Monday, February 15


A long time ago, I promised a post on commitment mechanisms. At the time, I was reading Kidding Ourselves, by Rhona Mahony, who applies economics and game theory in an attempt to give women the tools to negotiate for a better deal in their marriages. For six months, I did not write the promised post. I was too busy, and I was too angry.

Why so angry? As it happens, the anger and resentment that I tend to foster against my husband (try try try though I do to let it go) has to do with the two commitment mechanisms that function with the greatest force in our family life: his studio and my working at home. A commitment mechanism, writes Mahony, "is anything that makes it very expensive for you not to do something that you want to do.... That is, it traps you into doing what you want to do." So, we're trapped: he into making art (otherwise we're paying the rent for his studio for no reason) and I into being the primary Critter caregiver.

I want Beckett to make his art. (For one thing, I have no interest in being married to an embittered ex-artist.) But his art-making commits him to hours elsewhere, in addition to the hours he spends at his job, and I want him here. Meanwhile, to what am I committed? Hours on my own with the Critter, during which I marshal us through a routine of diaper changes, meals that end up on the floor, bundling him up for the necessary daily trip outdoors, settling him down for the necessary naps, nursing and then nursing and then nursing ... and then doing most of my work at night, while the Critter sleeps, beginning with a few minutes to work on my own writing before I turn to the job, which usually keeps me up well past the time I should have gone to sleep.

Of course, this way of looking at my life is only one way of looking at my life. Yesterday, while Beckett was away at the studio, I stayed at home and passed most of the day on our bed, cuddling with a lethargic, moderately feverish Critter. I read, he slept, we listened to music, and eventually the honeyed sunlight faded from the bedroom. It is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.

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