Last weekend I broke down and spent $50 on an mp3 player for myself. I've been wanting one for a while, and not simply so I could have a cool new gadget (although that's fun too). I'm finishing up the first half of my research project at work/school right now, and unfortunately this is the most tedious portion of my work -- it involves a few hours every day of sitting and diluting cattle sera into about 100 little tubes and cutting tiny little strips out of the blot paper that has my protein in it. I honestly get so bored doing this that I forget to breathe. And even though there's no other way to get the data I need, and the end results will be interesting, it feels like wasted time to me. I've tried and tried to have a good attitude about this, to find a new perspective that will help me enjoy the work, because I believe we choose joy. But I haven't found a way to do that...until I got the mp3 player. (Note: This is in no way meant as an advertisement for mp3 players. Just wanted to clarify.)
I resisted the urge to immediately subscribe to audible.com and instead searched for free recordings of audiobooks and found librivox.org. I now have several classic books on my Sansa, along with the Dave Ramsey Show podcast, Sheila's new podcast at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and perhaps the best find of all - the 1938 Good Housekeeping Marriage Book. I downloaded this recording partly out of curiosity and partly out of an expectation that it would be humorously out of date. Instead I found that it was shockingly relevant for the modern wife. Admittedly, there are some amusing ideas and references in the book, but in just a day of listening to the recording my marriage has improved. Seriously. The advice offered in these 70-year-old articles is frank, specific, useful and wise.
I skipped the first few chapters, as they were for the courtship and engagement period, and started with a chapter written by Eleanor Roosevelt, entitled "Should Wives Work?". Of course, the first thing Eleanor stated was that the real question she was addressing was "should wives work outside the home," since being a wife is work! It's interesting to note that this was a question of interest even in the early part of the last century, as I tend to think this is a modern issue, and it is a pretty hot topic on "mom" blogs. There is much wisdom in the answer Eleanor offers, and I suggest you listen to the chapter yourself. I would like to note my reaction to her statement that a wife who works outside the home has two careers.
First, I felt...relief. Relief at the outside recogntion that what I am attempting to do as a mom, wife, and graduate student, is hard. If I feel overwhelmed at times, it is not because I'm not good enough or energetic enough or efficient enough...it's because I'm really working two careers at the same time. Sometimes I just need someone to acknowledge that for me.
Secondly, viewing "wife" as a career position altered my overall perspective of marriage. I hadn't really considered it in that light before. Motherhood, even homemaking in general, I had seen as fully satisfying (and demanding) career choices before, but not so for simply being a wife. How amazing might my marriage be if I put as much study and effort into it as I did for my PhD preliminary examination? What if I deliberately put time aside to study my husband -- his motivations, desires, weaknesses, strengths? And then acted on what I learned to support him in reaching his goals and dreams?
Not that I want to view my marriage as a test to study for. I've had more than enough exams in my life and I can't tell you how happy I was when I finally finished my last formal class. But I think I've taken my wife career too casually. And the truth is, just like any other career where work and proper devotion will lead to promotions and greater benefits, so will being a better wife lead to greater joy and fulfillment in marriage -- for both of us.