Married to a chef: Musings
Jennifer at Emulsified Family does a great job of cheerleading other chef wives as well as sharing anecdotes and raising a family – quite often single handedly. I don’t yet have kids in the mix but with the conversation tabled, it gets me thinking about the dynamics of how relationships work in general and sharing the workload. Often times, I hear from friends who aren’t married to the hospitality industry folk complaining about how they are left to do all the work because their husbands are too tired to help out after a full day as the sole breadwinner and then there’s all these articles and talks about ‘compromise’, which I feel is a negative and dirty word.
I think every adult is capable of negotiation – which always leads to a win – win, you negotiate until both parties agree on fair terms and no one walks away having had to ‘compromise’ and feeling like they got the shorter end of the stick – which inevitably breeds resentment and anger. I am (un)fortunately an alpha female that often stick out as a sore thumb in our social circle – after all we live in Asia, women have had stereotypical roles to fit into moulds for centuries, but I also happen to be a pretty good negotiator, having lived in China for years and shopping at wholesale markets getting good at the game, so why not bring the same suite of skills that I perform every day in a professional context into my personal relationships.
I no longer walk away feeling like I had to compromise because why do that when you can negotiate? So, chefs work alot, all the time, have unpredictable schedules, have day offs cancelled to have to go into work, or they get a last minute day off – and before I got the hang of things, I used to get so mad about having to drop everything I was doing and felt so undervalued and that I was a doormat slave who had to scramble to make it work with a chef’s schedule.
These days, we’ve found a way to keep the peace and have alot of fun while at it, but of course there are exceptions and moments to be fun and spontaneous, but not always possible with work commitments and travel. So, there’s scheduled weekly date nights/day and these days I no longer stay up to wait for chef to get back like a slave because it’s impossible to hold down busy work on top of sleeping only 4-5 hours a day, simply because I have been often told it’s the dutiful wife thing to do, and I do a bad job of it. Well, fuck you naysayers. It has taken me a long while to get over nagging insecurities of being a bad wife, but every couple, every family is different, there is no template formula that works for everyone, right?
So, the key is to negotiate, my husband is important to me, but my work is also important to the source of my personal happiness and sanity and sometime, somewhere they meet in between. I think we’ve finally found our groove and spending quality time is way more meaningful than trying desperately to fit a hurried 30mins there half asleep or an hour mid day break when he’s on his blackberry and phone half the lunch. I’d choose quality over quantity any day to be fully present and have a proper conversation.
And our summer holidays are usually the perfect time to do just that, long road trips and too many date nights over much too heavy meals. Even better when there’s no internet – so we connect as real people and read books, that we don’t do often these days. As for the holidays every summer and all the eating that comes with it – it’s often way too much, there’s only so many Michelin star restaurants you can eat at in two weeks, and of course one never welcomes the weight. It isn’t really that awesome as any food critic or writer would tell you about eating solid meals after meals and then filing stories on deadlines.
And yes, it’s true, we take the European summer holidays that movies are all about on an annual basis. And I think we have the luxury and privilege to do so because we both work our asses off in our jobs – I am aware that there will come a time and place with children in the mix and on whichever next move we make as a family unit, I will at some point be not gainfully employed or working on the next venture.
Well, I’ll leave you with an anecdote of the above photo. Two winters ago, we went truffle hunting in the South of France and I ate so much truffles that I had bad stomach cramps for days. Truffles while insanely expensive, are also fungi and too much of everything is never a good thing. So, there my spoilt and non-too-idyllic life of being married to a chef, with lots of independent ‘me’ time and an awesome spouse that supports and respect my need for space and sanity.