PREFACE: This past week, I played mom to FOUR kids. Every summer, we invite our nieces (city girls) to come to camp here in rustic Connecticut. While the girls are easy to manage and my kids LOVE being with them, we still need to work hard to keep the household running. This week, my husband MAJORLY stepped up; being in lockstep with me the entire time. As a result, we all had an awesome time and no one was worse for the wear. So, in honor of Dad, I am re-running the following post that I wrote last year.
Yesterday, I was feeling sorry for myself; lamenting in solitude about how I was “stuck at home” handling the kids, getting them ready for our very busy day while HE was off for his weekly run with our running club. It’s not that I minded being home with the kids; in fact, it was quite the opposite. It was that I minded that Hubby had declared that he was going to take Saturday morning for himself without really asking me.
“I’m going out for a run with the group.”
“Yeah…why? Did we have anything planned?”
I didn’t answer, just shaking my head to signal “no,” but secretly, I was stewing inside. Uh, no – but it would be nice if I could have Saturday morning off for a change. How come I have to do it all?
As I was stewing about the whole situation, I had a revelation, ignited by an innocent comment from my 3-year-old son: “Daddy only goes running on Saturday.”
My initial reaction was to snap back and comment about how “Daddy unfairly takes Saturday morning for himself…” but in catching myself (so that I wouldn’t bad-mouth him in front of the kids), I realized that my husband’s life has changed, too. It has changed because the demands that I have put on him have changed – I expect him to be home by the time I come home from daycare with the kids so that he can help me with dinner, bath and bedtime routines. He is expected to wash any dish that can’t or doesn’t make it into the dishwasher. I regularly ask him to vacuum the house and I rarely do any laundry other than kid stuff anymore. I make him run the errands that I once had the flexibility to do myself – from stopping at my eye doctor’s office to get my contact lenses, going to the bank or the post office, picking up a prescription, or even picking up a carton of milk on the way home from work (fortunately for him, I haven’t subjected him yet to picking up tampons). I even ask him to fill the gas tank in my car because the gas station is not located in a place that’s convenient for me. Just like I no longer have any free time, he doesn’t either, because he has picked up all of my slack.
It’s anecdotally true that moms are the primary caregivers in most male/female parenting relationships (note: I say MOST, not all). How many times have you heard a mom complain about personal adjustments that they’ve had to make since their kids came along, and about the unfairness of how they’re the ones who “do it all” when it comes to parenting? It would be great to say that the most efficient and balanced parenting relationships entail an equitable division of parenting-specific duties. However, we are fooling ourselves if we don’t admit that like us, our partners have had to make significant adjustments to their lifestyles. After all, “adjustments” don’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split of doing all things kid-related; it means a 50/50 split of all things LIFE-related. In the same way that we (moms) struggle to figure out how to “make things work,” our spouses do too; just in different ways.
So, I should to keep reminding myself to cut him some slack. On an ordinary day, when I am dealing with the kids and spending “more time than he does” on parenting responsibilities, HE is off doing one of the dozen things I have put on his to-do list. He is therefore entitled to run on a Saturday morning because he no longer has the time to do it when he used to. He, too, has had his life turned upside down; for the better, of course. And he, too, is figuring out ways to “make things work” within the demands that have been placed on him by family, work, and life in general. I need to remember that parenting and the sacrifices that have been made are not all about me – it is about US, and that’s what makes our parenting partnership work effectively.