But it really does seem to be true of all the marriages I'm party to the ins and outs of. And it doesn't always break down according to temperaments or personality type.
I've also heard it referred to as in a marriage someone is the gas and someone is the breaks, but that sounds kind of negative. *I* like flower and watering can.
I think it basically comes down to the fact that, in a relationship, one party feels important and fulfilled by taking care of someone else and the other party feels important and fulfilled by being taken care of. It all works out quite nicely. (And, of course, we both play both roles every now and then.) But I think it's important to be cognizant of which part of the equation we usually are so we can avoid falling into some traps.
If you're wondering which one you are, here are some questions:
- Do you do your family's taxes?
- Do you usually answer the home phone when it rings?
- Do you usually pick the movie?
- Is whatever the thing you are working on right now at this moment really, really important and just might change the world?
I do not do our taxes or keep track of of important deadlines or do most of the periodic maintenance-type stuff around the house because I am too busy thinking about my own list of priorities (even though that list is almost all related to my family -- but it's imposed by me, not outside forces, so I don't suffer it so much). I don't like to get up to answer the phone or look for a lost shoe or find out what all that screaming is about because in my mind anything I'm doing -- whether it's writing a blog post, or making dinner, or doing schoolwork with the kids, or curling my hair, is a really important thing and should not be interrupted.
And even though the vast majority of my time is spent in taking care of other people, it's not because I gain personal satisfaction from being needed by others. When I take care of my home and the needs of my husband and children the satisfaction I get is in the fulfillment of a noble duty and the feeling of having done a job well (hopefully). Other mothers would be motivated to do exactly the same things each day, but for very different reasons.
Just to clarify: also I love my husband and kids and they are great. Especially the husband. Really, really great. The best.
Which brings me to why any of this matters . . .
If you have read a post on this blog in which I encouraged you to not focus on finding me-time, you should note that I was talking to other flowers. Let's face it, flowers have almost nothing BUT me-time. When I'm washing a kid's hair in the tub, I'm also working on hashing out a plot point in my novel, or meal-planning for the week, or realizing what I should have written in response to that blog comment. Me-time: I've got it.
What I do not need is to be encouraged to focus more on myself or make extra time to focus on myself without my children around. That would not help me to be a better person. What *I* need is to be encouraged to rip myself away from all the stuff I'd like to accomplish and give my time and attention to my husband and my children.
But if you're the watering can, when you are reading a story to your children you probably let them pick whatever one they want even if you hate it and don't even leave out paragraphs when you're reading it. Your day probably IS focused on other people and it just might be very important for you to schedule some me-time. I don't know. I haven't been there.
If you're the watering can AND the primary caregiver, well, I don't know how you do it. I'm sure you appreciate feeling needed, but it could easily become too much. I'll bet you look over at your spouse and wonder why in the world he doesn't notice that you need help. Well, as a flower, I can tell you that it's because he genuinely believes that the thing he is engaged in, even if it's objectively a stupid thing, is really important. If he didn't think it was important, he wouldn't have started doing it in the first place.
I'm not trying to excuse it. Just to explain it. We flowers should help you watering cans more. We definitely should. I'm just not sure how you get us to do it, since, really, what we're doing is super important.
If you're the flower and the primary caregiver, I think things around the house naturally have a bit more balance. Between the husband and me, I'm the one who would be more likely to shirk my household responsibilities in favor of other pursuits (like computer-stuff or hobbies) that I think are more important, or at least more edifying. But since I know that the house and the kids are MY job, I know I need to make them a priority. And I do.
But the husband notices when I need help or something needs doing and he does it. It's lovely. So lovely that sometimes I forget that even though they are just as much his kids as they are mine, he has a different full-time job. So if he is putting all the kids to bed because I am having an embroidery emergency or someone on Facebook is wrong about something, I need to be grateful. Grateful enough that he knows I noticed.
And, as the flower, it's not fair for me to expect him to help and look after me in some areas of life, but then get all offended when he does the same thing in other areas. I need to realize that he's just doing what watering cans are supposed to do.
Here's where it would be great to put some advice on how to get flowers to engage and help out, but I guess you'd have to ask the husband. Or talk amongst yourselves. Any watering cans out there have this figured out?
In any case, whether it's fixable or not, I think it's really helpful when dealing with other people, but especially my family, to understand what's motivating them and what's motivating me.
I'm all for increasing self-awareness. I can't work on improving myself if I don't even really know who myself is. (Wow, that's good grammar.) Personality tests -- awesome. Learning about temperaments -- totally blew my mind. Really, I had no idea that everyone didn't see the world just the way I did. I also love the whole introvert/extrovert thing. (If you love an introvert, you should read this comic.)
Understanding if you're the flower or the watering can can help too.
In mostly unrelated news, these exist and are awesome:
Okay, that's probably enough world-altering blogging for me today. I also have a giant pile of laundry to fold. I need to make the world a better place by taking care of that.