For the last 12 weeks, I have been slowly getting to know someone new. His name is Work Husband and he spends his days in our dining room which is now referred to as his office. Work Husband gets up later than he used to and is generally less stressed around the house when he resumes his alter ego, Home Husband, in the evenings. I do not have a ton of interaction with Work Husband but I frequently listen to his tone and word choice and observe his body language and facial expressions.
I always knew there were two husbands. We have been married for almost 22 years and I rarely interact with Work Husband because he is intensely focused and prefers not to multitask. It would be fair to say that I have actively avoided Work Husband because I had strong suspicions that he was unpopular and possibly feared by his coworkers. My concerns were confirmed by someone who used to report to Work Husband who expressed intense relief because she now reports to someone else. Also, I do not enjoy trying to tease Home Husband out of Work Husband on the phone or by text so I reserve interactions with Work Husband to urgent or emergency situations.
Work Husband claims that his new stay-at-home persona is Work Husband 2.0. He feels that he is more focused in meetings, gets more sleep, less likely to read Twitter at 2 a.m., fit and slim. He is very grateful and complimentary when meals or snacks are brought to his office or coffee cups and recycling are cleared away. I have only walked through the background of his Zoom meeting one or two times and instead of using intensely annoyed body language, he shrugged it off. So, I agree that Work Husband 2.0 is an improvement.
Most of the time, I feel compassion for whoever is having a Zoom call with Work Husband. The sense that I get is that he is direct and intense. He doesn’t let details go. He is creating conflict and driving tough conversations. I would actually say that Work Husband appears to be intimidating. Often he sits down at his “desk” around 9 am, ventures into the kitchen for a very brief lunch and remains in his “office” until at least 6 pm. Work Husband carries over to the home gym where he takes Peloton classes and races other strangers to be in the top 100 finishers in every class he takes.
If you knew Home Husband (and some of you do), this would probably shock you, and it definitely surprises me. Home Husband is highly self-deprecating and takes precautions to avoid any conflict. He enjoys a vast wardrobe that includes no less than five plaid sportcoats (some vintage), several pairs of unique sneakers and a pair of white Levi’s 501’s. He has a go-to karaoke song, “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, and frequently takes over a dance floor with his version of the Running Man. If asked about plans for the weekend or requests for meals, he prefers to not make a decision or even offer suggestions. Home Husband loves a nap on Sunday afternoon. Best of all, Home Husband embraces reality TV, HGTV and almost anything put out by the BBC.
Sometimes I see where the concentric circles of Home Husband and Work Husband overlap. Work Husband has a very strong affinity for business lingo. He often says phrases like “moving the needle,” “seat at the table,” “at the end of the day,” and “low hanging fruit” in professional conversations. Recently, the business slang has gotten more pervasive and pops up more frequently in Home Husband’s casual conversations. On an evening dog walk last week, I mentioned something that was going on with my daughter and he said, “That sounds more like a feature than a bug.” Of course, I had to call him on it and then had a fabulous time googling “annoying tech industry jargon.” I will be making a point to speak to Work Husband and Home Husband with as many of the “20 bullsh*t buzzwords that should be banned from tech forever.”
Work Husband tells me that the pre-COVID workplace norms “have become irrelevant” and that he does not anticipate returning to work in his actual office for more than 2 days a week. I think that means that Work Husband will be sticking around and I may have the opportunity to get to know him better. I am going to be actively looking for ways to reconcile Work Husband and Home Husband and find the places where one bleeds into another. I am planning a Friday Happy Hour in the office/dining room and am excited to see who shows up.