I’m probably going to get some slack for writing this article, but I want to discuss a parenting phenomenon I’ve observed too often lately. Why is it so much easier for dads to hire help and make their lives easier when watching their children? Why don’t they appear to feel guilty about this? And why do we, as moms judge and criticize them for it?
I know lots of moms, that when they make plans with friends for an afternoon or evening, their husbands often call a nanny, babysitter, or family member to come over and help with the kids. And when mom hears this, she responds with anger and frustration, complaining that she doesn’t understand why her husband can’t handle taking care of all the children alone, something she does every single day of the week.
I want to first differentiate between the men who are literally never alone with their children and refuse to be, forcing their wives to never be able to take a trip, attend a special event, or a night off with the girls unless they arrange for their own child care. I’m not talking about these men. That topic deserves its own post. I’m referring to the average hands-on, involved dad who likes an extra set of hand with his kids when mom isn’t home. Why shouldn’t these dads ask for help if they believe it will make their afternoon or evening easier?
Do you ever wonder if you are missing the motherhood gene? I mean, I know I’m a kickass mom, but I think we all feel like this sometimes. I remember when I first started seeing my therapist during the days of postpartum depression (a time where I had no interest in being a mom at all), and she determined that I was more of an A-/B+ personality, she also decided I was part male (I happen to agree with her but that’s another blog post for another time). Lately that has me thinking…maybe it’s not that I’m missing the mom gene, but perhaps there are times when I could actually be a dad trapped inside a mom’s body–because here are eight examples of my less than stellar parenthood behaviors (we all have our moments) and let’s be honest moms, aren’t these things we like to get on our husband’s cases for? And if I’m being completely honest, my husband may have helped me with this list…because he kind of agrees!
- When I go out of town, my husband puts our little one to sleep and cooks himself a gourmet meal and sets a proper place at the table. I’m talking restaurant style–place mat, correct placing of utensils, fully poured glass of wine and all. When my husband goes out of town, I get in my pajamas, turn on the Netflix, call for takeout and eat from the box the food came in. And if dessert is involved, it’s probably coming in bed with me.
- On Saturdays, my husband spends all morning with our son, going from activity to activity—breakfast, soccer, car wash, mini golf, watching trains, riding the trolley, playground, Lego store, grocery shopping, and more. He wonders if they haven’t done enough. When my husband is out of town and I’m responsible for the Saturday morning routine, I most likely make it to the car wash before we find ourselves at home binge-watching Paw Patrol. I’m exhausted just thinking about that activity list!
I try not to feel guilty about having postpartum depression, but sometimes I can’t help but feel guilty about putting my husband through it. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for him. Husbands, the fathers of our children, are often left out of the postpartum depression conversation. Our men can be just as clueless about PPD as we are before it runs us over like a mac truck. They must feel just as lost and helpless as the women they love and now share a child with feel. Most want to help but have no idea where to even begin.
I’ve been asked the same question by so many moms I know. They want to know how my husband was able to “get it.” Some of these moms who also suffered from PPD had husbands who didn’t immediately understand what they were going through–how could they not fall in love or bond with their baby right away–why a trip to the gym or nail salon couldn’t alleviate their tears and anxiety. I remember a few things about my husband during that time. First, he agreed to come to a therapy session with me. This proved to be extremely helpful because he could listen to a trained professional specializing in what I was going through. Second, my husband is a “researcher”, so I’m pretty sure he educated himself about PPD on the Internet. Third, I made him read the information here and he followed it. Lastly, he just tried to be supportive without ever forcing motherhood on me or judging the fact that I wasn’t capable of embracing it immediately.
For these reasons, I thought it would be helpful to write about my struggle with PPD from my husband’s point of view, so I interviewed him. Here are his responses. He promised me he wouldn’t hold back and wouldn’t sugar-coat. He assured me he would give real, honest, detailed responses. Breathe Jen. You will get through reading and reliving this. Read more
When you go out and leave the kids with your husband and someone asks who is watching them, what do you usually say? I’m pretty sure I always say, “My husband is watching Mason,” which is no different than when I tell someone a babysitter is watching him. I hate this more than anything and I do it all the effing time. Sometimes I even find myself explaining to someone how hands on my husband is and how capable he is watching our son without me. As if a mom leaving her child with his dad for extended periods of time is somehow surprising or needs an explanation.
When dads spend time with their kids, they are revered and celebrated. “Aww, that’s so awesome, your husband can handle the kids.” Of course he can fucking handle it. He is their dad after all! When moms do it, it’s just expected. It’s their job. Why should a dad get a medal just for being an involved parent? Isn’t that his job too? I wasn’t aware that rewards were given out for doing one’s job. Maybe I want a medal too–a really shiny 18 Karat gold medal with the words, “Congratulations, You Parented Today,” written in bling.
Other times I wonder if I should feel guilty for leaving Mason with him for a whole day or extended weekend. Or do I need to apologize for coming home late or when Mason only feels like using the word “NO” and constantly melts down while on my husband’s time. When my husband comes home Saturday at lunch time exhausted and moody and frustrated from his morning activities with Mason, should I feel bad I was sleeping in, exercising, and writing? I definitely find myself saying, “I’m sorry Mason was in a bad mood for you. I’m sorry you’re so tired.” But isn’t that what kids do? They can be assholes and they wear their parents out, even on a good day.