On any given weekend in millions of homes across globe, wives stand in front of their husbands listing all of the selfless acts they have performed in the last week: “I paid all the bills, bought a birthday present for your mother, read Goodnight Moon five times, took four six-year-olds to Chuck-E-Cheese . . . and that was just Tuesday. . . .”
The husbands return fire: “Excuse me, but did I not make the kids breakfast every morning last week, including the morning it made me late for my presentation, when I really should have gone in early? And I picked up the dry cleaning without being asked, and I did bath duty three times last week. What more do you want?”
A volley of personal accomplishments and sacrifices ensues. Not exactly what we thought life would be like when we eyed each other across the room all those years ago, is it?
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.
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.
Before you had kids, remember your Saturday and Sunday? Forty-eight hours of R&R. You could stay in bed (together) until noon . . . or not. You could have brunch at your favorite little bistro. Take in a movie. Paint your toenails, paint his toenails. The options were endless. He did his stuff. You did your stuff. Then you did some couple stuff. Remember when the most taxing issue you had was “Hey, what’ll we do this weekend?” Kids arrive, and that question becomes, “You’re doing what this weekend?” The what being fishing, jogging, aerobics, a manicure, work, golf, or whatever activity it is that takes you away from kids and spouse for more than thirty minutes.
“I really resent that he wants to take off for five hours to play golf on Saturday, then he expects me to be oh-so-grateful because he watches the kids while I go to yoga for an hour. Big friggin’ deal.”
—Jane, married 9 years, 2 kids
Welcome to the weekend, the Scorekeeping Super Bowl.
“TGIF? That’s a joke. Thank God it’s Monday is more like it. I kiss my desk on Monday morning.”
—Dev, married 7 years, 2 kids
“Peter and I argue over ‘pacing.’ He’s not in any hurry, but I feel like I have to keep moving or the whole family will be buried in laundry, toys, dishes, and dust bunnies. I can’t stop. And I can’t take a break. If I take a break, then the baby will want to nurse by the time I’m ready to start working again and I will fall further behind. Meanwhile, he wants to relax on the weekend and sip his coffee. I want him to be up and cleaning the bathroom.”
—Kelly, married 8 years, 3 kids