Vacations, Home Improvements, and Other Hazards of Life with the Caveman

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.” – Elbert Hubbard

I know… Some ideas don’t belong together. When I was single, it would never have occurred to me either that vacations could be anything but fun (well, except maybe for that one time when I got stuck in a mountain resort, resupplied by helicopter). However, when you live with a Caveman, wacky analogies have a way of creeping into your life—especially during summertime!

FUN IS IN THE AIR (OR IS IT?)

With summer and everything that usually comes with it—home fixes, gardening, vacations, BBQs, summer camps, sunburns—almost behind us, I’ve been reflecting over what the past few weeks have been like at our home, and it has occurred to me that when you live with a Caveman, some definitions tend to fall into obsolescence…

Take “vacations”, for example. This is what the dictionary has to say about it

Dictionary definition of "Vacation": An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.

Leisure” and “recreation”. Ah, good one!

After spending five days visiting some of our most spectacular national landmarks and surviving an 8-week kitchen reno, I’m honestly left to wonder which of the two was the most taxing. And for good reasons! When you live with a Caveman, even “relaxation” takes on a new meaning!

Allow me to demonstrate, and just for fun (trust me: there’s no other purpose to this post), let me give you a glimpse into summer with the Caveman—which will illustrate how two things as different as vacations and home improvements can feel one and the same when you happen to be a Caveman’s partner…

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PHASE I – BUDGETING: BETTER HOPE YOU’RE CRAFTY (AND THRIFTY)

My Caveman is a generous man. That’s one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place. Hurricane? He’ll make a donation. Cancer? He’ll send a check. Friend in trouble? He’ll help. But tell him that you need to make extra provisions for a new roof down the road, or a family trip to Arizona and its 47,882 square miles of desert, and you’ll hit a brick wall. To him, the only “family” expenses are the monthly living expenses, inflation is a myth, and some things are better off left off your bucket list.

In such circumstances, budgeting for life’s little extras—like home improvements and vacations—is a science. In my case, it’s a science that involves meticulous research, nifty thriftiness, and some serious Excel skills (if for nothing else, to come up with monthly expense graphs that demonstrate that inflation is a painful, unavoidable reality of life in the 21st century).

The Caveman's partner is showing the Caveman a graph of monthly expenses. The Caveman imagines money flying away.

The bottom line is that whether you’re budgeting for a new window or three days on the shore, if you’re a Caveman’s partner, it may take a while. Although in all fairness, the Caveman might get on board when the ultimate goals is something he feels is worthwhile—say, a man’s cave, and indoor BBQ, or an all-you-can-drink Bavarian retreat!

PHASE II – RESEARCH AND PLANNING: YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN

Whether you’re comparing toilet flush rates or flight prices, researching tile options or local attractions, or reading reviews on home contractors or hotels, if you’re a Caveman’s partner, you’ll be the one doing the legwork!

You’ll be the one making the phone calls, asking the questions and reading the reviews. You’ll be the one spending countless hours at the computer, comparing options and filling notebook after notebook of observations. And the only thing you’ll ever get for it are mildly annoyed stares and mind-boggling questions such as:

  • “So, where are we going?”
  • “You haven’t found a sink yet!?”
  • “What are you doing on the computer at 2 am?”
  •  “How many hotels do you have to look at before picking one!?”
  • “What do you mean you need help with the laundry? What about all that time you spent doing God knows what on the computer earlier!?”
  • “Don’t you have anything else to do!?”

If you don’t throttle your Caveman by the end of Phase II, surely it’s a sign that you’re a kind, evolved soul.

The Caveman's Partner depicted as an angel of patience.

PHASE III – DECISION MAKING AND PURCHASING: IT’S ON YOU

Whether you’re insulating your attic or planning an all-inclusive overseas vacation, there are lots of decisions to be made. Do it or not do it? When? Where? How? Etc.

If you’re a Caveman’s partner, don’t expect much support. You’ll likely be the one to make all the decisions—including the purchase decisions. By yourself.

For many years, I wondered why. Then I realized it’s all about assuming responsibility—or rather about NOT having to assume responsibility. If anything goes wrong, it’s [conveniently] on you!

The tiles you picked chip? It’s on you! The beach at your resort has red algae? It’s on you! You’re contractor takes forever to finish the project? It’s on you! The “queen” beds at the hotel are smaller than your little one’s twin bed at home? It’s on you! No leg space on the plane back home? Guess whose fault it is…

Cruise vacation with the Caveman. The ship goes down and the Caveman family ends up on a desert island. Caveman to his partner: "I mean... Honestly... Did you even look into the cruise company's history before booking!?"
Cruise Vacation with the Caveman

 

PHASE IV – PREPPING: NO HELP THERE EITHER

Our family has taken about half a dozen family vacations (and gone on as many extended weekends) since we officially became a family 16+ years ago. On all those occasions, I never saw my Caveman prepare anything for our trips other than HIS clothes. Not once.

Similarly, each time we’ve done any work at our place, it’s been up to me to empty rooms, move things around, protect floors and furniture, etc.

Why? No idea. I’ve asked, mind you… He simply “doesn’t think of it”, he says. Not that it takes a genius to figure that you have to pack diapers for a trip with a 3 month old—or toothbrushes, for that matter—but it’s just the way things are.

Vacation packing with the Caveman. The Caveman's partner is carrying the kids, a backpack and a suitcase and pulling three more suitcases. Caveman to his partner: "Are you coming already!? I've been ready for a while!"
Vacation Packing with the Caveman

 

On the other hand, whenever I ask for cooperation, this is what I get:

  • “I don’t see why we have to do that”
  • “It’s not difficult. What do you need help for?”
  • “What do you mean I’m not helping!? I packed my clothes!”
  • “You always want to do unnecessary things! Who covers furniture before painting walls!?”
  • “I’m sure the hotel will have that”
  • “I’m sure the contractor will do that”
  • “What do you mean ‘load the car’? My suitcase is already in there!”

In short, anything BUT lend a hand. And as we’ve seen in Who’s the Caveman?, the Caveman can get pretty creative when it comes to coming up with excuses not to participate!

PHASE V – MANAGING: YOU’RE IT

Granted. Once you’re there (whether in your vacation spot or half-way through your reno), most of the work is done, but it doesn’t mean that your work is done. As a Caveman’s partner, you’ll typically be calling the shots, dealing with the problems, and keeping on top of things in general.

There hasn’t been a vacation where I haven’t felt like a Club Med G.O. (Gentil Organisateur). Excursion/activity planning… Restaurant picking… Transportation… Check ins… Check outs… Scheduling… Reservations… Tab paying… Problem solving… I’m it!

Same deal with home improvements! From scheduling to handling crisis and last-minute changes, to figuring out how to feed a family of four without a stove for three months, I’m the MC (Master of Ceremonies).

Side-by-side picture of the Caveman's Partner. On one side: Her everyday life. On the other side: Her vacation. Both pictures show the Caveman's Partner being super busy at multitasking.

And honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to hear comments such as “I don’t know why you worry. We don’t eat anything in this house anyway!” or “I already ate at my mom’s. What are you guys doing for dinner?”

PHASE VI – THE AFTERMATH: UNSURPRISINGLY STILL ON YOU

I’m not sure what goes on at the end of vacations (or home improvement projects) in Caveman-free homes, but I would imagine that everyone pitches in more or less equally to get things back to normal as soon as possible.

Well, not in our family! In our family, I manage the “after” the same way I managed the “before” and the “during”: unpacking, washing, cleaning, reorganizing, and doing some serious soul searching. After two decades of the same, it shouldn’t surprise me—and it doesn’t, really, but it’s still taxing.

Each time we come back from a trip, I brace myself for the stress of seeing my Caveman drop the bags right at the door and do his own things—namely, go for the remote. Each time we complete a home-improvement project, I prepare myself mentally for what I know is coming, i.e. days/weeks of extra work getting things back to normal.

Vacation return with the Caveman. The Caveman imagine beer. The Caveman's partner imagines piles of laundry.
Vacation Return with the Caveman

So is life with the Caveman.

That being said, let’s render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s

This summer, my Caveman did load our suitcases into the car without any coercion (!), single-handedly financed our vacation (!!), took it upon himself (!!!) to unclog our main after it got plugged with construction debris, and made Quartz countertops and a gorgeous Quartz table for our kitchen!!!!

(Did I mention he’s a talented stone fabricator?)

Photograph of remodeled kitchen.
Our New and Improved Kitchen

 Also worth mentioning: He actually found unexpected beauty in Arizona and its 47,882 square miles of desert. In his own words: “I never thought I’d like rocks that much”.

Photograph of Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon, Arizona

And I’ll admit it: Being in charge isn’t all bad either! On the plus side, I get free rein on home design (thank God for that!), and I can pick vacation spots that are not on the list of vacation destinations for booze aficionados! (Yep; it’s a thing)

It’s all about giving thanks for the small thing, really… and remembering lessons from ancient philosophers. As Seneca wrote:

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.” ―  Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Working on that. 😜

Until next time!

Elle

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