When we first talked about moving out of Manhattan, even before we had kids, my biggest concern was food. “We’ll starve to death,” I told him, “or have to live our whole lives on pizza and Chinese food.”
“I’ll learn to cook!” he said cheerfully. And he did. Now we have two kids and he does all the cooking. I took up baking pretty seriously a few years ago, but all that does is cover breakfast and dessert. Lunch is more like assembling than cooking, but dinner is the big one, and that’s all his territory.
When people find out about this, they usually think that makes him some kind of superhero. While I think that too, simply because I can’t cook anything beyond a couple of egg dishes (lunch!), it has always made me wonder, just a bit: If I did all the cooking, would that make me a superhero too? Probably not.
Dad blogger Clint Edwards wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about how he used to think his wife should be grateful for the fact that he would get up in the night to take care of their baby, as if he was “going above and beyond as a father” by doing something most people view as a mother’s job. He and his wife fought about it, until he realized that he was being an ass and apologized.
I think this is an issue with even the most enlightened of dads. My husband is one of them, a true partner in child-raising and housekeeping, but there are things that just seem to default to me without any discussion about it, and it doesn’t just come from him. It comes from the other parents, from the school, from doctor’s offices, almost everybody. Sometimes even from me.
When one of our kids gets sick at school, the first number they call is my cell phone. When there’s an email going around about birthday parties or events, it’s always to me. When it’s time to plan out the summer and find just the right combination of camps, activities and sitters, it’s me. When the kids need something in the middle of the night, it’s me. I could give more examples, but the point I want to make goes beyond the idea that women are still expected to deliver more than men when it comes to the household and children. You can find endless articles about this, and about how we’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet.
Here’s the real breaking news: We ALSO want to be thanked. Just like the dads.
I get up before everybody in my house, and I make coffee and empty the dishwasher and get the kids’ breakfast and pack their snacks and get them ready to get out the door. I make sure they have clothes that fit in time for a new season, and buy their school supplies, and get birthday presents for their friends. The list goes on. And I’d like to be thanked for it.
When my husband sees that I’m getting stressed out and swoops down to take something off my list, I thank him because I am grateful. So why is it that all the things I do are just expected? And why do so many men (my husband excluded, this time), expect to be thanked and praised for pitching in?
The answer for me isn’t to stop thanking the dads. It’s to recognize that running a household, especially one with kids, is just as exhausting and challenging for us as it is for them, and we ALL need to be thanked for the everyday stuff. We should both get praise for muddling through another day of school requests and kid needs and fixing the house as it falls apart and dealing with all the day-to-day stuff that can sometimes feel overwhelming.
And whichever parent gets up in the night with their babies, or stays up late to wait for their teenager, should get thanked. Period.