end, and quite frankly got right on my breasticles! I’d be in the kitchen trying to prep my food for a 13 hour day, and he’d be there, in the way, like one of the cats ready for me to trip over him. He’d regularly say “what can I do to help?”, so I’d reel off a list of things that needed doing, only to come home to find him playing his computer games. But he did eventually find his groove, and so did I. For me, the hours were like the old days, pre-baby, and Dave & I were once again like ships in the night. People often asked me how Dave and I have been together 8 years, when we hardly see each other, and I think this role reversal experiment has shown that we work as a couple because we’re not in each others pockets. No we don’t see a lot of each other, even though we live together, but it’s true that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, and the time we do have together we cherish and really make the most of. In other words, if we were together 24/7 we’d annoy the living bejesus out of each other.

There were times in the month where I wanted to high five Dave, in the face, with a chair, like when he asked what time I had to be at work the next morning and when I said 8.30am he replied with an air of disappointment “oh no, but that means I won’t be able to go to the gym in the morning”. Excuse, me, what?! I’m working eleventy billion hours and you’re making me feel bad for having to start work early on a Saturday because it means you can’t go to the gym? YOU’VE LITERALLY HAD ALL DAY!!!

One time Dave asked if I was coming home between shifts. When I explained that the 2 hour gap was not enough to warrant the journey through traffic there and back, he replied “I just thought you might like to actually spend some time with your son”. There are very few times where I am lost for words, as I have a cake hole the size of the channel tunnel, but at that moment I didn’t know whether to shout or cry, so I did neither and left, slamming the door behind me for dramatic effect. Unfortunately as soon as the self-locking front door had closed, I realised that I’d left my van keys on the other side of it, and had to get Dave to let me back in to get them. Kind of took away a bit from the effect. In the van on the way to work, I stewed over why what Dave had said had caused me to react the way I did. I felt like he thought I was somehow doing this all deliberately, as if I was choosing to work double shifts and not see my son, as if I had a choice?! I felt angry and underappreciated. I also felt massively guilty for not being able to spend as much time with Joshua as normal, and to have it pointed out by my spouse made me feel like even more of a failure as a mum. I felt like I was juggling two businesses and a family and at any moment one of those spinning plates could fall and smash into a thousand pieces. On reflection, it did also make me appreciate the time I usually get to spend with Joshua, and reminded me how lucky I am to be able to do so. A part of me felt sorry for Dave, not getting the opportunity in real life to spend such quality time with his pet human.

At the end of a long month, I think I’d felt every emotion under the sun. Mostly just knackered. I was so tired that I felt jet-lagged – I regularly had to ask people what day it was, as the days all rolled into one. I felt guilty for not being able to spend as much time with Joshua, and grateful of both Dave for his house husband efforts, and of my instructors – covering someone else’s shifts makes you appreciate how much they actually do and how imperative they are to the business. So, what have I learnt from this whole experience? Never work with animals, children, or spouses! Dave and I work together because we don’t live in each others’ pockets and because we don’t work together. I also learnt that I love my job, but I love my son more and I missed spending time with him.

So, is the grass greener on the other side? Well no, the grass is greener wherever you water it…it’s just that you can never be on both sides of the lawn at the same time. So appreciate the grass you have, weeds and all.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lucelia says:

    It is not different in our household! Dave’s ‘you should have asked me to help’ is the classic example of were things have gone wrong – women just get on and do all the chores in there way while men are happy to ignore them and concentrate on the one task they thing is worth their time. This French cartoonist explains it perfectly: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

    Liked by 1 person

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