Normally this isn't a huge problem. We tend to focus on our kids for Christmas, and do smaller but thoughtful gifts for each other that may or may not be a surprise. This year, though, I wanted to do something special and exciting not just for the kids, but for my husband. He is our primary breadwinner. I used to be a writer for a major corporation, but we decided what was best for our family was for me to leave my secure job and freelance part-time in order to be more available for my kids. I signed up for it and I'm grateful for it, but we had to make a ton of sacrifices to make it happen. My husband has been my biggest cheerleader, and he works incredibly hard to take care of our family. So I really wanted to get something special for him this year, something he would never buy for himself. I decided months ago that I wanted to buy him an iPad 2. But while I figured out that this was the perfect gift, how the hell was I supposed to get him one without him knowing??
The iPad wasn't exactly in the holiday budget we agreed on, and I felt weird pilfering money out of our family budget—mainly funded by him—to pay for it. So a few months ago I took a few writing jobs and didn't tell him. (I think that one burned through a few of my white lies. I feel slightly guilty about this, but am telling myself it's OK because I'm doing it out of love. Right?) This has been challenging and hilarious. Challenging because I was taking on additional work and I had to remember not to mention them to the one person in my life I tell everything. Hilarious because I'm pretty sure my husband thinks I've been exceptionally lazy lately and have a sudden aversion to getting dressed in the morning. He'll come home for lunch after I've been feverishly working all morning—around meeting the children's basic needs, natch—to a messy house and a messier looking wife. He'll eye my PJs and ask whether I've been writing, and I'll mumble something non-committal about laundry.
I was able to accumulate enough cash to cover the gift, but then I was stuck. There were really good online deals (the iPad isn't ever discounted, but there were bundling deals that included gift cards with the purchase of the tablet and the accessories, for example), but I had a handful of cash. Even if I didn't want to take advantage of the online deals, I wasn't comfortable running to the retail store with a wallet full of Benjamins. I weighed approaches before finally doing the only logical and mature thing.
I called my dad.
He ordered the iPad for me and let me give him the cash. (Thanks, Pops.) It's ordered. It's on its way. And I'm now the one running to the window every time the UPS truck goes down our street. I know my husband is going to love his gift, even though he's going to be really confused at first about how I paid for it without him knowing. I know he's going to be relieved that I'm spending less time in my PJs now that I'm not having to take on jobs on the sly, and to know that I didn't just take the past month off. I just hope he feels all the love that went into the planning and the sneaking.
If there's a moral to my story, it's that in order to surprise your husband, you should take on work behind their backs and ask your dad if you can use his credit card. Or maybe it's that sometimes the best gifts are the ones that you invest time, thought, and sacrifice to give to the people you love the most. And in order to surprise them after all that time and thought, not to do anything like post about it on the Internet.