My husband is somewhat of a local celebrity. He owns a local breakfast joint that has morphed into a strange cult in our suburban/coastal area, with long lines of customers oozing out the door on weekends. Even sometimes on a Wednesday at 11 am. It’s really random and pretty amazing.
Now, he’ll read that last paragraph and get angry and say, “Emme, it’s our store, not mine!” He’s always been very good about handing me some of the fame. But, I don’t want it. I don’t deserve it.
Everywhere we go he is recognized. Sometimes, outside of his apron and gracious banter, people can’t place him. Where do I know you? You look so familiar! It’s everyone. It’s everywhere. On a remote island vacation, he was once spotted.
He bought the business nearly 20 years ago when we were just casually dating, not even monogamous. Well, at least I wasn’t (hi honey!). He was a young, smart, ambitious 28-year-old ready to take on the world. And man, has he crushed it.
I prefer to stay hidden behind the scenes. The physical store is too chaotic, too bustle-y; it’s just too much for me.
I can’t do eight hours straight of small talk. My husband has mastered schmoozing, which is a skill that cannot be learned. It will make or break a small business owner with a brick and mortar.
Tucked safely behind the keyboard, I anonymously remain, creating daily social media posts. Through the back door, I’ll appear like a sprite, to grab a few pictures on my iPhone to use as my daily posts.
To keep our socials interesting, I shuffle up my posts: sandwich spotlight, bagel spotlight, Testimonial Tuesdays, merchandise selections, reposts from customers, etc.
Customers love images of our family. Especially our two sons with their dad.
I have never included my face.
His Success, Not Mine
I cannot take any credit for the success of the store.
He’s the one who works insanely long and early hours.
He’s the one whose phone rings at 2 am from an employee calling out sick.
He’s the one who bears the burden of equipment failures or power outages.
He’s the one who does the books and gives the bonuses.
He’s the one who tracks wheat trends in the US to estimate his cost per bag of flour.
He’s the one who stresses, probably even more than he lets me know.
I am Grateful
His success (yes, his) has given us a home to live in, a car to drive, food to eat and clothes to wear. But most importantly, it’s gifted me the privilege to stay home and raise our boys.
I do complain about stay-at-home mom life and its drudgery, but doesn’t every job come with some bitching, no matter how grateful you are to have it?
Who am I?
My gripe about my husband’s — our business — is that, even though I have little involvement in it, it is how people define me. I am often introduced to people by my husband’s occupation, rather than my name.
I don’t feel this would be the case if he were. . . say. . . an accountant.
“Hi, I want you to meet my friend. Her husband owns The Breakfast Joint.”
This has become my identity.
As if a 30-something woman who has chosen to stay at home to raise children isn’t having enough of an identity crisis.
It’s not that I’m resentful, or envious. It’s nothing like that. I’m wicked proud of him. It’s just that his success has diminished my self-worth, at least in the eyes of others.
My husband’s career has apparently become the most interesting thing about me.
What People Want to Know About Me
This is the typical inquisition that follows an introduction:
Do you eat a lot of bagels? Um yes? No? I don’t really know. How many is “a lot?” I have maybe one a week? Is that a lot? I don’t really know how to answer this. Can you please reword your question?
How early does he have to get up? Sometimes 3. Sometimes 4. Sometimes 5. Sometimes I just don’t know. He lets me sleep.
What’s your favorite bagel? Oh, for fuck’s sake! Do you really want to know this? Is this really what we are talking about?
It’s not that I mind talking about The Breakfast Joint, I just wish it wasn’t the only thing people wanted to know about me.
Oftentimes conversations are so overpowered by a curiosity about my husband and the store that people don’t even ask about my boys.
I suppose my question is: Is it really that hard to make conversation with a stay-at-home mom, or is my husband’s business that intriguing?
I often wonder if the topic of The Breakfast Joint would dominate my life if I had a legitimate job. Like a paycheck receiving, commute worthy, shower taking, leave the house kind of job. Then would people have more to talk about with me?
Would people still want to know if I eat a lot of bagels?