As the wife, I do not put together furniture.
I do not grill.
I do not mow the lawn, except on very rare occasion when my husband has a migraine and the neighbors are complaining.
And (unless I absolutely have to) I do not make pancakes.
I am not particularly proud of these “do nots,” and to this day they continue to puzzle me. My friends who have little boys have all expressed the same sentiment- “I raised him just like his sister (or I tried not to focus on gender), and yet it’s all trucks and balls all of the time.” In a similar fashion, I often feel like I have adopted these random wifely qualities without the intention to do so. Although I was not an adult for long before my marriage, I did live alone, and every job was mine to do. I never imagined that I would hand the drill over to my husband and put on an apron.
But here I am.
And it works. After all, the kitchen is the center of my life for so many reasons. I just happen to be very happy with my apron on. And although sometimes Joey and I seem to be so clearly stuck into our husband and wife roles, at other times there are nuances that help me to see that as a pair, we are entirely unique, as all pairs are.
I don’t know where my ideas of what a man is come from. Really, I had no father of my own until I was eighteen, and the men who served as models for me were as varied as ice cream flavors. But there are attributes in Joey that drew me to him in the first place- not unmanly qualities- just aspects that seemed so unexpected from a 22-year-old man. Extreme artistic talent untainted by ego. A dream of having kids, as well as teaching them. Goofy spaciness. Uncanny mix-tape making ability. And although those qualities are still going strong, like me he has slipped into his husband role too. In our family, he is the one who drills, mows, and grills things.
I am okay with all of this, most of the time. Sometimes I fixate on the jobs that I don’t do, and I feel frustrated with myself. But for the most part, if I want to do them, I do, and in that moment I can see that the role is only as fixed as I shape it to be.
There is also another side to all this. I think that part of a partnership is a division of labor, because as partners we are not just there to love each other; we are working together to create our life and make it run in a way that works for our family. So it makes sense that he would take some jobs and I would take others. We are good at different things.
I birth, nurse, feed, worry about, and try to create a safe and loving space for our kids. He plays with them, teaches them things, takes them out for adventures, shows them how to make art, makes it possible for them to go to a wonderful school, and helps them to see how fun life can be.
I do the laundry, and Joey does the dishes.
I plant the garden, and Joey mows the paths for me.
I make dinner, and Joey makes breakfast.
And by breakfast, I mean pancakes.
Somewhere in the last several years, Joey gained the ability to make the best pancakes in the world. He swears by this one recipe, but I think that he is also quite handy with the spatula, which certainly helps. His pancakes are cloud-like and perfectly flavored, with the tiniest bit of crunch around the edges. I can eat 20 of them if he keeps handing full plates to me, which he has certainly been known to do. While he and Sadie flip the pancakes, I throw some frozen blueberries in a pot for fruit sauce, and we eat them piled with the sauce and spoonfuls of yogurt. This is my favorite way to eat them, but they are also quite perfect in hand, right out of the pan, naked of all adornment. Joey eats them this way as he cooks them, and by the time he sits down with one little token pancake on his plate, he’s already had a full breakfast’s worth and then some.
As for the division of labor around here, I think that it will keep evolving, and so I try not get stuck in it. Odd as it may sound, my sense is that Joey and I both play the role of husband or wife at times, and then we spontaneously trade. Sometimes I feel more father than mother, and then, again, I am all mother. But as changeable as all this can be, I’m counting on Joey to keep making pancakes. I know I can make a decent stack, but I’d rather sit back and leave it to a real pancake artist.
adapted (by Joey) from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking bowder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. The batter will be lumpy.
Preheat and lightly oil a cast iron skillet or griddle. Scoop the batter onto the skillet with a 1/2 cup measure or large spoon. For some reason, pancakes are rarely a success- so don’t get frustrated if the first round doesn’t turn out so well. Make sure the heat is right about at medium. The pancakes will puff up. When you see bubbles on the top of the pancake and the edges are a bit dry, flip it over. Cook for a minute or two on the second side. Taste when done, and you’ll get a feel for the timing. Serve with maple syrup, or fruit sauce, or eat plain right out of the pan.