Q. I just stumbled across your site while almost weeping with desperation. Our baby girl is 9 weeks old and my husband and I fight nonstop. We are both so into our baby and are madly in love with her. And my husband does a lot … cooking, tidying up our home, picking up groceries etc....
How much sex do the married parents of small kids have? What’s average?
“I’m scoring like a third-rate British soccer team—once every fifth Sunday.”
—Peter, married 8 years, 3 kids
Did-Enough Dads - These are the Dads who do just enough to get by. Domestic Shortcuts (skipping baths and teeth brushing) are Standard Operating Procedure, and they make liberal use of Convenience Cards (TV, McDonald’s, 1-800-Grandma).
After living much of our pre-parenthood lives as relative equals, it comes as a surprise when, post-baby, men and women start to assume different and not always complementary roles. Our instincts nudge women into the role of nurturers and men into the role of providers. When we become parents our most basic instincts rise to the surface. We find ourselves back in the prehistoric suburbs, where women wonder if baby might be allergic to mammoth and if there are enough wild berries in his diet, and where men stalk buffalo and question whether their hunting abilities will be good enough to get the family through the winter.
It's like our brains get completely rewired, running two separate "his and her" programs, but for good reason. Both programs are equally important for the survival and well-being of the baby. She focuses on the micro, the day-to-day development of the baby, while he focuses on the macro, providing food and shelter for the baby.
In simple terms, she has The Mommy Chip, while he has Provider Panic.
USA Today ran an article yesterday titled "Years of Research Point to Strain Kids Put on Relationship." Not exactly breaking news for those of us raising young children. The article refers to the more than 25 separate studies in the past two decades that find that marital quality takes a dive with a baby's birth: babies raise stress, reduce happiness and otherwise upset the household. There seems to be a never-ending series of academic reports that find that those of us who are married with kids are less happy than our childless married friends.
But are all of these studies focusing on the right emotion? Should we really be asking ourselves how happy having kids has made us?
“Trying to figure out what will get my wife in the mood for sex is like playing Whack-A-Mole.”
—Dan, married 9 years, 2 kids
It’s hard to have perspective about this stage of our lives. We can’t see too far beyond the next milestone: “Things will be so much easier when he’s potty trained/in preschool/making his own lunch/driving a car.” But we can get some perspective from couples who have been down this road already. Even though marriage and parenting have changed dramatically in a generation or two, the fundamental experience of adjusting to parenthood remains basically the same. The parenting veterans once found it as shocking as we do now. They felt their way along in the dark just like we’re all attempting to do.
When it comes to taking care of the kids and the house, are you a Maternal Gatekeeper? Do you micromanage your husband when he changes a diaper or cleans a dish? Do you often find yourself in a tit-for-tat scorekeeping argument because you want things done your way?
Many arguments about the division of labor arise because of our differing standards around the house. Women want things done just so. Men just want things done, period. And they will take that short-cut whenever they can. Do any of these sound familiar?
Top Five Shortcuts Men Use
1. Change the diaper. Put soiled diaper on the floor or on top of the Diaper Genie, but not actually in the Diaper Genie.
2. Take the trash out. Don’t replace the trash bag in the kitchen.
3. Never change the toilet paper roll. Use tissue from the tissue box instead.
4. Place dirty clothes on top of the dirty clothes hamper.
5. Dress the kid in the first thing you pull out of the drawer. Whether it “works” or not is not an issue.
And what about when our husbands are taking care of the kids themselves? They tend to use up all the Convenience Cards, all the easy activities to get them through the day.
Parenting is an unbelievably exhausting business and a certain amount of complaining, even moaning, about the daily grind is understandable and probably healthy. (Maybe it's just me ... but isn't there something unnatural and Stepford Wife-ish about the mother who never has a bad word to say about her husband and children? Or maybe I'm just jealous.) But many of us moms - including me - take things a little too far and play the Martyr.