Welcome home, Mr. Mom.

Dear friends,

Mr. Mom will be home today. He’s only been gone for a few days, but I miss him terribly. In honor of his return, I’m republishing a story I wrote about him for Valentine’s Day a few years ago. He might be a creaky old man, but he’ll always be my sweetheart.

With gratitude {for love, sweet love},

Joan, who loves to call her man an old man with various other adjectives preceding it depending on her mood

A Valentine.

First published February 14, 2009

Twenty-three years and 52 days ago, I met Mr. Mom on a blind date.  And six years later we got married by the skin of our teeth.

But today — when I’m reminded of the particular way Cupid’s arrow pierced my heart so long ago —  I feel like meditating on love’s bloom.  After all, a Valentine is nothing if not a promise, and what could possibly offer more promise than the heady fragrance, alluring color and enduring propagation of love’s blossom?

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a girlfriend who was on the outs with her husband.  She didn’t want to vent so much as she needed a sympathetic ear to walk with her down marriage’s meandering path.  I listened and she processed, and by the time lunch was over she left with new insights and a softened heart.  But in the middle of our discussion about love’s annoyances, I inexplicably thought of a story about Mr. Mom, which I told her, but not without choking back tears.

And it seemed so strange to me, this sudden sweep of emotion over Pad Thai in a noisy restaurant during a conversation that was essentially about the millions of ways the male species make us bat-shit crazy.  And they do make us crazy . . . so crazy that on certain days, a certain woman might be inclined to sew her husband up in the sheets.

I know this doesn’t make sense to you.  It’s one of those inside jokes all couples have — code language that communicates emotion in an instant.

In our house, “sewing him up in the sheets” refers to a story Mr. Mom first told years ago and swears is true.  He claims he knows a guy who knows a guy who drank too much and had a tendency to get ugly with the wife when he drank.  And one night, after years of enduring drunken ugliness, the woman waited for her husband to pass out, then she sewed him up in the sheets.  And once he had been securely stitched in place, she picked up a baseball bat and beat the holy hell out of him.  And according to Mr. Mom’s legend, the man never drank or acted ugly again.

And Mr. Mom knows when I say I’m going to sew him up in the sheets that I’m on the edge of crazy and his next word might just push me over the cliff.  But what he probably doesn’t know is that, sometimes, the telling of his kindness moves me to tears.

My mother met Mr. Mom not long after I did.  And she only said two things to me about him.  First: “Lord, Joan-Marie, that is the skinniest boy I’ve ever seen.”  And second: “He’s very kind.”

I’d like to think that 23 years ago I was smart enough to know kindness is the first mark of a good man, but I wasn’t.  I think it’s a lesson the universe wanted me to learn — how to be kind and generous — and so I ended up with a partner whose every day in our home is marked by putting others first. Some readers might be inclined to assume I’m talking about everything Mr. Mom does for me.  And heaven knows he does a lot.  But I’m not talking about how much I love him because he cooks and cleans and runs errands and cares for children and generally makes my life easier.  If you read this post, you know there were many years of our marriage when our roles were reversed, when he worked very long hours and I carried much of the domestic burden.  So while his kindness is today marked by an uncommon level of service to our family, it wasn’t always that way.

But what has been a constant from Mr. Mom is a measure of respect and affection I don’t often see in other men.  There’s always been the sense from Mr. Mom that we’re in this together, no matter what, and that partners give first, take later.  I didn’t know that when I met him and it’s a lesson I still sometimes fail at today — both as a spouse and as a parent.  But his enduring example leads me toward a better me, the me I aspire to see reflected in his gaze.

When Kate was born 16  years ago, we spent a few extra days in the hospital because the little squirt had demanded a difficult c-section.  And during one of those luxuriously quiet evenings in our hospital room when both sleep and nursing help were still plentiful, I invited Mr. Mom to join Kate and me in the bed.  As the three of us spooned in the twilight and the silence, I whispered to him “Everything good in my life has come from you.”  I have no idea if he remembers that moment or the sentiment, but I still feel as strongly about those words as I did on that day.  He is my genesis, bringing both love and joy into a life that would be adrift without his sure rudder.

In case you’re curious about the story I recently told my friend, the story that moved me to tears of gratitude during a conversation in which she’s sharing love’s difficulties (yeah, that’s a little awkward), it’s this:

When I graduated with my master’s degree last May, Mr. Mom gave me a special gift.  He’s not known for hitting home runs with gifts, particularly if left to his own devices.  In fact, I once told him he’s a 2 on a gift-giving scale of 1-to-10.  But on that day, which represented the culmination of years of hard work and personal sacrifice and a lifetime of feeling like I’ve never quite done enough, he handed me a small jewelry box.  At first, I thought he might have actually gone for the grand gesture and purchased a diamond of some sort.  Instead, I was surprised to open the box and find a small pewter turtle inside.  And then he said this:

“In Native American mythology, the turtle represents burden because it carries the world on its back.  And you’ve been the turtle for so long in our family.  Now that you’ve accomplished this very significant achievement, I hope you’ll release some of your burden, let go of worry, and enjoy your life with me and the kids.”

And how can a girl possibly turn down an offer like that?


  1. So much wisdom on this page. I think my takeaway for today must be the essential, “partners give first, take later”. I’m glad yours is on his way back to you.

  2. Maridel says:

    I hope that turtle didn’t get swept up in your minimalist purge : )

  3. That is so sweet. I’m getting teared up. Mr. Darcy shares some of Mr. Mom’s traits and I count myself lucky to have found such a man to share my life with.


  1. […] In this space, my favorite posts about Mr. Mom are this one, […]

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