Absent Husband Etiquette

February Column, The Journal newspaper of Martinsburg

By now, I’m pretty sure my wife must think I am somehow timing my absences from home to coincide with huge, paralyzing snowstorms.

During the one in December, I was stranded in Wheeling at my 11-year-old son’s Lego robotics competition. During the most recent storms, I marked time at a hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., because my employer considers me an “essential employee.”

And during all three storms, my wife was at home shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. She also was dealing with cabin fever that comes from being cooped up with two kids who have been out of school for, according to her, what felt like forever.

Being away from home taught me the basic do’s and don’ts of “absent-husband-during-a-big-storm” etiquette:

Do be available for the phone calls. Or better yet, make them yourself. Call early and call often. Be sure to touch base every couple hours, if not every hour.

Don’t tell your wife you turned off your phone because you needed some down time.

Do be sympathetic and whine about how much you miss your family.

Don’t tell her how tired you are of restaurant food.

Do note how guilty you feel because she and the kids are doing all the shoveling.

Don’t offer advice on the best way to clear snow from the driveway.

Do offer encouragement that she really can get the driveway cleared, even though the job seems endless.

Don’t even hint that maybe she should ask one of the male neighbors for help with the shoveling.

Do tell her you’ll do your laundry when you get home so she won’t have to.

Don’t mention the digital flat-screen TV in your room and how much you are looking forward to watching the Super Bowl on it (since all the televisions at our house were purchased nearly 20 years ago.)

Except for a few missteps, I think I fared pretty well with the phone conversations. But, while I was congratulating myself for being a good husband, I unwittingly made a big mistake, when, on the morning of the second monster storm in less than a week, I mentioned the blizzard warning on Facebook. Not only did I mention it, my exact words were “bring it on.”

All my apparent concern for her plight unraveled. Not only did I become the object of scorn from my wife, but from other friends on Facebook who sympathized with her. “Does that mean more room service for you?” one asked.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make it up to my wife ever since. Her birthday is in a couple of weeks. Would a snow blower be out of the question?

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