A big shift

A Week-Long Trip Without My Spouse Was The Best Thing For My Marriage

When my husband stepped into my shoes, it clicked for him.

by Dahlia Rimmon
Dad reading his kid a book while the mom was away.
VladGans/E+/Getty Images

When Danny and I got married, we were fresh out of college, and we weren’t thinking about who’d handle midnight diaper duty. We just went with the flow, letting our individual strengths and schedules guide our household responsibilities. I knew my way around a kitchen so I cooked; Danny is good with numbers and I’m impatient, so he did the finances. I had a more flexible schedule while he worked long hours, so I slipped into the role of household manager. We just did what made sense at the time.

Then we welcomed our first child, and then two more. Our household tasks multiplied, yet the division of labor remained the same. Cooking ceased to be as simple as throwing together grilled chicken and rice to keep us fed all week, and now entailed assembling three meals a day and a constant supply of snacks for our perpetually hungry children. Cleaning wasn't just wiping down surfaces, it also involved decluttering toys, tackling monstrous laundry piles, and making sure the kids were bathed after a long day at school.

And I haven’t even scratched the surface of the endless list of things we have to keep track, like: Are the kids getting enough protein? Are we hitting milestones or do we need to start speech therapy? And oh boy, did we accidentally skip teeth-brushing for a whole week? On top of handling the day-to-day tasks, I found myself shouldering more of these anxieties. We got so caught up in this routine that I never even paused to question whether it was fair or sustainable. But truth be told, I was drowning in it, feeling more frustrated and overwhelmed with each passing day.

I decided to plan a week-long solo trip. It wasn’t a girls’ getaway or spa retreat, nor was it a grand gesture or an attempt to prove anything. I booked a week-long trip to visit my family simply because I missed them and wanted to reconnect.

With all three kids settled in school and a remote job that allowed me to work while traveling, the timing for a solo trip felt right. Little did I know, this trip would deeply impact our marriage in unexpected ways.

As I began briefing Danny on managing responsibilities and routines, I could sense his nervousness creeping in. The sheer volume of it all became clear when, 15 minutes into the conversation, I was still discussing the breakfast menu. We hadn’t even gotten to the bento box lunch assembly line yet, or the rules about which kid could have nuts at school.

While I was away, staying in touch with Danny proved to be quite the challenge. He was constantly overwhelmed and tied up with housework. From loading yet another round of dirty dishes into the dishwasher and managing bath time chaos, to settling sibling disputes and the never-ending battle of defied bedtimes, he barely had time for a phone call. And then there was one night where he was just too mentally drained to muster up the energy for a chat on the phone.

Toward the end of my trip, my husband took a moment to acknowledge the tremendous physical and emotional effort involved in running our household. I appreciated it, but it also made me realize just how much emotion I’d been bottling up. It wasn't merely about splitting household chores. What mattered more to me was hearing Danny acknowledge just how much goes into managing a house. It was about him realizing my careful organization wasn’t just a personality trait, but a vital part of keeping our home running smoothly.

My week-long solo trip was the best thing for our marriage. It gave Danny a glimpse into the physical and mental demands that come with managing our home, of, let’s face it, being a mother. I often felt overwhelmed and stressed, not just because of the tasks themselves, but because of the constant delegation and proactive planning required to get things done. When my husband stepped into my shoes, it clicked for him, and he finally understood the weight of those responsibilities, which mattered more to me.

Today, Danny still handles the budget and rounds up all the scattered race cars, but he's more proactive about pitching in around the house. If he sees the kitchen sink overflowing, he jumps right in to load the dishwasher, or he'll take a quick peek in the pantry and head to the grocery store after carpool. We’re shifting away from delegating and acting more like a true team. We're co-managers now, and it's working out great.

Dahlia Rimmon is a freelance writer and pediatric dietitian, covering food and nutrition, parenting and motherhood, women's health, and baby gear. She lives with her husband and children in the Midwest.