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.
As we’ve said, in most relationships, women are the primary scorekeepers. But men play ball, too. In the following entry, we’ll try to unravel the reasons why. Here’s what we think they are (brace yourselves!):
1. To preserve parity. Men feel like whatever they do, it is never enough.
2. To maintain control over their lives. Men express irritation that, often, their wives control (or attempt to control) their relationship with their kids, their home environment and, inadvertently, their free time.
3. They need acknowledgment (just like their wives). If the “Thank yous,” the “You’re working really hards,” and the “You’re a great Dads” are few and far between, they begin to wonder if their wives take them for granted.
Just as most women are stunned by, and rarely happy about, the domestic obligations associated with motherhood, men, at times, rail against the lack of freedom that accompanies fatherhood. Some men despair that fatherhood has reduced their life, outside of work, to one of relentless domesticity. It is this fear (that nagging “is this it?”) that serves as a backdrop to much of male scorekeeping.
Bethenny Frankel in her new show Bethenny Ever After opens up about the trials of being married. In the season premier, she talks of how she feels “tortured” in her marriage. At the NBC Universal TCA Press Tour, she stated that, “I just turned 41, and to be perfectly honest, I unintentionally crammed everything in. I got pregnant. I got married eight months pregnant and now I sold my business."
Wow. Bethenny definitely has a lot going on. But we know one thing is clear. She and her husband of two years, Jason Hoppy, just had a baby. They are now learning that parenthood changes...everything. Here are a few gems we heard along the way:
“I expected to add diaper, pacifier, formula to my new motherhood vocabulary—I didn’t think f*!# and s#*# would feature so prominently!”
—Lisa, married 5 years, 1 kid.
“What I get from other women is what I need, and that is help. I don’t even have to ask other women for help, they just volunteer. What do I get from my husband? I get a sink full of dirty plates, a pile of dirty clothes on the stairs, and a child dressed for church in a football jersey.”
—Katherine, married 8 years, 2 kids.
“My wife doesn’t understand how important sex is to me. Everywhere I go, sex is screaming at me. There are hot women in advertisements on billboards, and before I know it I find myself imagining Gina down in Accounts Payable wearing a nurse’s outfit.”
—Thomas, married 11 years, 1 kid.