Could I adopt my husband’s habits for a week — and survive?
Have you ever thought, even for just a teensy-weensy millisecond, what it would be like to be someone else, or just take on some of their traits, habits, schedule?
Have you ever wished you were like your husband, or maybe that your husband was little more like you? Yeah, thought so.
Nope, I didn’t manage to get a mind and body swap, but I figured a little perspective taking wouldn’t hurt anyone. We’re stuck day in and day out, in this one mind, one body, one way. But there’s a whole world of people out there who are not me. Self-improvement is too hard, but what if I was just someone else?
A body swap is beyond my powers, but I decided to pinpoint a few of my husband’s better traits and features and try them on for size, just for a week, to see how I’d fare.
Here’s what I came up with:
I had to wake up the same time as my husband (5:45 a.m.).
I needed to dress like my husband — white top, black bottom.
I couldn’t kvetch. Only women and kids do that, he says.
I had to do things immediately, no dawdling.
I wouldn’t go to minyan (that accommodating to my shenanigans my husband is not), swap jobs (ditto to his boss, and honestly, I’d make the worst accountant), or follow his eating habits. (’Cuz mine are better. I could never eat like him — first meal at 2 p.m. and too much Dr. Pepper. I pass out, for real pass out, if I don’t get food in me bright and early.)
How it went down:
Waking Up Early to Learn
It’s still dark outside at 5:45. Did you know that?
I know the next day really starts the previous night, but it doesn’t feel like the next day until it’s light outside. It’s so disorienting to be up in the pitch darkness and drinking coffee.
Morning coffees are for sitting at tables with sunlight streaming in, not to be guzzled in the predawn hours. Makes sense, though — at this hour, you need something to keep you up, ’cuz you should really be sleeping.
Anyhow. My alarm rang. It was dark. I was tired, I pressed snooze. Three guesses how that turned out. So yeah, I don’t know how my husband or any of the men in his chaburah do it.
At the Melaveh Malkah every year, the head of the chaburah thanks all the wives for holding down the fort while their husbands learn and daven early. I don’t know what’s going on in other peoples’ homes, maybe they’ve been cursed with those kids who wake up at dawn, but I’m sleeping. I get zero zechus in my husband’s learning, but I’ll take it if someone’s offering it.
The next day I managed to wake up at 5:45. I got dressed and figured, my husband’s learning, I might as well daven now. I didn’t get past brachos before two of my kids woke up. They’re not usually early risers; I’m usually flicking the light on at 7:30 telling them “Gooood mooorning!” in my best camp director tone. But no, today of course, that sixth sense kids have that alerts them when their mother has more than 30 consecutive seconds to herself kicked in and they were up. I did daven, but it was not the blissful communion I anticipated it being.
The next day my husband told me he likes it when no one is up when he wakes up. Hint, hint. So I set my alarm for six. I’d give him 15 minutes of precious “me time.” I tried davening at six, but of course my kids woke up again. (Why? Why? Why?)
I decided to really commit. If my husband was learning, I should too. I knew I wasn’t going to find someone as nutso as me to learn for just ten minutes in the wee hours of the morning. So I turned east and recruited a friend in Israel to be my learning partner. This was the week before Rosh Hashanah, which is probably why she said yes, but really, her kids were just about to come home, not exactly good timing.
We arranged to learn the next morning, I’d read something from whatever book I chose. I went with my trusty standby, Rabbi Akiva Tatz’s Living Inspired. I woke up on time, I called my friend. I think I yawned more than I talked, but we learned and it was good, but also a little scary, ’cuz when you truly contemplate Rosh Hashanah, it can be a little paralyzing for puny people (like me).
Then I went to bed late. Like 12:30 late. (Oh, sheesh, I’m so old I think 12:30 is late.) I knew the next morning would be a disaster. It was. My alarm rang, and honestly, I didn’t even try, I texted my friend that I was canceling and rolled over. That was it. I learned for one day.
I don’t know how my husband has a chavrusa, it’s hard enough being accountable to yourself. I did daven. I get points for that, right?
The rest of the week, I rose at six, davened, the kids were up, there was no magical alone time where I got to sit and contemplate creation. I didn’t even get to drink my coffee in peace. But I did it! Ish.
Okay, fine, Moish, you win for harder morning wake up.
Dressing Like a Penguin
If you know me, you know I don’t wear black. Yes, I have my standard black skirts, flared, pencil, and the like, but funeral getup is not really my thing.
I checked my closet. Black skirts I had, but white tops were trickier, I’d gotten rid of a lot of old white shirts in my Marie Kondo Life Lab purge. I don’t regret it, because I didn’t want to wear them, but practically speaking I didn’t have enough clothing. I have two white T-shirts, one ribbed, the other with an asymmetrical hem. That’s it. Guess I’d be doing a lot of laundry this week, blech.
The first day was okay. I felt like I was dressed too starkly I had tried to add some color with my yellow tichel, but it felt like too much so I swapped it out for a muted black with gold trimming. The next day I had to travel to Lakewood. I wanted to look cool, but my wardrobe didn’t afford me many options. I wasn’t dorky, but I didn’t feel like me. Do men feel like this? Do they feel limited or relieved?
Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Arianna Huffington were known to wear the same things all the time so they wouldn’t have to expend energy-making decisions, freeing them to focus on more important stuff. But… but clothing is important. Self-expression and self-projection are important, to me at least. This black-and-white business is stifling.
I did laundry that night, letting my two T-shirts hang dry. Guess if they were dry in the morning.
It was so hard for me to wear black and white to school; it felt like I was letting my students down. If my class is boring, at least there’s something to look at. Not today.
One bright spot: like all good students, my students are always trying to sidetrack me. Today they asked, “Mrs. Kurtz, can you write a Life Lab about us?” and I laughed to myself, because I was doing one right then, and they didn’t know it. So, ha, girls, you made it.
I had no patience to do laundry again on Thursday, so I didn’t. I wore my unwashed Wednesday T-shirt on Friday. Sue me. I was so done with this.
I am a woman, therefore I kvetch.
Obviously, I don’t think I’m kvetching. I think I’m objectively reporting my day. And my days happen to be stressful and awful and the kids always did something, and something else always had to get done and didn’t, and I’m just not in the mood, and I hate everyone and everything. You’re with me, right?
Okay, so maybe I have a bad attitude. It’s stuck with me since I’m a teenager, what am I supposed to do? Work on myself, you say. Let’s just add that to the list.
Honestly, I’m not half as bad as I make myself out to be, and I always tell my husband that compared to every other woman I know, I kvetch less. But compared to his no kvetching, anything I do feels excessive.
Is it a male thing? The whole “take it like a man” stoicism, where a guy will be miserable but unwilling to say so? Or do they not feel the chafes of injustice the way women do, or do they not care, or do they think no one else cares?
Do we kvetch to be heard? Do we kvetch for change? Does it really all come down to patriarchy? Maybe women kvetch as a form of power!
Who knows. What I did know was that I needed to stop kvetching. For one week, I’d smile, stay positive, and not leech my negativity onto the world around me.
Guess if it was hard. Guess if it was impossible. Guess if I tried. If machshavah k’maaseh, then I’ve won the not-kvetching Super Bowl.
I think it was homework that tested me the most. My kids hate it. With a passion. I don’t blame them.
But I need to show my kids that I support their rebbeim and teachers, so I can’t just agree with them and say, “Yes, this is dumb, I don’t know why you have to do 20 math problems, and fill-in-the-blank Rashi worksheets that don’t seem to develop or reinforce any skill.” I just encourage them to do it, and sit with them.
It can take a long time. The actual work itself might take five minutes, but when each minute is interrupted by five minutes of tantruming and a ten-minute break to “breathe,” well, that equals a lot of time on homework. My oldest son was yelling, complaining about how he had to write so many numbers in expanded form.
“This is stupid!”
I secretly agreed, but curriculum planner was not my job title today.
My second son was really fine, but he found the idea of homework so offensive he couldn’t get it together. He’d look at the sheet, his eyes would cross, he’d throw the paper in the air, and yell, “I quit!”
Thank G-d my pre-1Aer didn’t have homework yet, though he was obviously jealous that his brother did. Besides super deep breathing on my part, I also did not text my husband just to keep him up to date and let him know that the inmates had taken over the asylum. I just wanted to vent, let him know about the madness going on in his house — he should feel for me, be sympathetic. But I didn’t. It was so hard.
Truth be told, though, by the time he comes home, all of these antics are long over and the kids will reading and playing or whatever. At that point I can just tell him a funny dramatic story. In the moment, though, I feel a need to tell someone. Maybe I should’ve called my mother instead. She’d take any phone call from me, she’s just happy I’m calling.
Getting it Done – Now!
I went to my kitchen and observed the dried dishes on the rack. My husband is a do-now kinda person. He doesn’t leave things for later. It seems I was obligated to put the dishes away. I did. I even put away all the silverware from Shabbos.
I don’t know what it is about silverware, but I’ll put away all the china and leave the silverware languishing in my drying rack till I use it again for Shabbos. (I know, with such an admission, who will be meshadech with me?)
Later in the day I folded and put away all the laundry. Folding is one thing, but putting it away… The laundry stays in neat piles in the laundry basket until there are only a few pieces left, and then I can manage to place them.
I also had the kids trying on suits and shirts that I bought for Yom Tov. There were cardboard, pins, plastics, tissue paper, and hangers everywhere. I was tempted to dump it all in a box and deal with it later. But no, I wasn’t leaving anything for later. I cleaned it up and put everything where it belonged.
It made me happy to have my space back, but it took something out of me. Energy, probably. And what’s the law of thermodynamics? My energy wasn’t coming back any time soon.
This went on through the rest of the week. I diligently did not put tasks off until later. Yes, there were moments of “this looks nice,” and my husband was definitely happier. I was not.
Doing stuff immediately sounds righteous, but it was an energy and focus thief to me. Sorry, Moish.
Baruch Atah Hashem, she’asani kirtzono. I’ve glimpsed the other side, there are some maalos, but I would not cut it as a guy, least of all my husband.
I think I’d adjust to the schedule if I had to, but the clothing… what a snoozefest. As to the zero lag time, I’ll treat it and appreciate it like art — love it, will never make it myself. There is something nice about not kvetching, like I’ve conquered something, but I also think I’ve lost half my personality (not commenting on what that says about me). Is the trade-off worth it?
Bottom line: I don’t think I really cut it as anyone else. Boring, I wants to stay herself in the end. Sorry, I know I’m disappointing sometimes.
But, hey, try it out yourself. Be me for a week. Let me know how that works out.
Is there something you’ve always been curious about but never had the guts to try? Esther just might do it! Send your suggestions to Life Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 718)
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