Is it petty to gossip about your husband during a pandemic? Technically, yes.
But with the whole family home all day, every day, for every meal, and with some people talking very loudly on conference calls, and every day both a weekend and a workday, and restaurants closed, and the sudden mandate to home-school, many moms are so burdened they can’t help themselves.
A mere few days into the great shut-in, the whispered gripes were flooding in.
“You can not use my name,” a working suburban mom said by way of introduction.
She told her story: It was 8:30 a.m. on Monday, and with just 30 minutes until the kids’ online Zoom session with school started, she was frantically gathering needed supplies.
“I’m cradling the saddest assortment of markers and composition books and random [stuff], and I realize they need pencils at their desks.”
Dashing around hunting for tape, she passes her husband, who is also in need of supplies. “Do we,” he asks, “have any slivered almonds?”
Should we add a caveat here? And say that a lot of dads are figuring out cooking and helping the kids with online school and doing laundry and cleaning up after breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner? Sure! And that some couples are using the pandemic as a bonding opportunity? Definitely!
But we can also listen to a Cambridge therapist?
“What’s going to happen is that women will be flooded with all the work of managing the house — the food, the cleanup, the kids’ homework, and it’s going to cause an enormous amount of friction,” psychotherapist Kyle Carney said.
She contrasted the baby boom that followed the famed Blizzard of 1978 with today’s forced togetherness. “You’re going to see a lot of divorces.”
After weeks of exhausting panic shopping, wives are getting triggered by seemingly innocuous spousal comments which in fact reveal a significant lack of, let’s say, awareness.
“Don’t quote me,” said a local mom, a university administrator with three children at home.
“I’m now planning three meals a day indefinitely with uncertain sources of food and supplies and figuring out how to home school/occupy two teenagers and entertain a four-year-old and working full time and trying to maintain some sort of professional dignity with my coworkers, boss, and subordinates and I’m not sleeping,” she said.
Her husband, she explained, does not seem concerned about figuring out how to juggle work/life responsibilities now that the kids are home full time with no school work and no activities.
“I’m just taking it day by day,” he said.
In Winchester, Carey Sue Barney, co-owner of a landscaping company, spoke at normal volume, but that was only because she had escaped to CVS, claiming an emergency need for body wash.
Her husband has developed a scarcity mentality, she said, as if he’s living in the Great Depression. “He’s monitoring the leftovers. It’s like we’re in prison.”
She stepped outside CVS, noted that several people were just sitting alone in their cars, and opened a new line of complaint about her husband, this one involving the children.
“Their father will be 15 feet away but they’ll come to me for every single question,” she said. She imitated the soundtrack at home. “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, can you...”
“He puts in his Bose headphones so he doesn’t hear them,” she said, “and then he can validly say, ‘I didn’t hear them.’ ”
In Jamaica Plain, a high tech manager waited until her husband left to start her cry for help. “He’s on a hike,” she said peering out the window to make sure he really had left the house. “I can speak.”
Her husband, who was not an engaged student as a child, is being too strict with their middle schooler, she said. “My [home] office door is closed, but I can feel the tension building on the other side,” she said, mimicking her son’s moans.
She took a moment to wonder why his school was giving him “horticulture homework” and then turned her criticism back to her spouse. “His mother was a teacher who tortured him and now he’s torturing his own kids.”
“We’re three days in. We need to pace ourselves.”
Meanwhile, her husband is feeling none of the marital tension. “He keeps wanting to take walks with me,” she said. “I want to go out alone. I just want to go out alone.”
Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.