Chacos column: Why polygamists don’t think big enough
There are 10 of us living under one roof for two weeks. This sounds quaint if you’re renting a beach house or if you’re 18 and live in a fraternity. But when you’re “adulting” in middle-class America and blend together two unrelated families of five, their pets, crazy schedules and factor in everyone’s dietary preferences, you come away with a few novel ideas.
I had the opportunity to test out our unique matrimony on a typical Tuesday afternoon, just a few days into our stay. Laundry had already backed up, so I seized control. Being a superb laundress was never something I’ve aspired to, but when duty calls, I can sort and fold clothing like a robotic beast.
To ensure we didn’t get kicked out, or worse, lose a great friendship, I needed to “wow” the family we’re squatting with on multiple fronts. So I decided to cook dinner, too. It’s the least I can do as the day waned and everyone was off in different directions. Making a yummy meal became my mission, after sifting through piles of socks, of course.
So I buckled down in my friend’s kitchen and got to work. As I was throwing the last bits into the Crock-Pot, I was thinking to myself that 10 mouths to feed is not too different than cooking for a family of five. So I invited a few more over for dinner just to test the boundaries of our hosts’ limits, and my sanity, too.
We asked a mutual friend who also juggles three kids and a hectic schedule to join us for the night’s meal. She was serving as chauffeur for the day and would be carpooling a gaggle of our children home from band practice anyway. She alerted us that she’d be delayed just a bit because she also wanted to stop to pick up wine for dinner. This gave me time to mull over my secret, dirty little fantasy.
I’ve always wanted to acquire a couple of wives to live with me. My dream is that one mom cooks and cleans. One can organize the endless carpools and serve as the family sommelier. The other can bring home the bacon and work late. As for adding another dad, I’m happy to bring him into the fold if he contributes more than he takes and puts the toilet seat down, too.
I can easily see the benefits of this setup. My friend is getting ready to hit the road with an art show back east and is spending long days in her studio. She’s finally able to pursue her passion and work at it full time. I know she’ll have my back when it’s my time. Her husband has a full-time gig running a business downtown. My own, real husband’s plate is full of work and professional endeavors. Naturally, the domestic duties fall to me during this time. I’m happy to parlay but I can only do it for a while.
When I return to work full time in a few days, I know things will unravel. Hiring a housecleaner, cook, grocery shopper and a homework helper would help keep things running smoothly. Then I could try my hand at further developing a career post-children or pursue hobbies that I’ve long since let wane. Instead, I’ll juggle work, family and the guilt that goes with it.
I also see how the adults in this arrangement feed off each other. The dads silently commiserate over their long work hours, thankless bill paying and under-appreciated role in the modern family dynamics. The earliest riser has been making coffee for everyone. The last one up in the evening always starts the dishwasher. These guys are the glue, and we all know it.
On the other hand, I relish in witnessing the female dynamic at play, too. The women plan the social calendar, deal with in-house squabbling, nurture hurt hearts and make sure the kids occasionally bathe. We’re the emotional epicenter and, as I was told recently, “We’re also the glitter.”
Manning the chores, running the errands and taking care of odds and ends have been jointly shared. Many hands make for easy work when the burden is divided. Saturdays look a whole lot prettier when only one adult has to go to Wal-Mart, rake leaves or recycle boxes.
We’ll be finished with our communal, clan living just as the honeymoon phase dwindles and the real work eventually has to set in. That’s when we’ll probably all need it the most though. Family arguments, missed appointments, unpaid bills or an unexpected trauma will require lots of adult power to navigate successfully and with grace.
By then we’ll have moved out of our unusual, but mutually beneficial living situation and into our own home. We’ll question the lives we’ve ridiculously designed and perpetuate for ourselves. We’ll go back to being one husband, one wife, our own kids and the pets we keep. We’ll pay a mortgage, raise a family, attempt to be successful with personal and professional pursuits and try to stay sane and happy in the process.
We’ll do this all alone and wonder: Why?
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.