Last night I lounged in bed while my husband helped my nine-year-old comb out her hair after a shower. This isn't a rare occurrence, he is just as likely to help her with her hair or pick out an outfit or check her homework or make a snack as I am, and he has always been that way. Because I made him be that way. Okay, maybe I didn't make him be that way but I certainly never allowed him to not be that way. When I decided to have babies with this guy I made sure that he was sort of guy who understood that just because the babies came out of my body that he was just as capable as caring for their needs as I am. And would be expected to care for their needs as much as I do. Even while having an incredibly stressful job outside of the home. We had the kids together, we would raise the kids together, even if he was tired after work. I was just as tired staying at home alone all day caring for a mewling newborn while trying to fold a hundred piles of laundry.
I recently saw a thread on Reddit from a mom who was upset her partner had ignored her on Mother's Day.
My husband basically did nothing for Mother's Day. He's been very hurtful this last year (says he's struggling with adjusting to being a dad, our daughter is 2.5), so I've been killing myself to keep as much pressure and responsibility off of him. I work full-time, do almost all the chores (he does the dishes and sometimes our bathroom), take care of as much as I possibly can with my daughter (he still does daycare pick-up/drop-off because I absolutely cannot with a 1-hr each way commute). I guess I thought maybe he would at least put a little thought into it; instead he printed off a free, black-n-white, quarter fold e-card yesterday morning (I saw it in the browser on our computer yesterday afternoon), and when he saw I was upset after having another mother at church dump her daughter on me (so I got be a mommy x2 instead of getting a break), he gave me 15 minutes to take a shower by myself (first time I've showered without our toddler in probably 6 months). So am I selfish that these tiny token gestures feel like weak sauce?
The comments that follow are what one would expect, advice and other posters adding their own tales of woe about thoughtless dads who either don't help with child-rearing or who also forgot to appreciate their wives or partners on Mother's Day. I have never understood the whole woe is mom thing about dads who don't help because this just seems like such an easy fix to me. You don't give dads a choice.
When my babies were little, I would leave them with their father. I would go out for lunch or to get a manicure or to run errands or to see a movie alone. I never begged him to watch the kids. We never argued about this. I treated it like it was a normal thing. As long as he had a bottle of breast milk he was more than capable of feeding a baby or changing a baby or getting a baby to sleep. He certainly never asked my permission to take a shower or run an errand without the kids or relax for a bit. I never micromanaged his turn at diaper changing or bath time because I knew that my vagina wasn't some magical body part that instinctively made me better at caring for babies. We both were born with the same set of clumsy, learn-as-we-go skills.
Ideally, the conversation about who will do what when it comes to caring for babies and children's happens before we get knocked up. I think people need to voice their expectations and agree on both parents taking an active part in doing the dirty work before a baby even enters this world. In all cases this isn't possible, so for any women out there who are upset, like the Reddit poster above, that the dads aren't pulling their weight or aren't appreciating the hard work they do then they should really just show the fathers exactly what raising babies is like.
Hand him the baby and say the baby needs a bath. Open a book or magazine or leave the house and go for a walk. I can't think of any situation I have ever read about where a baby was injured because a dad put on a diaper wrong. I don't think the majority of fathers will let a toddler drown in a bathtub. A father is just as capable of filling a sippy cup or rocking a kid to sleep or checking homework as a mom is. Sure, there are instances where a partner who works outside the home may need some downtime before they take on the baby workload, and all these things can be negotiated. But if you aren't letting your spouse take an active part in raising the kids and helping with them, then you only have yourself to blame. You are also robbing them of the bonding that can take place while caring for a kid on their own, without you hovering, or offering advice, or explaining the way you do things. The whole woe is mom conversation and situations wouldn't even happen if moms would just start to realize that dads are just as capable as they are.
(Image: Daria Filimonova/shutterstock)