According to the October 2009 issue of Redbook, there is a phenomenon that has most likely always existed, but now a name has been coined. Social psychologist, Carin Rubenstein wrote the book called The Superior Wife Syndrome.
I believe in this syndrome, but not necessarily in the way which Rubenstein reported, “Wives run the show while their husbands sit back and take it easy. Women are the CEOs of their households, and their husbands are more like employees.”
What show? And under what circumstances? One, I would never consider myself to be running the show over on Adoline Ave., but I certainly saw my mother run a 7-bedroom house full of six children, most at different schools, with different extra-curricular activities, one of whom had severe disabilities, and still manage to make an after-school snack and dinner at 6, with all eight of us sitting around the table, whether we liked it or not.
However, having been married, I no longer consider my father to have been sitting back and taking it easy. It was difficult to see at the time, since my life consisted only of me in my eyes, I went to school, I came home, and then my father came home and turned on the game, or read the newspaper. Whether or not he actually did these things, I cannot be sure, because, as a teenager, I had little use for either one of my parents, failing to realize they were the ones keeping me alive by feeding me and providing a car, gas, shelter, and other teenage necessities.
But what about life outside me, me, me? My father went to work every day, for some years commuting a couple hours a day. He made good money, and worked hard, and provided a very good life for me and my siblings.
So back to Superior Wife Syndrome. Unfortunately I have run in circles where the wife, or more often, the Baby Momma, supported a lazy, uninterested-in-work, drug abuser. So the significant other runs around taking care of the kids, cleaning, trying to support the household while the husband would “sit back and take it easy.” These are not the readers of Rebdook, and not the households this article is referring to.
So who are these lucky men? They’re not men like my father who worked 40+ hours a week to support a family of 8, and they’re not really the Baby Daddy either. Well, the gist of the article is not an argument for whether or not this pattern exists. It was more unoriginal, about how this can build resentment in both partners, how it affects relationships, and how to break the disorder.
Certainly the media, and by media, I really mean television (Everybody Loves Raymond, Desperate Housewives, even Family Guy) has portrayed men as too incompetent to help out around the house. I won’t lie; I think my dad played that card, too, sometimes. But in reality, is it really men’s incompetence or the unwillingness of the women in the house to let the men do some things?
An example: As a young child, I had chores. I thought it was very important for me to do my chores, or the bathroom would not be clean, the floor would remain covered in crumbs from the boys eating popcorn in front of the TV, or we would have no clean dishes. But when I say I was a young child, I mean it. Like, four years old. How good is a four-year-old at cleaning the bathroom? The point was not to help the house get clean; it was to teach me the importance of housework, to learn how to clean, and to feel that I was helping out the every-expanding family. I was a part of the home.
A quote from the Redbook article by a woman who we shall call only Mrs. New Jersey for the purposes of this blog stated: “If my husband was in charge, our living room would have stadium seating, our TV would be sitting on beer boxes, and all dinners would consist of something wrapped in bacon!”
First of all, I would love for all of my dinners to be wrapped in bacon. But second of all, so what? By not giving our husbands a share of the responsibility of the home where we spend so much of our lives, we are taking away the little (or large) pieces of himself that we love so much that we wanted to share our home with him. I’m not saying go back to the bachelor pad of his single days, but build a home with the responsibilities together.
I think Mrs. New Jersey may be underestimating her husband, but even if she’s not, can she give up a little responsibility and let him run with it? She wouldn’t be the first one to have a television set on beer boxes, or stadium seating, although I think that’s an exaggeration. Maybe if she would include him in setting up their home, he would surprise her. Maybe she can give him some space to do his own thing, and would it be so bad if he set the den up like a movie theater? Or even mounted deer heads on the wall, decorated with foam fingers, or other stereotypical “guy” stuff?
The other point I want to make is, is Mr. New Jersey really sitting back and taking it easy? Or is he working 40+ hours a week helping to support her life style of non-beer-box television sets?
I am a firm believer in marriage being a partnership. At 28, I won’t pretend to be a marriage expert, but I have seen successful marriages and unsuccessful ones. I think I have a pretty good handle on some of the important pieces of a successful marriage, and some of the detrimental characteristics of an unsuccessful marriage.
My husband and I both work full time. I also go to school full time and he has a lot of social responsibilities aside from his job. We are very busy, and we split the mandatory responsibility and the joy of having a home together. We both cook, we both clean (him more than me, I admit), and we contribute to the household budget. I wouldn’t want him micro-managing our home and I wouldn’t want to do it myself. I also wouldn’t sit back and take it easy if he did all the work, because I would still be working full-time, going to school full-time, and spending time with my friends and family. I want to be part of our home, and I want my husband to be part of our home.
Yorio, Nicole. (2009, October Day). Are you a wife-in-chief? Rebook, p. 102-105.