Friday Free-for-All --Who's The Decider?

From President Bush to The Daily Show to a front page article in Wednesday's New York Times, buzz abounds about the new term "the decider" -- the person who pulls rank on major decisions. A 2005 Yankelovich Monitor survey showed that women in the United States make 54% of new vehicle decisions and 56% of grocery purchases. Little data exists on "decider" status when it comes to who works, who stays home, who decides which art projects get memorialized and which get shoved to the bottom of the trash bag, when to move or stay put for a parent's job, who takes the kids to which pediatrician, what afterschool activities, which sleepovers -- all the nitty gritty family life decisions.

In your family, who makes the decisions regarding the kids' lives and why? Are your family decisions truly made jointly, or are subtle and not-so-subtle power plays at work? And the hardest question: Does the person in the family who earns the most money make the biggest decisions?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 28, 2006; 6:30 AM ET  | Category:  Division of Labor
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I tell you what...
When the tub is scrubbed, the kitchen floor buffed, the bed made, the dishes put away, the laundry smelling all perty, the rugs vacuumed, the nicknacks and tele screen dusted, the windows washed, the porch swept, the bills paid, the magazines all stacked neatly, the fingernails polished, the neck perfumed, the smile genuine, the candles lit, dinner on the table, and the wine chilled..., the wife WILL get her baby, whether the husband wants one or not. Or the divorce papers WILL be served.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 28, 2006 8:12 AM

We share all major decisions. The one who cares most about a certain issue often gets his or her way.

My husband deferred to me on most child-care issues when I was the SAHM. Now that he's the SAHD, I let him have most of the choices. Part of this is that he's more aware-- say, of what my daughter has had to eat all day, so he knows if she deserves dessert. But even on other decisions I let him have his choice, since he's the one who will be around to enforce it. For instance, I was OK with an hour of educational TV each day for our 2 and 4 year-olds, but my husband wanted almost none. I'm not opposed, and he's the one who deals with the kids, so he gets his choice. (They don't whine about TV anymore and play much better now, so he may have been right).

Posted by: Ms L | April 28, 2006 8:20 AM

Since 50% of couples are going to be divorced, everyone should develop the skills to be the Decider.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 28, 2006 8:34 AM

Being a single mom, I do get the majority vote in day-to-day activities with occasional input from my son on issues like "OK -- Mommy hasn't planned out dinner tonight; what would you like to eat?" On larger decisions that affect the boy, I contact my ex and say, "This is what I'd like to do -- what do you think about it?" Usually there's no conflict, but I try to make sure that he's involved and has a say.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | April 28, 2006 8:40 AM

I'd say most major decisions are made jointly, and certainly anything that requires the expenditure of any real amount of money. It is true that some decisions may be more influenced by the one who cares more, or at least the one who has done more research. I often do make more of the decisions in relation to the kids, but again that may be because I tend to do more reading about their care and feeding. However, we tend to discuss things before implementing any changes in our routine. Who gets to be the "decider" is definitely not influenced by who makes more money. It's never been "his money" vs "my money." And in a nice thing for balance, who makes the most money has changed several times over the course of our marriage.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | April 28, 2006 8:58 AM

An old-world Jewish joke: The woman of the house gets to make the unimportant decisions, like where to live, what jobs to take, where the kids go to school, the household budget, etc. The man of the house makes the important decisions, like what Bush should do about Iraq, what should be done about gas prices, who the Redskins should sign, etc.

Posted by: Cabin John | April 28, 2006 9:04 AM

I'm with the folks who say whoever cares more about a particular issue is the Decider for that issue in our house. For big decisions, we see where our desires overlap, and choose amongst the choices in that shared universe. This even goes for smaller decisions that happen to be important to both of us.

Posted by: Interested Party | April 28, 2006 9:24 AM

I don't care. I just want people to stop letting Bush make up new words to be added to the collective lexicon.

Posted by: Basquette | April 28, 2006 9:42 AM

This may be of some help:

In the Supreme Court (yes, that one), it is quite common for the opinion writing duty to be assigned to the individual justice who is most wavering or least likely to remain in the majority.

That judge then gets to put his or her imprimature on the decision, and thereby solidifies his or her attachment to the majority consensus.

This is a good way to build coalitions and consensus. We employ this in our household, especially when it comes to money matters. If one of us is reluctant or has concerns to spend money on something, then that person is the usually the one who handles the matter on a day-to-day basis, which makes it more likely that the person will feel more comfortable with the way things are going.

Posted by: The Supremes | April 28, 2006 9:44 AM

Big decisions should not be made by the person who cares more. Both parties should gather information and counsel and join together in a process that leads to a consensus. Because it's totally possible to care passionately and be wrong. It could be argued that the more passionately one cares, the more one should question one's thought process. Plus, "I care more" is a power play.

Posted by: Also interested | April 28, 2006 9:54 AM

My husband and I made an agreement at the start of our marriage: we would each lead with our strengths, so that homemaking, decorating, kid-related decisions would be mine, while the home maintenance and car decisions would be his. Financial and career decisions would be joint decisions. Obviously, if either of us disagreed with the course the other was taking in their purview, a discussion and some shared decision making would be in order. But we also agreed that, for the good of our marriage, if we ever came to a stalemate on a shared decision (or of one of us felt strongly that the other was making a huge mistake in their sphere of influence), we'd talk it out, seek outside counsel if it came to that, and if it still could not be resolved, then I agreed to defer to my husband. (Hence the insertion of the vow to "obey" in our marriage vows - something we had to specifically ask our minister to do, and had to defend. We found it odd that something that had been standard even 30 years ago would be difficult for a Christian pastor.)

Is that old fashioned? You bet. Does it make some of my women friends angry? Sure. Have I ever regretted it? Absolutely not. First, my husband has only used this agreement twice since we have been married. He has never been abusive or demeaning or oppressive. I married him knowing that he genuinely sought my good and my happiness, and he now does this for our whole family. He does not micromanage my decisions. But we have made an agreement that he is to be the leader in our home, and by agreeing to that and sticking to it, we have avoided massive amounts of conflict that we have witnessed in the marriages and homes of friends and relatives.

I, for one, have no interest in spending time or breath arguing about how many person-years I have spent on laundry compared to that spent by my husband, particularly as a function of money earned. The point of our marriage is to enjoy one another's companionship and be a help to one another, and to maximize the stability of our home as a place of restoration for ourselves and nurturing for our kids. Pointless debates about power and authority in the home would detract from that, in my view. I feel respected and valued in my home, and I belive my husband can say the same.

Posted by: FairfaxWorkingMom | April 28, 2006 10:21 AM

I used to be a SAHM and made most of te decisions in the household. Boy was it tiring, emotionally, I mean because EVERYTHING had to be my way. Now I work outside the home and have had to rely on my husband to take care of our little one a lot more, he has morning duty (getting our osn ready dropping off to preschool) I have evening duty, giving bath, tucking into bed. And its a load off my mind. I'm so much more relaxed now. And my son is doing well.

Posted by: New to DC | April 28, 2006 10:29 AM

Daughter: Daddy, can I sleep over at Jessica's tonight?
Daddy: Go ask your Mother.
Son: Mommy, Can I get a puppy for my birthday?
Mommy: Sure, but go ask Daddy first.
Son: Daddy, Mom says I can have a puppy for my birthday, but I have to ask you first.
Daddy: No way! Not at this time!
Son: But Dad, can't we even go out and lookk at the puppies?
Daddy: Absolutely not! I know that trick and its not going to work!
Son: Please, oh please. Whine, whine whine. But Dad. Blubbler blubber, boo hoo hoo. I promise I'll...
Daddy: Grrr. I hate when your Mother does that to me.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 28, 2006 10:33 AM

Both parties should gather information and counsel and join together in a process that leads to a consensus.

As nice as this sounds in theory, I can't see it working in day to day life. We wouldn't make it past breakfast.

In my house, the decisions are generally made by the person who cares the most, but with the input of the other party. For instance, we're house shopping. My partner is much more gung ho about this than I am (this is his first house, my second), so he's in charge of the process. Rather than submitting every possible house to my review, he knows what my requirements and wants are, and takes that into account. We did reach a consensus about wanting to buy a new place to begin with, but otherwise, I let it go. I still have veto power in the end.

The same system works in the day to day. I do most of the cooking, so I decide what we eat. After 2 years of living together, I know what he likes and doesn't like to eat. I take this into account when I make my decisions about our meals and shopping.

We are having our first child in the fall, and we're making the name decision in a similar way. I name a girl; he names a boy. We each still have veto power.

This isn't always neat and tidy, of course. If we have a boy, we will be at odds on our opinion about circumcision. I don't like it, and would prefer not to do it, though I don't think it's quite as horrible as lots of anti-circ advocates make it out to be. Medically, the effect of circ seems slightly negative to neutral. (My objection is more philosophical; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.) But he seems quite adament that it's necessary. I'm hoping to change his mind about this, but if he's still so worked up about it by the time this hypothetical boy shows up, I'll probably defer to him on this one.

Posted by: D.C. | April 28, 2006 10:34 AM

We switch. Sometimes he's the dominant, sometimes I'm the dominant. We always take the other person's perspective into account, but if he's agreed to obey my authority on an issue, then we do that. Same when I agree to his authority.

Posted by: Liz | April 28, 2006 10:37 AM

In our house, the person who has done more research into a topic or has a bigger stake in the subject typically makes the final call.
For example, I commute more than 60 miles per day, and my husband works a mile away, so I have more say in the features of our primary vehicle. But the final price tag and financing is a joint decision.
But we find it helpful to start big decision making conversations with, "my thoughts are..." and if either of us isn't really as interested we make that known up front.
When it comes to kids, we try to point our son to the "enforcer" on each topic. For example, I am more of a stickler on topics like which friend can come over, does he really need that toy, etc. Whereas Dad is more of a stickler on sweets and bedtime. So if it's 8:00 and my son wants ice cream, I say, it's ok with me, but ask your Dad because it's close to bedtime.

Posted by: phillymom | April 28, 2006 10:38 AM

I'm the decider for a few reasons: I'm more thrifty, I care more, we trust each other to do what is best for each of us and our family, and I'm home more. And for this power, I do a majority of the house work, the research needed, present my choice in the right way, and live the quote from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding": "The Man may be the head of the house, but the Woman; she's the neck". The decider is the go-to person for snap decisions. I know our budget, I know our savings, and I know what our financial planner wants us to do.

This doesn't mean we don't share decisions - where we bought our house and my decision to go back to school which working were very much joint decisions. Throughout our marriage, we've learned we argue less with one "Decider". FairfaxWorkingMom was right - we'd rather go out to dinner together than spend the evening arguing over which new drapes to purchase or what to serve for dinner when his family is over.

Posted by: The Decider | April 28, 2006 10:40 AM

In response to Father of 4s comment, my son knows that the answer is final, if I said check with Dad, Dad says no, the answer is no. There is no volley.

Posted by: phillymom | April 28, 2006 10:44 AM

I also agree with the decided at least one person has to be the information bank for snap decision.

Posted by: phillymom | April 28, 2006 10:46 AM

"In your family, who makes the decisions regarding the kids' lives and why?"

For minor decisions, they generally get made by whichever adult happens to be supervising. Usually as a result it's my wife.
For major decisions (school, medical, etc) it's joint.

"Are your family decisions truly made jointly, or are subtle and not-so-subtle power plays at work?"

Can you say "BIASED QUESTION"? C'mon class, I know you can...

Anyway, yes they're made jointly. And of course, as in ANY relationship there are power plays which define "joint". I do not especially like to disappoint or anger my wife. Is that a "power play"? Or does it only count in reverse, because I make moremoney?

"Does the person in the family who earns the most money make the biggest decisions?"

This isn't hard at all: Not in my family.

I'd note, however, that in MANY relationships the husband is somewhat nire aggressive in personality.

Aggression often translates to dominance in the marriage. This is related to personality, not to sex--as in all the marriages I know where the woman is more aggressive, SHE tends to take the upper hand.

Posted by: Sailorman | April 28, 2006 10:52 AM

To The Supremes:

Your idea is very interesting. I can't see lots of applications for it--in committees and task forces, for instance. As long as the reluctant person who is given the duty to carry out tasks related to the decision accepts the decision--that is, doesn't carry his or her reluctance forward into sabotage--this could be a very good way to create solidarity and trust. Also, there's lots of good evidence from social psychology that people come to believe in the things they find themselves doing, which means that giving the task to the reluctant person is not only a good way to get that person on board initially, but also a good way for that person to come to own the decision in the long run.

Thanks for this good idea!

Posted by: THS | April 28, 2006 10:52 AM

I would propose that it isn't the biggness of the decisions but the quantity of them that influences a family. Is is more important to own a flat screen TV, a major purchase in most families, or is it more important that it's turned off every night after dinner so homework and reading can be done?

Is it the person paying for the car, or the person who drives it and the children to practices and games?

It's a bit of both. If my husband didn't have the high-stress/pay job there might not be a car, but we need me to be there at 4:30 in the afternoon driving it.

Posted by: RoseG | April 28, 2006 11:16 AM

From comments and stories I've heard from parents, it's the KIDS that make the day-to-day decisions. Even where to go on vacation, where to go to eat out, what car to buy. Not making a decision is making a decision to empower others.

Posted by: DC Resident | April 28, 2006 11:37 AM

Depends on what the decision is. I have made the majority of child care decisions, but I talk it through with my husband first, who seems fine with whatever I choose. We struggle with how to discipline. Other decisions we make jointly for the most part. I'd say it's fairly egalitarian.

Posted by: Indiana Mom | April 28, 2006 11:49 AM

We have to reach consensus on any important topic for one to move forward. When it comes to importatant decisions that impact my husband more than myself, like his job decisions, I try to suppress my own opinion and support him in exporing what's really best for him.

With the kids, I am definitely the decider. I made an important decision recently regarding the education of one of our kids that my husband did not agree with. I was convinced I was right and it turned out that I was. I'm just much closer to the subject than he is.

The kids will always try to play us off of one another, which rarely works. But there are times when one of us will appeal to the other to ammend a decision in support of the kid's wishes. It's fun to be the "cool parent" but that role usually falls to my husband.

Posted by: pta mom | April 28, 2006 11:56 AM

To father of 4,

Ha ha ha ha ha ha

My children know the answer is final too, but it doesn't stop them from testing the system and attempting to break it at every turn. Maybe it's a multiple-child thing...

Posted by: Mom of 3 | April 28, 2006 12:01 PM

"The Man may be the head of the house, but the Woman; she's the neck".

It's true not only in Greece but in many mediterranean and central/eastern european cultures.........

But our men are oblivious to this fact....and we like to keep it this way.

Posted by: a greek woman | April 28, 2006 12:02 PM

I think who is the decision-maker *I refuse to use Bush words* is based on the couple. In my house, I influence every major decision. Nothing gets bought, sold or spent until I okay it. I'm the financial officer. I tell my husband when we have money and when we don't, and what his limits are. It's not because I have a huge desire to control the finances, and when it comes to long-term planning, we decide together. It's just he doesn't handle the bank account or the bills. I do. When it comes to what car to buy, we agree on a price, and he can buy whatever he wants provided it meets the needs of the family *can seat all the children...* When it's my vehicle, I get to pick, etc etc. The children? We are on the same page on. So who makes most of the decisions? In our case, me, because I'm home and more aware of what's going on with the children. Who makes the BIG decisions? Both of us, together. Does the person with the most money make the most decisions? Oddly, in our house, no. I was more than half the decision maker on where to live, he more than half on the car he would drive. We do not have a 'decision maker' in the house, we both are. In a good, healthy marriage, the argument "I make more money than you" should never arise except in a moment of childish regression. Married couples are not two, single independent people living together, they are one unified partnership where both contribute and are valued, and the whole concept of 'my money' vs 'your money' is moot.

Posted by: This is silly | April 28, 2006 12:10 PM

to a greek woman...

Yes ha ha ha you are right, my grandmother was very much 'in charge' but nobody told my grandfather that... okay the men know but they prefer it that way. They get the image without the responsibility ha ha ha

Posted by: this is silly | April 28, 2006 12:11 PM

In my house we have a democracy-my wife and I both get a vote and she breaks all ties.

Posted by: Chris | April 28, 2006 12:16 PM

I'm fascinated by the comments here, especially those of the The Supremes and the woman who made the decision to "obey" her husband's wishes. My husband and I rarely disagree on major decisions, and have only had two real sticking points in six years of being together. I think for us the question has not been so much who decides but how we decide. I tend to read a lot and then make a very quick decision. He tends to mull things over and work his way more slowly to a decision point. So early on I learned to not expect to make up our minds the first time somthing came up. Now when there's something big to decide, one of us brings it up, we have some preliminary discussion, and then touch base a few times over the next few days or weeks till we come to a decision. It's like a process of triangulation for us.

On the point of money playing a role, here we are old-fashioned in a way not unlike FairFaxWorkingMom. We merged our finances completely when we got married. Unlike many of my female friends, I do not keep a separate account (though we each have a separate credit card in case something happens to the other, and we can't access our joint accounts, but we do not use them). We agreed that a marriage is a partnership, and we make decisions about money and finances together. He does all the bill paying and check-book balancing; I'm completely uninvolved in that, as he's much more organized. But we check in periodically on the big picture and of course I weigh in on the major decisions.

For almost four years while I was in school and then home with our son, I made no money, but it never was a point of contention in our decision making process, and I never felt like I had to ask for money or that the money we had wasn't OUR money. Now I work full time and my salary supports the family, my husband is stay at home and is starting his own biz. The same thing applies. I don't feel the money is mine, it's ours, and he has as much say in how it is spent as I do. This goes for purchases that benefit one of us more than the other too - for example, he needs a new bass amp, so we figured out together how to pay for it. When I want a personal item that is on the pricey side, I run it past him.

I feel like we are much more at peace with this than many of my friends who maintain separate accounts and frequently bicker about who will pay for what out of what account.

Posted by: Megan | April 28, 2006 12:18 PM

Bush will only be "The Decider" for a few more years, fortunately, unless the true Deciders (the American public) decide that we are better off impeaching him for all his bad decisions. And then, even if he remains in office for the rest of his natural term, he will only be The Decider on issues that don't require Congress to sign off on it. In other words, a more accurate nick-name for "The Decider" would be "The Duck."

Sorry for taking this off topic. I felt like the arrogance in Bush's comments needed attention here.

Posted by: Off-Topic | April 28, 2006 1:13 PM

My husband and I got married, in part, because we have the same preferences. We're both the decider, and neither of us is the decider, because 99% of the time we come to the same decision separately, with no discussion at all. The only "disagreement" I can think of is when we bought a car. He cares deeply about horsepower and torque; I just wanted a stick shift. So he pretty much made the car decision (2003 Jetta GLI) on his own.

I know lots of people who are very happy having meta-discussions with their partners about their relationships and who decides what and how issues will be worked out. Good for them; I'm glad they married people who also enjoy those kinds of discussions. I am emphatically not one of them, and if I hadn't met someone whose preferences and judgments merged so seamlessly with mine, I probably would have stayed single rather than work out a system of who decides what. The idea makes my skin crawl.

Posted by: Lizzie | April 28, 2006 1:26 PM

I'd like to offer my 2 cents from the other perspective. As someone in my mid-20s, I remember well asking my parents for things when I was a child and teenager (and college student). For all decisions of any importance, whichever parent I asked would tell me that they would have to discuss it with the other parent. A couple of days later they both would tell me the answer. I never heard the discussions, because they always happened in private, so I never knew which parent was "the decider." At the time, I frequently found it frustrating that they wouldn't give me an immediate answer, but looking back on it I really respect their desire to present a united front. It's definitely something that I hope to find in my own marriage and family in the future.

Posted by: Charlottesville | April 28, 2006 1:45 PM

Between me and my wife, we make decisions depends on the nature of the business. If it's a big thing, I am the decider; she gets to decide other things.

Small things like grocery, kids' school, those are her arena. I decide big things like: should Rumsfeld resign, or things like: is Iraq war a catastrophe or not.

Make no mistake, I am the man in the house.

Posted by: Man in the house | April 28, 2006 1:46 PM

Father of 4, you are hillarious today again!

I think decisions need to be made on who is going to use the item most. For a car, other than making sure it meets basic household needs, I fully expect to make the decision for my car, and he for his. I also don't pick out his clothing and tell him what to wear.

I also defer to him on matters that I don't want to research and already know he'll make good decisions, or give me a few reasonable choices on.

On major purchases, we try to wait until we have the cash to purchase it outright, by then the emotiional *need* to own it, has frequently gone away, and we've made an excellent decision.

Then again, in our relationship we are nearly interchangable on most things--both cook, clean, deal with emergencies, etc, and I value that more than any expensive item.

Posted by: ljb | April 28, 2006 1:59 PM

I bet "Man in the house" is Dick Cheney...

Posted by: Lurker | April 28, 2006 2:01 PM

First of all, can't stand Bush and won't use his words.

In our house, I am the one who makes most decisions -- not because my adored husband can't or won't, but because I like to and am good at it. There are decisions that he makes solo, mostly things to do with the boat and auto maintenance, or when the time is right to refinance or adjust investments, etc. I make almost all decisions regarding our children unilaterally. Whether it's a big decision, like which school should they attend, or a minute decision, like which clothes they're going to wear today, he just doesn't care as much as I do. He's much more laid back. I also like to do research on things like car purchases, vacations, furniture and furnishings, etc. I will sometimes ask his opinion of a decision I'm about to implement or something we're going to purchase, but that's kind of just a formality. From time to time, he feels very strongly we should make a different choice than the one I propose, and when that happens, I will usually give way. It's just so rare, and it's usually over something (for example and most recently, an entertainment center) that I can live with, nothing earth shattering. We have been together 9 years and this works for us.

The drawback is that sometimes I feel like I have the logistics of our lives in my brain and he just gets to show up, but that's the price I pay for making most of the choices.

Posted by: RaleighMum | April 28, 2006 2:06 PM

For my wife and I, major things tend to be joint decisions. If we disagree, we talk about it until we do reach an agreement- which is sometimes to agree to disagree. I tend to make decisions with my gut, she is very analytical and wants all the facts- and I mean all the facts- which can be maddening at times because you never get all the facts.

The result can sometimes be that I just have to let the situation reach the boiling point where we have to make a decision- and have to act- because there is no alternative. Sound like a cheap way out? Maybe. But, I'd rather have that than a wife who felt like I forced my will through each and every decision. And, sometimes, I will have to say, waiting to get all the facts can change our decision than what I thought. So, it's a good balance. I just know that in most things I will have to take the first step- her inclination is to say "I don't know yet" or "Lots to think about" than just make a decision.

Has it ever boiled down to who made more money? Sometimes in subtle ways. Cars, name it. I think it is almost natural if you make more money, or if you are the only one working, to think you should have more control of the finances or how that money is spent- and I thin that applies equally to men and women. My best advice- if that seems to be the case- I call my wife on it then and there. Just as she has for me. If she says no or I say no, then we have to talk it out. Communication is the great equalizer for that. You say no, then you have no business acting like who makes more does matter. Money to me is a means of support in marriage- it is a way for you to live, have a home, put food on the table, take care of kids, etc. So, if that's the case, then in my mind if someone has the upper hand because they make more and are providing support- then perhaps you have to quantify all the other means of support-like caring for your spouse when they are sick, picking up around the house, doing laundry, washing dishes. How do you attach a monetary value to folded laundry, kids in bed and an emptied dishwasher? You can't. I think you just have to insure it balances out. Agree who is responsible for what, and who does what, and if you feel that you are being taken advantage of or if it ultimately isn't at least equitable, or that person isn't holding up their end of the bargain- you speak up and revisit the situation. There was a blog a couple weeks back that talked about the "new" husbands and fathers- and I've read some posts here about a tacit understanding that women are really in charge, men in name only. Frankly, I don't think either person can or should be in charge- my wife used to say that and, much to her chagrin, I would never agree that that has to be the case. And, yes, after she got all the facts about what kind of husband I was, she went back and admitted that really didn't need to be the case. You live, grow and learn one is the head or the neck.
Frankly, I don't manage the finances in my marriage because my wife is far better at it than I am. I like to know what is going on, but that's about it.
I guess there are subtleties in language, but I never have been "told" I can get this or that. I would make a point if I was "told" to do something or "told" I could have X to not do it or not get it. Just disrespectful in my book.

Posted by: CD in DC | April 28, 2006 2:07 PM

The language of this discussion is foreign to me -- in my marriage, there is no "decider." We don't have any mechanical system for whose wishes trump. We seem to reach most decisions by consensus, but it's almost never a formal discussion. Actually, I can't even really articulate how decisions get made exactly, all I know is that they do somehow.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 28, 2006 2:25 PM

To Father of 4

I sometimes use that tactic -- it's pretty fun, to tell you the truth. "Sure your dad can take you out for a bike ride and ice cream." Just let him try and get out of that!

And that's pretty much what I'd do if I agreed to a puppy. But the deal in this house is if I get another pet he gets another bike.

Posted by: pta mom | April 28, 2006 2:49 PM

In my family, I'm the closer. My wife usually researches several different options, we talk about it, and I pick one to go with. I figure if she wouldn't like an option, she wouldn't present it to me.

Posted by: Closer | April 28, 2006 3:17 PM

I'm CLEARLY the decider in my house. I decide to do what my wife says every time.

I love Bush words, but more importantly, I love the effect they have on those who are insecure in their own beliefs.

Posted by: Jacknut | April 28, 2006 3:19 PM

With me and my wife it's all about the tolerance for risk. She's much more cautious then I am, which normally is a good thing, but at some big points in life, like deciding to have a baby, buying a house, taking a trip to a foreign land, you just have to jump in and start swimming. It hasn't always worked out, but as Annie Hall says "La Di Dah, La Di Dah, Dah Dah..."

Posted by: Closer | April 28, 2006 3:29 PM

Bush is such an embarressment! A person who is supposedly EDUCATED to use words like "decider"!! He could have said that he makes the final decision (perhaps he doesn't). What happened to that Yale education?? Went right out the window when he got elected!!

Posted by: North Carolina | April 28, 2006 3:36 PM

I think it's pretty clear that GWB didn't spend a lot of Friday nights in the library during his days at Yale. That said, even though I don't like him at all, I sort of like "the decider." It's a funny word that reflects a real activity. A more articulate person might have said, "I'm the ne who makes the decisions," but ""decider" is clear and emphatic, which is what I think he meant to be. He's made it clear that he understands he is not, to say the least, eloquent, so let's give him credit for being at least mildly amusing from time to time. GWB gave us a new and amusing word, which is much better than a new and not-funny war.

As for Jacknut, I don't see that there's any reason to assume that disdain for GWB's vocabulary indicates that people are insecure in their beliefs. Seems like they are pretty secure in their beliefs about him!

Posted by: THS | April 28, 2006 4:25 PM

To FairfaxWorkingMom: Glad to hear you found such a compassionate master to "obey." Surprised, though, that you work outside the home given that few women from 30 yrs ago -- the era of which you are so fond -- did.

Posted by: Charlotte Perkins Gilman | April 28, 2006 4:44 PM

I think I make most decisions, and my husband thinks he makes most decisions. I definitely make the day-to-day decisions about kids (including the big ones) where they go to school, what religion to raise them....though I would discuss it first and talk him into it if he didn't like my decision at first!

Posted by: Working Mom | April 28, 2006 4:53 PM

When in conflict over a decision with my wife occurs...I typically go to surrender.


Its post like yours that are rather inflammatory and destine to create cat fights. FairfaxWorkingMom never called her husband her "Master" that you so quickly espoused. If it works in their relationship let it ride. Who made you the great "Decider" of what to call a working relationship?

Posted by: DE Dad | April 28, 2006 4:57 PM

My dictionary includes "decider." Thank you Mr. President for broadening my vocabulary.

Posted by: The Decider Looker-upper | April 28, 2006 5:07 PM

About that old Jewish joke...
It was said of Lyndon Johnson that he made the important decisions, like where to live, what jobs to take, where the kids go to school, the budget, and Lady Bird made the unimportant decisions, like whether to recognize Red China.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 28, 2006 5:12 PM

Hey DE Dad -- newsflash, you don't "obey" partners or co-equals. BTW, if FairfaxWorkingMom posts it, I can "decide" to call her out on her antiquated matrimonial views if I so chose. That's the great thing about being a "decider" -- you have options, unlike one who simply obeys orders.

PS -- I object to the sexist characterization of my post an invitation to create a "cat fight."

Posted by: Charlotte Perkins Gilman | April 28, 2006 5:15 PM


First off, I do apologize for using the sexist comment "cat fight" it was inappropriate (especially when it comes from a guy).

However, "Newsflash" because one has a final say does not make them "Masters." If that is you definition then all managers and supervisors are "Masters." I think again you conjure up terms that are over the top. I would like your source of information that defines her relationship with her husband as "antiquated matrimonial views." It is rather your "close minded" notion of what is a relationship that defines her husband as "Master." Again, I saw nothing in FairfaxWorkingMom post that judged others, but I do see unfounded condemnation.

Posted by: DE Dad | April 28, 2006 5:31 PM

In my house, there are two adult employed women partners and no kids. And I would very much appreciate it, Leslie, if you would word your columns and blog entries in a way that doesn't exclude us by assuming that all households are heterosexual and/or include children.

Posted by: DMS | April 28, 2006 5:58 PM

DMS - while I completely agree that Leslie's columns should be worded in a way that doesn't assume all households are hetereosexual, I think your point about kids isn't quite fair, given that the official description of the blog is: "illuminating the work/family debate through stories from moms about how we juggle work and kids..."

The blog is about balancing work and children, hence most columns will refer to having children. I'd like to see the word mom replaced with parent, as many readers are dads (including dads in homosexual households), but I think the kids part is pretty central to the premise.

Posted by: Megan | April 28, 2006 6:09 PM

DMS, let me warn you now, heterosexuality is the LEAST of Leslie's assumptions about gender roles! While I appreciate that she is bringing her perspective to the discussion, she never sees her experiences as a case study, she sees them as indicative of all mothers and fathers. I just keep reading because the comments are sometimes pretty insightful and affirming, and after being textually berates at length, Leslie occasionally acknowledges that not all men are clueless, oblivious ingrates.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | April 28, 2006 8:11 PM

Goldilocks and the Three Bears just happens to be one of my favorite books. Not only is it a timeless, classic work of literature, but its one of the few books I can actually read with comnprehension. One of my favorite parts is where Goldilocks discovers that there is a big difference between Mommy Bear's, Daddy's Bear, and Baby's Bear chair. Hang in there with me on this one.
Prior to our marriage, my wife and I pulled a dining room set out of her Father's garage. It had 6 chairs which were old, flimsy, and in very poor, nasty condition, but they worked after I refinished them. To make a 16 year old and 4 kids later story short, we have 4 left, by next week there will be only 3, and we've replaced the splintered ones with patio chairs. So, with the tax refund, we have jointly decided to buy new chairs for our dining room table. Great! So now after several weeks, I've spent hours and hours shopping for chairs we can both agree on. I swear, I've parked my butt on every chair in every furniture store in Fairfax County. I like some chairs, my wife likes some chairs. The problem is, however; that my buttocks has been constructed differently than my wife's buttocks; hence, a big difference in chair preference. I have the perfect solution: I buy the chair that fits my butt, and she buys the chair that fits her butt the best, and then we would both be happy and enjoy the maximum comfort during dinner. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope! My wife will have none of that. Imagine what the friends, family, and neighbors would say if they happen to see mismatched, miscolored dining room chairs. Imagine the complete embarrassment, the tragedy, the gossip that would ensue. (not that they see the patio chair solution right now) I have half a mind to just go out and buy a single chair for myself and let that be that. But I know, if I did, my wife would gladly pass the methane during dinner and assert her BMW (Btch, Moan, Whine) attitude. I'm sure Goldilocks would be perfectly fine sitting in the chair which she finds most comfortable, but my wife is no Goldilocks. As an equal quality decider in my relationship, I could really, really use some advice in handling this matter, especially from those of you regular posters that have a great marriage. I'm beginning to trust you a little.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 29, 2006 12:50 AM

Father of 4: My husband is 6'2" and I'm 5'1" and we have a similar issue when it comes to buying chairs. Any way your wife can get 7 or 8 of the chairs she likes, and you can buy 1 chair (maybe in a similar stain/color as the others) that you find comfy? Then, when the company comes (which can't be all the time, is it?) you can deal for that one night, hide your chair in the back room, and sit on an uncomfy chair and no one will ever be the wiser (do they really care?). Conversely, you can buy 8 of the chair you like and 1 of the chair she likes and SHE can deal with the discomfort on occasion...I'll let you sort that one out...(chances are your guests won't be perfectly comfortable in either case, but everything will look nice...oi!)

Posted by: Shorty | April 29, 2006 11:39 AM

I'm a little alarmed at the posts from women (not just today) who say their husband handles all of the finances and they stay out of it. Please, please familiarize yourself with all accounts, lines of credit, bills, etc.; in the unfortunate event that something happens to your husband, it will make a rough situation a lot worse to suddenly find yourself responsible for all of it and utterly clueless about the details for your financial status.

On that note (and even more thoroughly off-topic), can I also make a plug for coming up with a plan for what happens to your kids if something happens to both of you (this is for everyone here with kids)? Discuss it with your spouse, discuss it with your parents and siblings...and document it. Again, if both parents die and there's no plan for a custodian for the minor children, a rotten situation gets a lot scarier and more traumatic. Don't just assume your relatives will do what you want if you haven't both discussed it with them and written it down (preferably in your will, which everyone should have, too...)

Thus endeth the Plan for the Worst PDA.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 29, 2006 2:04 PM

PSA, not PDA. Sneesh.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 29, 2006 2:17 PM

No offense, but Leslie's board is about working parents. While I think she should include all parents in her discussion, she can't include everyone. For example, would her blog start like this:

Who makes the decisions in your house, please pick from one of the below.

Single mother, single father, grandmother who adopted the children no one wanted, adoptive mother of a Chinese baby, homosexual partners with children, lesbian women without children, uncle Joe who visits on occasion and baby sits, regular old heterosexual parents, single people who live alone, but like to read blogs about working mothers vs. SAHM ,grandpa Sally and grandma rose, oh, and Sam the dog.

She can't make everyone happy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 29, 2006 6:38 PM

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: 30 years ago, it was 1976. Many, many, many women were working. Indeed, many women - some would say most women - were working 50 and 70 years ago. Please do not use the word "women" as a proxy for "upper and upper middle class class white women."

Posted by: Lizzie | May 1, 2006 8:25 AM

(No name given) wrote: "I'm a little alarmed at the posts from women (not just today) who say their husband handles all of the finances and they stay out of it. Please, please familiarize yourself with all accounts, lines of credit, bills, etc.; in the unfortunate event that something happens to your husband, it will make a rough situation a lot worse to suddenly find yourself responsible for all of it and utterly clueless about the details for your financial status. "

Hear, hear! My wife and I constantly butt heads over her level of involvement in our finances, which is very little but improving. I've had to forcer her to sit down and take a look at our finances, where the money is, where it's coming from and where it's going. She's starting to understand why it's important, but it's frustrating and more than a little bit scary to me that I have to know where everything is.

THS wrote: "As for Jacknut, I don't see that there's any reason to assume that disdain for GWB's vocabulary indicates that people are insecure in their beliefs. Seems like they are pretty secure in their beliefs about him!"

I've found that those who are quick to take offense are the least secure about their own beliefs. If you're really that adamant about not using words Bush uses, than don't use any of them. :)

Posted by: Jacknut | May 1, 2006 11:09 AM

I'm 75 now but when my two older boys were babies, I had to go to work. I made the time I had with them more valuable. Today these boys are physicians and have good families. I think I did the right things for them. Their father was quite busy with medical school and working part-time as well, so time with the boys was tremendously important. Being Christian people helped, I think.

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