CG and I have a recurring problem. Deeper than the eternal Socks Next to the Hamper Fiasco or the You Load the Dishwasher Wrong Battle, this one cuts to the heart of what it means to be individuals in our family, to be autonomous and yet connected, to have a full-time stay at home parent and a full time working parent. We bump into this particular issue again and again, struggling to find a middle ground where we both feel loved and respected.
The problem: when talking about our house or our children, I often possessively say "I" or "my". And he inclusively says, and doesn't understand why I don't say more often, "we" or "our".
It is a pet peeve of mine when couples become a mono-unit using the royal "we" to express the sum content of their uni-brain. "We just loooove the endless pasta bowl at the Olive Garden, don't yoooooouuu?" This is one of my hottest feminist trigger points because in heterosexual relationships it's historically the woman who loses her sense of self and becomes subordinate to the man's intellect and opinions. His "I" becomes their "we".
Long ago, I vowed never to let anyone else's "I" become my "we".
But this really isn't political, it's personal. I say "I" when talking about our home or our children because I want to own something and stake claim to an identity that is mine alone. Since choosing to stay home with the girls, there is precious little else to possess. I can't deny that a selfish, possessive love for my girls and our home runs deep in me, whether it is a result of me staying home with them or the underlying motivator for me to stay at home in the first place, I don't know.
So I get that my identity struggles are at the heart of this stumbling over pronouns, but it still refuses to go away. I still say "I have some cookies here somewhere", "I found a great Christmas gift", "I thought her first birthday party should be at a biker bar" because I bought the cookies and I found the Christmas gift and I researched the very best biker bar for our daughter's first birthday (not really, but let's pretend). This, of course, negates that I bought the cookies because we both like them, I found the Christmas gift after we decided on the general idea and I chose the biker bar after we dismissed a topless bar from our list of options (But there'd be boobies everywhere! She'd love it!). From my skewed perspective, he gets sole ownership of his career, I should get sole ownership of what happens here, in the house, with the girls, even though they are his daughters too and he is as true a partner in parenting as he can be.
CG wants me to use "we" because he often feels wrongfully and hurtfully excluded when I use "I". As the current designated household earner who works very hard to keep us flush with those cookies and Christmas gifts and biker bar birthday parties, he sometimes feels cut off from the bonds, rituals and rhythms of life with the girls just by virtue of the number of hours he works away from the house.
He wants me to say we have some tea and we found a good preschool and we use time-outs sparingly because presenting a united front as parents, as the people who started this little family in the first place, is of paramount importance to him. My overuse of "I" appears to stake my claim to the mantle of Head of Household, or at least to Chief Parent. He worries I see him as an afterthought, a supporting player, in the central dramas of our family's life and my overuse of "I" just confirms and entrenches that fear.
I'm clearly struggling to forge an identity as a person, a mother and - gasp - homemaker, without making him feel as if I'm trying to push him out and own all of parenthood, too.
This is one of those marital arguments where there can be no ultimate victor. We're both right; I deserve recognition for what I accomplish and contribute and he deserves to be clearly included as a partner at the very center of this family. Obviously, I need to work on differentiating when it's appropriate for me to use "I" and when it's more precise and truthful to use "we".
I have some work to do but I'm so glad that we have each other.