Everywhere you go, you can hear Mom’s venting about how they end up shouldering a disproportionate chunk of the child care/house work burden. This is a well worn complaint and one that almost all of us have either said or heard, often both, often often. I know I have said it before, and I think it even more often then I say it. I am almost certain that I will think it and say it again.
But, I have been thinking a lot lately about why this is such a prevalent stereotype. Sure there are societal factors, lingering from when Men would come home from work and their wives would hand them a drink and the paper and then trot the well dressed children through on their best behaviour before sending them off to play. (You know the phrase- Children should be seen and not heard) Then the wife would make super, do the dishes, housework, laundry, put the kids to bed, ect. while the husband tired from his long day at work would relax.
*Side note: Someone (a female friend- I just can’t place who) recently said to me ‘Wouldn’t it be great to be a 1950’s husband for a while?’ HAhaha! Yes. I love drinks and reading the paper. Also, no laundry, dinner making or bedtime battles. Sign me up!!
Anyway, back to the point. Society. Yes, society still has that little lingering push for women to be superwomen: work, house, kids.
And then we have the men. Who, love them, are a bit obtuse sometimes. And swaddling and diaper changes are like those impossible puzzles to them.
That being said, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I did that played a role in the situation being such that I feel sometimes like the default parent. You know what I mean; baby cries in the middle of the night. Who gets up? Me. If I wanted my husband to get up I could ask him. And he would. But the default is me. The default is always me. If I want to not be watching A, then I have to explicitly say I have something I have to/want to go do. Why is this?
At first, it was because I was the one with the boobs with (a very very small amount) of milk. Then for a long time after that, it was because I was the parent staying at home, and therefore could ‘relax’ during the day if I had been up all night. Now? Well, now it is because I have 13 months of programing to respond immediately to the child and my husband has has 13 months of programming to not respond immediately to the child, but to wait and see if wife requests that of him.
That, and, well…. It is my fault. Truth of the matter is I do/have done a number of things to perpetuate the situation.
1) “I’ll do it” We mom’s don’t seem to like to ask for help. Maybe some of you are better at it then me. But more then that, I feel some deep seated instinct that it is my duty, before anyone elses, to take care of the kid.
2) Critical. If I am honest with myself, I also have this deep seated instinct that I can take care of my kid ‘better’ then anyone else, even my husband. Now, I will tell you this is 100% untrue. My husband is better at feeding her dinner- he is more patient and fun and she always eats better when he is in charge. He is great at putting her to sleep, playing with her, taking her for a walk, giving her a bath, and reading her a story. He deals well with her tantrums. The only thing I am 100% better then my husband at: changing diapers. Anyway, I try my absolute best not to be critical, but I think sometimes I am, even if it is just with an eyebrow being raised. This does nothing to help my cause.
3) The plan. I always have a plan. For everything. That is just what I am like. My husband? Not so much with the plan. So when A was really little, I was always coming up with a new ‘plan’ to help her sleep better, change her ‘schedule’ (it was always pretty flexible) or help her eat better. Even if that plan only lasted a day, it was me that came up with it and ‘informed’ my husband of my brilliant idea. In retrospect, those plans were more about helping me feel a bit in control then anything else. Regardless, there was a dynamic set there that involved (and still does involved) me coming up with a course of action and proposing it to my husband, rather then a discussion about what we should do. Mostly, also, because I am the one who obsessively Google’s (see Life in balance. Sort of. for a great blog post on google’s use in parenting…. hilarious!) when trying to figure out anything baby/toddler.
To be fair to my husband: he is amazing. I hear stories about a lot of husbands who never do anything around the house or with the kids, and I realize how lucky I am. My husband regularly: makes dinner, cleans the kitchen, does the dishes, takes out garbage’s, starts laundry (he just can’t fold and put away or I would never be able to find my clothing), vacuums, puts the baby to bed, plays with her, gives her a bath, feeds her dinner, ect. ect. ect. My husband is wonderful. WONDERFUL. So it is not like he is sitting around well I play Cinderella with a baby strapped to me. He is 100% involved. He offers to do things all the time.
But. I am still the default parent.