hey, sometimes I’m kind of bored…

On Liz Cheney’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming:

“it’ll be portrayed as… a housewife who’s kind of bored who moved back to Wyoming after a long time to run for the Senate.”

GOP Strategist Rollins Calls Liz Cheney ‘A Housewife Who’s Kind Of Bored’ | TPM LiveWire.

Wow.

Juan Williams, back in 2012, said Ann Romney was a “corporate wife” whose “husband takes care of her.” He later said that his intent was to say something to the effect that she’s pretty wealthy, and it rang hollow for her to try to empathize with those who have little to no money. Kind of like um… Mitt Romney.

And the voters of Wyoming will see, per Ed Rollins, Liz Cheney as a bored housewife, (innocuous?) rather than the ubiquitous media presence who consistently spews reactionary, wrong-headed platitudes that are supposed to sound substantive because of the weight of her last name.

Maybe soon Ed Rollins will say that his intent was to say, “she’s pretty far to the right, making her father look moderate and the Wyoming senate incumbent look liberal. Not so sure this is a good strategy.” Kind of like um… the strategy that Mitt Romney tried. Political extremism tends to boost a person in the short-term and hurt them in the long-term.

But I guess it’s a lot easier to talk about a woman’s marital status.

Better that than what they actually represent, married or not.

Three Cheers for Maternalism

Sarah Conly, an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College, is the author of “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.” She wrote a fascinating op ed for the New York Times this past weekend:

Three Cheers for the Nanny State.

After delineating the ways in which we as individuals repeatedly trip ourselves up (cognitive bias, optimism bias, present bias, status quo bias), she reminds us that individuals are not completely rational; that there is no dignity in clinging to the illusion that we are. That the proper reaction to this fact is to help one another, not blame one another.

Public policy aside (though for what it’s worth I’m all for the ban on huge sodas), the resounding research conclusion that we are not always our own best decision-makers is striking, don’t you think?

We sometimes need somebody to tell us what to do. What to avoid. We need help. Often.

There’s this thing about being a corporate wife that I have neglected to mention but which is probably obvious: I have time. Lots of time. To think. About myself, about others who care about me. About decisions, about problems. So that I can figure out what to do. And what to avoid.

Here in my chair, with the kids playing in the next room (it’s spring break here) I’m thinking right now about the amount of time I’ve spent in the past year talking with other wives, processing events, mulling over dilemmas, offering solicited advice.

It’s a tremendous amount of time. Time well spent, but a lot of time, nonetheless. Who has that kind of time? Fewer and fewer people, apparently. I’m still one of those few. Maybe I need to make the most of it.

For now, though, I’ll make pancakes.

“Stand by [and up for] your man”

Over the course of the past year, my spouse has come home on three occasions with a work-related problem so deep and troubling that his physical health was affected. The first two were pretty bad, but manageable–they gave him stomach aches, utterly exhausted him and caused extra restless sleep. The third–which occurred this week–was really bad. I thought he was going to pass out from the stress and the frustration he felt.

We talk about his job and its pressures daily and in great detail. (I find this to be a key requirement in corporate wifery.) I ask questions, I read up on topics utterly foreign to me, I offer feedback on his presentations, his writings, his strategies. I give advice from a different perspective. We complement each other. He’s an introvert. I’m an extrovert. He’s an analyst. I’m a salesman. We click.

This week, I sat ten feet away from him while he was on the phone at 8:45 in the evening with a colleague on the other side of the world. It was a very serious conversation, my husband’s voice sounded far too controlled. I looked over at him and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. He was very still, listening to his colleague, but he was flexing his hand: open fist, closed fist, open fist, closed fist, open fist. They talked for a while. He ended the call. He said he felt dizzy. I got scared.

He told me about the problem, and we talked about it, for far longer than he would have preferred, but I insisted. He needed it out of his head. I played coach, I played cheerleader. I reminded him of positives, minimized negatives. He went to bed. I stayed up late, reading up on the specifics of the problem he faced, which required a cramming of certain aspects GAAP between the hours of 10 and 11pm.

The next morning I said brightly, “This can’t possibly be as bad as you’re feeling it will be. It just can’t. The issue just doesn’t seem that uncommon. It’s just a problem to be solved, nothing more.” (It was my final effort at optimism before he headed to work.)

Well, he emailed me later that day with what he believed to be a solution to the problem. “Think we’re okay,” he wrote. I read his email, and was relieved, and sincerely proud of him.

When he got home, we talked more. I gave him some more advice, that I picked up when I read that profile of President Obama by Michael Lewis. In a nutshell, I offered this.

“You have to adjust your expectations, and assume that things will go wrong. Assume that your job is to clean up messes, not avoid messes entirely. It’s the shock and frustration with a new problem that gives you such stress. You never have difficulty solving the problem. But you have difficulty dealing with that initial disappointment. Change your expectations. Promise me that.”

He promised.

Now, there is a lot to be said for having a job which you can leave at the office, and for having a marriage in which a couple doesn’t discuss work. All that, however, has to be said by somebody else. My husband, at this point in his life, spends roughly 14 hours a day working or thinking about work, Monday through Friday. On weekends, about two to three hours a day. About an 80-hour week, all told. As I’ve said before, I’m obscenely lucky to be in my position, safe at home. It is the very least I can do to learn about what he does, how he does it, and help him manage the stress.

Now, when I do this, there is a slight risk of falling into a self-pity spiral (fueled heavily by lack of sleep, stress, hormones?). You know the kind–where I wonder if my husband notices what I do every day with the children, the home, our life beyond work (I manage most things in our lives beyond work, except lawn care and invasive wildlife). The kind where, in my darkest moments, I can actually think, “If I were hit by a bus, he’d really only need a babysitter with housekeeping and cooking skills to replace me…”

Yeah, I’ve thought that. It’s shameful. Spirals like that are likely, when you keep things to yourself.

So I started writing this little blog several months ago. People are reading it, people are liking it, and I’m starting to think about next steps, maybe even someday writing a book. I talked about all this with my husband about a month ago. I talked about self-publishing, about talking with people who know people who know other people who could maybe give me advice and help.

My husband was quiet.

“Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe not…” I trailed off.

He looked at me, honestly confused. “Why do you think you need to self-publish? You can get yourself published by any company out there. Why do you have to go through all these middle men to get advice or reviews of your work? Go directly to whomever you want to go to. Don’t sell yourself short.”

My slayer of monsters. My fixer of obscure but dire accounting snafus. My introvert. My analyst. He turned into me.

When you stand by, and up for, him? He faces you. He’s your mirror.

And you both look great.