At Least We Both Agree Keeping Them Alive Is Important

Because it is a Monday and it is not raining, I have exactly 90 minutes between the moment E walks in the door and the moment he leaves again for hockey practice. 90 glorious free minutes during which I can take a shower unassisted by a toddler (“Mama, BOOBS!”) or fold laundry using both arms or sweep the front porch without anyone running through the piles of dirt and tracking it straight into the house. 90 precious minutes to fit in all the chores and errands that are a struggle to do with two kids but should really be done sooner rather than later.

“I’m just going to run to the post office”, I said to E as I grabbed my keys. “Caroline just woke up so she probably needs a diaper [I throw a diaper and a clean outfit in his direction]. You don’t have to get her dressed though, if you want to give her some of this watermelon I cut up she’ll get all messy anyway. Just put her in the high chair. And there are apples in the bowl if you want to put some in her meshie, although it might be in the dishwasher but those dishes are clean so you could get it out.”

E looks up from the remote. “How long are you going to be GONE?”

And that, right there, is the cause of 99% of our fights. I think taking care of the babies is a full time, active job that involves fruits and vegetables and songs and flashcards and cute outfits and playgroups and tummy time. E thinks it involves making sure everyone is breathing and relatively non-poop encrusted.

In the end, we are both right. There are plenty of parenting moments that are nothing more than sitting on the floor with the kids, playing “how big is the baby?” or “where’s your belly button?” or “how hard can you whack daddy in the nuts while trying to climb on him?” But as the primary childcare provider*, more of my time is spent feeding, changing, dressing, rocking, nursing, chasing, holding, and disciplining children. My default mode is to PROVIDE.

So when I hand over the parenting reins for a few minutes I expect my husband to stay just as busy. No, Caroline isn’t going to STARVE if he doesn’t give her some watermelon during the twelve minutes I’m gone. But I was the parent who was home while E went to the post office, those are all the things I would have been doing. I feel like shared parenting means sharing all of it – not just the interesting parts. On the balance sheet of taking care of kids, he doesn’t get to cross of “get hugs” and “read books” while I’m stuck with “offer the baby eleven different foods to throw on the floor” and “let the toddler spit out the apple skin he refuses to swallow for the umpteenth time into your hand.”

But my parenting advice never goes over well and the more times I suggest – Honey you should…Honey why don’t…Honey I think… – the more annoyed E gets and, ironically, the less likely he is to pitch in. Not because he is spiteful and mean, but because who wants to keep doing something you are told over and over you are not good at? (I mean BESIDES blogging, because obviously no one can stop me from sucking up more than my share of the interwebs. I’m in yur bandwidth, writtin down mah rambling thoughts!)

We need to find a compromise that DOESN’T involve either of us threatening to move to Australia.

*And hey, who wants to talk about how totally messed up it is that childcare costs a frickin ZILLION DOLLARS, but watching one’s own children doesn’t count as a job? Oh, you don’t have time to discuss one of the most written about parts of motherhood ever? How about just an Amen?

 

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34 Responses to “At Least We Both Agree Keeping Them Alive Is Important”

  1. Swistle says:

    AMEN.

    And I see childcare as a running-to-stand-still operation: if I don’t keep working at it, we are going to fall off this treadmill and it’s not going to be pretty. And Paul doesn’t see it that way at all. So on weekend mornings, when we are theoretically splitting things 50-50, I’ll get up and spring into action: feeding someone or dressing someone or getting the diaper bag packed or unloading the dishwasher. While he’ll stretching and then wandering around and then maybe getting himself some breakfast. Or if he DOES get a child breakfast, he gets JUST THAT CHILD breakfast. Whereas if I were getting milk for one child, I’d get milk for ALL of them (and put the extras in the fridge if those kids weren’t up yet) because that’s just more EFFICIENT, you know?

  2. Mama Fisch says:

    I applaud this post. While, it is not 100% how my household is, my frustration stems from my husband thinking that just “coming home early” and sitting our toddler in front of PTI or Mickey is appreciated. Sometimes when he is home, it is simply just harder. I think I get in a rhythm when I am by myself with our toddler.
    I appreciate that I can leave Brady with my husband for an hour, day, night whatever, but I struggle with the guilt factor of it. Why when he leaves does not hesitate to run that errand, work on that house project or go out with the boys? Yet, when I want to run to Whole Foods or Target alone, I am full of guilt as to why I shouldn’t or need to take my toddler with me.
    I think it has to been the “wiring” of males vs. females.

  3. Erin says:

    Hmm. I love all your posts, but this one especially. My husband is exactly the same. If I leave and the baby doesnt scream the entire time I’m gone that is a success. In fact no matter how long I’m gone he doesn’t think about feeding the baby on his own (baby is only 8 months- so he’s not on a real schedule yet). I also often find myself thinking about how much harder it is when he is home (he teaches school and is home for summer right now). Why dowsing feel more like I have another child than another adult?

    My absolute biggest pet peeve thou, is when I ask if he’s done something and he retorts with “did you ask me to do that?”. First of all no one has to tell me all the things I need to do in a day. And second of all if I do tell him he gets upsEt and tells me I have no faith in him. It’s called a track record, buddy.

  4. Audrey says:

    Christopher and I had this problem too. I had to let go. And he had to ask for help or tips. Although these days there is a lot of me having to tell him “Christopher..if she’s crying, feed her baby food. You don’t have to wait for me to finish what I’m doing so I can nurse her…there is another option now.” And he’s like..”oh. It hadn’t occurred to me.” No, his default response is to get angrier and angrier at me because THE BABY IS CRYING! WHY AREN’T YOU DROPPING EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING AND GIVING HER YOUR BOOOOOOOB?!!! *sigh* Men.

    • bebehblog says:

      The breastfeeding thing adds a WHOLE NEW level of frustration to this. We were actually doing pretty well with the toddler, but now that Caroline needs me to provide food I’m back to being annoyed and stressed. At 6 months old he SHOULD be offering baby food when she gets hungry – but because Little Evan never really liked solids he just assumes Caroline will be the same way and doesn’t bother. We’re on track towards another baby who lives solely on milk straight from the tap for a full year and I DON’T LIKE IT.

      • Audrey says:

        I can’t wait for kid #3 to roll around…oh the levels of spousal frustration and exhaustion I expect to reach! We’re already talking about when it would be convenient to get pregnant again. As in..we don’t want to have me ready to pop a baby out when on our summer camping trip next year so I guess we can’t get pregnant at the end of this year. Yeah, we are totally nutso.

  5. Amy says:

    Wow, I totally agree with you. It is no different for mothers who work full-time outside the home. I’m always the leader. I totally agree with Erin: He’s physically and mentally capable of doing everything that I do, but he always needs me to TELL him it needs to be done. Why doesn’t he just KNOW??? Is the male brain just not wired to be “the provider”?

    • Audrey says:

      Seriously, I used to question my husband’s mental capacity when he would ask me how to change a diaper. A DIAPER…COME ON MAN! But then I realized it was just that he figured I was the expert at all thing child related because I spent way more time caring for them so he was hoping I would have tips on quickness and how to walk away without getting poo on you.

  6. Suz B says:

    I can only imagine that this would be us in a few years. I already say that in regards to food/water/litter cleaning for Moe kitty. I will have to remember to reread this post to remember others feel the same way.

  7. misspie says:

    I totally hear you. My husband gets up with the kids on weekend mornings so that I can get extra sleep to help compensate for all of the nighttime nursing. Here’s the breakdown of what I would normally do during that hour versus what he does:

    Diapers changed – probably, but no guarantee
    Breakfast fed – not likely
    Children out of pajamas – no way in hell

    Then I’m annoyed because how can I take any pleasure in extra sleep when I know that basically every task that needs doing is being deferred until I get up? I’d rather get up earlier and get sh*t done than wake up and discover we’re already behind the ball.

  8. Lori says:

    I’ve been a lurker for a long time, but I just have to say this post struck a chord. AMEN!

  9. Michelle says:

    AMEN! Preach on, sister!

  10. Leah says:

    ALL OF THIS. Even the hockey. ESPECIALLY THE HOCKEY. What’s worse is that we are both home. If the kids are being a pain, they are mine and Bruce is on the computer doing… something. If they are being fun, they are his and I am cleaning.

    I take solace in the fact that he is so boned when I go back to work.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’m going to San Diego for a whole glorious kid-free weekend with a freezer stash of breastmilk and a GOOD LUCK. He’ll keep them alive & hopefully realize that playdates aren’t the optional leisure activity he thinks they are. Toddlers NEED that energy burn-off.

  11. Barbra says:

    Can I just say that I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way towards the hubby? I am at-home right now (technically unemployed due to a cross-state move for hubby’s job) and chris thinks that being at-home is my job and my job only. Even if knox had a bad night and was up every two hours chris won’t help because he “goes to work” as if I don’t work all day and all night. and i’m not even breastfeeding so he doesn’t have that excuse. when he gets home at six, he picks up his laptop. his idea of watching the baby so i can make dinner is putting him on the floor with his toys so chris can play on his laptop. its frustrating. and if i say why dont you get on the floor and play with him, or did you check his diaper, etc. if knox is crying, chris says well, i worked all day i’m tired.
    can we really chalk it up to differences between men and women and give them a free pass? I realize that keeping the house together and most of the babycare is my “job”, but why doesn’t he want to help more when he’s home? What will things be like when I do get a job? I am so frustrated with my husband right now. This is pretty much the only issue we fight about.

    • bebehblog says:

      I do not think ANYONE gets a free pass by saying “Oh he’s a man” anymore than I believe that “boys will be boys”. I do think my husband is less of a detail-oriented person and also can handle a higher level of clutter/general disorganization before freaking out, so I tend to reach a totally-stressed-why-don’t-you-DO-MORE point long before he does.

      You’ve got it especially rough right now with the temporary SAHM gig – it’s a tough adjustment and OH BOY can it be frustrating when you feel like your job is a an air-quotes “job” and he thinks you just eat bon bons all day.

  12. Alena says:

    A to the men.

    Seriously keeping Sophia alive is Cody’s mission. Keeping her on a schedule? Feeding her different foods? Reading all the books (incorporating labeling all the things in the book)? Not that important to the man in this parenting equation. To him? If she’s alive he’s done his part.

  13. Robyn says:

    i agree with Amy. i work outside the home, as does my husband, and i’m still the default provider. it’s a mom thing, i think. it’s not so hard around our house, though, now that the two year old will tell Daddy exactly what she wants/needs done while mommy is away/busy. but if she’s content to sit and watch tv, he sees no need to stop her, while i try and get her engaged in another activity after one episode of Dora.

    • bebehblog says:

      Yessssss. The “engaged” part is sometimes where we struggle – I feel like I need to do MORE and he feels like as long as they’re happy he can relax.

  14. I just had an “I’m not trying to tell you how to comment, but…” conversation last night with my husband. And I had to say things that in my mind were stating the obvious and basic points. Apparently, they were not.

  15. Denae says:

    You are nicer than I am. I drop off the kid in dads arms with a list of must dos and refuse to accept her back until done. I rarely have problems. Thankfully my DH is amazing and agrees completely that we need to co-parent. Sometimes I just have to remind him that includes the good and bad stuff.

  16. *most* of the time my husband is as just as involved as I am when he’s home. But there are times I’m Like HELLO WTF are you not doing right now that you should be. Like the time I took a 45 minute bath one night to come out & find him snoring on the couch while milo was playing in the fridge! That is the type of thing that would simply never happen on my watch! Ever. Period. But, I don’t get up at 4am & get home at7pm every night either.

    I think its a dynamic thats different for everyone’s circumstances. I think alone time should be had & that we shouldnt be made to feel guilty for it.

    My husband usually will do a bath for Milo on nights he needs it & will change diapers from the time he gets home until Milo gets to bed. On the weekend it’s pretty balanced between us & when It’s not I’m like “HEY DO THIS NOW” with my scary face on & he listens.

    So what I’m saying is Suzanne, you need a scarier bitch face when you’re telling him what to do, obviously!!!! xoxox

    • bebehblog says:

      And you know what? I’ve given Little Evan MAYBE 10 baths in his whole life, because my husband always does bath time. They have a whole routine I know almost nothing about. The arguments come into play more when he is relaxing and I think “hey, I want to relax TOO” but because my mind won’t let go of ALL THE STUFF I think I SHOULD be doing I can’t.

      So maybe, really, he needs to help a little more and I need to chill out a little more.

  17. Jennie says:

    I AM SO ON YOUR PAGE ON THIS ONE! The brunt of all of my recent frustration has been while asking, begging, pleading, screaming for “A LITTLE HELP HERE!”
    Sigh*
    My reply other than a blank stare is “When I get back.”

  18. cakeburnette says:

    well, I think the problem is a bit more complex that just active vs. passive parenting. It’s more that E works hard supporting the cause of world freedom and expects to come home and veg because “he’s earned a rest.” And you are so RIGHTFULLY INDIGNANT BECAUSE NO ONE (read: E) SEEMS TO UNDERSTAND THAT FULL-TIME PARENTING IS JUST AS HARD AND YOU MIGHT HAVE EARNED SOME REST TIME, BUT WHEN IN THE HELL ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO GET A CHANCE TO REST WITH ALL THE CRAP THAT HAS TO BE DONE AND ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE THAT NEED CARED FOR?

    um. Can you tell maybe that I’m a stay-at-home USAF wife who had babies 15 months apart and who might STILL be a tad touchy? LOL!

    • bebehblog says:

      I wish there was a way to switch jobs for a week. I think we would BOTH learn a lot and appreciate each other more.

  19. Miranda says:

    I just had a whole way longer comment typed here and I erased it because it was basically me just emotionally vomiting in your comments.

    In short? amen.

  20. bebehblog says:

    I can’t even imagine how I would hold it together if I also had a 9-5. I live in awe of work outside the home mothers.

  21. bebehblog says:

    You know what else is harder for me (and maybe lots of mothers)? I try to time my solo-trips to leave him with 2 happy, fed, possibly asleep children so he doesn’t have to deal with angry screaming in stereo while I go grocery shopping. I ALWAYS feed Caroline right before I leave. But he lives on a schedule dictated by actual times (work starts at 7, practice is as 5, etc) and somehow my kids like to be as challenging as possible during those EXACT moments.

  22. Kimberly says:

    Amen. I’m constantly telling hubby that I’m tired of being “in charge”. Why do I have to leave more directions than I do for the teenage babysitter? Thanks so showing me I’m not alone :) And I’m pretty sure when I talk to hubby about the post, he will feel good that he’s not the only one being nagged :P

  23. Laura says:

    Oh, AMEN! We had several tiffs this spring related to this. I finally realized I needed to back off a bit and be less particular (read: control freak) about how things are done. My husband stepped up a bit, “volunteering” to help around the house by doing the laundry. The first night he did it he asked, “Does doing the laundry mean I have to fold it and put it away, too”? I laughed so hard. It now sits, wrinkled, in our hallway, but at least it’s clean more often than not. Baby steps. Baby steps.

  24. Is childcare expensive? Around here in the wackily expensive northeastern US, if you divide what seems like a really expensive service up into an hourly wage, it ends up being about what someone who works at McDonald’s gets paid. Per kid, though. An in-home daycare provider taking in the max number kids legally allowed might make $40k, but she’s also going to get dinged by taxes because she’s self employed, and there’s plenty of overhead, too. And that goes triple for centers (my family owned a daycare center for a while and it was a money pit, not a money maker).

    Uh, not sure where I’m going with this. Just definitely wanted to note that opening a daycare isn’t going to lead to a life of luxury for anyone doing it!

  25. Bobi says:

    wow this blog was what I needed to read. i loved all the comments as well. I can very much relate. thanks for posting this.

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