It’s been some time since we published our hugely popular post Marrying a Chef? What you need to know before you say ” I do.” It was the cheeky insider perspective of the private lives of chefs and it came from the point of view of the chef in the relationship. Most of you actually got that it was humourous in a dry sense. Even just a tad. But alas, there was the errant 2 per cent who really thought my dear husband was nothing short of an arse and pitied me for such bad treatment. Whoa.
I have had some ladies ask me in desperation just how to cope with life as the wife so I will respond in real terms woman to woman. Much of what I have to say can be applied to other workers in the hospitality and F&B industries, though chefs are a bit on the extreme end. I always have some of the best Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans in my cupboard, so join me for a cup as I finally share my perspective as the wife…
- Everything he said was brutally honest. He knew I could take it and I edited it for Pete’s sake so if I was not in agreement, there would be hell to pay.
- You need other safe outlets. Find at least one really close confidante, preferably family or a friend who is like family. You will need someone in your corner when the going gets rough and who will believe you when you share your side of a story that sounds more like a tall tale than reality. A good friend will also be up with you when you are lonely and give you a shoulder when you need one – which could be very often in the initial stages.
- It is hard. Then it gets harder. You get adjusted and it gets even more difficult than you ever thought possible. Good chefs are married to their work first. Likely it was his passion for his work that attracted you in the first place but that comes at a huge price – lots of sacrifice of self into the work. The worst part is that every time you kind of get used to it and think you have finally gotten used to the life, something happens to test your balance. But that’s life isn’t it? Those curve balls seem to come one after the other sometimes. Nonetheless, I do believe that the job does make normal life situations much more difficult to handle. Marriage is work for every (honest) couple but it becomes excruciatingly hard work when one party is always absent and too tired when present – amounting to absence just the same. Call your friend and cry it out.
- People will think you bought yourself a ring and put it on your own finger. Mine has been called the phantom husband in my circles by friends who have only heard of but never seen him. I show up to events alone 99.9% of the time. Except for when I got pregnant. That was certainly a welcome change to have him take me to every appointment and join me for every class – a huge improvement to being left at church halfway during our wedding rehearsal for the sake of work. Learn to find the silver lining. At least he was there all day for the wedding.
- No matter how fiercely independent you are, it is sometimes still a very lonely life for the wife who spends many hours killing time alone or parenting solo. You could be the rock of Gibraltar, it is going to get to you sometimes, as it has me. But thank God for the bigger picture. You know the questions you asked yourself when you had wedding jitters? Is he/she a good person? Can I live with him/her for the rest of my life? Am I ready? Why am I doing this? They still apply and sometimes you find yourself sitting quietly alone on the one night you needed company, asking yourself those questions. Just be true to yourself no matter what.
- Children make it EVEN harder. We love our children with every ounce of our being, but parenting is hands down the most difficult job known to man. Screw the kitchen, make a baby and you will see. It is the ultimate game changer in every marriage and chef marriages are particularly vulnerable due to the hours and demands of the chef’s job. No matter how involved the chef tries to be, you will feel like a single parent because you are the go-to for at least 16 out of every 24 hour day. I cannot put into words how challenging it is even for the world’s most doting supermom of the world’s happiest baby. You have to live it to feel it.
- Another stressor is the expatriate chef family. In the absence of solid family support, there is a lot that is left on the trailing spouse. If you can, encourage your family and friends to visit often or have one family member live with you during the early childhood period or if possible, consider getting a nanny (even part time) to take even one of your double shifts. It will make a huge difference in your quality of life as you will have more energy and be less grumpy.
- Fight for romantic time together. Every couple needs time together to communicate and refuel and it is even more critical when time is extremely limited. I have found that I stay up for my chef because I would never see him otherwise. Go on dates when possible, but if not, put the children to bed and sit with a glass of wine and play some jazz or put on a movie. When vacation time comes around, live it up like there is no tomorrow and go for experiences that will give you great memories for a lifetime. You will also want to bank them up for those moments when you question if you made the right choice.
- You will both have to make career sacrifices when children come for the greater good of the family. After a while this may cause some resentment so be sure to talk about this periodically and work out a plan that suits you both. This may result in one person being there for the family while the other pushes full steam ahead to provide and you can take turns as to who will take what role. Do what is best for your family. As a trailing spouse I have given up many jobs to support my husband but as a career woman, I cannot give up working. It’s important to me, even if I have to do it selectively and mostly from home.
- If you married for all the right reasons and are truly compatible, then there is a lot of space for a whole lot of love and happiness even in the cramped space of a chef’s life. Somehow when time is limited, you learn to prioritise and make the best of it. Simple things like a few extra minutes talking before bed or eating an ordinary everyday meal together become life’s most precious and prized gifts. That’s when you are not too tired or upset with it all. Sometimes you will see the emptiness of the half full glass but most times, try to acknowledge the contents of it. You will need the extra space when it overflows with blissful wonder and excitement.
- It is a life of passion and extremes. A wild ride for the partner who is open to adventure and willing to take the ups with the downs. You can have some of your most enriching life experiences if you put in the work first. It’s like a great gourmet meal… all the work goes into the preparation up front. Get to know your chef up front. Having a firm foundation in a solid friendship will be the thing that will save the whole structure of buckling under enormous pressure when the going gets tough.
- Live in the moment. Whatever it comes, take it. Feel it. Own it. Live it. It’s your moment. Sometimes it immense joy, sometimes acute loneliness, others just the numbness of the limbo that lies between. Just breathe. You will get through it. I certainly have thus far. So for the lady who asked me in desperation if it ever gets better- my short answer is- yes, there is hope. Would I do it again if I got a “do over?” In a heartbeat!
You may find Kerilyn Russo’s life coaching for women married to chefs useful. She too is Married to a Chef and they just had a baby so she brings a level of personal experience to her job.