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Do Dads Whine Less Than Moms?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

It’s a well-established fact that I have some of the best kids on the face of the Earth. They are (generally) polite and spunky and funny and curious. But they do drive me nuts sometimes, and I would be more than happy to regale you with stories of full-tilt, these-go-to-11 tantrums in the supermarket or dinner hours with a suddenly sullen daughter.

But Paul Nyhan, who writes the Working Father blog, noted recently that it seems like fathers just don’t have the same permission to moan and complain about the kids that moms do. There is a certain I’ve-been-there-too cache among moms to telling horror stories, a kind of instant bond between mothers, that dads just don’t have yet. (It’s this bond that has driven a lot of marketing to moms, from CafeMom’s “No Dads. No Kids” ads to Parenting’s marketing slogan “We Get Moms.”)

A quick tour of the blogosphere would seem to support the theory. There has been an explosion of mommyblogging, and you can now pick between your choice of dozens of well-written blogs on motherhood, many of which spend a lot of time documenting, with razor-sharp wit, the perils of bringing up kids. Turn to the (far smaller) daddyblogosphere, and there just seems to be less of that what-a-day! kind of rhetoric.

My knee-jerk reaction is that this is a matter of dads – as group – just not earning our stripes yet. I know that though I take great pride in the whole equal-parenting thing, and though father-involvement is at record levels, there is a still a gulf between what the average mom does on an average day and what an average dad does. You have to take some responsibility for changing the diaper before you can tell poopy-diaper disaster stories, and you have to be the one washing the vomit-encrusted sheets if you want your tale of the stomach flu to be taken seriously.

But I’m not fully convinced that not it’s some other, more subtle cultural factor; when I’ve been around huge groups of involved fathers, there has actually been fairly little ranting about the little devils. So, naturally, when I stumble across such parenting trends, I like to poll the most thoughtful group I can find: On Parenting readers. Do you all believe that dads are less likely to whine about the stresses of parenthood and – if so – why?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  January 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
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I can only speak for moxiedad, but when you parent for 2 hours a night and on weekends, the whole thing is a lot less overwhelming. All the SAHDs I know complain just the same as the SAHMS. Its an issue of primary responsibility and resultant exposure. Its kind of like how I don't whine about those bozos in HR. (my apologies to any HR professionals, it was as an example only)

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 15, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

All any of us can do is give ourselves as examples. As such, both my wife and I work full-time while our son is in daycare during the day. She drops him off (0730) and I pick him up (1500). She has gone on a multitude of business trips and I've been responsible for everything and, without exception, haven't asked for any assistance. Her trips have ranged from 4 - 12 days and, overall, the whole thing has been easy. I've been out of town for, at most, 3 days and have only been gone maybe 4 times. The difference between the two of us is that it wasn't until this last trip of mine that she didn't have her parents come down from MA to help her while I was away and that was only because I told her I didn't want to have to deal with them at both ends of my trip and the upcoming holidays. I believe that, in general, men simply approach everything that we do as something that just has to get done so there is no need to whine about it. In the end, a diaper disaster is nothing more than a mess that needs to get cleaned up, always it is just for your child and what is more precious than that? So we don't whine.

Posted by: cmub | January 15, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Yes, we as men are less likely to whine about anything!

Just the way it is!

(waiting for Jezebel to make her typical remark.)

Posted by: nonamehere | January 15, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

It's cultural, not biological. After all, as a man, who are you going to whine to?

- you can't whine to the mothers you know, because you're not going to get any sympathy. Zip, zilch, nada. They're simply not going to believe you're that involved or that your life is that tough; you're more likely to get a lecture on how you have it far far better than moms in the same situation.

- you can't whine to the other men at work or in your social group; they just don't want to hear it. Whine about how the Steelers have still never crossed the goal line in Baltimore this season? They're so with you (or against you :-) Whine about Ovechkin not being an all-star starter, or the economy going south, or the idiot boss? Yeah, they're in. Whine about the kids at home? Hey, pal, I can go home and hear that from my wife (or ex-wife); I don't need it here, too.

(As my late father the First Sergeant used to say: "Looking for sympathy? Look in the dictionary between sh*t and syphilis. That's where you'll find sympathy. Ain't none around here.")

So when you're around the few men who MIGHT show you some sympathy - involved fathers - you're used to avoiding the topic. Easier to talk about how, seeing the Ravens' success, soon Washington will want a professional football team of its own.

The only whining about kids that seems to be acceptable is the kind of "you can't believe how big an idiot my teenager is" stuff that equates to "my anatomy is bigger than yours." E.g., "my son spent hours doing all his homework - then went off and left it on the kitchen table so he got a zero." "Oh? Well, my son did his homework, then put it in his backpack. Then he got to school AND COULDN'T FIND IT IN HIS BACKPACK so he got a zero."

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 15, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

"Do Dads Whine Less Than Moms?"

In our home: no. I'm not a perfect mother, and I lose my temper with the kids, sure, but I'm talking about at the end of a long day and they're flying off of the handle during the 5pm-7pm Crazy Hours. With my husband, it takes 5 minutes for him to "become a race car in the red."

So, no. I think that - in our home - Dad whines more than Mom.

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | January 15, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Us guys are very logical. Like, what problem does whining actally solve? Exactly, it solves nothing. So why bother whining when you could be dealing with whatever is going on?

Posted by: nealbscott | January 15, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

There is no doubt that my husband whines much more about child care issues than I do. Every single day he whines and complains and tries to get out of some aspect of child care. He loves our son and wants to do the fun stuff, but diaper changes? not so much.

Posted by: VaLGaL | January 15, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

This kind of reminds me of something my dad says "If a man complains, and a woman isn't around to hear him, is he still wrong?"

I think guys whine less because (a) it's not their nature to whine and (b) they don't do as much as moms in the parenting picture, so they have less to whine about. Girls seem to be more whiny than boys, I noticed that when I was teaching and I notice it now with my two.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 15, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and nonamehere, I will help you with your (predictable, redundant, annoying)jezebel fix:

Every Dad is an individual.
Brian is a pretentious bore.

(Yes I know it should be "boor", but jezebel does not.)

Posted by: VaLGaL | January 15, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

It has been my experience that men in general show their frustration and annoyance in other ways than whining. I think that probably accounts for most of what Brian is seeing. Women use talk to relate to others and men often don't.

Posted by: jjtwo | January 15, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Brian, the word "whining" is pretty much a loaded word synonymous to the term "identifying a problem", though whining denotes more of a situation of pettiness. I'm sure King George even thought the Declaration of Independence was nothing short of a complaint list composed by whining, sniveling, [all male] peasants from the new world. Yet the document is the foundation that formed one of the most powerful countries the planet has ever known.

Having said that, yes, I think mothers definitely whine about their role in parenting more than fathers do. Why? Well, for one thing, they have a heck of a lot more to whine about than us fathers do, especially in the very beginning of parenthood. Comparing my role in making a baby to Ms Weasel's, there is absolutely nothing I can complain about that doesn't deserve me getting slapped. What she went through however, what can I say other than, WOW!

I also think that mothers are a lot more detailed oriented with their kids than fathers are. For instance, when I take my kids out to play, I don't care if their clothes are coordinated, their shoes and socks match, or if they are even wearing shoes to begin with. My job is to wear them out so they don't drive Ms Weasel nuts, and as long as I bring them back in 1 piece and not needing stitches, I think I've successfully done my share. My job is to get them dirty, her job is to get them clean. I have no complaint with playing with my kids, however, a filthy kid is a problem, but not one that I care about much.

And the things mommies do for "cute" has me rolling my eyes. The effort that mothers put in the details and attention of achieving "cuteness" in their children are one of those things that go beyond my understanding of the female sex.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 15, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Dads are usually busy whining about their wives.

In my group of dad friends, the best and most repeated theme is how ALL of our wives constantly remind us how to feed, dress and care for our little ones.

maybe some of the moms on this blog can enlighten me. do you think your husband's way of caring for the little one needs your instructions and reminders?

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | January 15, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX: "I think guys whine less because (a) it's not their nature to whine..."

jjtwo: "It has been my experience that men in general show their frustration and annoyance in other ways than whining."

I hate to turn against my own gender, but some men do whine way too much - just not about kids.


- Any UTexas fan, complaining that Oklahoma was in the BCS championship game despite that 45-35 score in Dallas

- Any CEO complaining about how short-sellers are unfairly driving his stock price down (cf Patrick Byrne of

- Any Mac user forced to use a Vista-based PC

I could go on...:-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 15, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Thank you ValGal, yes, I would call Jezebel a boor not a bore!

Posted by: nonamehere | January 15, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

- you can't whine to the mothers you know, because you're not going to get any sympathy. Zip, zilch, nada. They're simply not going to believe you're that involved or that your life is that tough; you're more likely to get a lecture on how you have it far far better than moms in the same situation.
Army brat, you obviously have never met moxie mil! hee hee

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 15, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't complain too much about my honey's treatment of his kids. On the other hand, I am about on par with him about whether or not they have mitts and hats and so on.

I like Whacky Weasel's comment about attention to detail. I don't know about other households but in our household there is a difference in attention to nurturing. My husband doesn't kiss the kids goodnight unless I tell him to. If an injury isn't life threatening? Ignored. No kissing the booboo, the bandage... no nothing. Child is throwing up in the bathroom? As long as he doesn't call for help, he doesn't go and make sure that child is ok, his mouth is rinsed out and wiped off and so on and so forth.

He does the big picture stuff like making sure the kids won't kill themselves, wreck the house, gets food into them and clean clothes on them. He bathes them and washes their clothes.

I don't know what he does with other guys or people but I suspect there isn't much whining going on. He is not very talkative. Between the two of us? I think the whining is on par. I talk about the kids and their exploits (good and bad) but I don't think I do a lot of whining either outside of the family.

Posted by: Billie_R | January 15, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I can't speak to the stay at home dads, but the working dads who have to step up when something calls their working wives away DEFINITELY whine more, or post self-congratulatory notices on their sites about how they are "stepping up" to do what the wife has done all along. jeesh.

Posted by: jake13 | January 15, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

We're not big whiners in our house. My husband and I are truly a 50/50 childcare couple. It's actually a bit more on his shoulders these days, by his choice, as I enter the cumbersome last weeks of pregnancy. I can absolutely see whining about your spouses involvement, but there's no point in whining about normal parenting stuff. I know I'm not complaining or offering any critiques because it's been great!

Posted by: atb2 | January 15, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 15, 2009 9:13 AM

Hey hey hey. That OU thing was a freaking travesty.

But your first post was right on.

Posted by: laura33 | January 15, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I love how all the Texas fans who "whined" about Oklahoma getting in the Big 12 championship conveniently forget about the loss to Texas Tech.

Posted by: dennis5 | January 15, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Men do their share of whining, but women do it to themselves.

For instance, they will watch Martha Stuart, then whine that she is way over the top.

Then they will clutter the counter tops with bananna stands, cute little recipe holders, mug racks, toaster ovens, ice-tea makers, bread machines, tins, crocks...,

and then whine that their kitchen is too small.

And my personal favorite - they will collect and fill shelves up with "cute" little nick-nacks all over the house, then whine about doing the dusting.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 15, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Well we can be assured that there are SOME dads on this board who whine more........

I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: nightfalls | January 15, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Whacky - um, the combination toaster oven/rotisserie, the Belgian waffle maker and the fancy single-cup coffee maker are mine, not DW's. So when she whines about the lack of counter space I don't have much of a leg to stand on. :-)

Ditto Dennis on the Texas Tech bit. Win all your games or stop whining. (You Utah folks get a three week free pass, then you have to shut up, too. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 15, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Whacky, while you do have a point. FYI, the kitchen, bath and closet will ALWAYS be too small! :)

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 15, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Men generally do not whine about these sorts of things. We whine about refs not making the right calls. We may think about complaining about all the issues around the house, but most me have a natural self-censoring switch in their brains that allows minor transgressions in the household to pass without verbal comment. Only when it rises to a substantial problem is there a need to discuss it.

Posted by: khafre1 | January 15, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

AB - the toaster oven/rotisserie cooks manfood, the Belgian waffle maker, yum, who can complain about that? And the coffee maker is necessary for production. All these items are counter acceptable.

Just to let you know, in the Whacky kitchen, the dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator all match. What more could a woman possibly want in her kitchen?

Answer: a refrigerator where little kids drawings and school carp cann be attached with a magnet like the old one. Guess what? Those stainless steel refrigerators, unlike the style would suggest, don't have enough steel in them for a magnet to attach too. (Something I learned from Leslie's blog way back when)

So now I'll never have to whine about a bunch of junk falling off the refrigerator doors when I get myself a beer. Hahaha! That's what I call win-win.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 15, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Whacky - um, the combination toaster oven/rotisserie, the Belgian waffle maker and the fancy single-cup coffee maker are mine, not DW's. So when she whines about the lack of counter space I don't have much of a leg to stand on. :-)

Hey, a husband who cooks? Darned if I would whine about the counter space! Fill it all up, and I'd like some more Belgian waffles, please!

On topic, maybe it's a terminology thing. Women whine to their girls and men vent to their boys.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | January 15, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"the kitchen, bath and closet will ALWAYS be too small!"

Moxiemom, I think most women will agree that size makes a difference. :-)

But let's leave that can of worms for another day.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 15, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

@jake13: Excellent point. Fathers suddenly thrust into kid duty do have a tendency to up the whining quotient.

@ArmyBrat: Thank you for giving me an opening to whine about Ovetchkin: It is a terrible, terrible travesty that he is not an all-star starter. And Backstrom also got jobbed in not being named to the team. Phew. Good to get that off my chest.

Posted by: rebeldad | January 15, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Dad. Here's my view on whining about parenting:

1) Virtually everyday, I have good reason to whine about things like traffic, my job, slow lines at the store, and assorted other aggravations. But I have a limit on the amount of whining I want to do in my life, and I don't really want to whine about my kid the way I whine about someone's driving. The two really shouldn't be equated.

2) As part of a couple that suffered through infertility for many years before finally being able to adopt, the joys of parenting greatly outweigh the headaches for us. I think I used up a good bit of my parental whining ability when I was whining about not being a parent. None of the downsides of parenting that might give me cause to whine even remotely approach what I've already been through. Perspective is a very good thing.

3) At least for me, I've never gotten much satisfaction or solace from participating in group whine sessions. It just doesn't do it for me. For me, it's much better to be in a room of good dads where instead of whining about each other's kids and our lot in life (even though it's what we voluntarily chose for ourselves), we can talk about the hopes and fears we often feel about our kids and about ourselves as parents. This is just a whole lot more constructive, and it doesn't make me feel dirty or disloyal the way I know I'd feel if I was dissing my own kid in mixed company.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | January 15, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

AB -- head-to-head, baby. :-)

On topic: I see another difference here. DH and I both deal with similar recurring frustrations (kids, jobs, traffic, etc). I tend to deal with that frustration by venting a bit, regularly -- tell the funny-but-aggravating story about the doofus at work, do an "ARGH!" to my husband at night after the kids have gone to bed, etc. He doesn't do that so much; more the "strong silent" masculine stereotype. But then the pressure and aggravation and annoyance keeps building, and at some point, he blows. Not like bad/abusive stuff, but he'll definitely get madder than he should over something inconsequential, or yell, or go sulk, etc. His best stress management technique is to go out to the woodshop and run the tablesaw for a few hours.

So, yeah, I'd say I definitely whine more (though I call it "b-tching," as I hate that whiney tone). But I also blow up less, and have a little bit more patience with the kids on a daily basis. I don't want to generalize too much, because everyone's different, but I do know a number of other families with a similar dynamic. I think venting/whining is a coping mechanism; it can work for both men and women (DH tends to be much more relaxed after I can get him talking), but I think women are more socialized to talk it through, while men are more socialized to work it out for themselves and show no weakness.

Posted by: laura33 | January 15, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

AB, no empirical evidence, just anecdotal. I've noticed it in my own kids and the kids I taught: girls are more whiny. Boys sulk silently. Both seem to "get over it" equally fast for the most part (other than the occasional kid who holds grudges exceptionally well). Just my $.02.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 15, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I've whined much about my kids. For one thing, I would always think about my mom, raising 8 of us, and shut my mouth about whatever issues arose with my 2. For another, whining/complaining just never has made me feel better. Not that I didn't ever get frustrated, I did, but I tend to want to move on, fix the problem, focus on something positive.

Posted by: catherine3 | January 15, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Steel is an alloy (i.e. combination of metals), which contains iron. That's why it's generally magnetic. The addition of nickel to some types of stainless alters the structure of the iron so that it's no longer magnetic. So there's plenty of "steel" in your fridge it's just not magnetic.

As to whining. When I get together with the guys we just have other things to talk about. Also given our competitive nature any whining would immediately get turned in to a game of on-up-manship. Kind of like "oh you think that's bad ... well the other day it not only ran down the side of his leg but then he decided to use it to finger paint on the new TV"

@ArmyBrat. I love the Frist Sgt's quote.

Posted by: foxn | January 15, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The difference is probably not a function of dads being allowed to whine or men whining less than women.

My observation is that men talk about their personal lives a whole lot less in general.

You can learn a lot about female college students during the course of a semester even without asking them anything. They enter the room talking. "You would not believe what just happened...." The males don't say squat.

The pattern also applies to older adults. On long group runs or bike rides, the women talk about what's going on at work, what their kids did the other day, how they went about choosing Christmas trees.

The men, when they talk at all, stick to third party stuff. The subjects of specific conversations within the past two months were college football, real estate prices, satellite radio. I've been running with one guy off and on for more than a year and didn't find out until this week that he's married.

Posted by: gretel1 | January 15, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Well.. I'd whine about it if anyone would listen. I'm a stay-at-home Dad.. been there with my kids since birth .. now home-school one 3 days a week.. 6yo and 3yo..

I _can_ lament a bit with the other *grumble* Moms.. meaning.. I'm accepted enough that other full-timers allow me to share stories.. But.. sharing stories isn't whining.. (( ))

What do _I_ whine about?.. my spouse.. Yup.. just like any other stay-at-home.. the working spouse just isn't up to snuff on a lot of what's happening.

It changes by the minute. That's not her fault. How she deals with being out of synch _is_ her fault.

So.. lament, yes.. Whine, no.

Posted by: Eat2surf | January 15, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the difference is who people are doing their whining to. I completely think my husband whines more than I do. Unfortunately, he does all his whining to me, about the kids or anything else. My friends hear more of my whining than my husband does.

Posted by: RandomPerson | January 16, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Someone else mentioned that "whining" is a loaded word. I don't think of any of these comments by Moms OR Dads as "whining." They may be complaints, or sharing of disaster stories as a way of bonding. But they are not usually whining.

Posted by: trishclay | January 16, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I'd have to say dads definitely do whine, or complain, less. Part of it is because many dads aren't as involved with the day to day ups and downs of childrearing. Part of it is because they don't need to justify their day by dramatizing their many exploits.

Part of it also is because, in my experience, dads tend to be less picky. They go with the flow more. Of course, it drives many of us moms crazy that the dads don't necessarily mind if the kids don't have a bath for a week, or eat froot loops for dinner, or watch roadrunner cartoons all afternoon. They just don't have as rigid standards, and maybe a little of that's good thing.

Posted by: ElaineatLipstickdaily | January 17, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The other evening, I had some urgent work to do and DH did the bath and evening routine for our kids. This is a rarity, and therefore the kids were pretty upset about the change in routine. I could hear them screaming bloody murder from upstairs for a whole hour.

At some point, DH rushed downstairs for a moment in order to grab something. I said "are you ok?". (If I had been subjected to that amount of full-out screaming and crying, I would have been a nervous wreck.) He did not even stop, but just tossed a cheerful "Yes, of course, I'm fine" over his shoulder as he rushed back upstairs. He is made of different stuff.

Posted by: twins_mom | January 20, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

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