It was a string of fortunate events that had us sitting on the promenade with people we’d met maybe once before. A chance meeting in front of a restaurant, a stroll, the decision to stop for a bite to eat. The conversation a mixture of introduction and confirmation. Yes, four kids, you? Two. Ages? Your parents live in…yes, that’s right! Polite but honest and at times a little forthright as only the Aussies can. We chose this. I couldn’t do that. We think this. We don’t think that. It was cordial, fun, a few giggles. A passing of time until we both collected our 13 year old children from a party nearby.
While chatting about our eldest daughter’s recent trip to France I faced the uncomfortable truth that my husband and I saw her bout of homesickness very differently. He felt she was fine, travelling well, and perhaps would have coped even better had her mother (that would be me) not become a little too involved. His feeling, while not voiced exactly as such (he was starting to look a little terrified by my furrowed brow and proximity to deliver a swift beating to the head) implied that maybe we should have left well enough alone. What does that mean? That maybe I brought on her tears with my phone calls, discussions and exploration of her general unhappiness.
A slow and steady steam began to seep from my ears. How could he be so wrong, so ill-informed, so, so, so, typical him. For this is his mars to my venus, the emotionless to the emotional, his ying to my yang. It is what makes us so different yet so balanced in our mutual approach. Our children milk it for its benefits, we ask Mum for the understanding, the feels, and Dad for the practical.
I currently have the benefit of an in-house counsel. My mother in law is staying with us and I may never let her leave. Her conversation insightful: a book that she’s read, an article she’s cut out, a snippet from the radio she can remember. A former expat herself she relays stories of days gone by – we compare our lack of understanding on certain issues. We discuss the issue of relationships, how differently couples can react, she tells me of her circle theory when it comes to men. She draws two circles onto the glass top table – the man’s circle is compartmentalized into sections, each representing a piece of his life that he separates, being careful to make sure that nothing overlaps. The woman’s circle? There are no sections, she operates the same in each area of her life, she has no need to separate, she is what she is in all aspects of her life.
I decide to consult Carl Jung the founder of analytical psychology. He believes that “logic and objectivity are usually the predominant features of a man’s outer attitude, or are at least regarded as ideals“, but “in the case of a woman it is feeling.”
I’m not sure about this. Carl sounds like he’s heading towards somewhat dangerous ground. The well healed path of women being emotional and therefore irrational, but just when I think Carl’s an outdated reference point, this:
“In the soul it is the other way round: inwardly it is the man who feels, and the woman who reflects. Hence a man’s greater liability to total despair, while a woman can always find comfort and hope.”
While my disposition and language allow for the daily emotional check: How was? Did you enjoy? Would you like to do that again? My need to have a further understanding when it comes to my children comes from a selfish place – they’re happiness makes me happy. I am the cliché – the mother who is only as happy as her saddest child.
I look at my husband’s weekend. He ended the working week with a night of solo parenting, feeding the kids before falling into bed with a chest infection and a truckload of antibiotics. He woke to baseball practice where he left early to help get things set up. His weekend was a mash of drop offs and pick ups, boys baseball, girls softball, volunteering, collecting, distributing and parenting pick up small talk.
While I feel like my world gravitates around my children, I realize that they, we, are his universe. He just doesn’t need as many words to explain it, understand it. It’s far more simpler for him. While my thoughts and feelings scatter across my parenting path, his require a little more excavation.
It’s really very annoying.