I have told you before that I try to control the impression people have of me, deliberately showing certain sides and aspects of my personality, often playing a role, acting like their image of me would act. I have found out that as a general rule people seem to find you more likeable knowing what to expect from you, and the occasional cultivated flaw makes them like you all the more.
I have done the same for the Knight. After all, I have always considered him a part of me, so why not build a persona around him too? To all my friends from the institute he was the perfect house husband and dad, doing all the household work and parenting on his own so that his workaholic wife did not need to lift a finger. It could have backfired and made me look like a bad person, but I always told my stories with a smile and the right timing, so people laughed and thought the switch of roles in this conservative family set up to be a refreshing change.
In truth, the housework has always been split, and it never bothered me. He did all the cooking and grocery shopping, I did the tidying up and most of the cleaning.My daughter was always happy and healthy, though I already suspected my mother-in-law being involved in caring for her, otherwise the Knight would never have had the time to reach these insane levels on battle.net. But everything was okay. His mother was a part of the family and if Elsa saw her more often than she saw me, I was happy. They could split the parenting in whatever way they wanted. We were a family, we all worked well together.
When we moved away from our old home, there was a whole new household to lead, and we noticed that for the first time in our lives there was no other adult present. I would come home after work and the kitchen would be a mess, just like the bathroom and the dinner table – not because the Knight had had no time, but because he just didn’t care much about tidiness. I guess his mother had done more tidying up than I had known. The Knight is a god of chaos and did not try to hide it, while I need order and free spaces to be calm. A messed up room makes me feel uncomfortable, I cannol be at home there. In our new house, I kept all my old tasks and overtook all the ones my mother in law had done, while the Knight was left with shopping and cooling and looking after Elsa*, although I was working 50 hours a week while he was staying at home full time. I am not proud of it, but now I begrudged him the reputation I had built for him. I was doing all these things no one would ever believe me, because after all, they thought I had Mr super-husband watching my back. I would still have to listen to remarks about me being all lazy at home.
Maybe it was also still about this thesis thing. Why should I build a reputation for him at my expense, while he just took my help for granted and, in general, did not seem to be interested in saying nice things about me to other people. To me, an essential thing in a marriage is working together, making each other strong. I know, constant rivalry is kind of our thing, but I am sure he could have thought of a way to back me up a little, had he cared. I started to feel like I cared more for him than he did for me.
On our worst days, it seemed to me like he didn’t care how I felt at all anymore. And I don’t mean emotionally. I could scream because I had cut my finger on his insanely sharp kitchen knives**and he wouldn’t as much as blink. In response, he did not get much empathy or compassion whenever he was feeling bad. Also, I started to feel anger rising up in me whenever he continued gaming for some more minutes when Elsa asked him for something. I could have ignored all the chaos, after all it originated in our different attitudes towards chaos and order, but Elsa should always be his first priority. Being her father was his damn job! His one most important job!
Then, he suddenly got another job. A full time job, that would finally get us some more financial freedom. When he called me and told me about it, the first thing I did was go and buy the biggest watering can I could find, so I would not need to climb down to the creek as often anymore. Then I drove home and had the first guilt-free dinner in weeks.
* Depending on personal attitude towards it, parenting can be a full time job, but I knew that the Knight was practicing the “laissez-faire” style, often leaving Elsa to herself (with her numerous toys and/or a movie of her demand).
** Oh how I hate those things! They deeply unsettle me.