It was 3am on a snowy night recently, our 13-year-old Newfoundland dog, Poppy, was stirring in the night. She’s been like this for a while now, and we’ve been getting up with her and letting her out. Part of it is she likes the snow, a lot, the other is just that her routine is breaking down to accommodate her loss of control. When she needs to go out, she needs to go out. But’s it’s also complicated by the fact that we have stairs at the back of our house which she can get down but can’t get back up. So regardless of whether it’s 3am or not, when she needs to go out, we let her out the back so she can go where she’s used to going in her fenced in back yard, then when she’s ready to come in, we have to put on our winter gear and walk her around to the front of the house. She’s on her own 13-year-old dog time as well. The entire process from when she needs to go out, to when she’s back in is around 30 mins.
So, it’s 3am, and Poppy is stirring. Sleepily, I ask my partner, ‘Is that Poppy?’ – his response “I did it last time”.
It’s 3:15am and I’m standing outside in my pyjamas, boots, winter coat, hat and mitts. It’s minus 15 degrees and snowing, the kind of snow that slaps you in the face. Did I mention that Poppy is my partner’s dog? We got her for his birthday 12 years ago. She was a rescue. I love Poppy, she’s my beautiful, adorable and cocky big bear. Yes, I love her, we both do, and I have no problem ensuring she gets what she needs to be a happy and well cared for old dog.
But, as I’m standing out there I’m comparing the lists of what I did last time, in terms of our collective responsibilities as a couple, and what my partner’s list looks like. I’m pretty sure any woman who lives with a man would tell you her list is significantly longer than that of her spouse. Like about 100 times longer. I own the position I’m in. I clearly agreed that we’d take turns letting Poppy out, so neither of us was completely missing a night of sleep. I’m not mad, I’m contemplative (and to be honest, finding a bit of humour in my predicament).
The next day I broach the subject with my partner, who is a loving, intelligent man who wants to be the best person he can be. We talk about our lists. I tell him that I don’t want an “I did it last time” kind of relationship. We’re 22 years into our partnership and it’s time to rethink this. We talk about lists and whether I should be giving him chores to do. I talk about how I don’t want a relationship with a man who thinks he’s helping his wife take care of things. As I’m having this conversation I feel a connection to all the women and men in the world who are looking at each other, loving each other, and trying to establish what works in today’s world where women are working as much, if not more, than their husbands. I feel a connection to all the women, myself included, who have done more – the women who did everything for their sons and launched them on the world knowing nothing about how to be a good partner. Those same women, spending countless hours teaching their daughters how to take care of a home, how to cook and clean and take care of everything. I think about the men struggling to find their role when the Head of the House role became redundant. Yet, here we are, wanting and needing something wonderful to transpire between us.
We’re in a new paradigm. The roles of women and men have changed. We can either let that divide us and wear us out, or we can rewrite the map for what relationships need in these new times. It’s a good topic to contemplate, while you’re standing outside in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, because it’s your turn to take out the dog. Or when your loving partner is busy making you a lovely breakfast on a snowy, Saturday morning. May we all be so loved.