When Dad Gets The Best Of The Kids, And Mom Gets All The Work

by Melissa L. Fenton

Last Sunday, my husband took all of our kids waterskiing. It was a picture-perfect day, and I was more than happy to pass our boys off to him for several hours (and he was more than happy to take them). Relieved of my duties, I sat back and realized I would finally get some rest and alone time.

Rest and alone time? Yeah, that’s one helluva motherhood joke.

Instead of relaxing and practicing some much needed self-care, I spent my alone quiet time preparing our large, busy family for another week. This included me completing the never-ending massive list of shit that is required to keep the humans I live with fed, clean, and ready to tackle school and work. Naturally, part of me was overjoyed to be home alone, to finally have some peace and quiet to get shit done, while knowing my kids were having a blast. But another part of me was massively resentful and totally pissed off that I was the one taxed with our family’s mundane to-do list of necessary tasks, while Dad was enjoying the best of our kids.

Why is it that dads so often get the best of the kids, and mothers are left with doing all the crummy, thankless, redundant, physically and emotionally draining bullshit that it takes to actually raise the kids? In other words, why do fathers often get to be the family’s cruise director, while mothers are the one making sure the damn ship we’re all floating along in doesn’t sink?

I know it’s petty and ridiculous that I’m being so bold as to complain about having a husband who loves to spend time with his kids, and trust me, I know how lucky I am to have a spouse who is a very present father. When not working, or traveling for work, he is a permanent fixture in their lives (and literally their faces), and they love it.

He’s had the awesome privilege and pleasure to at one time or another to be their sports team coach, their go-to playmate for all things wild and crazy. He’s the one who excitedly answers, “Hell yes, we can” to dares, challenges, and out-of-the-box adventures. When it comes to the kids’ greatest wishes and desires, “no” simply isn’t in his vocabulary. He loves taking part in their shenanigans, and they are thrilled to have him.

And while that is all fine and dandy, when one parent is most assuredly not the “no” parent, that means by default the other one is forced to be. And that would be me — I’m the “no” parent. I’m the in-your-face “get in the bath, do your homework, brush your teeth, get off your phone, and do your chores” parent. I’m there to direct the shitshow that is our household on a regular basis, but when it’s time to let go of the wheel and take a joy ride? Hell, I’m not even in the damn car.

Moms, we have only ourselves to blame for not taking back the fun with our kids. We’re so consumed and obsessed and rigid with the routines, tasks, and lists that we’re missing out on most of the fun. You know how it often seems our husbands don’t notice anything that needs to get done in the house? They don’t see a sink full of dishes or overflowing laundry baskets, and we just chalk it up to them being helpless or lazy (or both). What if the truth is they do see those things, but instead of giving them more value and immediate attention, they choose to see their value and attention being better served at something else — their children. In other words, while moms are meditating on the minutiae of raising kids, fathers are focused on the big picture — and the big picture tells them to let that shit go. All of it. All the shit, and to enjoy the best of our kids while we still can.

Of course, that is way easier said than done. Laundry and meals don’t get magically folded and prepared on their own, allowing us to squeeze every ounce of joy out of being parents without actual responsibility. But what mothers need to strive for is more of that elusive thing we like to call “balance.” And I for one, am ready to balance the shit out of giving up on all the crap that just doesn’t matter that much, and commit to tagging along with my husband so we can enjoy the best of our kids together.

Join me, okay?