Let's Normalize Men Not Weaponizing Their Incompetence

by Virginia Duan
Originally Published: 
A man in a green and white striped shirt and jeans taking out laundry from the washing machine
B2M Productions/Getty

On the day after Thanksgiving, I will kiss my four children (and possibly my husband), get in the car, and live my best K-pop band BTS groupie life for eight days as my husband is at home with the kids. Sidebar: this is not the first time I’ve taken a trip by myself this year (or in general) and each time, I have zero regrets (except maybe not doing more of what I wanted when I was younger and unencumbered).

Every time I tell people that I’m going on a trip — actually, this happens even when I go out to meet up with friends for an evening or attend a concert — people ask what my husband thinks about all my socializing.

If I’m feeling polite, I will say, “Oh, he’s fine. He’s used to it.” If I’m not, something along the lines of “one of us should have a good time — and it’s gonna be me” comes out instead.

I don’t care if it makes me sound like a selfish person. It’s my life and I will live it how I see fit; I only get one shot. Plus, it’s not my job to make sure my husband is happy — that’s his. I’m not stopping him from pursuing what makes him happy — so why should he have a problem with me choosing the same?

My husband is their father. He’ll be fine.

I’m so tired of well-meaning, but incredibly sexist comments along the lines of “That’s so nice of your husband to babysit the kids for you” or “How will he do being with the kids all by himself?”

Uh, last I checked, my husband is also a parent to our four children. He’s not babysitting — he’s parenting.

His job wasn’t finished after he provided half their genetic material. And though I am mostly a stay-at-home-mom and bilingual homeschool our kids, my husband is a very active parent. In fact, he shoulders a lot of the bedtime routine, plays with the kids, shuttles them to activities when he can, and spends almost all his free time with them — even when I suggest he go out with his friends.

When I ask him why, he shrugs and merely says that he loves being with them. I just stare at him like he’s speaking an alien language.

I love my kids — would legit die for them — but play a board game with them or watch whatever program they’re obsessed with this week on repeat with them? Hard pass. HARD PASS.

Why are the moms always demonized?

Every time I write an article about how I am a hands-off parent or not quite the paragon of wifely virtue — any time I speak about how I actually think or parent — I get piled on in the comments about how I’m a narcissist, abusive, or whatever armchair mental health diagnosis du jour the people have decided to give me at that moment.

But why?

I know I’m not the only mother who hates cooking, who taught her kids how to be self-sufficient very early on, or who doesn’t spend every waking moment revolving her world around her (admittedly very adorable) children.

I know because every time I write an article on those same subjects, women write in thanking me for giving voice to their thoughts and for helping them feel less alone.

But let’s be real. We all know why women are cast as the villain.

Patriarchy. Hegemony. Religion.

And who upholds the patriarchy? Who gives it teeth and enforces it by any means necessary? Women do.

Stop accepting weaponized incompetence

When my husband traveled for work and left me at home alone with three children aged 7 and under while I was hugely pregnant, no one asked me how I would hold up. No one wondered if I could handle being alone and outnumbered by a bunch of tiny, feral humans while growing a future tiny, feral human.

No one asked me what I thought about my husband telling me he started ordering salads because he was getting sick of eating filet mignons on the company dime all the time. (And trust — I had opinions.)

No one asked if he pre-cooked an entire week’s worth of food for me and the children or if he printed out the kids’ schedule or if he arranged all the shuttling to and from activities before he left.

You know why? Because it was assumed that all child-rearing was my domain. My realm of competence. My life’s work.

Here’s a newsflash: child-rearing is also my husband’s domain. It is also his realm of competence. It is also his life’s work.

Oh, yeah. And he is also a grown up.

When I leave, I do not provide food because my husband knows how to feed and water the children (and if push came to shove, the children know how to feed and water themselves). At the very least, he knows how to spend money and buy life sustaining foods and liquids — pre-made or otherwise.

He knows their schedules — and if he doesn’t, he opens up our shared family calendar on his phone and — get this — he reads it. And then — and this is key — he does it.

I have never begged him to do any of these things — I expect him to do it. Why? Because these children are also his, and he can do things. If he couldn’t do things — if he didn’t have basic competency in life — how could he hold down a job and be the primary breadwinner for the family?

That’s right, dear reader. He could not.

I’m not saying I don’t make adjustments or arrange things to make it easier on him, I do. I accept that when I’m gone, it won’t look like business as usual because that’s unrealistic and cruel to everyone. I also know that I’m lucky he works from home and my children are older now — but also — I did my time when the kids were younger, and arguably much more difficult to care for, and he was not working from home then.

Let’s normalize husbands — men in general, really — not weaponizing their incompetence. Let us make it scandalous when men shirk their duty — when they try to gaslight us and pin the entire burden of childrearing on our capable shoulders.

I believe in them, and I believe in you.

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