Sunday Morning

One recent Sunday morning. I called my friend, Sally, to ask whether my kid can still come to her kid's birthday party (which starts in three hours) despite the fact that I had forgotten to respond to the invitation.

She said, of course, since she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls, e-mails, presentations and a last-minute doctor's appointment for a suspected case of ringworm.

Then, mid-breath, she paused to tell her husband what to get at the store: balloons, lemon and raspberry sherbet, Goldfish.

A few minutes later her cell phone rang in the background. Without missing a word I was saying, she spit out:

"Nothing fancy! Just a balloon to mark the driveway."

Moments later the cell phone beeped again. Silence. Then:

"Breyer's, for God's sake!"

Her husband went to an Ivy League college. He is a successful attorney in a city of 80,000 lawyers. Yet he cannot buy supplies for a nine-year-old's party without a list and two phone calls.

As I hung up the phone, I wondered for the 1000th time since I had kids: Are all men like this?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 16, 2006; 7:00 AM ET
Previous: Two Views of the Village | Next: What All Moms Want


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That's pretty funny, and yes, most men are like that. But it's because we let them get away with it.

Posted by: MomNC | March 16, 2006 7:42 AM

Before our first daughter was born, my husband and I agreed that we would take turns being the primary caregiver. I spent the first 3+ years as the SAHM, and then my husband quit his job to be the SAHD and I went back to work. We have a 1.5 year old and a 4 year old.

When I was the SAHM, I couldn't believe how incompetent he was about some things, even about where to find diapers. Now I'm the one who has to be reminded by him that, for instance, we use paper diapers instead of cloth at bedtime. He knows his way around the grocery store better than I do.

He's still male-- for instance, when he puts the clean dishes away they're often in a new spot since he doesn't remember where the bowls go-- but it's been a great equalizer for us to have him be the more knowledgable one about household affairs.

Posted by: Ms L | March 16, 2006 8:12 AM

Men and women are both like that when the list says "ice cream" and "balloon" instead of "Breyer's hazelnut" and "cheap balloon to mark the driveway". It takes less time too, believe it or not.

Posted by: Mr L (not related to Ms L) | March 16, 2006 8:30 AM

Instead of asking "are all men like this?" maybe the women should ask themselves "do I criticize him no matter what decision he makes, even on the little things?" The ice cream... maybe he was thinking, no matter what choice I make, she'll say "why didn't you get such and such brand or flavor?" Women, and of course men, need to understand that their significant others CANNOT read minds. And maybe, after making all sorts of decisions all week on important matters for his clients, he is just a bit mentally tired. Give him a break, ladies, working Dads are playing golf and hanging out all day.

Posted by: Brian | March 16, 2006 8:41 AM

If he had come home with rainbow sherbert and a $100 bunch of fancy mylar balloons would you have been happy then?

I know if my husband sent me to the store and said "get an oil filter" I would have to ask which one.

P.S. - How does your husband feel about this blog? He certainly has my sympathies.

Posted by: Kid Free in Alexandria | March 16, 2006 8:49 AM

Forgive me - I read too fast and thought the conversation was between you and your husband, not your friend and her husband.

P.S.- How do your friends feel about this? Glad mine aren't airing our conversations at WashingtonPost.com

Posted by: Kid Free in Alexandria | March 16, 2006 8:51 AM

I was surprised how many of the domestic decisions became my "rhelm" once we had a baby - we both work, and always split household stuff 50/50. Now that there's a baby, all of a sudden, I'm making decisions like what kind of ice cream. Sometimes I ask my husband why he thinks I know more than he does, and he says that it's because I make it all look so easy...haha, but seriously, I think he sees my picking Breyers as some mom-approved carefully selected thing whereas I likely just randomly pulled it out of the air. Still, as a previous poster mentioned, if he comes home with something different than I thought he would, I sure can't call him on it unless I really want to be the maker-of-all-domestic-decisions. Since I don't, I keep my trap shut :)
(PS - Hey, kidsfree...chill a little. This is a blog. That means the author writes something which stimulates thought, thus it usually is a little biased and controversial. That makes us all post comments, which gets us all on the Posts website, and they can boast about how many clicks their site got to advertisers...everyone wins. I'm sure her husband understands how this works just fine.)

Posted by: new mom in FL | March 16, 2006 9:02 AM

Good grief! "Are all men like that?"

You've got to be kidding me.

Kid free nailed it. Would the party mom have smiled and thanked her husband if he showed up with *gasp* the wrong favor of sherbet? Or, ice cream?

If she would have, then he wouldn't have needed to call. If, on the other hand, she wants things done *exactly* how she would have done them, then he's learned well that he needs to ask specific questions. He seems pretty smart to know his wife.

Asking "are all men like this" (i.e. stupid, incompetent, and unmotivated) is just as ridiculous as asking - are all *women* like this - anal, controlling, and testy?

Posted by: Jill | March 16, 2006 9:17 AM

While many fathers may be clueless about these types of issues (partly because many wives allow them to be), I don't think that's necessarily the factor at play here. I concur with the other dad who mentioned that there is often a risk that no matter which ice cream is bought, the dad will be criticized for the decision. I think one root cause - at least in many households I know - is that the mom is applying her professional skills (e.g., meticulousness, attention to detail) to household matters which sometimes don't require them. The dad - who may care a little less about WHICH flavor is purchased - feels less empowered to just pick something if he knows there's a chance it will be wrong. What is perceived as incompetence is - right or wrong - an evolved defense mechanism. It often takes two for these situations to get to the point of the ridiculousness in the anecdote you cite.

Posted by: working dad | March 16, 2006 9:22 AM

OK, maybe the mom is too particular--we don't know if she would have cared about the flavor or brand. But I definitely see this dynamic at home, where even if he does the *task*, he still leaves *ownership* to me. Why can't he just pick out the darn ice cream--why does he have to call and leave the decision-making to her? It aggravates me that men think that they are doing half the work because they do the shopping, but if mom has to think about what everyone will eat all week, inventory the pantry, plan the whole thing out, and make a detailed shopping list (which I would consider part of "doing the shopping"), is it really half? There is a lot of brain work involved in planning, tracking, and keeping a household going, and I see men devolving that responsibility to their wives all the time. They will help out if asked, or execute what she comes up with, or take on certain chores, but they don't share in the intellectual side. That is where I think a lot of the disconnect happens--they see themselves as doing a lot, whereas moms know that it is 24/7 job to keep a family fed, clothed, clean, and where they need to be (let alone planning birthday parties and camp and cookies for the bake sale). When both parents have jobs that require a lot of thinking, planning, and supervision...it's very tiring for the one parent who still has to do that at home, too.

Posted by: working mom | March 16, 2006 9:38 AM

The comments in response to your post have covered this nicely - and have been diplomatic and constructive about the "are all men like this" remark - which in another era we might have just called sexist. I would add that there's a good chance there are a few cause and effect relationships operating, so that "he's a successful lawyer from an ivy league school" and "she used to be a working mom" are mutually reinforcing - and tend to result in things like his difficulty buying supplies for a nine-year-old's birthday.

Posted by: pdo | March 16, 2006 9:56 AM

Whoa, ok, let's calm down.
First of all, no, of course not all men are like this. Secondly, not all women are like that either. Thirdly, not all family dynamics are like that. Buying balloons and ice cream the day of, instead of on the regular weekly shopping trip? That's the root cause right there - tension gets ratcheted up, and any anxiety the hubby has about being criticized gets magnified to the point that it looks disfunctional.

Posted by: John | March 16, 2006 10:04 AM

Not all men are like this, but sometimes they have their moments - just like we do!

Posted by: Elisa | March 16, 2006 10:28 AM

Yes, we're all like that. The real secret is that we do in fact know exactly what to buy, but we call and ask these questions just to tick you off. We get a little thrill out of pushing your buttons, a thrill that far eclipses any momentary and minor verbal abuse we might take.

The thrill is because we know, even though we might appear "henpecked," we've got the upper hand. How do I know? Just look what you let us get away with. Feigning ignorance or incompetence is the oldest trick in the book for getting out of something you don't want to do.

What do you bet for next year's birthday, this woman remembers these calls and buys the ballons and ice cream herself? Mission accomplished, as far as Dad is concerned. You can't make me believe that an Ivy League-educated lawyer isn't smart enough to know how to manipulate his own wife. Hell, I'm a non-Ivy-educated lawyer, and I know how to do it.

Posted by: He-Man Woman Hater | March 16, 2006 10:50 AM

I just saw it as two people having a conversation about party supplies. Why must more be assumed about either parent? Both my husband and I have made clarifying remarks about what kind of this or that is needed if one of us is running out to the store. I don't see it as a measurement of our intelligence or competency. We are just making a run to the store and communicating with each other as to what needs to be picked up. Sometimes he needs something specific, sometimes I do, sometimes he tells me what to get, sometimes I tell him. It's not a control issue, it's an errand!

Posted by: Devra | March 16, 2006 10:50 AM

yeah, let me tell you how many broads can't even buy a computer because the intelligence it takes to make rational decisions eludes 'em. All the women posters here are men trolling ya'll.

yay for generalizations, sexism and snide comments.

Posted by: shopping | March 16, 2006 11:04 AM

Wow. Forget the husband who has problems with lists (and doesn't get to defend himself).

"She said, of course, since she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls..."

Three hours before, and of course? Your friend is awfully gracious.

Posted by: on impositions | March 16, 2006 11:09 AM

That man should stand up for himself. He should use his own judgment on balloons and ice cream, and then when it's "too fancy" or the "wrong kind," tell her she can do it herself next time.

The problem in this story is not the man, it's the woman. Why would he want to help out a critical, demanding partner who "spits" at him over the phone, and takes the Lord's name in vain over ice cream?

Posted by: Mary G | March 16, 2006 11:48 AM

"Yet he cannot buy supplies for a nine-year-old's party without a list and two phone calls."

Nope. He's learned that if doesn't get EXACTLY what his wife has in mind, she will whine and fuss like a child.

He is perfectly able to buy supplies for a kid's birthday party.

What he can't do is READ his wife's mind so as to know EXACTLY what birthday supplies she has in mind (color of ballons, brand of ice-cream, etc.).

And, yes, all men are like this. NONE OF US CAN READ WOMEN's MINDS.


Posted by: Ted | March 16, 2006 11:54 AM

Yeah, because when I'm trying to get the house cleaned up for a party, and people are calling with last minute RSVPs, and the kids are running amok, and I ask my husband to help out by getting some ice cream and balloons and he can't even do that without calling me and bugging me when I have seventeen other things going on, so I snap a little--*I'm* clearly the problem here. It's never dad, who couldn't be bothered to come up with the guest list, call the other parents, bake the cake, plan the games, or buy the presents, and only has to buy some d-mn ice cream and balloons but still manages to put that back on mom.

Posted by: Pardner | March 16, 2006 11:58 AM

I'm a newlywed without kids but my husband and I still had this exact thing happen twice a month for the first two months we were married (we switch weeks on who has to buy groceries since we both go on business trips constantly). Anyway, we sat down and talked about it and Mr. L is right. My husband knows I LOVE Cookies and Cream Ice Cream but couldn't tell you which brand is my favorite so I do him the favor of writting out specifics when they are needed and he does me the favor of looking at the packages of items he needs to replace and writes down all the details he needs. We almost always have exactally what we need in the pantry now. Yes, this is a man thing - they don't seem to care about brand as much as we do. But it is also a woman thing - he would never criticize me for not knowing what ESPN channel his favorite team is playing on. We are by no means perfect but we try (and we learned from my divorced parents - communicate and compromise early so 15 years from now we aren't married to someone else)

Posted by: AM | March 16, 2006 12:01 PM

Based on my 4 year experience of working motherhood and talking to all of my friends who have children, no woman feels that her husband is as "capable" as she is in this area. Things that come naturally to us are not intuitive to men. Maybe there are exceptions, but I haven't run into them and even those women whose husbands I think are better than mine tell me that no, it's all an illusion, and they are dealing with the same issues maybe to a lesser extent. The best thing we can do as mothers and wifes is to accept our husbands the way they are and stop trying to change them or criticize them, or nagg them. Once you change your attitude and lower your expectations you would be amazed how much better your relationship gets.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 12:02 PM

"Yes, this is a man thing - they don't seem to care about brand as much as we do. But it is also a woman thing - he would never criticize me for not knowing what ESPN channel his favorite team is playing on."

The difference,though,is that grocery shopping is necessary to run a household. Watching sports is his hobby.

Posted by: CJ | March 16, 2006 12:12 PM

I'm not sure CJ - watching sports and having a happy husband is just as important in running a house. We both have things we do to relax and unwind after a business trip. His happens to be watching sports and mine is cooking. Just because you get food out of mine doesn't make mine any more important. And I've found turning on his game and letting him watch it will result in us having a much better convo after the game is over. He wants to spend time with me because he knows he has gotten to do something he really enjoys and I've not gotten in his way about it. Happiness is probably the most important thing in a household.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 12:22 PM

I'm sure most men AREN'T like this. As a stay-at-home dad, I know I'm not like that. Not only that, I'm able to respond to RSVPs as well!

Maybe the failure to respond to an RSVP is just a woman thing?

Posted by: Chag | March 16, 2006 12:29 PM

I agree with working mom that this is an ownership issue. The mom is the boss and the dad is the helper. The question is, do they like this arrangement or do they wish for more equality in both workload and decision-making? Does the dad do so little grocery shopping that he doesn't know what kind of ice cream his kids like, or is he worried that he will be criticized for making the wrong choice?

Posted by: M | March 16, 2006 12:54 PM

Whew! Gosh, this doesn't sound like a man-woman thing to me. It sounds like multiple failure to communicate, setting and meeting expectations, etc. If I give someone a note that says "Check oil in car" and I expect them to know how to check, know what kind and how much oil to add if needed, and where to add it, then I am a fool for giving them the note and they are a fool for taking it. Of course, if any old oil will do, and the car is on its last legs anyway, but it hardly ever needs oil and likely won't need it this time, then this kind of lame communication and low expectation works great.

Posted by: Old | March 16, 2006 12:55 PM

You're still talking about him like he's a cute helpless puppy, though, not like your partner, a fully functioning adult.

I don't expect my partner to remember what kind of movies to order me on Netflix (hobby), but I do wish he would make the effort to remember what kind of milk we buy every single week, and to have the wherewithal to notice when we're out (household necessity). This isn't rocket science. This is adulthood 101.

And when he does so, it contributes greatly to my happiness, which is just as important to household harmony as his. Sadly, I've found it's easier to just outsource the chores that he refuses or "can't" do than expect him to pull his weight. Hates the grocery store? Time for Peapod. Can't be bothered to clean the toilet or the kitchen? Hire a maid. Can't seem to find the washing machine or the iron? Send his laundry to the cleaners.

We work the same number of hours, roughly, and at the same pay level, so that doesn't even explain it.

And yet, I love him, so what's a gal to do? I suppose when we have kids, I'll just have to hire even more help.

Posted by: CJ | March 16, 2006 1:02 PM

My rule of thumb is that asking if your not sure is always acceptable. If you don't know, you should ask. Then, once you've gotten the answer, now you know (and knowing is half the battle ). Ignorance is cureable, but only if you are willing to ask the questions. Compare/contrast with the stereotype of men not asking for directions ... here we have a guy who knew he didn't know the answer, and sort out the person with the answer ... that should be rewarded, not chastized. (Me, I just choose not to get lost, so I don't have to worry about asking for directions).

Posted by: Eric | March 16, 2006 1:06 PM

I'm thinking that Leslie is purposely writing blog entries that are likely to stir controversy. After all, she is promoting a book. And her background is in advertising, so she knows how to grab an audience.

She must be happy as a clam to see these spirited discussions about men vs. women, sexism, unfairness to dads, unfair exposure of conversations with her friends, shrews, and stereotypes. It almost looks like an in-depth examination of some key issues.

But don't fool yourselves. There's no meaningful dialogue here. It's a slick and superficial way to keep you all coming back, arguing with each other and providing Leslie with exactly the sharp-tongued, witty criticism that generates and maintains interest in a blog about her marriage, friendships, and career -- and that hopefully sells books.

I think this kind of baiting to market a book should get the attention it truly deserves -- none.

Posted by: kool kat | March 16, 2006 1:07 PM

Why not establish a genuine dialog about real issues facing all women and for that matter families in this country? Why does there always have to be a demon in your postings whether it be men or unfreindly SAHMs? I am truely offended for my husband who is a darn good partner in our marriage and child rearing.

Oh yeah creating false controversy ala Maury or Geraldo sells ads. I shouldn't expect more from an ad exec.

Posted by: mommyworks | March 16, 2006 1:09 PM

He-man woman hater, I love you. *laugh*

Posted by: D | March 16, 2006 1:18 PM

Okay, I'm a working mom who also fixes the computer and the toilet. My husband, when asked, will clean anything in the house.

That said, until I gave him ownership of a chore, he never could seem to "see" the messes I saw. So every night he cleans the kitchen and runs the dishwasher. The first few times, I gently, respectfully, showed him how he'd left food in the sink or dirty dishes on the kitchen table, and now when I see something like that, I let it go. I allow him some leeway to not do everything perfectly, and in return he does the best he can, seven days a week, without complaint, and most of that involves scraping baby food off the kitchen walls.

So I don't clean up after his attempts at cleaning or grumble if something's not done right. It's done about 90 percent right, that's good enough for me. Plus, now that I never, ever critize him for pretty much anything, we have a darn good time talking about other things, joking around with our baby, etc.

I should also add that whenever I need him to help with other chores, or better yet, take the baby to the park, he always says yes. And when the baby came home drenched in mud from head to toe, I knew they had a good time.

Giving him ownership over the kitchen made him feel like he has absolute control over the situation, he has full responsibility and authority for that task. I think men like that, and it's helping me to not be so reactionary if he doesn't do everything perfectly.

Anyway, that's what worked for us.

Posted by: she-ra | March 16, 2006 1:33 PM

The couple has been together long enough to have a child and the husband couldn't tell exactly what kind of ice cream the wife prefers (organic or not, whole milk v. low fact, Ben & Jerry or Carvel, etc.), and wife treats husband as if he were a 10-year-old, like Sally and her lawyer husband. No wonder why she screamed at him and he had to be told exactly what to do. Ivy League education and wealth don't have anything to do with this kind of household. One could only hope they get counseling soon.

Posted by: Dafodils | March 16, 2006 2:24 PM

How awful to stereotype like this! There are so many men who are doing so much for their kids and wives and do not get the credit. Gee, if he had shown up with the wrong kind of sherbert--what would have happened? Get real. How great that this dad is involved in his kid's birthday party! And great that he bothered to ask his wife questions if he wasn't sure about something on the list! She needs to lighten up and we all need to give involved dads more credit!

Posted by: 21704mom | March 16, 2006 2:47 PM

CJ, not in my household. Watching sports is a *necessity*, particularly in football season - for her AND me.

Posted by: AJ | March 16, 2006 2:48 PM

This is simply a fear of making decisions and being responsible for the outcome. I have this same mindset at work, because my boss is so particular about how he wants things done. In the past when I have made my own decisions without his input, he seemed slightly put off. So in order to avoid being reprimanded, I run everything past him before finalizing plans. It is slightly annoying on my end as well. BTW, I am a woman.

That being said, if the husband were asked to participate more often he would eventually come to know his wife's preferences and would feel more comfortable making a decision on her behalf.

Posted by: Give the guy a break! | March 16, 2006 3:05 PM

I perform at kid’s birthday parties every weekend and I see some parties going great and others are a true nightmare.

The planner of the event weather it is a birthday or a house warming party needs to be well organized. They need to have list typed out of what they need and all items should be purchased before the day of the event. The thing that should be picked up on the day of the event is "ICE" and the "CAKE".

The wife should have given the husband a list of what she wanted. And do not put it on the men; some women do the same thing.

Posted by: Leezo The Clown "Lee Bostic" | March 16, 2006 3:21 PM

It sounds like the husband wasn't included in the planning process from the beginning, and was just enlisted at the last moment to fill a temporary position. He has no idea what sort of party she has envisioned and therefore is unable to contribute to the achievement of that goal.

From a business perspective, you can't exactly expect people who have joined the team at the last moment to contribute a great deal to the decision-making process - too much has already been decided without their input.

Posted by: LB | March 16, 2006 3:24 PM

More important than your husband wanting guidance: I don't care how busy you are -- you are NEVER too busy to RSVP. That is a common courtesy that takes three minutes and means everything to the host who has ten other moms who were "too busy" to RSVP too. Keep a to-do list in your Palm Pilot and show some manners.

Posted by: Linda | March 16, 2006 3:35 PM

The problem here really lies with the parents who raised these men. We encourage boys to behave in a certain way from the time they learn to walk, and then complain when they grow up and can't contribute to the household. Perhaps if mothers taught their sons the same household management techniques that they teach their daughters, then later on in life they would know how to iron a shirt, clean the bathroom properly, or buy party supplies at the grocery store. I would guess that this sort of behavior is a learned trait rather than an innate mental defect of the male of the species.

Posted by: Just wanted to offer a broader perspective... | March 16, 2006 3:51 PM

Here ya go Leslie, I fixed your column for you, and only changed 3 words:

One recent Sunday morning. I called my friend, Sally, to ask whether my kid can still come to her kid's birthday party (which starts in three hours) despite the fact that I had forgotten to respond to the invitation.

She said, of course, since she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls, e-mails, presentations and a last-minute doctor's appointment for a suspected case of ringworm.

Then, mid-breath, she paused to tell her black friend what to get at the store: balloons, lemon and raspberry sherbet, Goldfish.

A few minutes later her cell phone rang in the background. Without missing a word I was saying, she spit out:

"Nothing fancy! Just a balloon to mark the driveway."

Moments later the cell phone beeped again. Silence. Then:

"Breyer's, for God's sake!"

Her black friend went to an Ivy League college. He is a successful attorney in a city of 80,000 lawyers. Yet he cannot buy supplies for a nine-year-old's party without a list and two phone calls.

As I hung up the phone, I wondered for the 1000th time since I had kids: Are all black people like this?

Posted by: Andy | March 16, 2006 3:53 PM

One of the hallmarks of an immature mind is to see one's self as the only one who is reasonable and has common sense and everyone else as a collection of idiots. Add this to the backhanded complement of "My husband cancelled his business trip" and you see a pattern evolving here. Leslie doesn't blame the women for the hyper-complicated lives that they have created for themselves. The problem is not women deciding to work or stay at home, the problem is these idiotic men who don't read minds about ice cream or balloons. Keep working on it, Leslie, and you won't have this problem. When I was a kid, my mom and her friends sat around perpetually complaining about their idiot husbands. Then they all got divorced and only complained more.

Posted by: Giving up on this blog | March 16, 2006 3:54 PM

Leslie, in light of the fact that you RSVPed at the last possible moment, as a friendly gesture you should have offered to help the poor woman. This might have relieved some of her stress so she didn't need to take it out on her husband.

Posted by: GM | March 16, 2006 4:00 PM

I think Leslie should read up on Passive Agressive Personality Disorder (PAPD). See the description below regarding relationships with someone who has PAPD. I love the part at the end where it says that anything the people do is wrong. If they call about what ice cream they should get, they are wrong. If they get what they think is right, they're wrong:

From: http://www.toad.net/~arcturus/dd/papd.htm

These individuals are noted for the stormy nature of their interpersonal relationships. They engage in a combination of quarrelsomeness and submissiveness [acceeding to the husband traveling but then criticizing him]. Their affect is sullen and they engage in deliberate rudeness. They are resentfully quarrelsome and irritable. They often feel like a victim. Central to the disorder is a pervasive pattern of argumentativeness and oppositional behavior with defeatist and negative attitudes (Millon & Radovanov, Livesley, ed., 1995, p. 317). Richards (1993, p. 260) believes that PAPD may be the most miserable personality disorder. These individuals inflict a great deal of discomfort on others through the use of their anxiety and emotional symptoms. They can become so destructive in their attitudes and so unable to provide rewards to others that they become socially isolated.

Individuals with PAPD struggle between their desire to act out defiantly and their awareness that they must curtail their resentment. They engage in grumbling, moody complaints, and sour pessimism; these behaviors serve as both a vehicle for tension discharge (relieving them of mounting anger) and as a means of intimidating others and inducing guilt (providing them with a sense of retribution for the wrongs they believe they have experienced). These socially maladaptive behaviors result in inevitable interpersonal conflict and frustration. After a time, the sullen moodiness and complaining of individuals with passive-aggressive (negativistic) personality disorder alienates others (Millon, 1996, pp. 198-199). These individuals are able to sense the exasperation and growing animosity that others feel toward them; they use their awareness to become even more aggrieved -- without corresponding acceptance that their behavior has contributed to the situation.

For individuals with passive-aggressive (negativistic) personality disorder, being difficult, quixotic, unpredictable, and discontent produces certain rewards and avoids certain discomforts. These individuals can control others by forcing them into an uncomfortable anticipatory stance. People in relationships with PAPD individuals are perpetually waiting for the next struggle, the next grievance, the next round of volatility and carping criticism. Passive-aggressive individuals are able, within their relationships, to trap people into situations wherein whatever they do is wrong. Relating to individuals with PAPD becomes a tense, edgy experience where great caution must be employed to avoid precipitating an angry incident (Millon, 1981, p. 258).

Posted by: PAPD | March 16, 2006 4:03 PM

Something tells me that her Ivy educated attorney husband is quite capable of buying ice cream and balloons. He just isn't capable of pleasing princess Sally and/or judgmental Leslie. For this, the rest of the world will not fault him.

Posted by: Lawya | March 16, 2006 4:05 PM

Lawya, I didn't read into the post that Sally was being a princess. I think that the husband and wife were just communicating. He knows that she probably has an opinion on these things (although she didn't express it in the list) and he got it.

You are right that Leslie is the judgmental one.

Posted by: March | March 16, 2006 4:12 PM

Isn't just a matter of who does what and who cares about what? I mean - we all have our own way of doing things. If I do 90% of certain chores, then I either need to accept that the 10% of the time my husband does them, they'll be done differently and force myself to bite my tongue since different isn't "wrong" - or deal w/questions with patience. I do the groceries, I give my kids meds, I deal w/school logistics. I'm fluent in these duties. My husband does the bills, deals w/the house repairs and the "man" stuff. Please, please, please don't make me deal w/a repair man - I'm not fluent - I don't think it's a gender thing (except when they can't find stuff;) I think it's a division of labor thing.

I'd have to agree w/most complaints against husbands - but if a dad wrote a blog about his clueless wife - I'd probably be guilty of some of those - that's what we have to laugh at!

Posted by: Maria | March 16, 2006 4:13 PM

Not all men are like this. Given no instructions, my non-Ivy non-lawyer brother-in-law would have arrived with Jalapeno ice cream and a life-sized Bart Simpson balloon. He doesn't do mind reading. If my sister-in-law has a particular preference, she lets him know. If not, he does what he thinks is right. In your MBA classes, Leslie, they would have called this empowerment as opposed to micromanagement.

Posted by: Not all men | March 16, 2006 4:25 PM

"She said, of course, since she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls, e-mails, presentations and a last-minute doctor's appointment for a suspected case of ringworm."

Oh, I see. Courtesy doesn't apply to those who are busy, especially with self-promotion.

Get over yourself.

Posted by: SAHM with nothing else to do but RSVP | March 16, 2006 4:28 PM

As many have previously stated, he's probably responding to her pickiness not acting out his cluelessness. My wife is picky and he's probably acting out based on lessons learned.

What kills me is that my wife constantly also ask me those questions even though I always answer, "I don't care." Are all wives like that?

Posted by: Wise Husband | March 16, 2006 4:36 PM

Why would we rag on the husband because he wanted to get the details right for his kid's birthday? This was obviously the mother's gig and the dad was helping out and, seems to me, did a darn fine job!

If we want our husbands to help out more around the house and with the kids then they need to be given the freedom to do things their own way. When the mother has strong opinions about how something should be done, she should let the man know without complaining or berating. Is this so different from having a job, a boss and colleagues? We all need a little space to find our own way but we also need to get the details correct according the person who is in charge. Most women think they're in charge of their kids and their kids birthdays and most husbands know this.

This guy sounds like a great partner and someone ought to tell him so.

Posted by: Oh so get real! | March 16, 2006 4:40 PM

I really had to laugh at this one. The other day, my daughter was going to a birthday party that started at 4:30. She had been sick earlier in the week and was still dragging a little, so my husband picked her up early for a nap because I had a meeting that I had to attend.

So I'm sitting in this meeting with only men sitting at the table and my cell phone goes off, I check it and sure enough its hubby. I don't actually answer my phone in meetings, but I do check whose calling in case its an emergency (this is not a work phone and if it rings during the day, something is usually wrong). After the meeting, I rush out of the room and am frantically trying to get enough of a connection to phone home. I finally admit to the rest of the men, that it was my husband that called and that I had left him instructions for getting my daughter off to a birthday party. They all laugh uproariously and say, "Oh no, not instructions!" and then everyone starts walking me to the nearest window so I can connect. They knew exactly what was happening.

Posted by: Working_Mom | March 16, 2006 5:12 PM

I admit I was surprised by the degree of hostility in this blog ... I don't read blogs often and was left musing on the fact that it's easier to lash out at people when you're faceless and anonymous. But in any case, the story Leslie related reminded me so much of my parents...who have been married for 35+ years and are obviously committed to each other. Yet I hear them engage in exchanges like this fairly often when it comes to entertaining and household chores, etc. -- and it seems to have gotten worse as my mother went from being a stay-at-home mom to having a fairly demanding outside job and now as my dad is working less and easing into retirement. I think they're both to blame. On the one hand, my mother tends to be critical if my father doesn't do something the way she wanted, even though she didn't spell out what she wanted. But on the other hand, after 35 years, if you're paying attention, you'd probably have picked up on what brand of ice cream (or whatever) she buys!

Posted by: single girl | March 16, 2006 5:13 PM

I was very excited to learn that you had a blog. But, now, I am surprised and disappointed by the posts in your blog. You trivialize and reduce to stereotypes the relationships between men and women as well as those very relationships which are the crux of your new book - relationships between stay-at-home moms and working moms. I'm beginning to hope (having read all of your posts) that the quality of your blog is really not a function of your simplistic view of men and women and the issues surrounding them; rather, I am hopeful that it is merely a function of your lack of time to devote to meaningful entries in your blog. Do you really think that the cutesy anecdotes you blog about will spark meaningful debate among your readership? Read the comments. It's just not going to happen.

Posted by: amomandlawyer | March 16, 2006 5:15 PM

I think the blame in this silly little overheard conversation should go to the two people using cell phones instead of planning ahead. I see many many people using the phone while in the grocery store. Rather than making decisions, calling to ask is the more common behavior now.

Posted by: Keith Tipton | March 16, 2006 5:27 PM

Are you trying to provoke people, Leslie? Your last remark was tactless.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 5:30 PM

The funniest part of the story for me is picturing Sally, with one phone to each ear, holding a pleasant, casual conversation out of one side of her mouth and barking at her husband out of the other.

Posted by: Brian | March 16, 2006 5:31 PM

I agree with amomandlawyer. I was about to buy this book for my wife and I to read, but, after reading the blog ... no way. It's like there was a book about race relations and someone tried to advance the discussion by introducing some anecdote and then asking "are all black / white / hispanic people like this" and then letting things fly for a while. Of course you are not going to get constructive responses. As much as I want to keep chiming in, I am going to do the one thing that will make this blog go away. I am going to stop reading and posting to it. Goodbye!

Posted by: adadandlawyer | March 16, 2006 5:33 PM

My wife and I both work full-time and between our three kids have hosted 21 birthday parties. We've often been scrambling at the last minute to complete all of the arrangments and it is very stressful. If this guy brings home the wrong type of ice cream tem minutes before the guests arrive, of course she'll see it as a big deal.
If he brings home the wrong ice cream the night before, she'll probably say "Oh well, Breyers, Dannon, they're just 9 year olds"

Birthday parties open your house to a horde of children and an open inspection of your household to a group of adults whose only similarity to you may be the fact that your kids are friends. Not being adequately prepared exaserbates this stress and creates tension, and people behave oddly under stress.

Posted by: Ed C | March 16, 2006 5:47 PM

Confused - should I laugh at seeing yet another writer diving into the shallow, tepid pool of this particularly overused topic ("dads-are-a-bunch-of-clueless-morons")? Or just yawn?

Posted by: Jason | March 16, 2006 6:01 PM

It's about time you got home. I'm running around like crazy here... wait, what is this? Lime sherbet? LIME? I said Lemon. Oh, for God's sakes, can't you do anything right? I already printed the menus. Now I have to print them again. Great. I guess I have to do everything around here. You want to help? Just stay out of the way. You seem to know how to do that all right. And guess what? Miss "I'm too busy to RSVP on time" just called and now she's coming with her kids, and now I don't have enough paper plates. Can you do one simple thing for me without messing it up? I need paper plates. And don't just get any paper plates....

Posted by: rCorvus | March 16, 2006 6:09 PM

I am NOT buying Mommy Wars if this is the represenation given to men/children/women/mothering/fathering/life in that anthology. So far, in this blog, there has been a severe lack of proper commentary, especially about the responses people have been giving her!

Posted by: Resigned | March 16, 2006 6:59 PM

Look, why don't we all say it together: Men and Women are different. I can't believe how one side seems to be trying to make it out that they're not and the other side feels beat up. There is a lot of hostility in this blog, not necessarily toward Leslie, but very obviously toward spouses.

Find me a man who can tell you what size diapers each child is wearing, each child's food likes and dislikes (on a weekly basis or however frequently they change), and who knows without thinking about it for more than 5 seconds the names of each child's friends, teachers, and favorite toys and books of the moment. I've never met one yet, and let me tell you, I'm married to superman. But women simply hold different things in their memories. Why does everything have to be a contest? I can hook up a PC, the laptop, the wireless router, the Tivo, and any other electrical gadget in this house, and I have done so, but if my husband's around, that's his job. He likes to do it. He's not so great at the logistics of the kids. I'm better at that. Who cares? I've been lucky enough to find someone with whom I can have what to us is an equal distribution of labor.

Anyway, what happened to the MommyWars instead of spouse (specifically husband) bashing?

Posted by: MomNC | March 16, 2006 7:05 PM

MomNC, meet my husband. He can do all of these things off the top of his head. He prepares our toddler's meals now, since I never get it "just right" anymore. Of course, he's the SAHD, so he's exposed to this stuff every day. I don't know any working dads who might know this. Anyone out there?

This brings up an interesting subject, first brought up by working mom. This is the concept of the "psychological parent." This is the parent who feels the psychological burden of the children-- the doctor's appointments, the favorite foods, the school troubles-- you name it. This parent feels more of the burden, and can feel exhausted to be in charge. According to this theory, though, this is the parent who has the far greater impact on the child.

Posted by: Ms L | March 16, 2006 9:17 PM

I honestly think it's a combination of things
like dependency on technology and extra criticisms from the 'offending' partner.

I loathe it when my husband asks for details
of things when he's competent enough to make
those decisions for himself.

If I ask him to stop at the store on the way
home for ice cream or milk - I figure he can get what he thinks we will all like. We can
choose to enjoy it or not.

But if there is something specific I need like a particular brand of tampon, I will
be upfront with that too.

People in general and all over need to
chill out and just go easy on one another.

Posted by: SeattleKMA | March 16, 2006 9:45 PM

Thank you amomandlawyer and adadandlawyer! I'm not a lawyer but I totally agree. The more I read of this blog, the less comfortable I feel with the author and the less likely I will buy her book. Maybe she intended to present her antecdotes in a hyperbolic manner to provoke discussion but I see superficial stereotypes.

NOT all men are like her or her friend's husbands. Ivy League education or not. Lawyer or not. (another irritating stereotype)

If I just quickly spit out a verbal list of things I want (e.g., Sally's style), my husband will ask me to write down a list of all the things I want because he knows there is no way he can remember. Maybe the wife should take the time to do the same. Be a bit considerate of the person (especially your husband!) who is doing you a favor.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 9:11 AM

Whoa... I'm glad I'm not married.

Posted by: Chris | March 17, 2006 9:48 AM

I don't understand why people who don't have kids are posting to this article? You have no stake in any of the issues here.

Posted by: scarry | March 17, 2006 10:23 AM

Whew! I'm going to dodge all the 'men vs. women' issues and just comment on the RSVP (or lack of) that Leslie first described. Do people just not know what 'RSVP' means? As a working mom who just hosted a party for my 4-year old, I have a problem with parents who cannot find 2 minutes to respond to a hand-addressed, personally-delivered invitation! Knowing how many kids are attending IS important, not just for apportioning food, favors, etc., but for the facilities that conduct our parties that have capacity limits on the number of kids at a party. Of the 20 invitations we issued, only 5 parents RSVP'd, one parent called to ask if she could bring her OTHER kids to the party, and one brought an older sibling without even an explanation. We had to pay extra for going over the limit of 20 kids, and ran out of party favors. Parents, please do this small courtesy for the hosting parents! I fear the RSVP has gone the way of the thank-you note. Pick up the phone and call. A voice mail is fine. Thank you.

Posted by: Please RSVP | March 17, 2006 10:40 AM

"I don't understand why people who don't have kids are posting to this article? You have no stake in any of the issues here."

Didn't your parents ever let you watch Bambi?

If you can't say something nice....

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 10:49 AM

Impositions said: "She said, of course, since she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls..."
Three hours before, and of course? Your friend is awfully gracious.

Oh, come on. We'd all say "of course," and be gracious about it. You can't say no. We wouldn't punish a child for his/her parents' forgetfulness in RSVP'ing. I always call parents who haven't RSVP'd for my kid's party (usually about 2)just to check. Invite could've been misplaced in all the junk mail, school forms. No big deal, even for a family with two full-time working parents.

Posted by: washdc | March 17, 2006 11:03 AM

Goodness gracious, what a train wreck this thread turned out to be. I would have to imagine, however, that Steiner must be very pleased indeed at just how easy it is to bait well meaning people into responding to a post that is as fatuous as it is mercenary.

Any discussion provoked by her post should revolve around Steiner’s agenda rather than anything arising from that little urban legend of a phone call of hers.

Posted by: Mystified | March 17, 2006 2:20 PM

"I'm thinking that Leslie is purposely writing blog entries that are likely to stir controversy."

You know, there may well be something to this. I'm going to have to think about whether to continue to participate here.

Looking at the the short history of this blog, she's either intentionally trying to stir outrage and controversy (trolling) or her next book is going to be called "Divorce Wars." Leslie betrays a lot of disturbing attitudes that raise some serious red flags about the state of her marriage. From her very first post,

"So I devote myself to juggling work and kids, with a splash of husband thrown in."

That's doesn't sound like a very healthy balance to me. In the end, "A splash of husband thrown in" is going to lead to a bad relationship. Leslie's husband is eventually going to resent her and Leslie is eventually going to resent him.

Her other posts kind of suggest she already does resent him. First there was the post where she suggests he's a bad parent and a bad husband. (The cancelled business trip post) Now there is her "Are all men like this?" comment.

Leslie, the relationship between a husband and wife can't just be a tool to achieve other things. It has to be an end in itself. Otherwise, it eventually dies. You've called this blog "On Balance" but you seem to imply it's about balancing work and children. It's not. It's about balancing work, children AND your relationship with your husband. I urge you to give some serious thought to that. If, that is, you're not just trolling us to get a reaction.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 2:30 PM

What would have made this blog entry shorter and more illuminating is this:

"One recent Sunday morning. I called my friend, Sally, to ask whether my kid can still come to her kid's birthday party (which starts in three hours) despite the fact that I had forgotten to respond to the invitation.

She said she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls, e-mails, presentations and a last-minute doctor's appointment for a suspected case of ringworm. That said, the answer is "You gotta be effing kidding me".

Miss Manners would approve of that.

Posted by: Jacknut | March 17, 2006 2:49 PM

Hmmm so the wife is a domineering, cuckolding shrew who micromanages her husband, who fears picking the wrong flavor of ice cream. No wonder men cheat.

Posted by: Anonomizer | March 17, 2006 3:12 PM

Most of us Moms would admit that we can get very particular about things. After all, we want anything involving our kids to turn out perfect. As it turns out, Dads don't seem to think in this way. I can't count how many times my husband has asked me to eliminate the details in something I may be retelling, to get to the point or to "tell it like a guy would." This in turn, has lead me to say things like buy a balloon, without telling him what it's for. Either way, someone becomes fustrated ---- Mom for not getting what she had in mind, or Dad for having to put up with a long winded description of what Mom wants. I often wonder why men and women are so different in this respect. Why men seem to rely on women so much to think of the tiny details, and why women expect men to carry out all complex tasks such as picking out the right type of ie cream. It's truly perplexing. But for me, the most important question is, why is my husband incapable of packing our daughter's lunches every morning? Is it really as he says, because he's just not good at coming up with meal ideas?

Posted by: workingandamom | March 17, 2006 4:03 PM

Two basic rules of our marriage:
1. Neither party can be held responsible for failing to read the other person's mind
2. There's "you doing it your way" and there's "me doing it my way". There is no "me doing it your way" option. However, we are open to suggestions on a BETTER way to do it. But only if it is emperically better.

They've been working well for us for over seven years.

Posted by: one more | March 17, 2006 4:59 PM

I didn't think this was unkind. However, I am tired of people who don't have children butting in on personal issues. I just don't understand why anyone who didn't have children would be interested in this issue.

Plus, you are really no better by judging me, so I geuss we are even.

"I don't understand why people who don't have kids are posting to this article? You have no stake in any of the issues here."

Didn't your parents ever let you watch Bambi?

If you can't say something nice....

Posted by: Scarry | March 17, 2006 6:26 PM

Do all women eavesdrop on their friends to excoriate their friend's husbands in a newspaper blog?

Just wondering.

Posted by: badblog | March 18, 2006 2:40 AM

I hope that all dads are as considerate as your husband. He cares enough about his family and your opinion that he calls you and asks you directly what you would like. I think that shows caring, and recognition of the importance of this event to you. Perhaps you should reward him with love and affection, not complaints.

Posted by: DADZ | March 18, 2006 9:06 AM

I'm a 30something daughter of older parents who were in their late 30s when I was born. So my 1950s era parents should have been the epitome of "clueless man, overworked woman," right?

Wrong.

I think Leslie needs to ask a different question:

Are all moms this picky? Thankfully mine wasn't. And my folks used to plan my birthday parties equally, down to planning games and fixing food. My dad wasn't the helpless fool you seem to think all men must be. Nor was my mom the bossy planner who seemed to need to take on the weight of the world all by herself.

Some families actually DO achieve balance. Sorry your family is so dysfunctional, Leslie. Quit being a martyr and let your husband be an adult.

Posted by: terminaldegree | March 19, 2006 7:37 PM

If all husbands are so incompetent and clueless, why would you have us? why don't y'all just get divorced?

Posted by: A male and a husband | March 22, 2006 12:03 PM

All I can say is, given the reactions to this topic (which was ill-chosen and sexist), most of the people posting are not emotionally mature enough to be having children. If both parents have this much trouble communicating they shouldn't be together, let alone breeding.

Posted by: DC Lawyer | March 22, 2006 12:04 PM

Leslie Steiner should not have a job as a professional journalist. She is much more like the gossipy high school cheerleader who thought she was clever, but always ended upmaking an a$$ of herself in class. Her line of thinking is derisive and useless in a thoughtful society. I would encourage everyone to simply ignore her and her publications in the future.

Posted by: Steiner lover | March 24, 2006 1:25 AM

All men? Of course not! Some people? YES!

Incompetince is the leading cause of death to relationships these days. Even women in woman-woman relationships do it.

They aren't sure so they inquire about every little detail.

Like being in a rush to get to the party and the cashier asks you if you'd like paper or plastic!

"JUST PUT IT IN THE BAG, PLEASE!!!"

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Posted by: John S | July 2, 2006 5:08 AM

Pretetious, per usual. I love the "Ivy League" reference, what about us poor plebes? Please bring Athens to our Rome, Les!

Posted by: Bermudiana | September 18, 2006 2:35 AM

Please disregard the misspelling of "pretentious" and the ill-placed comma - result of a sub-par education I guess...

Posted by: Bermudiana | September 18, 2006 2:37 AM

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