This is the first blogpost where I’m not sure what the ending will be. Usually, you present an issue and offer a solution. That’s the formula. Struggling to eat well at work? Here are five, healthy 2-minute lunches. Struggling with teething? Here are my 5 top tips. But this is one conundrum I don’t have the answer to. I found a scarlet letter. And I’ve known for a while now, my husband has a lover.

His lover is like any other – a beguiling temptress with a catwalk model smile – intriguing, mysterious, addictive. Every person’s dream. Some days she’s a warm, plush velour couch in a cut-glass windowed hotel that cradles tortured artists in her comforting bosom. Some days she’s a powerful amphetamine promising invincibility, even when you’re on the edge of a precipice. And other days she’s a backstage Hollywood mirror that holds up your flaws in all its illuminated 100-watt stark glory. A fickle rollercoaster of rightful dues and reward. His lover is... work.

I am being overly dramatic, of course, but some days it feels as if work is a third person in our marriage. As if we said in our vows, “For better or for work.” The signs are all the same – late nights, time spent by the soft glow of a laptop and cancelled plans.

To be clear, this is not the tale of a man stuck in a horrible job that keeps him away from friends and family. In fact, it’s completely the opposite. Will is really good at his job, exceptional really. He is revered by his bosses. And respected by his peers. And since he’s never resigned in his life, his colleagues have grown from strangers to friends to family. He’s shared in birthdays, weddings and Shabbats. It’s a place for family. We work at the same company, and who among us can say that they went for an interview holding their newborn baby and breastfed her thereafter? Even though we work in a fast-paced industry, there’s so much understanding and support when we need to do those home runs for fevers, therapy sessions and everyday parenting responsibilities. Will is simply a perfectionist.

When it comes to his work – he gives 110% every single day, every hour, every minute. There’s no in between. Picture Monica from Friends. But brown and bald. If he gets five days to do something, he’ll challenge himself to do it in two. If he has three hours, he’ll do it in 15 minutes. If it’s a simple job that requires one element, he’ll look at better, bigger ways to do it. If he can make anyone’s life easier, he’ll find a way to do it. It’s just how he is wired. 

It’s strange, Will’s work ethic is what attracted me to him in the first place. We both started our careers at the same place. We sat in a meeting together and though his eyes were deep and drawn from lack of sleep, he had never looked more handsome. He opened a layout he had obviously done until 4 am the ‘night’ before and by the time he closed it, I was smitten. My primitive cavewomxn brain went: “Hunky designer provide. Must make many babies.” And even though I wasn’t looking for a cushy ‘dame of leisure’ lifestyle, Will always came across as the person who would bend over backwards and work his fingers to the bone to provide for his family – come recession, come retrenchment, come cyclone, come cataclysm. Even today when I glance of at him in meeting room X, that Kanye track still plays in my head: “He’s got that ambition, baby, look in his eyes. Today he’s mopping floors, next day it’s the fries.”We spent the next few years doing the late (sometimes 4am!) week nights – the encouragement, the support and exchanges of creativity. It only made me fall more and more in love with him. The way his mind works is both extraordinary and humbling. 

It transfers to every other aspect of his life. When it comes to being a father, he pushes to be the best. When it comes to being a partner, he gives it his all. It’s adorable. 
I know what you’re thinking, “So, his biggest flaw is that he is hard-working? Ungrateful much?” Trust me, this isn’t a conversation that I haven’t had with myself a thousand times.

But there are days when it stops being adorable. 
On days when he’s too hard on himself. Even for him.
On days where I’m at the fourth parent teacher meeting alone. 
When he calls at 9pm and says, “I just want to get this right.”
When he “hand-brushes” his beard and I know it’s because something he has created is not 100% perfect in his eyes.
When he can’t make it for Lily’s OT.
When he’s not always up to speed on Lily’s progress and her teacher’s plans.
When he hurriedly puts an anniversary plan together. It might not seem like a big thing but Will is a planner. It took him seven months to plan our proposal. While I do love the romance, it’s surprisingly not my favourite part of our relationship. A lot of the time I pretend not to see the bookings for picnics, because I know he loves planning surprises and I love how happy it makes him. But on days where he can only put a breakfast together with the mustard and beans in the fridge, I can tell that it bugs him. Even though I don’t care if we have toast and butter in bed.
And perhaps worst of all, when Lily tells me, “Waiting. Waiting, daddy.” It kills him (and me) when he disappointments Lily. In any way. But I know that he can’t help it. He has been this way for thirteen years. It actually has nothing to do with his place of work. If he got a job in the mailroom tomorrow, by noon he would get a promotion and be the best mail person the world has seen. When he became a father, I thought he would change. But it had the opposite effect. Suddenly he was looking into big brown eyes, holding tiny hands and came to the realisation that he would have to push even harder to provide for them.

I know so many partners out there can relate to this. Because solo parenting sucks – whether you’re a mom or dad married to a workaholic. I am really privileged that my mum stays with us. Seriously, there were a few months where I was looking after a newborn, fetching Lily and working on getting her into a safe, calming space after a busy day, doing freelance work and doing everyday household things and I swear I nearly lost my mind. I have been holding my mum hostage ever since. I’m lucky. But I had to have a serious conversation with him the other day. A conversation about always “showing up” – physically and mentally. Because kids notice that. I was one of those kids in every music and dance recital and play. Every eisteddfod, Maths and language Olympiad, every prize giving and even though I’m a horrible swimmer at best, I was Deputy Swimming Captain. But my dad was always “stuck at work” which has led to some serious daddy issues when relating to any male authority figure in my life. But that’s a wall-breaking post for another day. I don’t want that for my girls.

In the past thirteen years we’ve had the “workaholic” conversation at least one hundred times. Most days I’m caring, supportive and understanding. And then there are those embarrassing days where we’re arguing and I blurt out: “I don’t care! I’ve done the 4am nights. I’ve waited. I’ve supported. I’ve understood. I have this (literally) scarlet letter from 2005 with a promise from you that you wouldn’t work this hard again. Choose us! For god’s sake, choose us!” And the next day I’m filled with regret and shame because he’s done it for me too – talking me out of that self-pitying slump every creative eventually finds themselves in. Helping me set goals and celebrate each milestone. Sitting up until 4am to make an idea a reality. But asking someone to change their entire being is a huge ask. To go against every part, every fibre of who they really are is a huge ask. My husband has a lover. A lover who I love. And I don’t know how to fix it. 


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