There’s a commercial running for Mass Mutual that shows a married couple out to dinner with the husband’s parent’s. The waiter places the check on the table, and both men reach for it. Notice that the women pretend not to see the check, as they mime talking to one another.
This post isn’t about antiquated gender roles but rather, what does a Girlfriend Mom do when she’s out with the kids.
Does the parent always pay, even if the child is 55 years-old? What does the divorced step-parent do when they’re out with the step-kids? Does everyone Dutch it? I realize that every relationship is different and I am only speaking for myself.
I never knew what to do when I was out with the kids alone, when my ex and I were first dating. I wasn’t the kind of person who would ask for money, so I paid.
I certainly didn’t want him to think that I couldn’t afford a few rounds of The Claw at the arcade or a movie ticket. And I was happy to do it but I remember feeling awkward because protocol was never discussed.
Was I expected to pay for the kids? Was I supposed to ask for the money, like I was the friggin’ babysitter? Would I be insulted if he didn’t let me pay, signaling that it wasn’t my responsibility because I really wasn’t a part of the family?
In my current situation, there have been times when I’ve paid the bill, let the ‘young adult’ pay or we’ve flown Dutch. The only time it feels natural (and authentic) is when I pick up the tab. The GM daughter, unlike the wenches in the commercial, always offers to pay, and while I appreciate it, I don’t want her to.
I can’t imagine her mother or father asking her to throw down some bills for her Cobb Salad, and I suppose a part of this conundrum is because I want to be a member of the parent club.
Shit, my parent’s still pick up the check.
She and I were out the other day, and after I had insisted on paying, she told me that she didn’t want me to think that she was being ungrateful or that she expected it.
I told her that I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want to, or if I thought that she was taking it for granted. This was exactly what my father used to say to me when I offered to pay. I told her that it gave me great pleasure, also something that my father used to tell me.
This simple act makes me feel like the adult, and do I dare say the parent. I have precious few opportunities to feel this way, so when I do, I relish them.
Marriage and kids can be seen (and felt) as markers or guideposts, that help to identify oneself, and ones place in the world. If you’re single, and without children, it can feel as if your GPS is searching for your current location, while you flail about adrift.
And before you start ranting in the comments section; objecting to the notion that societal constrictions such as marriage and children define a person, or anti-traditional roles, the idea of feminism, gay marriage, low self-esteem, working for the man, and your feelings about the Ebola virus, I’ll say it again– I’m ONLY speaking for myself.
I feel directed when I’m out with the kids, if only briefly. I like it. Most of my time is spent in free fall, where anything can (and does) happen. I’m grateful, but having some good ol’ fashion, garden variety normalcy is a welcomed addition that provides balance.