The other day our power went out just before I had to pick up my kids from school, so in order to get out of the garage, I had to manually disengage the garage door from the automatic door opener. When we got home (and the power was back on), I had to get it back in working order by reengaging the attachment, which meant I had to climb on our back bumper to reach it. As I was precariously perched there with one foot on the back of the car and the other on the garage door Spiderman-style, my son asked me why I didn’t “just wait for Dad to come home and do it.”
I told him I was perfectly capable of doing it by myself and didn’t need to wait for his father to fix it. That was the short version of why I wanted to do it, but I also had so many other reasons. While sometimes I do wait for my husband’s help, now that my kids are older and I can disappear into the next room or outside alone without worrying they will eat houseplants and swing from the chandelier, I really like taking care of things on my own for several reasons.
I want to learn how to do it.
I learn by doing even if it takes me a really long time to figure something out. I like to learn how to do new things, especially if I get dirty doing it. It makes me feel useful, powerful, and allows me to show off what a badass I am, like the time I demoed an old cabinet or disconnected a chandelier in front of my kids. It wasn’t a huge deal, but at that moment they believed I had superpowers. So did I.
I am impatient.
If I purchase something that needs to be hung on the wall, if I want to repaint a room, or a piece of furniture gets delivered from IKEA, I am too impatient to wait until my husband can help me. I don’t give a fuck if it takes me three drinks and half of my day. I am going to get it done because I want to, but also, I get anxiety when I procrastinate. I have trouble focusing when there are things around me left undone. I can’t help it, it’s the way I am wired. So instead of spreading that sense of urgency to my very laid back partner, it’s better for everyone if I just tackle it myself.
I like the example it sets for my kids.
I want them to see their mother do as many things as they see their father do. I don’t want them to think there is “man’s work” and “women’s work.” If you see something that needs to be done and you can do it, you should. If you want to learn how to do something so you don’t have to depend on someone else, you should. If you want to build a shelf or fix the washing machine, you should. The same way I expect my husband to throw in a load of laundry if he sees it needs to be done.
Dad is tired.
When my husband comes home after doing hard labor all day, the last thing he wants to do is snake a drain, tighten a door knob, or patch a ding in the sheet rock where my son has thrown a football — and I don’t blame him.
I like to redecorate. A lot.
My husband is not a fan of this. Sometimes I can get it all done before he comes home, and because I don’t have to ask for help, he is only half-aware of the shitshow that was happening in the living room. Or our bedroom. Or the upstairs hallway. There was one time I was in tears trying to paint stripes in our bathroom. I could not get them even despite the fact I had a level and was following all the instructions to a T. I got it figured out though, and then proceeded to do the upstairs hallway. He didn’t notice the stripes for like six months, which is actually a win for me.
Dad is a procrastinator.
Like I said, he takes his time getting to things. He doesn’t quite see the importance of changing the light bulb or repainting the windowsills like I do. His take on things is “there is always time to do it later.” I am not like that and turn into a bitchy-bitchface if it’s not done when I want. (See “I am impatient” above.)
Dad might not come home one day.
I didn’t say this to my son that day, but it’s the main reason I want to do things my self. I witnessed someone very close to me lose their husband and she felt helpless. She was not only mourning the love of her life, she had let her husband take care of all the things around the house their entire marriage and didn’t even know how to unclog the toilet. It scared the shit out of me. I never want to be in a situation like that. I want to feel empowered because I am able to take care of problems around the house or with the car, and I want to know what to do during an emergency.
I need to keep my brain working.
Since being a stay-at-home mom, I have lost brain cells, I am sure of it. I have no regrets. It is the path I chose, and I am not saying staying home and taking care of the kids did this to me (OK, maybe a little), but my lack of energy left me wanting to hang out in the fetal position whenever I could and do nothing else. It was my survival mechanism. Doing things like changing cabinet doors and researching the best way to stain a deck keeps my brain working in a different way. And I like the way that feels.
It doesn’t mean we don’t do things together or ask each other for help. And it certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t called him in a panic because I cracked our brand new pedestal sink and wasn’t sure if we should order a new one or have it repaired. It just means I want to do my part. I want to learn. I like the way a drill feels in my hands. I like showing my kids what their mother is capable of. I don’t mind getting on a ladder. Most of all, I am not afraid to screw up through my learning process. It shows my children that if you keep trying, you can tackle really hard things on your own.