Business Trip Hair Pulling - Er Logistics

Three months ago, I had a business trip to New York. A quickie--one night and one day. Before kids, this jaunt would have required five minutes to throw pantyhose, makeup and a calculator into a carry-on. These days, getting ready to absent the mommy throne for 36 hours is akin to preparing for the Winter Olympics.

The day away presented unique challenges. MJ had a girls-only party after school, one mom's attempt to transform the alarmingly catty first-grade girls into a cohesive group. Bravo -- and MJ needed to be there. I arranged for her to go to the party and home with a classmate (two phone calls; three e-mails; 20 minutes total).

The same night, X. had basketball practice. Coach forbids absence except for illness. Our sitter drove him there and back (20 minutes spent writing directions to the suburban hinterlands where the team plays). She picked up MJ on the way home (another 10 minutes of directions). So, she could fill my chauffeur role without carting our three-year-old around town two hours past bedtime, I hired a second babysitter to stay home with T. (two e-mails, $40 extra, 10 minutes more).

For my husband, a quick trip to New York is still a quick trip to New York. Life has not changed for him since he became a father, at least in terms of leaving town for work. He loves our kids as deeply as I do. He is smart enough to handle the logistics of wrangling three young children -- I've seen him demolish a 60-page legal brief in less than an hour. But it's always me who does the scheduling, the arranging, the logistics of caring for three kids.

This thorny conundrum -- lack of equal partnership at home when I long ago achieved equality at work -- makes working motherhood harder than I ever expected. I've written him lists. I've complained. I've cajoled. I've begged.

After nine years, I've given up. And this has brought me no end of inner peace.

Motherhood radar kicked in for me the moment I gave birth. My husband's brain experienced no such transformation. He feels no social stress to change his behavior. Instead, he feels pressure from the men at work to maintain a macho, work-is-everything attitude. He isn't lazy or irresponsible or selfish (although unfortunately I've called him those words many times).

He just isn't me.

His inability to substitute for me makes it very, very hard to give my best self to work, especially when I travel for business, or stay late, or focus intensely on a critical project. It is easier now that my kids are older and can remember their own backpacks and grab a snack from the fridge themselves. It's also easier because I've let go of changing him. Recently, I've gone on business trips without writing any lists or making any special preparations. The kids were fine. My husband (and our babysitter) found their own solutions.

Not all men are inept childcare providers (especially on this blog); not all women are good ones. Some couples, no matter how talented at multitasking, are simply stressed up to their eyeballs trying to accomplish everything. But I see an awful lot of husbands completely stumped by the chaos of children. There's no way around it: This adds to the heavy weight of working motherhood.

How does my colleague Diane focus on giving a killer presentation when the school calls her cell phone 20 minutes after her husband was supposed to pick the kids up? What advice can I muster for Jen when the day-care center calls her in New York to report that her son has no lunchbox?

I haven't got a clue.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 24, 2006; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
Previous: Friday Free-for-All: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day | Next: Equal Pay Day

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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I don't know -- I travel for work once or twice a year and my husband has always handled the kids just fine when I'm gone. I do make him a list of the stuff I normally oversee (such as who has a test when, soccer practice), but he can read and drive. The house is a bit messier when I come home but it's still standing. I tend to stay more on top of home cleaning, homework and activities probably more due to being a control freak then being a mom. I like being on top of that stuff, but I think he could handle it daily if I wasn't already handling it.

Posted by: D | April 24, 2006 11:31 AM

"But it's always me who does the scheduling, the arranging, the logistics of caring for three kids.

This thorny conundrum -- lack of equal partnership at home when I long ago achieved equality at work -- makes working motherhood harder than I ever expected. I've written him lists. I've complained. I've cajoled. I've begged. "

Scheduling cannot be a partnership deal. Has to be one or the other. If it is a partnership, you'll get double-booking (parent A schedules after parent B schedules but before parent B can inform parent A of the plans) or no-booking (parent A assumes parent B will do it and vise-versa).

If you want your husband to do it (and he sounds able), you need to tell him that he is going to do it and you will not. If you schedule even one thing without him asking for help, you're back to doing it all.

In my house, my wife schedules everything - play dates, doctor appointments, etc. I tell her my schedule (pretty open) and she knows hers (pretty complex). She schedules things around it. After many double-booked weekends, we've decided that she schedules the weekends - but we both give input to what we want to do.

Posted by: Father of 2 | April 24, 2006 11:32 AM

Sounds like you don't appreciate your husband at all, a solid foundation for any healthy marriage!

Posted by: 9inches | April 24, 2006 11:37 AM

I went through similar things when I went out of town. Now I write things out often in e-mail form so they don't lose it and try not to sweat things. If they miss a practice or a party then maybe both dad and kids will learn to take some responsibility for their schedules. I also let go of some tasks. ie. packing lunches in the morning is no longer my job. My husband has actually decided he likes this because he feels like the kids know he did something just for them every day. He may write them notes ( idon't know). If you want someone to take responsibility you have to give them the job and butt out. For example, I don't listen to lunch complaints or requests. I respond with I don't do lunch, talk to dad.

Posted by: Maryland Mom | April 24, 2006 11:47 AM

If you feel everything is so one-sided, have you seriously contemplated a marriage counselor? If I were your husband, I would be so chagrined to have my wife broadcasting that I am not doing my part in our marriage. This often leads to passive-aggressive behavior by one or both parties, and cannot be healthy for a marriage.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 11:56 AM

How about cheerfully telling someone who intrudes on work time that your husband's cell phone is X, and hanging up? He's not going to do any of the stuff you're stressing over unless you resign all the power/responsibility when it's "his" shift.

That isn't because he's a man. It's because he's a human being.

For example, normally my husband gets our daughter off to school, and I pick her up from the afterschool daycare.

Me: You're on kid duty tonight, honey, I've got a meeting at 4:30.

Him: Anything weird about tonight? (Weird is our couple shorthand for something not on the regular schedule. The regular schedule includes gymnastics and clarinet lessons, and my husband is as aware of these things as I am.)

Me: Yeah, it was my turn to take C. (a classmate) home tonight.

Him: Okay. What do you want for dinner?

My husband and I are not special, we're not perfect, and we're not even that organized. Just look at my kitchen counter. But this scheduling thing is just not that hard. It would never have occured to me to try to "do it all" with a fully grown adult partner. I wouldn't have married him if he wasn't partner material.

Sorry, but you're bringing this angst on yourself.

Posted by: Sarah | April 24, 2006 12:10 PM

After reading this blog for a while now, yet refraiming frokm posting, I have come to the conclusion that you seem to literally go looking for things to complain about. Each husband and wife couple ckomes to a workable balance of affairs in their marriage. Do what works for you and stop complaining about it. Nobody cares. PS You sound like a very difficult woman to live with, also, b/c you seem to think you do everything best and no one can match the way you do things. Big wup that you have to write up directions for the sitter. This is the life you have chosen to lead. You don't like it? Do something to effectuate change and quit your yappin', as my mom used to say.

Posted by: 32-year-old wife | April 24, 2006 12:11 PM


"Recently, I've gone on business trips without writing any lists or making any special preparations. The kids were fine. My husband (and our babysitter) found their own solutions."

I don't understand why this isn't the standard MO.

Posted by: Lizzie | April 24, 2006 12:12 PM

Have you tried using MS Outlook's calendar to schedule these events? It has a feature where you can invite people to a meeting. I use it to coordinate meetings and appointments for our son between my work and home e-mail accounts. It can also be synched with a PDA or Blackberry.

Posted by: phinky | April 24, 2006 12:14 PM

I wonder if this is a generational thing?

My husband and I, both in our thirties, don't have this issue. When I leave, all that he asks is that the fridge has food in it, and the kids have clean clothes since laundry and groceries is what I normally handle. He doesn't want me to handle the logistics for him. He knows the children's daily schedule. He handles the kids and chores a bit differently than I do, but he handles them, and that's the main point. And of course, he is far better at cleaning and household chores than I am, so that is a nice perk.

When I go away, he's fine, the kids are fine, and I expect it to be that way. Maybe it's something that happened in our generation, this broadening of roles in the home, and that is why your experience is different?

Posted by: observer | April 24, 2006 12:25 PM

I do all the scheduling in our family. It is just easier, I don't mind and my husband hates doing it. On the flip side, three days a week he sees th kids offto school in the morning and he helps them make their lunch every day. Neither one of us volunteers to go on business trips because it would greatly upset the balance we have achieved on our family with two working parents and two school aged children. Business trips are for the future and luckily we both work for companies that do not require alot of business travel.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 12:29 PM

I agree with the posts here. You have to allow your husband to do more. Also, have you heard of computers (the Outlook comment), cell phones and IM? The kid who didn't get picked up on time and the no lunchbox are what life is made of and no one will die from either.

The problem isn't that your husband is being lazy or irresponsible. The problem is his lack of participation in parenting is soulless and will result in a loss to himself and his children if he doesn't come around.

Try some simple tasks on a regular basis and allow everyone to manage on their own when you're gone. My husband drops our son off at school daily even though the kid could take a bus. This gives them a chance to chat about daily life without hearing mom's opinion or being interrupted by little sister. Sometimes something comes up and I IM or cell phone my husband to pick our daughter up at soccer practise. That way he can see for himself how she's doing and they can have their little ritual of stopping off for ice cream.

When I was working I had to work one evening a week. My husband and son learned to make pizza together. It was their little ritual. These days I have evening meetings two or three times a month and I always come home to a mess but that's OK. I know that the kids had some special time with their dad.

You do know what to do. Have your husband do more, get help, and if all else fails, stay home and take care of it yourself.

Posted by: pta mom | April 24, 2006 12:35 PM

I feel pretty lucky because my husband and I share the logistics pretty well. Case in point: today I was called from my daughter's day care because she was sick. I called my husband to discuss; I could take off today and my duaghter needed me, but tomorrow was a bad day for me to be off. (Our daycare has a 24 out period for any fevers, so getting called on Monday means no school until Wednesday, at the earliest.) Turns out tomorrow is a really bad day for my husband, too. So, while I called the pediatrician, he suggested that he call his parents to see if they could pitch in tomorrow. We called each other again in 10 minutes; my daughter has a 4:30 doctor's appointment and my mother-in-law is coming by at 6 pm to pick up my daughter for the night and to watch her tomorrow. That being said, I know how incredibly lucky I am that my husband is truly an equal partner on these issues and that I have fantastic (and local) in-laws. Basically, I don't know how to respond to Leslie's post because I'm not in the same situation.

Posted by: Jessica Hughes | April 24, 2006 12:36 PM

Sorry, Leslie, but you have NO right to complain about a husband who won't do the scheduling. Why should he when he knows you'll do it all? You can do all the logistics, but accept it and don't complain.

I'm a mom who works full time, so does my husband, and we split pickups and dropoffs. He goes on field trips, and so do I. We both manage to be involved in our 2 kids' schools, and I don't have leave special instructions with him when I travel, nor does he. Yes, we've decided his career takes precendence over mine, but that hasn't stopped him from being actually directly involved in his kids' lives.

Posted by: Ruth | April 24, 2006 12:44 PM

I remember once talking to a friend about feeling that my husband (then boyfriend) wasn't doing his share of something in the relationship. She said, "you have to sit back and actually let him take the oars if you want him to row." This comment has come back to me many times in our relationship - sometimes when I want him to do something, I see that he isn't doing it the way I would do it, and assume he isn't doing it at all. Not true. He's doing it his way, or would, if I let him.

I don't buy the idea that women have something change when the baby is born that enables them to manage the household and men don't. When our baby was born, I (eventually) knew what needed to be done because I was the one doing it, not because I am the woman. When I went to work and my husband started staying home, I didn't bend over backwards to make sure everything was set up and he knew what to do. I figured he would figure it out, the same way I did the first day I was left home alone with our newborn. And guess what, he did!

I guess some would call it trial by fire - just let go, give them the basic information about what's on the schedule, and let them figure it out. Will the children suffer some inconvenience and miss a play date? Possibly. But I'm pretty sure they're not going to suffer anything more than that before their dad figures out what to do.

Posted by: Megan | April 24, 2006 12:54 PM

Yesterday, we discussed what model of ceiling lamp we are going to buy for our daughter's bedroom. We didn't even argue, just had different opinions on the number of light bulbs and the overall light power; we came to an agreement.

Leslie, I am sure you would be able to make a full page story out of this situation. Really, I stopped reading your articles on the sight of your picture on the top of the page, but I enjoy the readers' comments.

Posted by: 20850 | April 24, 2006 1:02 PM

I think there is a big difference between a mother with really small children, and one whose children can speak up for themselves.

In the later case I advoate writing out the days' needs and posting it, and being sure that the house has all the necessary supplies in obvious places. If Dad needs an email schedule to remind him then make sure he's got it. After that you have to let them take care of themselves.

Small children -say younger than 3rd grade-are a different story. You've got no business traveling if you don't have bulletproof arrangments for them.

If your husband can't be certain to leave work on time on days you're out of town then you've got to make the arrangments. That's what good mothers do.

Posted by: RoseG | April 24, 2006 1:10 PM

"Instead, he feels pressure from the men at work to maintain a macho, work-is-everything attitude..." I wanted to also comment on this, because it seemed odd.

So do the men your husband works with have wives that work? Are they the older crowd? Does he work with any women? Do they have that same attitude? I'm familiar with the work-is-everything attitude, and I just don't buy into it. A career is one aspect of life, not the ultimate end-all of life, but I honestly thought as a nation we were trying to get out of that rat race mentality, because most of the working population do have families to consider, and often resented the fact that both parents were so wrapped up in their careers they missed their kids lives. *this is not a pitch for SAHM's, I mean both parents equally.* Kids growing up with the work-is-life parental figure wished that figure, often the father, could be a bit more available, and now as fathers now in 2006, tend to try to make themselves a big part of their children's lives..

My husband and I have always worked in jobs that seemed more family-friendly than 'work is everything.' The philosophy was if you give employees time to take care of their family when necessary, your employees will be happier, more productive, and more willing to give the company a bit more of their own time in return. The owners, managers and top execs all had families themselves. Maybe that is the difference.

Posted by: observer | April 24, 2006 1:15 PM

Geez, Leslie, god forbid, but what would happen if you had an accident or a serious illness? Perhaps then your lawyer-husband's brain would suddenly develop the ability to coordinate your children's schedules. I agree with the posters above who say that, with all your cajoling and complaining, you probably never just stepped back and let your husband TRY to manage something, perhaps fail a few times, but then see that he could and should do it.

I see way too many moms of my acquaintance who don't realize they are so controlling of the household and child schedule that they push the dad out of the picture. And then they complain to him and everyone else that he's not doing enough or not doing anything good enough.

Posted by: Em T. | April 24, 2006 1:16 PM

"Instead, he feels pressure from the men at work to maintain a macho, work-is-everything attitude."

Are you kidding? This is 2006. If your husband is such a wuss as to follow those "men at work" (are there any women/mothers in his workplace?), then why are you still with him, oh liberated woman who loves her job at the Post but can't give it her "very best" because her man won't do his share?

What a copout! Oh, my alpha-male collegues won't let me be the sensitive, helping father I truly am inside.

The "motherhood radar" that I saw kick in when my best friend had her baby at age 41 was the bleep bleep that told her that her husband was doing everything WRONG and she had to take over or direct every little task, lest the babe be maimed for life. Three years later, I'm not surprised that he's now working 60-hour weeks and she can't get him to do anything around the house without starting an argument.

Posted by: Kellyn | April 24, 2006 1:23 PM

Leslie, just try, once, writing out what will be needed and any relevant phone numbers and addresses, then handing it to your husband a couple of days before you leave town. Ask if he has any questions. Then just pack up and leave.

The world will not end.

Posted by: DC office space | April 24, 2006 1:27 PM

Here we go again. Is this really a "Men v Women" thing?

Are there any same-sex parents out there who have found the same difficulties in coordinating childcare and travel and office time? A two-parent family consists of two adult human beings, who often have different ways of handling chores and problems and perhaps BEFORE they have the first child should come to some understanding of how the household will be run and who will do what.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 1:30 PM

It sounds like your unit has a serious memory leak. My suggestion would be to upgrade your old Husband 1.0 to Husband 6.0, service pack 2. Hopefully you have a lifetime warrentee...

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 24, 2006 1:32 PM

"How does my colleague Diane focus on giving a killer presentation when the school calls her cell phone 20 minutes after her husband was supposed to pick the kids up? What advice can I muster for Jen when the day-care center calls her in New York to report that her son has no lunchbox? I haven't got a clue"

Does your husband not own a cell phone?
Are you so clueless you don't know the number?

Or, try this handy marital assessment tool: what would HE do if the situation were reversed? Would you you WANT him to do if the situations were reversed?

Which leads your readers to a question: How can you not have thought of that and/or tried solutions, before posting on your blog?

You know, I liked your blog at first. But what with the constant "poor me" complaining about problems which are 1) part of most marriages, and 2) often easy to solve even for people who DON'T have education and money for nannies... well, you're coming across as a nitwit. Do you really feel you can GIVE advice?

Posted by: Erik H | April 24, 2006 1:45 PM

"If your husband can't be certain to leave work on time on days you're out of town then you've got to make the arrangments. That's what good mothers do."

Rose... since he's the parent in town, and the child is his as well as hers, why is SHE in charge of making arrangements? That's my whole point. If he is not going to be able to leave work, the problem is his to solve. He has the same resources as his wife and the same intellect.

I really agree with Observer - this is a generational thing. None of the moms I know in their 30s are too stupid to co-manage schedules, nor do they have husbands with the (ridiculous) expectation of being immune to shared tasks.

Posted by: Sarah | April 24, 2006 1:50 PM

Wow. The same year I had my first kid, I went on a 2 week business trip to Indonesia and a one week trip to Morocco. She's two now and I just spent 2 weeks on business in Mexico. I feel guilty about leaving, but my job requires travel. I never once considered making any arrangements for my husband other than ensuring there were groceries in the house and that there were plenty of clean clothes for the kid (no need for him to be searching for socks on top of everything else). I know he can take care of her, get her to day care, get himself to work, and coordinate all the household stuff without my help, even if it's stuff that is normally my responsibility. My concern was only that he was going to be stuck with long weekends of trying to entertain her with no breaks. I can't imagine thinking that I had to organize rides or other stuff like that prior to departing- I couldn't have had kids with someone who wasn't going to be able to handle them.
Is this a generational thing? And some people are stuck a generation back? My husband and all his friends carry half the parenting duties. One fought for custody of his two kids when his wife left him and got it. It's the standard, not the exception, amongst all of our friends and colleagues, that mom and dad both work outside the home, and that mom and dad share 50% of the child care responsibilities. I know it's going to be more complicated when our child is older, when we have another kid, and when they have various activities to go to. But it's not like watching a teething baby full time is a picnic. Still, I wasn't going to add to my stress and guilt over leaving her by trying to micromanage my spouse and household. I know he is 100% capable of doing everything I do around the house, and probably can do most of it better than I can!

Posted by: MCM | April 24, 2006 1:51 PM

How does my colleague Diane focus on giving a killer presentation when the school calls her cell phone 20 minutes after her husband was supposed to pick the kids up?

Diane calls husband, says 'you forgot the kids go get them, I have a presentation.'

What advice can I muster for Jen when the day-care center calls her in New York to report that her son has no lunchbox?

"Jen, give the center your husband's cell phone and tell them you are out of town. Worst case scenario? Your kid will get fed some generic lunch. You may get a nastygram, but most daycares have back-up meals. Actually, most daycares serve meals, anyhow, next time, alert the center ahead of time that you are out of town and to call your husband that week."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 2:04 PM

OK so first you wrote
"But it's always me who does the scheduling, the arranging, the logistics of caring for three kids."

Then you get around to:
"Recently, I've gone on business trips without writing any lists or making any special preparations. The kids were fine. My husband (and our babysitter) found their own solutions."

From the sound of this, the problem is solved, you just take off and let him deal. This probably works better for him anyway. So things may not be done the way you'd do them, but they get done. Assuming your husband is as good of a father as you claim and the kid's scheduled events are important to them, no way will he miss them. The more I read this blog the more I wonder whether the complaints about husbands not doing their fair share are less about husbands being stuck in a 1950's mindset and more about wives wanting things done their way all the time. "But I see an awful lot of husbands completely stumped by the chaos of children." This kind of drives the point home. It may just be that opposed to being "stumped by the chaos of children" husbands fine with the chaos and see no need to bring order to it. What we see as the elimination of an unnecessary step (skip the planning and just run with the chaos), you see as an unwillingness to help out.

Posted by: Seattle Dad | April 24, 2006 2:20 PM

Fact is, some husbands are better than others helping out, and it's not strictly a generational issue (culture plays a part as well, as does family upbringing. Heaven help the woman married to a spoiled mama's boy.).

When I still lived close to my ex-husband in NoVa, he was more reliable in picking up our daughter from school when I had to work late than my coworker's husband was. It was easier for me to travel with my ex-husband nearby than it was for my coworker to travel and leave her child with her husband.

Generally speaking, parents who live together are more supportive for one another than divorced parents are, but my coworker was married to a man from a culture where women are expected to take care of their families. Of course, women from these countries (Arab) often stay at home, and my coworker was employed full time in a demanding job. Ultimately, this situation caused trouble at work for my coworker, who was repirimanded for missing so much time at work.

Now that I am a single mom living more than 20,000 miles away from my ex-husband (my closest family is 2,500 miles away), work-related travel requires that I fall back on friends. Fortunately, I don't have too much travel, and my boss is understanding. I am very fortunate given my situation.

Being a single parent with a demnading job requires a great deal of ingenuity...and I have no one to complain to about not pulling his weight. It's all on me, and I have no safety net, so there's no use in contemplating fair. That concept does not exist in my world (and the world of many other single parents where the other parent is absent).

Posted by: western single mom | April 24, 2006 2:48 PM

Let's remind ourselves of some practicalities. Scheduling for a family works better if one person coordinates the calendar. With kids, scheduling gets very complex. Someone who hasn't been coordinating things will find it very difficult to take over for a couple of days without significant help and coaching. (Yes, if their spouse died they'd be perfectly capable of handling scheduling, but it would take a while to get up to speed and you'd have some minor chaos in the interim.)

Let's also remind ourselves that many husbands and wives work out ways of running a household that work well for them (even though they aren't all the same), that our parents figured out methods that worked for them, as did our grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. There isn't a single right answer, or self-evidently most fair, equitable or reasonable answer to the question of "how do we make our marriage work?"

One of the most insightful comments in today's blog was "He isn't lazy or irresponsible or selfish (although unfortunately I've called him those words many times). He just isn't me." A surprisingly difficult challenge in any marriage is accepting that my spouse "just isn't me." When we don't, it's far to easy to start using the "unfortunate" words such as lazy, irresponsible and selfish that tend to undermine our marriages.

Posted by: A Dad | April 24, 2006 3:35 PM

I am most curious about this:

"MJ had a girls-only party after school, one mom's attempt to transform the alarmingly catty first-grade girls into a cohesive group. Bravo -- and MJ needed to be there."

Why are these young girls so "alarmingly" catty? Could it be they've learned this behavior by following the example set for them? Maybe if Leslie was less catty about her husband, her daughter would be less catty about others. The "no one can possibly do it like I do it" attitude is not a good example to set for kids.

Posted by: question | April 24, 2006 3:47 PM

Re: "It sounds like your unit has a serious memory leak. My suggestion would be to upgrade your old Husband 1.0 to Husband 6.0, service pack 2. Hopefully you have a lifetime warrentee..."

I recognize that this was intended by Father of 4 as a flippant comment, but we should not be recommending divorce as the simple solution to the everyday challenges of running a household. Let's get real - we may be talking about a wonderful husband here, who brings a great deal of joy and support to Leslie's life. (He might even be a significant feature upgrade to "Father of 4" in some respects.) Nuking a marriage because he can be a jerk sometimes is not the ideal solution (could just be that Leslie can be a bit trying herself at times, and needs him to cut her a bit of slack too).

Posted by: Appalled | April 24, 2006 3:49 PM

This has just got to be a generational thing. Your husband is an adult, fully capable of taking care of children. My question is, why couldn't he schedule an early day off the day you were away? I mean really, at most it is leaving work three hours early....that way he learns what his children do during the day and you don't have to pay for TWO sitters. To be honest your life just sounds horribly complicated....

Posted by: carolinamom | April 24, 2006 3:56 PM

I believe "A Dad" hit the issue on the head. As a working woman I have to allow my husband to succeed at being a co-parent (vs jumping in to do things my way). Point well taken.

On a seperate note-- interesting post from "question"-- the comment about the girls only parties. She/He Insinuates that Leslie is responsible for her child's cattiness. Question--did you intend to make this comment itself catty? Hilarious!

Posted by: UP | April 24, 2006 4:02 PM

Yeah, I knew my comment on cattiness was catty! I don't know if Leslie's daughter is catty, or if so where she learned it from, or where the other girls at the party learned it from (no doubt each other, among other places)...but her comment on these "alarmingly" catty girls seemed strange to me, given the tone of today's entry, as I read it anyway... Thanks for asking!

Posted by: Question | April 24, 2006 4:14 PM

I wonder why Leslie is willing to tolerate an "unequal partnership" at home. Her husband is a lawyer; I wonder how he would view it if his partners at the firm were billing half his hours, not bringing in new clients, and submitting barely-adequate work? The problem is, he apparently doesn't view his marriage partnership the same way he views his legal partnership. I view them the same, except one is bound by money, the other by love. It's not an inability on his part, it's an unwillingness. Which Leslie enables by always stepping up to fill the gap.

I don't mean to pick on Leslie; her anecdote is just a small example of why work-life issues can be so difficult.

Marriage is a true partnership. For those who choose to have children, raising them is the single most important function of that partnership. Both members (not to mention the children) deserve a partner who is equally and fully committed to this proposition. The rest is just details.

Posted by: Brian | April 24, 2006 4:18 PM

Dear Appalled,
I wasn't talking about trading in the current unit for a refurbished one, I was just saying that anyone running the original version of Husband 1.0 is a little outdated for the times. For instance, my wife throughout our marriage, has added 4 separate periphrials each with it's own separate installation package. The original Husband 1.0 hadn't been packaged with the bottle feeding and diaper changing feature. Hence, an upgrade was needed Training was also necessary. As more periphrials were added, my processor became a little more bogged down, so she upgraded me to Husband 3.0 wich came bundled with a multitasking feature. Later she found that Husband 4.2 came in quite handy with the Remote Access module. It did require a little tinkering. Now, fully loaded with 4 periphrials, I'm on Husband 6.1 and have an Automated Update routine and I have become an independent, fully functional Husband and Father despite many crashes along the way. However, with all the patches and upgrades, my wife has noticed a slight reduction in hard drive capacity. I'm hoping, that with all the applications that's been added since Husband 1.0, that this fact can be overlooked and I won't be traded in for a new model.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 24, 2006 4:28 PM

Brian, Leslie never described her marriage as an "unequal partnership" - that's your interpretation.

Marriage is a partnership in the sense that two people commit to a common life together and mutual support. But it's very dangerous to start trying to measure someone's level of contribution - particularly when it isn't even your marriage. How do you define "equal?" We simply do not know what else Leslie's husband is bringing to their marriage, their family, and their kids.

Beyond that, marriage is by its very nature a relationship that works differently from any sort of business partnership. If Leslie's husband were to be totally and permanently disabled, his legal partners would dump him (with benefits, we would hope, but he would no longer be an active partner). On the other hand, it would not (or at least should not) end the marriage, even if he were never able to work or care for a child again.

Anyone contemplating marriage should absolutely ask "do they love me, and are they fully committed to me?" But we should not judge our spouses based on how much money they make, how many chores they do, or how many hours of child care they put in. That would be as foolish as my looking back 30 years and judging how good a mother my mom was by how many cookies she baked me. It misses the point. How many men would want to trade in a loving and faithful wife who never cooks for a picture perfect, Martha Stewart homemaker who ran around on them?

Give Leslie (and her husband) a break, and let them cut each other a little slack where needed to create a life together that works.

Posted by: Appalled | April 24, 2006 4:41 PM

Actually, she did:

"This thorny conundrum -- lack of equal partnership at home when I long ago achieved equality at work -- makes working motherhood harder than I ever expected."

And I never suggested (I hope) that partnership is a one-size-fits-all proposition. But Leslie said she felt her partnership was not equal; I was just wondering why either she or her husband (or any other married couple) would find that acceptable. Otherwise, I agree completely with what you say.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 4:57 PM

Forgot to sign last post...

Posted by: Brian | April 24, 2006 5:00 PM

"Actually, she did: 'This thorny conundrum -- lack of equal partnership at home when I long ago achieved equality at work -- makes working motherhood harder than I ever expected.' "

Interesting point. I read that to mean that she didn't feel like they were taking on equal shares of the household chores/responsibilities - not that the marriage overall was unequal or unfair. I think that's a crucial distinction. Beyond that, she hasn't expressed any overall dissatisfaction with her husband, and there's nothing that suggests that she feels unloved, neglected or as if he isn't fully committed to her.

Why might Leslie find that acceptable? It could be that her husband brings other things to the table that outweigh her frustration here. It could be that she realizes that he might perceive things differently, or have his own set of complaints. Or it could simply be that she loves him and swore to take him for better or for worse.

I just get very, very uncomfortable with the idea of measuring a marriage based on how much each spouse is contributing. Whenever I see people talking about their marriages that way, it never seems to help.

Posted by: Appalled | April 24, 2006 5:15 PM

I have to agree with "appalled." Just to put this out there for the sake of arguement: Leslie is saying her husband doesn't pick up the extra slack and describing a for instance. That is *so* normal. Everybody just has a different for instance. It's not that she can't do the scheduling, she can and she does and it's fine. A lot of people on here are jumping down on her just being real. I don't think she is complaining so much as describing. And I don't think her real point is too off the mark: mom's tend to do more.

Posted by: Hmmm | April 24, 2006 5:15 PM

Wow, I just read your blog entry and but for a few small details, I COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE EXACT SAME THING. How is it that my life completely changed after kids, but my husband still has time to go to all the sporting events, etc. that he always did?! My husband has a great relationship with the kids, but it is I who handle all the details of their lives. We have 3 kids now and I've tried everything to get him to "get it" - threats, begging, crying, etc. and nothing works. I made my peace with the situation about a year ago and I'm much happier for it. I have learned to expect less which means I'm not as frustrated all the time. I do get angry from time to time -- when, for example, I'm in my business suit cooking dinner, baby on my hip, throwing a load of laundry in, unloading the dishwasher, etc., -- and he's watching the evening news, drinking a glass of wine (when was the last time I did THAT?!). That can make a working mom truly crazy. Good thing I'm usually too busy to notice.

Posted by: AMAZED | April 24, 2006 5:18 PM

I have a question for those of you reading this who are in the college phase of your kids lives. Does this crazy unequal stuff bother you now? Or is it just water under the bridge? What would you do differently?

Posted by: LDB | April 24, 2006 6:06 PM

what a snore.

Posted by: this has gotten boring | April 24, 2006 6:18 PM

LDB - I am full-time WOHM, my kids are high-school, not college. My husband doesn't have much of a clue about who needs to be where when. However, all I have to do is say pick up so-and-so at such-and-such time and it gets done. I do get frustrated when he calls before the appointed time to check the pick-up time - didn't he listen the first time I told him? And yes, sometimes it does feel like a burden that I am the one who keeps track of schedules for all 4 of us. But, then I remember that I do this all the time and we would cause each other trouble if both were in charge of scheduling. The kids actually joke about it now. They know that Mommy will be there if she says so, and so will Daddy, but he might need a few reminders.

When I was half-way across the country and Dad was home in charge, my daughter called to ask if she could spend the night with a friend. (She hadn't even asked her father). She knew that I was the one who always OK'd this because I have more opportunity to get to know the friends' parents. So, just an example that both parents are capable, but some things fall mainly to one parent. We may laugh about this, but on some level my husband feels a little hurt that the kids turn to me first for some things.

Another side of this. He mows the lawn and I don't. It's not that I can't, I just don't. I could if I had to, but first someone would have to teach me how to use the riding mower. I honestly don't even know how to turn it on. Just a fact of married life that nothing is 100% equal. I know that scheduling is a daily chore and mowing the law is not, but there are other things he contributes to the marriage/family.

We are both human. We got married knowing that we have the same basic values and hopes and dreams for our children. However, the reality is in the details. We don't see eye to eye on everything and never will. I chuckle at the posters who think that you should just discuss and discuss until you are in complete agreement. It will never happen. I see danger for the children in some things that my husband thinks are adventurous. We have different ideas about what level of cleanliness at home is acceptable. No amount of discussion will change someone's basic truths. The key is in learning to live with the differences. Leslie seems to have done this when she gave up trying to have her husband operate the same way she does. I have also tried to get my husband to do some things I think he should and also realized that he is not me. It is very liberating.

Posted by: bj | April 24, 2006 6:40 PM

I'm wondering about all the driving of kids all over the place for sports. What is the deal with that? I didn't start sports until I was in the 5th grade, but I was always able to walk a short distance to the playing field or else school buses carted us around. My parents almost never came to my games/meets, and it did not hurt me at all (they were there for almost-nightly family dinners, homework help, and church/some family time on the weekends)--this freed up tons of time in the afternoon/evenings when they could be doing their own work and when they weren't responsible for "scheduling" me and carting me all over the place.

My aunt hasn't worked for about 15 years, spending most of her time carting kids around to various sports events in the exurbs.

Seriously, is this a good use of anyone's time--mother, father, babysitter, whoever? Can't school systems pick up more of the slack of carting kids to sports, all the kids together on a bus? It seems ridiculous that someone would feel pressure to leave a job or to never go on business trips because their kids have sports events all over the place.

Posted by: sammy | April 24, 2006 7:41 PM

To BJ:

Your post made my day. You are right on the money! Your kids and husband have a very wise woman in their house.

Posted by: MomNC | April 24, 2006 8:39 PM

HEre's some chauffering advice. Everytime you drive someplace new, print out your madquest directions.
Then buy a loose-leaf binder and some plastic pockets.
Put the mapquest directions into the pocket and assemble a book called:
"The How to Get There Book."

I started doing this about three years ago. I actually have sections in it marked:
1. Playdates
2. Places in Town
3. Takeout,
4. Day Trips
5. Places where Birthday parties are held
6. Kid's Activities, etc. (maps to all the soccer fields in town, etc.)

Basically, it's "my brain in a binder."
It stays in the car. I actually xeroxed the darned thing and put a copy in my husband's car too.

This means you can say to your husband, "DO you mind dropping child A at the birthday party then swinging by and picking up Child B at the playdate and taking her to gymnastics, etc. etc. etc.?"

You can assemble the book in about 3 hours and it frees you from other people pleading that they are unable to help you because of their general ignorance of where anything is.

If the nanny/MIL/hubby says "I can't do that, I don't know where it is," the response is "Look in the book. The directions are in there."

If you really want to be a pal and make the hubby look good, then in the margins of the playdate pages, write the names of the kids parents (Donna and Bill. Ask them about their kitchen renovation, etc.)

Silly advice but it has saved me HOURS of time!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 9:56 PM

I'm not yet a parent, but as a former kid not all that long ago, I agree with Sammy. Our parents came to the occasional game but certainly never took time off work to drive us to practice, or hired babysitters to drive us around.

In Leslie's original post, another solution would be to have one kid miss a practice once. I recall having to stop horseback riding lessons at age 9 because my mom could no longer take me, and while it was a disappointment, it was not the end of the world. Maybe it's good for kids to learn to take a disappointment and to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them.

Posted by: A former kid | April 24, 2006 10:45 PM

I love reading your columns and admire you for putting your life "on display"...letting us other moms know that we're not the only ones going through these things and feeling the way we do. I just feel sorry for you when people are so critical...analyzing you and your parenting and your marriage. I imagine you must have a very tough skin. You'd have to. Either that, or you don't read the comments :)

Posted by: Mom of One | April 24, 2006 11:05 PM

To sammy,

Below the high school level, the sports and activities are operated by Rec & Parks and private clubs. Other than use of their facilities, the school system isn't involved in these activities. The participants can live in any part of the county and busing would usually not be cost effective. In suburbia, the schools are not always right down the street. My kids' elementary school was 5 miles away and crossing major roadways was necessary. That left out walking/biking. Even for children who are fortunate to live close to the schools, getting home from sports can be problematic because some practices last until dark. Indoor sports such as basketball sometimes don't even start until after dark.

I think Leslie touched on this. "20 minutes spent writing directions to the suburban hinterlands where the team plays"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2006 12:00 AM

"The How to Get There Book"

Great idea. I especially like the hint to make notes about parents' names, etc. I find it refreshing that someone is offering practical advice rather than commenting on who should be doing what.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2006 12:08 AM

Western Single Mom, are you in orbit?

Being 20,000 miles away from your ex makes it sound like one of you is in space...

Posted by: Kevin in AK | April 25, 2006 12:12 AM

I do think that one issue is that a mother's idea of parenting may be different from a father's. Thus, I know if I was going out of town, my husband might well say that a daughter might have to miss a party if it would be inconvenient for him to make travel arrangements.

I also know that my 12 year old daughter just told me that she feels very connected to her Dad because they often just hang out and listen to music together -- whereas I am always driving her from place to place & focusing on getting the homework done, etc., etc.

Here, in this situation, query whether Leslie is being bullied by X's coach. How important is missing a game or practice at his age? My own children have frequently missed one or more soccer games a season because we need to spend a week-end visiting their grandparents. And I think spending precious time with grandparents at age 9 and 12 is more important than being on a soccer team. So far, the coaches in my town have been very understanding. And I think that competative high school sports are different from earlier age sports -- which should be pure fun! and not an obligation that drives parents to drink.

I do think that multiple commitments for multiple children make life difficult for any parent, whether a stay at home mom or dad, or a working parent or dad. And sometimes the answer has to be that the child misses the activity.

Because my husband was out of town and I had to work one night, I cancelled that week's piano lesson for my daughters. They lived.

As a working mom, I had to say no sometimes to parties scheduled during the work day. And my children survived.

So, with Dad doing the scheduling, the kids might have had fewer activities while mom is away, but that could be okay too.

Posted by: ES | April 25, 2006 12:20 AM

Do people find that the dilemmas of parenthood are really all THAT different from what went before? I have found that people's brains just work differently, and it tends to affect predictable areas of parenting. Example: I do all the cooking, so I always have a mental inventory of what's in the fridge, whether raw or leftovers. My husband won't remember that there is leftover spaghetti carbonara (his favorite) from last night to have for lunch unless I remind him. Similarly, he can be a little clueless about where the baby's food is. On the other hand, he does most of the cleaning and will be amazed after he's been away for a few days that I haven't noticed that the living room floor (now also the baby's play area) needs vacuuming. Yes, sometimes our foci (or blind spots) lead to conflict. We're still working it out. We both think our way is the RIGHT way, and it's an ongoing process to learn that maybe it doesn't matter so much. I agree with the other posters who stress that it is important to learn that your partner isn't you, and to focus on and appreciate their contribution, not how they make it.

And after reading Amazed's post about juggling dinner, laundry and a baby on her hip while her husband watches TV and drinks wine, I feel luckier than ever to have a husband who feels that housework and parenting are part of his job, too.

Posted by: NJO | April 25, 2006 6:43 AM

Father of 4--(can't believe I'm typing this)--I think you have something there. Evolving is IMHO the #1 secret to being a good spouse and parent. Well said!

Posted by: PtJobFTMom | April 25, 2006 7:47 AM

"I just get very, very uncomfortable with the idea of measuring a marriage based on how much each spouse is contributing."

I get very uncomfortable when I observe marriages where the wife takes on all the chores and then calls her husband "irresponsible and lazy". Nice example for the kids. Learn to work it or your kids will end up in the same situations when they are adults.

Posted by: Think about it | April 25, 2006 11:23 AM

Regarding: "... he feels pressure from the men at work to maintain a macho, work-is-everything attitude...": If this is finally changing, THANK GOD! I'm ahead of the 30-something crowd on this blog by about 20 years. Believe me, back in the 1980s and into the 1990s, when I was married and my son was young, it was a very HUGE problem/situation, especially here in Silicon Valley. My then-husband worked with a crowd of high tech sales guys most of whose wives did not work because they had small children (and subsidies from their parents and inlaws to do so). The few WOHM had full-time live-in nannies. Heck, even the SAHM had nannies! He was the poor, hen-pecked "only one in the whooooole office" guy who regularly needed -- twice a week -- to leave by 5:30 to pick up our son by 6 p.m. He also regularly did overnight out-of-town trips planned at the 11th hour. Many a time, I'd get a call at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, informing me that he was leaving for a trip of 2 to 3 days that started with him leaving the house for the airport at 6 a.m. the next day. Needless to say, given that I recognized very early that I was actually a single parent, we had one child and stopped. No way would I take on more WORK under these circumstances. We divorced 8 years ago for many reasons but the ruthless work focus he could not, would not amend -- despite marriage counseling in which this was pointed out to him -- was a major reason. And our son, now 22, feels his father is - still- a total workaholic whom he does NOT want to emulate. Ever.

Posted by: SF Mom | April 25, 2006 1:28 PM

As others have said, I have stopped reading this blog because a full-time complaint session does not help anyone. Leslie, you are allowing your husband to abdicate his responsibility with your hovering and you strike me as a classic case of the perfectionist who drives everyone else away. I wouldn't have married my husband or had two kids with him if I thought he was incapable of parenting those kids on a daily basis.

Posted by: 12345 | April 27, 2006 3:06 PM

My husband and I often have conflicts with scheduling etc. due to demanding job that sometimes require travel, after hours appointments etc. We both have identified our stong suits and take the lead in those areas. Also because we are stil in our 20's and in the "building stage" of our careers etc., we have held off on having any more children. (Currently have 1) We'd rather make that choice than force the issue of having more children and possible resenting each other if things get more complicated and overwhelming and one/both of us has to pick up more slack.
As a result of consistent (not necessarily equal) involvement, my son has a great relationship and shares memories with both of us.
I just think people should not be afraid to recognize thier personal limitations, and not put undue presure on each other to be the "Super-Parent Team"
Because with all this scheduling and hustle and bustle, where is the time spent building up your marriage apart from the kids?

Posted by: Phillymom | April 28, 2006 10:10 AM

I should also note that while we do share most things, who does bath time, alternate attending field trips, some things I do because I feel better. For example, if my son is sick, I try to stay home if possible, because if I don't I will not be "there" mentally at work, and will drive my husband nuts calling. This is not because I don't trust him, but rather the same compulsion that drives me to check on him even while he's napping. My own quirk and not linked to my perception of Dad's capabilities.
I think it's important to make that distinction before making complaints about who's doing what...
Also I think kids are generally fine with anything as long as you let them know. My son's thing is, "who's picking me up today?" He doesn't care if Dad did 4 times and Mom 3, he just cares if Dad was supposed to and didn't. If he knows he has to miss a party, it's not a big deal if you tell him prior to the day of. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.

Posted by: phillymom | April 28, 2006 10:28 AM

Wait a sec. You're not a single parent. Your husband will be home while you're in New York. And you still have to hire two babysitters??? Why do you tolerate that? I still take business trips from time to time, and I leave my husband with both kids; it still takes me only five minutes to throw things in an overnight bag.
This isn't a gender problem -- it's a guy-you-married problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 4, 2006 8:59 PM


I feel for you. I'm often in the same situation. While I have an appreciation for the comments posted, the responses seem to assume that the situation is as simple as their recommendations.

I wish I had time to go into more detail. For now, I hope it's comforting in some way to know there are MANY moms out there that feel the exact same way you do.

Take care girl and remember - one day at a time!

Posted by: NoVA Mom | May 8, 2006 11:19 AM

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