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Tight-Lipped Moms are Mad at Dad

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The No. 1 most-read piece on right now is a massive analysis of Parenting's latest poll of moms, which finds that mothers today are -- to put it mildly -- ticked off. The title of the piece is "Mad at Dad," but "mad" hardly seems sufficient to capture the anger of the piece. Moms are so beside themselves with pent-up, white-hot frustration, the article notes, that they are killing themselves. Literally killing themselves, according to the M.D. quoted.

The piece goes into chapter and verse about all of the failings of modern fathers, but the whole piece can be summarized pretty concisely: Dads don't help out around the house. The article is littered with references to dads who have completely checked out: men incapable of running the dishwasher, cooking or multitasking while watching the kids.

The problem is not that those boneheaded guys don't exist; I'm sure they do. What gets me worked up is that so many moms are going through so much agony and have clearly never broached the topic with any specificity with their husbands (indeed, a couple of the moms quoted said that dad does "hop-to" when asked). A dad who claims to be unable to start the dishwasher is truly and insufferably lazy, but I have precious little sympathy for a mom who puts up with this kind of feigned ignorance.

We live in interesting times, where decades of social expectations about what dads do and what moms do are finally unraveling. It used to be that there was pretty much a "mom" role in society and a "dad" role. This is the way it worked for me growing up. That was not a high point of gender equity (or maternal happiness), but at least the expectations were clear.

Now -- thankfully -- huge numbers of moms and dads go into the parenting thing without any preconceived notion about who will do what. Unfortunately, that means that communication is more important than ever: If you don't explicitly define who is responsible for every little thing, it ends up falling to the person with the lowest level of tolerance for a dirty floor/messy diapers/ramen noodles for dinner. And that's a recipe for disaster.

So couples have a choice. They can do the hard work of talking through -- and, maybe, writing down -- what the expectations are, or they can suffer the consequences: anger so severe it'll kill you. Seems like a simple choice to me. What do you think?

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

By Brian Reid |  February 3, 2009; 12:07 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
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What is " maternity happiness"? I gotta get me some of that.

" A dad who claims to be unable to start the dishwasher is truly and insufferably lazy" LOL! Yesterday no judging and today, blast away....

"Now -- thankfully -- huge numbers of moms and dads go into the parenting thing without any preconceived notion about who will do what. "

"huge numbers"? How do you know?

Posted by: jezebel3 | February 3, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I apparently am in the minority since I'm one of those dads who actually DOES help around the house/cook/clean/watch the little one so mommy can sleep etc. I'm not perfect and I'm sure my wife gets frustrated some times but I'd like to think I at least pull my weight. I can't imagine being one the neanderthals that seem to be so prevalent. Traditional father/mother roles have been changing for 20 years now; it's not new that dads have to do more around the house. Like Mr. Reid, I have little tolerance for women who put up with useless husbands who do nothing. If you don't like it, either kick their butt in the house, or kick it out. Maybe you should have thought about what kind of father the man you married was going to be before you decided to have kids?

Posted by: freakymf | February 3, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I agree freakymf, a lot of these guys were this way when they married them. I used to feel bad for my friends married to these guys, but now I see that they have made their own bed.

Women often have this unfortunate expectation that the men in their lives will read their minds. You cannot be angry at someone unless you tell them what you want/need. We have a very traditional division of labor which makes things very clear and I think contributes to our happiness. I do do more "handy" things than most moms, but my husband cooks more than most dads. People have to talk to each other and remember to treat the person they are married to like they love them. If you both always remember that you love this person deeply, then you will treat them as such and all else will follow.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 3, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

@jezebel3: Thanks for the sharp eyes. I fixed the typo.

Yeah, I have no problem with judging families that choose to stew and complain for some of the reasons I talked about last month: it has a direct effect on me and on the way that dads are viewed by society as a whole. I want to be taken seriously as a parent. Fathers who refuse to take responsibility in the household make that more difficult. Having octuplets does not.

And as for "great numbers," 75 percent of the comments so far are from people who have negotiated household roles in a way that's distinct from what we saw 50 years ago. Not a representative sample, but you get my point.

Posted by: rebeldad | February 3, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

i think moxiemom said it well - just tell the dads what you want/need. that would go a long way. if hubby still chooses to ignore your wishes then he's an ahole and you should be pissed.

one other constant that seems to resonate among moms and dads is that mom always seems to think that her way of _____ (fill in the blank: cooking, cleaning, diapering, nose blowing) is 'right' and that dad's way of doing it is 'wrong'. i've had this discussion with several moms who all admit to judging their husband's 'wrong' way of doing things but when asked, they'll quickly admit that it really doesn't matter either way. they all say that they think their way is better, but dad's way really isn't all that bad.

So moms, let it go. Let us do it the wrong way. most of the dads get judged, nitpicked and bossed around all day at work. if it really doesn't matter, it'd be nice to come home and not have to hear about doing more things wrong.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I should say at the outset that I am not one of the moms that they talk about in the survey -- DH is an involved, helpful husband and father, and he more than pulls his weight. I'd have a hard time mustering up any kind of justified rage towards him. But I'd say it took us several months and a few big fights to get to this point.

It does seem to me (in my limited and totally anecdotal experience) that even the best husbands and dads just don't adjust to parenthood the same way their wives do. It seems to take them longer to twig to the idea that they now need to consider the needs of at least one other person before going about their lives. For example, I don't think I know a single family that hasn't had at least one knock-down-drag-out about Dad simply assuming that he could do what he wants to on a weekend, while he takes for granted that his wife will care for the kid(s). Or about Dad acting as if someone came in and gave Mom super-secret parenting lessons while his back was turned, so that suddenly she's the only one who knows what goes into a diaper bag or what a baby should wear to leave the house on a winter day. It can be incredibly frustrating to have to give a grown man step-by-step instructions on the most basic of parenting tasks, especially when that man had previously seemed to have a perfectly good brain in his head. And while I agree that the angry party should speak up rather than simply fuming, there's a part of me that finds it absurd that they would have to. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that dishes need to be washed or that babies need to be fed and changed, so why do we assume it's up to mom to issue dad an engraved invitation to accomplish these tasks?

Posted by: newsahm | February 3, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

My honey can certainly be oblivious to things without a doubt. I too have dealt with the whole marker drawing on the furniture. It happened several times before I finally made the kids responsible for the issue. You use a marker... there are consequences. We (and that is a we) also try to keep forbidden items like markers and pens out of the way.

I think I am lucky in that I am the step-parent. Yes I do many things like take the kids to the library so he can study and make meals and get them ready for bed and so on and so forth. But... he is also clear on the fact that they are his kids and he needs to step up to the plate. It is one of the few areas where I can say - Can you please deal with xxx and he will usually do it.

Outside of his kids? Not so good. He will do the chores that are 'his' without me having to nag or ask. But ask him to do anything outside of that list? It is a huge burden. And yes... he does ask me to help him continuously so there is an expectation on his side that I help him but it doesn't always travel both ways graciously.

I could do worse and have done worse so I try to keep it in perspective.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 3, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Amen, newsahm! I asked my husband to clear off the dining table after dinner, thinking I wouldn't have time to go back down and do it after putting the kids to bed. i cma e down the next morning and all he had done was literally clean off the table-- all the dirty dishes were sitting in the sink, waiting for me to take of when I got a chance. Evidently I was supposed to say "Please clear off the table and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and place detergent in the dishwasher and start the dishwasher." Arggh! I asked him in as non-insane tone manner as possible "so when you cleared off the table, why didn't you place the dishes in the dishwasher?" and his response-- "I just did what you asked." Like it's my fault I didn't talk him step by step through what it means to clear off the table! Silently fuming seemed a better response than what I really wanted to say to that! In retrospect, I guess I could have gone with humor but in the heat of the moment, it's hard to think clearly.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | February 3, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"A dad who claims to be unable to start the dishwasher is truly and insufferably

Ouch Brian! You sure know what to say to hurt a thsensitive guy like myself. So what if I can't start the dishwasher, or washing machine, or dryer? Big deal! You know, when Ms Weasel picked out these appliances, she didn't ask me my opinion.

It's not my fault! I've been marginalized by technological "advancement". I'm a victim!

I have discovered that the presentation of a bouquet of flowers every now and then gives me a free pass on this sort of stuff. Why this works out the way it does, I haven't a clue, but then again, the more I learn about the inner workings of a woman's mind, the more mysterious they become.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | February 3, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"i think moxiemom said it well - just tell the dads what you want/need. that would go a long way."

Oh, man, do I ever disagree with this statement--it's a sneaky way of saying "look, ladies--housekeeping is your responsibility, but if you ask us to help, we will." The heck it is. It's OUR responsibility. We are talking about GROWN MEN, voting adults, with the ability to perceive the world around them and cognitively assess the state of that world. Look around the house, see what needs to be done, and DO IT.

The flip side of this is true--if the house needs to be painted/oil needs to be changed/shelves need to be installed, then DO IT. The obvious caveat here is when a particular task takes specialized skill that only one spouse has. However, loading a dishwasher, folding the laundry, and, frankly, changing the oil requires no specialized skills to complete them effectively.

And here comes my next point: effectiveness is the standard here. If the forks aren't all pointing the same way in the dishwasher or the bowls are on the bottom rack instead of the top, but they come out clean and ready to be reused? The job is DONE, and as done as it needs to be. If the dishes come out with food still crusted on them? The job is NOT DONE. Don't waste your time complaining that it didn't get done the way you would've done it if it is, in the end, done.

Finally, if you are the partner who gets the fuzzy end of the housework lollipop? You need to communicate this to your other half clearly, calmly and firmly. No fair sulking--you are a voting adult, too. Agree on a compromise baseline standard of cleanliness, and then agree together to maintain it.

Or we could just continue to go round and round in a bad Jeff Foxworthy routine.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I feel for you weasel. So, here are the instructions in case they've been mislaid:

1. Load dishes in dishwasher. That's still the same as it always was.

2. Close the dishwasher. It's just like any other door.

3. Now here's the hard part. Press START.

4. If you're ready for really advanced stuff, unload the dishwasher when it stops making noise.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 3, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I could do worse and have done worse so I try to keep it in perspective.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 3, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Is that your standard?

Posted by: jezebel3 | February 3, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm feeling bad that my post smacks even a little of man-bashing, so I feel compelled to point out that there's probably a lot DH could say about me if he wanted to. I'm hardly a model of domestic perfection myself. I know I'd probably walk by a burnt-out lightbulb 20 times before it occurs to me just to change it, because I take for granted that DH will just do it. And I haven't pulled a weed in heaven knows how long.

Just didn't want to seem like I'm peering down from too high a horse. Carry on.

Posted by: newsahm | February 3, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

jbs280 - your response misses a huge point that is a very common difference between men and women:

we have very different ideas about when housekeeping chores need to be done.

it doesn't bother me at all if 5 dishes are in the sink. it drives wife crazy.

it doesn't bother me if my socks are on the floor. drives wife crazy.

i could go on and on.

my point is, that if wife never told me that my socks on the floor makes her crazy, i would never think it was an issue.

of course wives shouldn't need to bullet-point instructions on how to empty the dishwasher.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

fairlington: You forgot to say to put dishwasher detgt in there. Ya know that matters.

One reason I quit working was that I was tired of having to do lots of stuff - like, um, all of it - and we were both working full time. As in - it was my responsibility to find care for the kids - my responsibility to know what to get at the supermarket (honey, can you go shopping this evening? Sure - what do we need....aarrgghh!!!! YOU can see just as well as I can...why is it MY responsibility to figure out what isn't there??? I'm home as much as you!).

This from someone who is overly happy with her hubby. He is wonderful and appreciative, etc. He definitely does A LOT around the house. A bunch of friends and I were talking about our DH's one day, and I mentioned how much he did around the house. They told me how 'lucky' I was. I shot right back at the person who said that: no it's NOT luck. I married him - I CHOSE to marry him. I would not have married him if he weren't what I wanted, i.e., he knew he was expected to do things around the house, he WANTS to do things with/for the kids, etc. I mean, seriously, why marry someone if you're just going to complain about him all the time (some women seem to think this is what marriage is all about)?

I do think, though, as women we maybe set some expectations. Many of us have certain expectations for how things should be, and men really do try to accommodate when they don't do something, I think sometimes it's because they were really trying to do for us (if that makes any sense at all...?). I.e., maybe my husband knew that I wanted certain items in the house and he wanted to know what to buy cause he didn't want to get in 'trouble' (as if he would) if he bought the 'wrong' stuff. Maybe? I'm just trying to see the other side - give the benefit of the doubt...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

it doesn't bother me at all if 5 dishes are in the sink. it drives wife crazy. (from above...).

See, I can live with a few dishes in the sink, and DH always wants everything neat and clean. So if the dishwasher has been set the night before, it will typically be emptied before I even come downstairs, and then loaded with whatever's in the sink. Like this morning - when my DH got up, got son #1 to school, fed son #2 and got me up (well, send son #2 to get me up) in time for me to get dressed and get son #2 dressed to take him to school. I got to sleep pretty late because DH took care of everything this AM (which is great, since I have been getting to sleep way too late recently and need to sleep 'in' a little big sometimes). DH is wonderful, and so what if he doesn't do it all? neither do I...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

newsahm - i think i speak for thousands of men when i say (type) thank you for your post.

i know our wives think we're jerks when we walk by the dishwasher 50x without emptying it, but acknowledging that it occasionally goes both ways is helpful.

i really appreciate it that my wife gives me credit for taking care of all things digital in our home. photos, movies, music, computers, home networks, cable, phones, email, website. i don't have a love for spending hours at the computer managing this stuff, it's just one of my 'chores' that i'm happy to do for the family. i know a lot of guys get credit for all of the outdoor and maintenance stuff, but the digital management is probably a bigger hassle.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

atlmom - LOL. No wonder my wife never lets me do the dishes!

We've got a pretty good division of labor in our house. It's not really possible to say if it's 50/50 as we handle different tasks.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 3, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Interestingidea1234, that's why I also talked about agreeing on a compromise baseline standard of cleanliness. Spouses need to have a talk about what they need (not want, NEED) to be ok with the state of their surroundings. Maybe you pick up your socks, but she agrees to a once-a-day dishwasher-loading bonanza. The important thing is to talk it out (and it's an ongoing conversation as home circumstances change) instead of silently sitting there and being driven crazy.

It's important to note here that both sides of the Odd Couple have legitimate rights here--it's no more ok to force someone to live in a museum any more than it is ok to just leave your spilled chili on the floor and assume someone else will deal with it (unless, of course, both parties are ok with either scenario). But again, talk and compromise. Or, if you can affod it, a cleaning crew :)

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

totally agree - museum vs. junkyard - if a couple can agree on the standard of cleanliness/order in the house you could avoid about a thousand frustrating moments.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

This was the topic on the Motherlode blog on NYT last week, too. All the unspoken resentment and frustration does bug me a lot. Do you want to be a martyr, or do you want to fix the problem? Either ask for what you want, or quit whining about not getting it.

That said, I think a lot of it comes from different communication styles/ways of thinking. I thought my husband and I were totally set; we shared similar views on how to combine career and family, and we talked and planned bfore we got married, before we had a kid, after the kid arrived, etc. And yet, when we added no. 2, things still got really hard. He kept doing all of the stuff he had done before -- but the workload had increased, and my availability had decreased (gone from part-time telecommuting to full-time office work). End result was that he was doing the same, and I was doing everything else, with less time to do it all in.

I started resenting that he didn't just seem to get that there was so much more that needed to be done. I come from an "everyone pitch in" background; we all had our own specific responsibilities, and then whoever was available did all the little things that fall through the cracks. To me, all the new stuff was just so obvious that anyone should see it, and then do it, and I didn't want to be The Nag. I figured he's a responsible adult, he can see just as well as I can that the boy's clothes need washed, so I'm not going to mention it -- and then I'd get annoyed when nothing happened.

What it took me a while to see was that he doesn't think the same way I do. He's an engineer, and is inherently compartmentalized and task-oriented, and much more structured than I am. You give him a list of responsibilities, and he executes it, and when he's done with his assigned tasks, he's done. That's exactly what he was doing: we had an agreement, he was executing it, and when he finished, he'd go play on the computer. He just didn't notice how my work had grown exponentially -- that was my area, not his.

So yes, I had to learn to ask for what I wanted. But more importantly, I needed to learn how to think like an engineer -- to reach him where he was, not where I wanted him to be. I.e., instead of just expecting him to see things and pitch in, directly propose a revised division of labor.

Posted by: laura33 | February 3, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

atlmom1234, I get the "honey, can you go shopping this evening? Sure - what do we need" too from time to time, and it does make me roll my eyes. What I don't understand is when people just get mad, or quietly seethe or say "never mind, I'll do it myself." What's wrong with saying "I don't know" or some polite variant of "Make a list?" So many of us seem to just think "YOU can see just as well as I can...why is it MY responsibility to figure out what isn't there??? I'm home as much as you" without SAYING it (kindly, of course--although, if you say it instead of keeping it inside and letting it build, the anger just isn't there to begin with).

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

1) Why should we have to ask? This is their house and family too. That ticks me off that I have to ask at all (and I use "me" generically as my DH is generally pretty good). But, the the number of women I know who have to ask are -understandably, imo- po'd at having to ask in the first place.

2) You're article presumes that these moms haven't tried to have a discussion. Brian, you can't presume to know what is going on in someone else's marriage. Maybe the conversation was had and ignored by the husband? Maybe the conversation was had 1,000 times and the wife is tired of having it? You just don't know.

So, stop making excuses. PIck up the broom, dishwasher detergent, etc. and clean up. It isn't that hard. (And before the gentlement get on my case, yes I do cut the grass, wash the cars, help with the leaves, work in the garden, etc. . . . all traditionally "male" chores.)

Posted by: liledjen4901 | February 3, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

i think the 'shopping list' argument is such a slippery-slope. why are you really mad?

are you mad because hubby doesn't know that you're out of olive oil and clorox?

are you mad because hubby doesn't know you're out of olive oil because he doesn't cook?

are you just mad because he doesn't cook?

seems that the grocery list is a consequence of the division of duties. (wife cooks, so wife knows what you're out of)

if i asked wife to go to best buy this saturday i wouldn't be mad if she asked me for a list. why in the world would she know that we need a new external hard drive? if i asked her to go to home depot why would she know that we needed fertilizer?

(btw, if i asked wife to go to best buy this saturday she would look at me cross-eyed. yet if she asked me to go to safeway i'd happily go. interesting.)

i'm just saying it would be sooooo helpful if we dialed down the resentment a little.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

have discovered that the presentation of a bouquet of flowers every now and then gives me a free pass on this sort of stuff. Why this works out the way it does, I haven't a clue, but then again, the more I learn about the inner workings of a woman's mind, the more mysterious they become.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | February 3, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Whachy - I know you are trying to be funny, but you are pushing all my buttons. What does it say about you that you are willing to let your wife do all the heavy lifting while you lay back and relax and chuckle about how a bouquet of flowers gets you out of work? Doesn't sound like love or respect to me. It sounds more like you have figured out an easy way of manipulating your wife and taking advantage of her. A REAL man does his share, and he does it willingly and well.

Posted by: emily8 | February 3, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I could do worse and have done worse so I try to keep it in perspective.

Posted by: Billie_R

Is that your standard?

Posted by: jezebel3

He is not perfect nor am I. I could certainly go looking for perfect and maybe never find it but in the process pitch a flawed but perfectly fine spouse out the door. Sometimes I wish for perfect and at those times... I need to remember that there is a lot worse out there than his imperfectness and therefore keep the situation in perspective. I don't think there is anything wrong with remembering what it has been like when you are dealing with your frustration. It has nothing to do with setting a low or high bar.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 3, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

You make a really good point, interestingidea1234--I think it's important to distinguish "assigned" chores from "freefloating" chores. I think, in most cases, each spouse has their own chores that they take care of themselves, and then there are the chores that haven't been explicitly assigned but still need doing. In an ideal world (and it takes work to maintain the ideal), couples fairly distribute the "assigned" chores and equally pitch in to fill in the gaps. Resentment comes in where one spouse assumes that, because it's not on the list of "assigned" chores, it's not their responsibility, so the other spouse ends up silently taking on their "assigned" chores and filling in all the gaps, seething all the while. Both parties share the blame in this.

So, to take your example, if one person is entirely responsible for cooking, then it might make more sense for them to make up the list, even if they don't need to be the one who shops. But is it an "assigned" chore? Has it just become an "assigned" chore by default because one spouse isn't picking up the slack?

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

"What does it say about you that you are willing to let your wife do all the heavy lifting while you lay back and relax and chuckle about how a bouquet of flowers gets you out of work?"

Emily8, it says he's an 18-year-old between classes in a computer lab somewhere.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

and liledjen4901 - who cares if you chip in. you say your husband is pretty considerate - so you guys have a great arrangement.

i think it's much more typical that a husband's frustration stems from the following:

a) wife wants me to do the dishes on her schedule and nags me until it's done

b) wife could care less that the lawn hasn't been mowed for two weeks.

i would gladly gladly gladly trade nightly dish duty for washing the cars and cutting the lawn. but instead of having the conversation, everyone just gets pissed.

talk it out and cut each other some slack.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

My frustration level with these kinds of studies is through the roof. I am regularly on the receiving end of such comments, yet I do at worst 50% of the work around the house and in some weeks definitely more. The issue, of course, is that the amount of work that COULD be done around the house is open-ended (when was the last time you dusted the blinds?) so often-times the response about "doesn't do enough around the house" has no basis in modern reality, but is somehow related to a past sense of housekeeping from the Beaver Cleaver era. The weeks when I do more work than my wife around the house are often met with denial. Is that kind of denial really the root of these studies? Is it even fair to require equal work around the house if one career requires 55 hours of work per week while another only 40? How does paying for a maid, as most of my peers do, modify this dichotomy? Are people forgetting about the car, yard, mechanical repairs and other household chores that are stereotypically male?

I know a handful of immigrant Dads whose wives still pack them lunch every day- I don't deny that some women made really poor choices- but I've heard too many stories from friends who complained about their husbands not knowing their kids teachers when I've carried on perfectly reasonable conversations with those guys about their kids' teachers- aka, the initial complaint was a lie.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 3, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"A REAL man does his share, and he does it willingly and well."

Spot on, sister.

Here's the matching bookend: "A REAL woman doesn't wait until she's imploding with anger toward someone she loves before raising a topic that might involve some tough negotiation."

Expecting clairvoyance? Stupid.
Expecting that free maid and housekeeping service comes with every vagina? Equally stupid.

Posted by: anonfornow | February 3, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

totally agree. so if a free-floating chore leads to resentment, have a conversation and assign it.

i.e. - i'll make the grocery list if you go to the store.

and i think all of the parents here can admit that going to the grocery store is occasionally a nice break from the kids if the s.o. is home to watch them.

heck, this saturday the wife and i were fighting over who got to go downstairs and do dishes - at 3pm it was a much better option than continuing to entertain the 1-yr old.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Emily8, it says he's an 18-year-old between classes in a computer lab somewhere.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

jbs - Nope, he's a grown man, father of 4 kids, and a regular on this blog as well as On Balance. I also consider him a cyber friend, even if he does rankle me a little sometimes.

Posted by: emily8 | February 3, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Interestingidea1234 (and I'm sorry to keep singling you out, but you keep raising interesting points), I think the "wash the car weekly" spouse should definitely take over daily dishwashing chores. I think you'd find that the every-stinking-day aspect is a lot more wearing than you'd think. Although, hey, maybe the "dishwasher" spouse would find that they'd much rather be doing the dishes every day than washing the car once a week. Either way, interesting exercise.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

1. If you have to "assign" chores to an adult you married the wrong person.
2. Accept that the other person is going to do things there way and there is no right way. If you can't accept that there is no right way to do a task grow the hell up because you're acting like a child. I have told people at my office who complained about that sort of thing to their face that they were being childish. How dishes are put away, presuming that they have not broken, is immaterial to someone who has a life. If it starts to matter to you then talk to a therapist about your curable emotional problem.
3. Back away from the parts of their lives that you don't understand. Very key. That's why your grandma has a sewing room and your grandpa had a workshop.
4. If you don't understand that Mom may want to be more nurturing and Dad may want the kids to be more daring and take more risks and that both ideas are exactly right then you aren't mature enough to be a parent. Admonishing Dad that he's allowing his kids to take risks is a joke- of course he is, risk-taking, even in infants, is the point. Admonishing Mom for babying the kids is a similar joke- duh, of course they are.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 3, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

honestly. if you can't tell from my posts, i too have had it up to here with the perception that dads don't do their share.

the complaints involve such selective memory.

i have no doubt that my wife complains mildly about my effort vs. her effort. but did she give me credit for spending 4 hours painting the basement last saturday night? probably not.

lets look at it rationally: how long does it take to pack lunch every day for our daughter? 30 minutes + 1 hr to buy the groceries? so that's basically the same time i spent painting.

maybe because it's spread out over 5 days it seems more burdensome?

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

i hear you that the daily grind is brutal, but so is spending 2 hrs outside last saturday trying to find the source of the ice under our house.

i really don't know what i'd prefer given the choice.

'trading places' would be a fun way to view this argument.

would somebody please suggest it to their s.o. next time the fight comes up?

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Or maybe because it's having to repeat the same task every single day, one that is never really done. I'm not saying this is always the case, but there is something to the argument that it's more fulfilling to have different, discrete tasks each week than to keep pushing that same boulder up the hill every day only to have it roll down again each night.

And bbcrock, I think you know that there's a reason I had "assign" in quotes. It's pretty clear that I'm referring to an explicit agreement that one person will be responsible for a particular task, but that gets annoying to type out over and over again, so I used shorthand. And I'm not sure where your #4 is coming from--seems to be out of left field. And my grandma may have had the sewing room, but today, it's my workshop :)

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"If you don't understand that Mom may want to be more nurturing and Dad may want the kids to be more daring and take more risks and that both ideas are exactly right then you aren't mature enough to be a parent."

"Mature" isn't the first word that comes to my mind when an opinion is accompanied by a Neanderthal grunt.

How do you think your neat, tidy and erroneous assumptions play out in families headed by gay parents of either gender?

Posted by: anonfornow | February 3, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

it's a good point that since men are usually doing 'projects' they get satisfaction from a painted basement or a fixed leak. as well as, usually, a pat on the back - hey the basement looks great.

where the daily grind usually doesn't merit such self-satisfaction "man, i packed that lunch perfectly. awesome" nor does it usually get a pat on the back.

that probably does suck. guys (me included) should be more appreciative for the little things.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Nope, he's a grown man, father of 4 kids, and a regular on this blog as well as On Balance."

Ew, really? Thanks, but either way, I'm going to keep on ignoring. If I ever feel a need for that antiquated "these wimmins today" uselessness, I'll just turn on The World According to Jim.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

One of the things I have learned throughout the years by serving as the husband/father figure is that a large part of the equity of household labor is decided by negotiation. The more loathsome the task, the more brownie points, marriage credits, negotiating power, or whatever you want to call it can be earned by doing the chore. (add extra points for doing it without complaint, even more if you hum, sing or whistle) For instance, in my family, I rack up a lot of points when it comes down to me having to do the dishes. The phrase, "Hey, I did the dishes!" settles a lot of discussions.


Me: The boys want me to swing by Hooter's for beer and wings after work today, so you're off the hook for dinner, OK?
her: But #1 needs a ride to practice and there is a parent-teacher conference this evening. Do I have to do everything?
me: Hey! I did the dishes!
(This is one for the "you gotta fight for your right to party" catagory)

Requesting a favor:
Me: Hey, honey, will you phone my mother sometime today and wish her a happy birthday for me? Please?
her: You can call your own [insert colorful adjective here] mother!
me: Hey! I did the dishes!

And saying "NO" without having to say no:
DD: Daaaaaaaaaady, do you have any money?
Me: Hmmm... You know yesterday was a bad day for me. I got stuck with a stack of dirty dishes...

Emily, you seem a little rankled. Why don't you kick back while I fix you a nice cup of coffee. :-)

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | February 3, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I know--I'm kind of looking forward to my shelf installation project this weekend, and I know my husband isn't nearly as excited about the laundry. Although, I think that my day is always better when do a little "Packed the Lunch Awesomely" victory dance. Hey, I make my own fun.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

jbs280- all my comments came from years of being a parent, husband and reading this blog, not one was directed at you and I have no memory of reading your post.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 3, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

although we have our roles pretty well defined and we're pretty happy with the arrangement, i find one difference fairly interesting:

i occasionally hear "the internet isn't working" or "have you uploaded those photos yet?"

but i have never in my life said "the dishes need to be washed" or "the laundry needs to be done"

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Actually, my husband and I had to have a chores negotiation recently, and one issue that came is that he WANTS to do certain chores, because he simply likes doing them. For example, he likes doing basic maintenance on the car (like changing oil, sparkplugs, and sometimes even more complicated stuff that takes longer). So he does this stuff and feels that this should exempt him from stuff like doing the dishes, laundry, etc. It is kind of unfair trade because I find no particular joy in doing the dishes or laundry, but they still need to get done, and his engaging in his car maintenance and handy man activities are sometimes more of a hobby, although they are a useful contribution. And I could come up with few household chores that I find fun and relaxing to do. So basically, being the handyman does not exempt him from the daily grind of chores that nobody likes to do, and being the one who reads and plays with the kids does not exempt me from those same chores. Sometimes, you do have to negotiate and communicate, and maybe even have a tough argument to hash things out and avoid those seething resentments that can ultimately destroy a marriage.

Posted by: emily8 | February 3, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

An issue that hasn't been raised here is the fact that trashing the husband seems to be a sport or hobby amongst women - both working and SAHM. So often when women get together, there seems to be a "Whose husband is the bigger jerk/dolt/neanderthal" competition. I've never joined in mostly because A: I happen to think my husband is pretty terrific - that's why I married him and B: I know that if I heard my husband talking about me to his friends the way these women do, it would break my heart. It is so disloyal and I don't know where it comes from.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 3, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 11:14 AM |

I think you and jbs both have a good point. DH and I both b*** about our daily grind tasks way more, just because they Never Seem To Get Done.

Ex: I cook and he does dishes. Post-baby #2, I was talking about how the cooking felt like a bigger burden. He said, fine, let's even things up: make me a list and I'll do the grocery shopping. I got frustrated because he didn't get that the shopping is the easy part. The hard part is the ever-present mental burden of figuring out what I'm going to cook, night after night, that is reasonably healthy and quick and that everyone will like -- which is hard, given that (a) he has to have meat, but hates poultry and pork, (b) I don't like seafood, (c) he doesn't like salad or most vegetables, (d) he doesn't like slow-cooked anything, (e) we both like all sorts of ethnic cuisines that I am not expert in, (f) he gets bored easily and won't eat leftovers more than once, and (g) our kids are Jack Spratt and Mrs. Spratt. Then, of course, you have to keep mental tabs on everything in the house to make sure the grocery list is complete.

See, I actually LIKE to cook. And I want to make meals that everyone enjoys. But when I have to do it every day, navigating such a huge variety of likes and dislikes, under a time crunch, and end up half the time with people not liking it anyway because I just don't have the creativity to meet 18 different and conflicting requirements, it becomes drudgery.

The other aspect is that the Big Periodic Things tend to be more noticeable and so earn a lot more praise. For example, he has built some really beautiful stuff in our house. It took a lot of work and skill. And he enjoys it (not that that negates the work or effort or sacrifice, but it is like my cooking in that way). But when people come over, they all ooh and aah over the great stuff he has built -- even years later, he gets a lot of "I can't believe you made that." Meanwhile, I watched the kids for all those hours, and picked up a lot of his daily responsibilities (like the dishes) to free him up to do those big projects. But I don't get a lot of "hey, great kid-watching!" comments for it. :-)

Point is, even fun stuff is a chore when you have to do it every day, so the spouse who does more of the daily stuff is likely to feel the burden more, even when the overall hours are equal. And a little notice and gratitude goes a loooong, loooong way to keeping the engines running smoothly.

Posted by: laura33 | February 3, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

i find it infuriating that the terms used are "dad helping around the house." my dh is NOT my helper. he and i are equal partners. when he watches our baby for a few hours or does household chores, it's not because he's helping me. he's simply fulfilling his role as a husband and parent. if the wife sees herself as the boss of the household and the husband as an underling to give orders to, no wonder the husband sneaks away to play golf!

tbh, i think most of this crap needs to get figured out by couples long before they have kids. laundry, dishes, etc don't suddenly materialize after the babies are born. my dh and i figured out very early in our marriage who hated each chore less, and we divvied them up accordingly. it takes some thought and open communication. that's all.

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 3, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

An issue that hasn't been raised here is the fact that trashing the husband seems to be a sport or hobby amongst women - both working and SAHM. So often when women get together, there seems to be a "Whose husband is the bigger jerk/dolt/neanderthal" competition. ... It is so disloyal and I don't know where it comes from.

30 years ago you used to hear guys talk like that, but the 1970s women's movement pretty much cut that out and the guys who try that now really come off like neanderthals.

But I've been in mixed company at office lunches where modern, educated women sound like Archive Bunker circa 1971.

While in some communities in this great sprawling country of ours it may seem necessary to turn "women's spaces" into places that women can complain about men because the patriarchy has such a stranglehold, in Washington, DC that's not quite true anymore. Yes, I worked in a rough military office once where most of the guys were not cool, but that was the ONLY place I really saw that kind of chauvinism. And each year as boys grow up and work in offices with sexual harassment policies and have always known their mothers to work and have relatively enlightened views toward marriage and family and women CEOs, it gets very confusing to witness the reverse when it rears its head, particularly in mixed company. So from my perspective, complain all you want in your own space, laugh at the Simpsons, but recognize that as catharsis and not an accurate view of household chores.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 3, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a regular contributor, but here's a thought:

Housework, of any sort, is not a contract. You're not exchanging currency here. Men, and women, should do things around the house and for the kids because they love their family. If that were true, dirty dishes and the like represent an *opportunity* to show love to your family.

Those couples expecting equal labor, capital, etc. out of a marriage will, without exception, see their partner fall short of those expectations.

I know it sounds unrealistic to expect each other to contribute out of love consistently. But try it, and communicate when you want/need help. Complaining gets you nowhere.

Posted by: Good2bOK | February 3, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Both sides are right. The original post is correct that moms who stew rather than communicate go a long way toward being part of the problem. It's ultimately unfair to everyone, and those who don't reckon with this are just as guilty of not taking responsibility as the ones they're upset at. On the other hand, other posters here are right that dads shouldn't be acting like their toddlers and require their wives to develop potty training guides for them too in order to get them to help around the house. If dads are tired of being talked down to, they shouldn't be bringing it on themselves by acting like children rather than adults.

My wife and I have pretty clear areas of responsibility around the house. But we talk about the loads we're each carrying pretty regularly, so that if one of us is temporarily overloaded, the other can pitch in to lighten the load. For us, it helps to have pretty clearly defined responsibilities, but it's also good not to be slavish to such constructs, because circumstances change as our child's needs change and as our life circumstances change. I think that we can make this work because above all else, my wife and I know that we need to be a team and work together for our own best interests and the best interests of our child. Making enemies out of each other through resentment, laziness, or poor communication is ultimately an act of failure, because in the end, it's our child we're failing.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | February 3, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

bbcrock, I know exactly what you're talking about. When I hear women complaining about their husbands that way, I'm both struck by how their husbands would feel if they knew, and with the futility of it all. If you don't like how the labor is divided in your house, talking to your friend isn't going to fix it. Sack up and have the conversation. If he won't hear you or won't change, you have a problem that goes far beyond the housework.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 3, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"i find it infuriating that the terms used are "dad helping around the house"

Interesting that the Spanish word for house takes on the feminine article "la" as in "la casa". The idea that the house is the woman's domain is entrenched in language. Nothing to get upset about.

What is the Spanish word for cave?

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | February 3, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"but I have precious little sympathy for a mom who puts up with this kind of feigned ignorance. "

I don't appreciate this kind of judgement.

When I was a SAHM,and asked my husband to help me put the dishes in the dishwasher after dinner instead of running off for the rest of the night, he cried "You want me to work all day and then come home and work all night." It was made clear to me that he had no intention of "wasting his weekend" watching them play ball or soccer or whatever. I would never have requested him to pick up a gallon of milk or roll of toilet papern the way home from work because I didn't want to subject myself to any abuse about it.

Instead of divorcing him, I went to work and had him stay home. I did not lift a finger to help him at all for that first year.

I was painful for all of us, but worth it. Nothing quite like walking a mile in someone ele's shoes to allow one to appreciate the other's position.

Posted by: ca3799 | February 3, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

ca3799 - Did you ever reach appreciation for his position? It is tiring to come home from work and be met with cooking, dishes, supervising homework, etc. That does not mean that both parties (the one who stays home and the one who works) should not contribute to these things), but it seems to me that there has to be a better way of reaching resolution than your extreme method of tit for tat. Wow.

Posted by: emily8 | February 3, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Final point. It doesn't really take long before the kiddos should be doing things around the house. My kids 6 & 8 are required to keep their rooms clean, clean their bathroom (with supervision), wipe down the table after dinner, put their dishes away and use the broom under the table after dinner. Also 20 min before bedtime, they need to have all of their things that are out in common areas, put away in their proper places. They are also responsible for bringing in the trash cans on trash day. So, its not just dear husband who should be a partner in keeping the household running and tidy. We all live here, we all chip in.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 3, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, I think a lot of the disagreements come from the fact that it is just a lot of work to have two working parents and two or more children.

I do think my husband is doing a lot. He probably doesn't do 50% but it is hard to judge. He does spend more time on tasks that are not repeated every day.

But he has also contracted out some of his work. Like a lawn service, painters etc...

I also think he has no clue about what goes on a regular basis. Like I do 1-2 loads of laudry every day. Or at least 6 days a week and more on the weekends. But he looked totally shocked when I pointed that out to him.

He has done a lot with sick leave and staying up with the baby. I did the lions share with our first child.

But overall it is just hard. There is always a list a mile long. I think some of the best advice is 1) don't worry if the house isn't totally clean. Unless you can afford a contracted service, I would just choke it up to a clean house is not a necessity. Your kids won't remember perfectly dusted dining room. 2) Talk as much as you can with your spouse but you have to just accept a certain amount of flack. 3) Don't be quick to point fingers. It is really hard to total the jobs done by another

I wish my husband would be more involved but overall I still feel I am better off being married. At the end of the day, that is all that matters to me.

Just say no to dusting! :)

Posted by: foamgnome | February 3, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

If their mothers waited on them hand and foot, it's easy to see why some men expect the same from their wives.

Posted by: jezebel3 | February 3, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Hey foam, hope things are going well. You've had a lot going on. FYI, when my kids were your daughter's age, I would give them swiffers on the stick or in their hands and let them do the floor and (bonus) baseboards. They think its fun and saves you the bending.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 3, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Seriously - with the grocery shopping - yes, DH should know something about what is there. One other thing that really bothered me WAS the cooking. If *I* did nothing (when I was working or not working) DH would NEVER think about dinner until it was time to eat. Seriously.
We could hardly afford to eat out every night, so what to do? Seriously - I have a menu in my head, and try to switch it around, know what's in the fridge for leftovers, etc, so it would be 1/2 hour before dinner and I'd think: hey, we need to eat soon. DH would ignore it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
So if I didn't do it - it seems we'd just be eating out every night, which is neither healthy or economical. Mind numbing to me, actually.
So I guess that goes hand in hand with shopping, but both things are infuriating to me (again - one reason I quit my job, if I have to do all this work anyway - I might as well have an easier time of it).
And my DH is wonderful. He is eternally grateful that I do the laundry every day and NEVER complains that I don't always fold it for him (i.e., we fold it in the evenings together) - or that I never hang up anything that he likes to hang up - I put everything out for him, folded, and he puts it away.
And, the older one puts away his own laundry. Younger one will start soon enough...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

atlmom - agreed on the laundry. Kiddos do that too. I fold it and put it in their rooms, they know that they are expected to put it away properly. Takes a time investment to teach on the front end, but totally worth it!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 3, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

moxie: you know - it's so strange. My mom did our laundry and put it away til I was in high school , or middle school? I forget - which means my older sister (who was in college by then)was NEVER asked to put away her laundry.
My mother never taught us to cook or clean. So we never were asked, we didn't help much around the house. Mom did it all (dad was not even asked to bring his plate to the sink after dinner - the four of us would just have to scurry around and put everything away, while dad just sat on the couch eating dessert).
I think my mom was trying to make some sort of statement - that we didn't need to learn how to do all this stuff cause we were going to get educated etc.
I'm so overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and I only have two kids and a smaller house than I grew up in...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Good points, Moxie. I know when I was a kid, we did WAY more chores than my kids (or most other kids I know) do today. On my 10th birthday, my mom woke me up with "Happy birthday! You're old enough to learn how to run the washing machine now!" :-) Unpaid child labor is one of the great overlooked modern resources. (I've been known to pull the Swiffer/broom trick with both of my kids).

Posted by: laura33 | February 3, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

My kids LOVE the swiffer. Great invention. :)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Laura, I know you do Montessori too. One of the greatest gifts from the program was to realize how empowering it is to children to be a part of the grown up activities. I've learned that giving them responsibilities says that I believe in them and their abilities. Now the novelty does wane, but by then, they've got the skill set down. I may be a SAHM, but this is not a restaurant or hotel.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 3, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

ATLmom - i find the cooking example is the go-to complaint at our house too. i generally don't think one second during the day about dinner. if wife doesn't want to cook then we'll have a sandwich and throw something together for the baby. it's not that i couldn't follow a recipe, it's just that i don't care. i'd rather have a sandwich than go to the effort.

if your husband is anything like me, it's simply not a priority. i love and appreciate every meal that wife cooks for me, but i don't expect it and can manage without it (with the occasional restaurant meal of course).

i compare the cooking to technology in our house. my wife loves it that i keep everything running, the dvr filled with her favorite show and the new releases coming in on netflix, but if i didn't do it, she wouldn't go to the effort of figuring it out. she appreciates it, it's just not a priority for her.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Moxie -- yep, the useful/competent thing was a big "aha!" moment with our daughter. Heck, my mom even gets her to polish the silver!

I like your restaurant analogy. I know when my kids grow up, the line they will complain about hearing All The Time is "This isn't a restaurant. I do not take orders." Although sometimes I will take requests -- IF they're made nicely. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | February 3, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

interesting: However, when I was a SAHM the first time, I'd think about dinner - and sometimes yes, sometimes no, I'd start it before DH would come home. The thing is he LOVES to cook. So sometimes I'd tell him what's for dinner, what food to take out, and he'd cook. It's the thinking about what to do that he has a tough time with.
To go to Laura's example. He loves to cook, and he'll pick out recipes and will do a 'special' meal now and again. The thing is - we have to eat EVERY night. and DH grew up having to make dinner some nights a week for his family.
So it's that he 'just doesn't think about it.' Which is mind blowing to me - given that we have to eat EVERY NIGHT. It's not like it sneaks up on you (like, say, an oil change, where it's done every so often, or whatever).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Love all these comments (haven't read them all yet!). I'm the editor at Parenting who came up with this idea, so I'm fascinated with all the responses. One thing to point out: The piece IS about the division of chores, but even more important, I think, is the point about how the whole parenting thing (with all the details) takes up so much more space in our brains than it seems to in our husbands'. That's what we're hearing from our readers that really strikes them as unfair, and ticks them off. Anyway, so glad it struck a chord.

Posted by: lisa3249 | February 3, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

yeah - i get that, but the point i was attempting to make is that without my wife's cooking i would be fine.

maybe the difference is that my wife is proactive and i am reactive. without a prepared meal i'll scrounge around for a few days, then eat out twice and then go to the store and do some meal planning. And i'm totally fine with that.

my wife feels the opposite - she wants to stay ahead of the curve to make sure we have a fun meal every couple of days. Which is great too.

my point (more directly) is that if wife loves (likes?) to cook and thinks it's important, that's great. but don't get mad at me for not sharing your enthusiasm and for not knowing if we're out of olive oil.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | February 3, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I have to 2nd the notion that the redundent household chores should go away with the onset of maturing children, however, new parenting issues that require negotiation will begin to spring up. Example:

DD: Hi Daddy! When you go upstairs, you'll notice that all your laundry is done, folded, and put away. I just made a batch of your favorite cookies, do you want one? They are still hot... And um, Oh yeah, can I ask you a question? All my friends are getting together at the mall tonight and I was just wundering if...

Do you know how difficult it is for me to say no to her request given the circumstances??? OK, so I'm a pushover, and maybe a little bit lazy, but if I can launch a kid that is not only productive, but can effectively negotiate for the things she wants, I'll consider myself a successful parent.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | February 3, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

The food thing is interesting because I love to sit down to a big family dinner with everyone around the table talking. If someone just makes a sandwich and says, "fix your own dinner" then that's definitely taken away from me and a loss that must be replaced by something else.

But what I've found is that making a casserole, soup or related "big dinner" on saturday and sunday and putting them all in the fridge means that dinner is "made" for 5 days for the next week. I mean one big pot of soup and one big casserole and one composed salad like cole slaw will get you through 5 nights, so why obsess and complain (or eat out)? Wait until 6:30 and then choose something out of the fridge to heat up.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 3, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

one point being that we have always discussed that we want to have dinners all together as a family every night (or every night that is practical). So, well, yeah, sandwiches are okay, but I think we both would like our children to be exposed to lots of different foods (and did I mention there are no cold cuts/meat in our house?).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 3, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I find the meal planning/grocery shopping discussion interesting, because to me it's one example of an issue that seems simple (even silly) on its surface, but where there's really a lot more going on.

For people without kids, I'd say Interestingidea's viewpoint on this issue is spot-on. Who really cares whether there's dinner on the table every night or whether one partner cooks more than the other? They're both adults who can, theoretically, look after their own nutritional needs.

Once kids are in the mix, though, the situation becomes much more complicated. Suddenly, these adults are responsible for making sure the child(ren) is eating a reasonably balanced diet, not to mention teaching the kid about nutrition and life skills like meal planning and prep. That necessarily requires thinking about meals long before one's stomach is growling. Someone has to be aware of what food is in the house, what the kids are eating over the course of a day, and what kinds of dinners will fit into the grand scheme of things. And if one parent just continues to see it as an issue of "eat whatever, whenever you're hungry," there'll be trouble, because that's not a viewpoint that's healthy or sustainable in the long-term when there are kids involved.

If I'm reading the Parenting article correctly, the moms that responded to the survey seem to feel like they're the only ones in their families grasping how much thought goes into even the simplest-seeming aspects of family life. The allegation isn't so much that dads are lazy (I'm fairly certain most are not), but that they fail to grasp the big-picture aspects of family life to the extent that the moms do. I have no idea if the perception is true, but think that it's an interesting discussion (when it doesn't devolve into either man-bashing or jokes about nagging, perfectionist wives).

Posted by: newsahm | February 3, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I've seen a lot of comments about "just communicate", but only one that touched on recognizing and accommodating different communication styles.

DH's recent favorite (sexist) joke:
A husband and wife are sitting together on the couch reading their favorite magazines. He turns to her and says, "This article says that one of the biggest problems in marriages is that men usually don't listen to more than 3-4 words before they tune out their wives, and it makes the wives very frustrated with their husbands."

She responds, "Yes, I think that is probably true of many marriages, and it would be very frustrating for a woman if her husband didn't listen to what she had to say."

He answers (with his focus back on his magazine), "I'm sorry, what did you say, honey?"

Part of the reason that this joke is funny for us, is that we all have a tendancy to reduce our communications to about 3-4 words. With the autistic kid, that's about as much as he can process in one chunk. But with DH and the neuro-typical boy, I've found that they get what I wanted them to get if I edit it down.

If I go with the whole-two-or-three-sentences communication style that comes naturally to me, they'll often get only the first 3-4 words anyway, or only the 3-4 words that they thought were most significant. Sometimes I'll find myself repeating a 6-8 word sentence, and emphasizing the *other* words that they didn't keep, because those were the words that were significant to *me*, but my listener missed them the first time.

And with DH, if I just give him one-word answers to questions, "no" for example, he'll keep asking questions, and he'll get all the information - eventually - that he wanted, *and* he'll retain it instead of forgetting it, because he had to work for it.

By learning to adapt to one's partner's communication style, when there are issues to be discussed, the discussions can be productive instead of becoming a new issue and source of conflict.

Posted by: SueMc | February 3, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

In our family, we are still adjusting to being parents. We don't do this 50/50, but try for 100/100. His 100% is bigger than mine. He's the one cooking dinner and playing with the baby more often.

I still can get angry with him, though. Especially for getting through things without being hormonal. I find that when I am frustrated with things he's done or hasn't done, my best solutions are to talk to him, and to work harder myself. When I do those two things, everything seems to work out.

Posted by: magdalainn | February 4, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I think it's a matter of the heart rather than a matter of "communication.".

Take the grocery shopping example. It seems to me that if asked to grocery shop, "What do we need?" is a perfectly logical question to ask, even for the most engaged person.

For one, even in the most completely engaged household, there are things one person will be more aware of than others. I am the only coffee drinker in my house, and am the only one who made coffee. I would not expect my wife to ever buy coffee or coffee filters when she goes to the grocery store unless I had spefically asked her to do so. If I were out of coffee filters, and my wife were going to the store, I would appreciate her checking with me so I would have the opportunity to ask for coffee filters.

Second, I would suspect that being out of a particular thing had triggered the request, and I would want to ensure I didn't miss it.

That some would see asking this question as a sign of the spouse's general cluelessness reveals a generally toxic atmosphere rather than "communication issues." I suppose that instead of asking, the other person could start jotting off his mental list of what is needed to be communicate his awareness of what is needed, but games like this are only necessary in an environment where Dad is presumed clueless until he proves himself innocent.

Posted by: JohnMcG | February 4, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

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