I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Serve or Protect?

The other afternoon I had a discussion with a friend which brought up an interesting topic - the different approaches men and women have to survival. I recalled for him the (many) times in my married life when DH was out of work. My solution to this problem was to work more - crazy hours, crazy jobs - whatever it took, really, to keep my family afloat. In my mind the problem (at it's very core) was that we needed money and did not have any and the solution was just to go out and earn some. DH's solution to this was to keep looking for the same type of job, hoping that he'd get one, and...well, that was about the extent of it.

Our differing approaches to our family's survival were the cause of many an argument and many a tear (mostly shed by me.) I just couldn't understand, and actually still can't understand, why he wasn't willing to do literally ANYTHING to keep our family going. It was *me* who was taking on every extra hour I could get, and it was me who was happy to work menial jobs if it meant money coming in. DH on the other hand never did any of that (although in recent years, he's changed tack significantly on this.) It really was beyond my comprehension why he did not just get up off his ass and do something to make things better. ANYTHING at all. DH is by no means a bad person. He loves his family and wants to look after them, financially or otherwise - but he just could not bring himself to do what needed to be done.

This is where - somewhere in our DNA - there is a huge difference between women and men. Women are the protectors. The ones who will literally do whatever it takes (including self-sacrificing) to ensure that their children, their home, their family - survives a situation. Men on the other hand, well, they're less about protection or survival and much more about pride. It wasn't that DH didn't love us or want to keep us safe - it's that somewhere deep inside, he just could not bring himself to make the sacrifice. He was far too proud to admit that he had (even if only in the short term) failed us. Too proud to lower himself to a menial job because that was more about admitting defeat than it was about being too good for something. Too mired in what he calls "the destruction of hope" to actually be part of the solution. I also believe the pressure of knowing we all depended on him also paralysed his ability to help us as a family survive. He couldn't see how a short-term 'fix' might be better than waiting forever for a long term fix that might never come. He had ONE course of action and that was it, and he was going to stick to that course of action no matter how much I cried.

Like I said, I don't get this way of thinking at all. For me, love is a huge motivator in most if not all of my actions. It's because I love people that I act the way I act (you did read that camping post, right?), and for me taking on all those insane jobs was an expression of love like any other. It's because I loved DH and my kids - combined with my inherent need to protect them - that I did whatever it took to keep us afloat. I remember crying to DH and saying, "I don't understand. Don't you love us enough? Aren't we important enough to you to make you want to do anything at all to help us through? Why can't you do this for us?"

No amount of crying, begging, pleading or threatening got him to move one single inch in any direction.He just could not let go of his pride, of his hope, of his...one-road solution...enough. I did wonder back then what might happen if I simply took the children and left. I KNEW we would survive even without him (it's what I was doing already anyway). Would that somehow push him into action? I suspect not, and the damage it might do would be something we might never recover from.

Like I said, my DH is not a bad person - he is actually the single most wonderful person I know - but these situations served as very stark reminders about the differences between women and men. When the chips are down, it's ME who is going to hold it all together, because that's just what women are programmed to do.

You might be reading this and thinking, "Yes, but DH is now happily employed and the business is going well, so what is she carrying on about?" Isn't this ancient history? Yes, of course it is - but the conversation I had got me thinking about it again. In that conversation, a couple of light bulbs went off in my head: 1) If all else fails, my survival instinct will always be there as my safety net, and 2) If our financial situation, for even one millisecond, made me uncomfortable or unhappy enough - I'd be out there working on Sundays and evenings (which are currently my only 'down' times from work, and often not even then.)

It's that inherent safety net which has keep my family going through times of dire straights, and it's the safety net which also 'allowed' me to be brave enough to take the business to the next level. I didn't take the leap with the business because I am a risk-taker. I took the leap because I knew there was a safety net, and I knew my survival instinct would serve me well. 

(and more on this tomorrow, but from the other side of the coin.)

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