I ran across a blog post this week written by a woman who was tired of having to ask her husband to do things around the house. It’s not the first such post I’ve read and it won’t be the last. It’s a runnning joke among women to complain about our husbands being an additional child for us to take care of.
I have friends who can’t go out for a girls night without getting 57 text messages asking where the diapers are and how to boil pasta and which pajamas are for which child. I know a fellow mom who, when her kids were infants, got up early with them every single weekend while her husband slept in. How did this become the status quo?
I think part of it has to do with the fact that we are generally more apt to discuss the negative with our friends, and the public at large, than we are the positive. Women are willing and eager to jump at the chance to lament the annoying things their husbands have done. We can bond with any woman on the Target checkout line with a rolled eye and an exasperated “Men….”
We are much less inclined to dish about the wonderful things our husbands do. And I get it. No one likes a bragger. But by solely looking at the negative, we leave out the positive examples toward which we can strive, focusing only on setting incredibly low hurdle bars for our partners to clear. It becomes a mentality of “well, at least my husband doesn’t ___ like Ann’s does,” or “at least my guy is more ____ than Sally’s.”
Because let’s all be honest, we play the comparison game. It’s only human. And it’s fine to vent and dish the annoying crap; its cathartic and necessary. But let’s balance it out with some of the positive so the conversation can shift a little toward a realization that men are not children and we should hold them to an adult standard.
Fellas are just as capable at doing all of the household chores and child-rearing as us ladies. There, I said it. The cat is out of the bag. They are supposed to be our partners, not our employees. You are not their boss and you shouldn’t have to direct them and give them to-do lists. They have eyes and you are not their Mommy.
Dishes in the sink? Grab a sponge, Bill.
Laundry piling sky high? You know where the machine is, Tom.
Baby stink like a dumpster fire? Grab some wipes and roll up your sleeves, Ted.
Let them figure out how to get shit done without you. If they are out of practice, just stop doing some stuff. They will notice. And when they come to you crying, “But babe, why isn’t the wash done? I have no clean underwear!” Give them a confused look and say, “Oh man. Let me check the calendar. I’m pretty sure I did the wash the last 635 times so I thought this was your week.”
If you’re setting the bar super low, you can’t be too surprised when the hubs is letting himself coast. If every time he changes a diaper or you come home to clean dishes, you act like the guy has just cured cancer, then he’s being conditioned to think that he is rocking the partner game. If his getting up one morning and taking the kids downstairs so you can sleep elicits tears of pride and joy from you and he is crowned the best guy ever, then don’t be surprised when he thinks he is doing you a grand favor. He’s not. That’s that low bar again.
I know men are capable because my husband is actually rocking the partner game. And I’m not saying this as a brag. He’s not perfect. He’s not a mystical dreamboat (I mean I find him pretty dreamy, but I sleep with him so I probably should). I do my fair share of eye rolling and exasperated sighing. We have fights and things we absolutely don’t jive on. But it’s never about someone’s fair share of work. We don’t keep track. I don’t have to tell him to do anything. He’s a grown ass man and I am not his Mommy. When I go out, I will never get a call asking how to do something. He either knows or will figure it out. Because that’s what grown-ups do. And while I show appreciation for all he does, just as he does for me, he doesn’t get brownie points every time he does a load of laundry or cleans the stove.
Aside from the fact that we are all too exhausted from the kids, we shouldn’t have to be adopting hairy 30- and 40-year-old man babies; we’ve got little eyes watching us all the time. If you are a woman who is teaching her sons and daughters about current events in our country, about gender equality, about the empowerment of women, you have to have these same virtues reflected in your home for any of that to sink in. My kids don’t know about things like “women’s work.” Sure, they know that if a pipe needs to be fixed, that’s a complaint for Daddy, and if a hole needs to be mended, go find Mom. But that’s more because of our specific skills and talents than it is about what’s between our legs.
They see Mom cook dinner every single night. But then they see Dad clean it up every single night. They know that Mom is more likely to get up at night to deal with bad dreams and bloody noses, but Dad is more likely to tell them to let Mommy sleep in the morning and take them downstairs to eat and play. They see me do most of the vacuuming and dusting, but I rarely do any laundry. I get my daughter up for school every morning and get her ready, but it’s not me that makes her lunch every day. This house and these kids are not just mine. They were made by and are tended to by both adults in this house.
So ladies, unless your husband gets down on his knees to praise every dish you wash and diaper you change, please stop sending in the ticker tape parade every time he does the same. And to those of you who have husbands who are already doing 50% of the work as they should, tell your friends. There is no shame in it. We are loosey goosey with our husbands’ annoying habits, so let’s provide some balance.
Maybe word will get around that we can expect more from these fellas. They can be pretty awesome when given the chance.