After having a huge fight with my husband today about time with the family, work, and the same old bullshit, I came to the conclusion that I was very angry. I was angry about how much he has been traveling and the amount of mental energy he devotes to work (vs. home and family). He has a very flexible schedule, as he works in higher ed, but his mind is always with work. I couldn”t help but thinking of a post I wrote eons ago and had posted at my other blog, Mothers in the Middle, which became a political blog from a mother”s perspective. That ended after the election, as I just couldn”t stay so wrapped up in politics (mostly because my side lost). I thought I would repost it here… things just don”t change that much.
The Mommy Obstacle Course
As I was talking to my sister on the phone the other day, I assumed she had a cold. When I asked about it, she started to cry and said, “I am just in a fight with my (expletive) husband!” It seems to be a common theme every time I get on the phone with my sisters, or other friends with young children. â€œTo make it worse, he just told me I needed to buy this new book about how to take care of your husband!â€ Wow, that was bad. A comment like that invokes disgust in the minds of mothers everywhere.
It made me think a little more, though. As mothers who work both inside and outside of the home, many of us are damn mad at the other â€œ50%â€ of our household partnership. We love them, but we are mad.
I, for one, am mad.
My husband grew up in a liberated family where both parents worked and his mother preached gender equity. In fact, he got a bad grade on an elementary school assignment when he was asked to connect the jobs or roles to the appropriate person. He indicated that mothers mow the lawn and fathers wash the dishes. The teacher didn”t agree. What has happened in the last 25 years?
We have one daughter, a seemingly easy task to anyone who has more. She is the light of our life and our world revolves around her. However, it seems that my world is the only one capable of staying in orbit. Not because I necessarily want it to, but because it has to. His orbit ebbs and flows based on his needs – no one else’s. If he has to go to the bathroom, he goes and spends as long as he likes in there. If he has an early meeting, he showers, dresses, and leaves.
If I have to go to the bathroom, and I am lucky enough to be at home, I have to pull my two year old in to join in the fun. It usually leaves thirty feet of toilet paper on the floor, my makeup scattered about, and my daughter playing with the caustic chemicals. Now if I am in public, my daughter ends up with the virus du jour on her hands from NEEDING to play in the sinks or crawl under the stalls.
If I have an early meeting or appointment, I have to prepare as if I had a degree in business logistics. I need to clear the event with my husband at least a week in advance to make sure he can drop her off at daycare that morning. I need to remind him a million times that he will be dropping her off. When I bring it up the night before, he will say I never told him and he doesn”t think he can do it. We then need to have a fight about the fact that I am the only one to take her to school and he never does anything. He proceeds to tell me that I am mean and I don”t understand the stress he is under at work. After that is over, I have to make her lunch and create the â€œsupporting materials.â€ These go like this – â€œHer classroom is #3 which is across from her old classroom that you took her to six months ago. The code for the door is 2778. Our sign in PIN number for the computer system (which was instituted months ago and he has never used) is 08898. You need to fill out her paper, which is on the table next to the door, and put her lunch in the fridge in classroom #2. Make sure you tell her teacher that she has her lunch so they don”t give her something that will make her go into anaphylactic shock (she has major allergies).â€ The day of my meeting, I have to wake up, get showered and dressed, and then proceed to get her dressed, fed, and ready to go out the door. Then I have to get in my car and go to a meeting and try to say something coherent, when all I am thinking is Oh sh**, I didn’t lay out her mittens and hat and he will never remember to take them. Now the kids won”t be able to go for a walk this morning and the teachers at school are going to think I am a loser. Oh wait, he is dropping her off this morningâ€¦ maybe they will just think he is a loser. Cool.â€ Back to the meeting.
My sister calls this process the â€œmommy obstacle course.â€ If she can get through it and jump through all of the appropriate hoops, she is allowed to exit the premises without her children. If not, better luck next time.
So, why are we mad? Because somewhere along the line, many of our husbands have become infants. They have reverted from their strong selves with enlightened ideas about sharing responsibilities to the biggest babies of the household. They need not only their time to sit in front of the TV, â€œworkâ€ on the computer (a.k.a. reading Sports Illustrated online), and go to the bathroom in private, they also then need us to take care of their every need. Laundry gets done, dinners get made, and bathrooms get cleaned. And even with all that, they still nag that their sex life isn’t what it used to be.
As Lisa Belkin put it in her book Life’s Work, almost all men are better fathers than their dads were because they do something — anything. And almost all women are worse mothers than their moms were because they have to do more. My husband changes a diaper and the world is supposed to stop and applaud. But I balance working from the office and working from home, taking care of my daughter all but three hours of the day, and managing the household, and I am still not as good of a mother as my mom was.
Maybe we should revolt and do nothing for a while. But the men probably know something inherently – we will not jeopardize our children”s wellbeing, which is a distinct possibility under that plan. So I think that’s out.
Maybe we should just not be as good at what we do. Maybe we should leave the house dirty, let the laundry pile up, and let the kids look like rug rats. Maybe dinner should be cereal and we should consistently forget the dry cleaning. If we started dropping the ball, maybe they would be forced to pick it up.
Then again, those huge piles of laundry would just increase the difficulty level of the mommy obstacle course.