It’s Time to Cut Dad Some Slack

Dad’s Honey-Do List

Yesterday, I was feeling sorry for myself; lamenting in solitude about how I was “stuck at home” handing 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.”

“You are?”

“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 maxi pads and 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 adjustments that they’ve had to make to their lifestyles 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 (after work before coming home). 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 his family, his 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.

12 comments on “It’s Time to Cut Dad Some Slack”

  1. Hm, what I took from this is a lot of moms, maybe you, too, have something to learn from your husband. He’s working hard, and when he needs some “me” time, he asserts that. Moms likewise need “me” time, but I think are often more reluctant just to assume the husband will take over. But maybe we could all benefit from this lesson- sometimes we should just say “hey, I’m going running/to coffee/to yoga/etc” and leave him and the kids to their own devices for a few hours! Both dads AND moms deserve that!

  2. So if a bunch of guys got together for “book group” (my wife: “We talk about the book for about 10 minutes and then bitch about our husbands” oops, did I really write that? Is the secret now out? ) we’d spend maybe 15 minutes about the book and then we’d bitch about work, or politics, or sports. Only occasionally, or should I say rarely, do we get to the topic of our kids or our wives. I’m not sure why that’s the case. I’m sure there are books about that too, and we could talk about that that subject for days, but you are correct: what men talk about and what men think and worry about are often two different things. We truly do have a lot to learn from the women in our lives.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Now I’ve got to run the store with the Thanksgiving shopping list. 🙂

    1. Agree completely about the “public shaming” of husbands. I work very hard to not get caught up in the book club husband bashing because my husband is a GREAT guy and a very equal partner. I’m not sure when feeling overwhelmed turned into blaming your spouse (in public or in your head), but I think we all have some work to do there.

  3. Vivian, well said. I’m not a stay-at-home dad, but I do work closer to home than my wife, so over the last several years I’ve been the designated driver (and picker-up-er) and local errand runner. You put to words some of my thoughts about how we share household responsibilities. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to keep score, but I sometimes feel a little like Rodney Dangerfield when it comes to the balancing of those obligations. For the many spouses out there like me, thanks for the respect.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment – I joked around with someone that if you ask me in another week, I might be back to my old cranky self, complaining about how I “do it all.” However, in the meantime, I will just keep reminding myself there are always two sides of the coin and that even though our husbands complain less (gasp! What??! The wives complain more??!!), it doesn’t mean that they’re feeling less stress about the situation. It really is a balancing act. Thank you for your perspective!

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family!

  4. Love this! Great post. I need to remember that it’s not just me who has adjusted my life … and this was a good reminder. However, just between you and I, sounds like I have the right to cut my husband LESS slack than you do! Please, tell me more about this vacuuming and dishwashing …

    1. Haha, well the vacuuming is because he has this NASTY dog that sheds almost the equivalent of a small furry animal daily. I have threatened to get rid of his dog if he doesn’t vacuum!!!! 😉 I’m tired of having hairballs mixed in with my dinner!

  5. Wow Vivian this really resonated with me. I often feel like most of the responsibility falls on me but you’re right – my husband’s life has changed dramatically too since having a kid and those times that I’m feeling resentful, I just have to keep that in mind. Great post, great perspective.

    1. Thank you, Michelle! I’m glad that it resonated. I have been chanting this ALL weekend because it sure is hard to “excuse” him when I’m elbows deep in poop! Haha.

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