I Didn’t Realize How Much I Did Until My Husband Moved Out

When I was married, I let the trash overflow regularly even though I didn’t work outside the home. It would drive me crazy to have it piled so high that the lid wouldn’t close, but I refused to give in and take it out. This was my passive-aggressive way of reminding my ex-husband that the garbage was one of the household chores he was responsible for.

It didn’t bother him in the least to have a full trash can. I’d get to a point where I couldn’t live like an animal and I’d take it out and replace the bag kicking and screaming the entire time.

And the vicious cycle continued.

mom doing laundry
When I got divorced, one of the things that scared me the most was wondering how I was going to manage it all on my own. (Twenty20 @reinasierra)

Because my ex-husband worked and I didn’t (aside from being a mother), I felt like it was my job to keep our home in order, and honestly, keeping a clean house was always more important to me than it was to him.

In addition to the housework, I took on a lot, as many women do. I was the one shopping for the food and planned the meals whether I had kids in tow or not. I made the orthodontist appointments and shuttled the kids to and fro. I set up our social calendar and ensured birthdays and anniversaries were remembered. I was the one who stayed up with sick kids because he had to be up early for work the next day.

This is What Scared Me After I Divorced

When we divorced, I knew our new lifestyle would be different. But, one of the things that scared me the most was wondering how I would manage it all on my own.

When the kids got sick, it would be all me. If something broke in the house or car, it would be up to me or hire someone to fix it. If we needed a lice treatment at 9 pm, I would have to rush to the store, apply it, and stay up all night attempting to de-louse the house.

I didn’t think I could manage it all alone while working full-time.

I pictured a messy house and an empty fridge. I thought the lawn would go to crap, and I wouldn’t remember to pay the bills on time. I figured I’d be a walking stress case who’d never have time for a social life. I put myself in such a downward spiral, thinking I’d never be able to get a handle on anything.

I was so wrong.

When he left my teenagers, I fell into a routine, and something became very clear to me; it was empowering as hell. I realized that I did most of the work around the house anyway. And it was easier to handle things than to convince my ex-husband he should be mowing the lawn or changing a light bulb.

I settled into my new role as a non-wife, and the panic I had surrounding having to do it all myself faded a bit. One day when I got home to see my garage door wasn’t working; I fixed the damn thing myself because I’d fixed it before. Then, when the central vacuum hose stopped working, I brought that puppy out of the garage and shoved a hose through it to unclog it because I’d done that before also.

Not only had I been carrying around the emotional burden of making sure the house was running smoothly because I’d felt it was my place to do so in the marriage, I’d also been fixing things as they broke like so many other women do.

The truth is, most of us know how to run a tight ship and keep it all straight (for the most part). It’s as if we are born with this extra brain-chip which allows us to do so. After we become a mother, we take on even more and suddenly our capabilities expand with our to-do lists.

The huge shift in my house of work load didn’t happen. like And to add to the magic, there was one less person to clean up after. Best of all, I didn’t have to make a nice meal if I didn’t want to because there wasn’t anyone walking through the door who had just put in a full day’s work.

It turns out that I’d already been doing most of the home and family chores anyway. On top of that, I was constantly trying to convince my partner that he should be doing more. Or he should be doing things when I wanted them done. I was setting myself up for disappointment every day — people have different ideas about what it means to keep a house and make their partner happy.

I’m not saying the transition was perfectly smooth, but I never realized how little my ex-husband did. Nor did I realize how much energy I put into getting him to do more. Not only did I not realize how much I was managing while I was married, but I also didn’t know how much I’d be capable of as a divorced woman.

Sometimes you have to go through something scary to see how truly unique and capable you are.

The author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous.

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About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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