Heart-to-Heart

While I was brushing my teeth recently, my husband looked at me in the mirror and asked:

"That stuff in your blog about how I don't help out with the kids, that's old stuff, right? Or at least an exaggeration?"

I thought about letting it pass. It was late, a bad time to risk a fight. But this blog is about telling the truth, so I did.

"No, honey. It's true. I just don't complain anymore. And I don't think it's your fault. You're just not as good at the childcare stuff as I am."

He didn't get angry. "But everyone tells me I'm such a great dad."

"You are a wonderful dad. You do a lot more with our kids than my dad or your dad did. But moms can never really work full-time unless husbands start doing more childcare and household stuff. You know, staying home for sick days, worrying about the kids' lunches, that kind of thing."

To my surprise, he looked contemplative, as if he were chewing on what I said. But at least there was no fight.

Update from washingtonpost.com: Leslie has responded in the comments.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 29, 2006; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Dads
Previous: Peek Into One Stay-at-Home Dad's Life | Next: Advice for Negotiating At Work


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It's also amazing to me that when my husband is with our son - at the grocery store or anywhere really - people will tell him what a great dad he is for being with his kid. No one has ever told me I'm such a great mom for taking my kid to the store/zoo/museum/pediatrician. Dads get a lot of respect for every day stuff - and (in my case) it goes to his head.

Posted by: NewMom | March 29, 2006 8:47 AM

Every time a man does ANYTHING that he considers out of his male responsibilities, he expects to receive a MEDAL!

Posted by: Diane | March 29, 2006 8:52 AM

"No, honey. It's true. I just don't complain anymore. And I don't think it's your fault. You're just not as good at the childcare stuff as I am."

If your husband divorces you, it's your own fault. If something is bothering you and you don't talk to your spouse about it, it will fester and poison the relationship.

I would like your husband to go away for a day or two. I just went on a little trip with friends (about 36 hours away from the family). When I returned, my wife said "You know, I always thought you didn't do much around the house to help out but there was a lot more things I had to do when you were away." Don't take your husband for granted.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 29, 2006 8:52 AM

In our house it is the difference between task and responsibility. My husband is terrific on the task side, but the overall responsibility (knowing when the pediatrician appointment is, scheduling the school conference, looking into summer camps) is on me. This is partly because it doesn't occur to him and partly because I am naturally the more-organized person. I totally understand not discussing this imbalance with the husband. In a marriage you learn what needs to be discussed (read: argued about) and what should just be accepted.

Posted by: Kris D | March 29, 2006 8:58 AM

"In a marriage you learn what needs to be discussed (read: argued about) and what should just be accepted."

Kris D, I agree with you. However, Ms. Steiner feels strongly enough about this topic that she discusses it here where her husband can (and does) read it but not WITH her husband. If it is something "worth" discussing in public, it's worth discussing in private.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 29, 2006 9:04 AM

Excellent point, Father of 2! It does seem a bit passive-aggressive (or aggressive-aggressive), but it makes for good reading!

Posted by: Kris D | March 29, 2006 9:05 AM

Father of 2 said: . . .Ms. Steiner feels strongly enough about this topic that she discusses it here where her husband can (and does) read it but not WITH her husband.


A key point, though, is that Leslie said, "I just don't complain ANYMORE." It might be that she's had this conversation many times already.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 9:10 AM

"You're just not as good at the childcare stuff as I am."

Gawd, am I ever SICK of this attitude. Women need to quit being such control freaks and LET men step up. No wonder y'all are so tired - y'all are freaking tiring!

Posted by: Pat | March 29, 2006 9:12 AM


In my last job I managed a group of about 125 white collar workers. One of the things I learned was:

(1) There are times I wanted someone to take ownership of a task -- I could provide assistance, but at the end of the day I just wanted them to figure out how to get it done.

(2) There are times I wanted help on a task -- I had ownership and was responsible for it, but I could use another hand.

(3) Only one person can take ownership of a task.

If your husband thinks you own a task and he's helping out, while you think he should be taking ownership of the task instead, it is bound to cause frustration to both of you.

Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 9:23 AM

The distinction between task and responsibility that Kris points to, and I do think that, most often, it falls out as she said, with moms being responsible and dads doing tasks.

The idea that one person is the "responsible parent" can lead to some unfortunate dynamics between spouses. First, when people are not responsible for doing something but do it anyway, they tend to think of whatever they are doing as a gift---an offering of some sort. For instance, the person who isn't responsible may of whatever she or he does in terms of household tasks as "helping out" or of taking care of kids as "babysitting." Hello?! Babysitters come on Saturday night when you go to the movies; helping out is what a neighbor does when he or she picks up your kid after school. If it's your home and your kids, it's doing what needs to be done.

When one person for most things, a lot of communication has to go on that can be unpleasant. Even if the non-responsible person (trying to avoid assumptions here) is willing to be involved, he or she will have to be asked or told what to do. The person doing the asking may get tired of asking and feel that the other person should KNOW what to do without being asked or told. If the asker's tone of voice isn't just right, a request can seem like nagging. Those kinds of interactions aren't going to make anybody happy. Better to figure out who's responsible for what, with, of course, the understanding that, if things don't work out as planned (and there's a good reason for that), the other person will pitched in so that important things get done.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 9:26 AM

Whoops! Even w/ all those words, I left out a couple. I mean to say, "The distinction between task and responsibility that Kris points to IS IMPORTANT, and . . . "

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 9:28 AM

Look, let's be real. Men aren't as good at the childcare stuff as women, with the possible exception of men who are stay at home dads. They just don't carry the same information in their heads as women when it comes to the kids. Find me a man who knows the date of his child's last doctor appointment and the date of the next one, the child's current weight and height, the names of the child's current friends, likes, dislikes, etc., and you'll probably be looking at a SAHD.

Leave Leslie alone. Why some of you turn your posts into a personal attack on her is beyond me. The purpose of this blog is to generate discussion, and it seems to me that it's working just fine.

Posted by: Cadence | March 29, 2006 9:28 AM

My husband is the most supportive, involved dad I've ever known. He is a dream when it comes to caring for our daughter. We both work full-time and he has always done at LEAST 50%, many times more, of the getting up in the middle of the night, taking off when she's sick, doctor's appts, baths, and so on. Plus, he is totally engaged with her and incredibly loving.

His goal is to raise a determined, strong, smart girl. I often overhear him saying how strong she is and how he is so proud of her.

I travel for my work and he never once has complained about being a single parent for a week here or there. From day 1, he has encouraged me to have girl time and alone time. I would not be 1/2 the parent I am, or even sane for that matter if it were not for my husband. I did not grow up with a father, so it is truly a blessing to see - for my own sake but more so for my daughter's.

For us its really just the way it is -- and the way it should be. 50/50. Somedays I do 75 he does 25 but then the next he's doing 75 and I'm doing 25. We try to recognize when the other is nearing a breaking point and then step in and take over. It has made for a peaceful homelife & resulted in our daughter getting the best we can possibly provide. We're not perfect, but I see it could be so worse.

Him not participating equally just was never a possibly - for me, but more so for HIM.

Posted by: Happy Mom | March 29, 2006 9:28 AM

Interestingly enough, when I am at home, the responsibility of childcare typically falls to me. My husband is a great help, moreso than many other dads I know, but I have to "task" him to give the girls a bath, or make a bottle for the baby. When I'm not home, he miraculously can do all that without my direction. I don't understand why if I'm there, he needs my direction, but if I'm not, he is perfectly capable of doing all that needs to be done. And yes, we have talked about this, but I've reached the conclusion that things won't change by us discussing them. That's just how we are.

As for the "good dad" going to his head, yes that happens too. We had a huge argument on his lack of acknowledgment of the things I do, when I frequently thank him and praise him for being a good dad and going above and beyond a lot of other dads. It's gotten much, much better and he expresses his appreciation of the things I do now. In his home growing up, his mom did all the childcare (in my home, too, as a matter of fact) so I don't think it occurred to him that I shouldn't have to do it all. Now that we've discussed it, he gets me and at least says "Thanks" once in a while. He is a good man!

Posted by: KS | March 29, 2006 9:31 AM

On the issue of task and responsibility that I raised, let me mention that there are many things that my husband takes care of. Not only on en every-day basis, but I also travel a fair amount for work, and know that he takes care of everything when I am away. As part of that, I have to allow my husband to take care of things his way and not try to control how he does things. To be honest, that is not always easy for me! But it is the only fair and respectful way to share tasks and responsibility.

Posted by: Kris D | March 29, 2006 9:35 AM

Cadence,

With respect to your statement:

"Look, let's be real. Men aren't as good at the childcare stuff as women, with the possible exception of men who are stay at home dads."

I have to respectfully disagree. I have many friends who as fathers know as much or more as their wives with respect to the 'childcare' stuff. In general, as with the case of stay at home dads, it's all a question of whose responsibility it is.

Most of my friends in two-income families still view one of the positions as primary and one as secondary. In the cases where the father is working the primary position they tend to know less about the day-to-day schedule / issues -- and likewise, in the cases where the mother is in the primary position [which many of them are] the husband tends to know more.

Speaking as a father who has taken extended time off to care for his children in support of his wife's career [one in which she eventually left to become a SAHM], I can tell you that we fathers may be more competent than you think.

Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 9:40 AM

I agree with "A Dad." There are a lot of men who are exceptionally good at child-rearing, just as there are a lot of womne who are exceptionally bad at it. Whether or not you have a uterus has nothing to do with what kind of parent you'll be.

Posted by: DLM | March 29, 2006 9:49 AM

Excuse my lousy typing! Obviously that was supposed to be "women."

Posted by: DLM | March 29, 2006 9:49 AM

I'm so sad for you and your husband. It must be terribly frustrating going through life feeling like your husband, the man you chose to be your partner in life, isn't holding up his end of the bargain. And it must be humiliating for your husband to learn how you feel in a public forum, not privately between you. And equally frustrating to learn that, despite what I'm sure he feels are his best efforts, he doesn't seem to be living up to expectations.

It sounds to me like you could solve both problems by having an honest, non-accusatory talk. It may come down to saying that you need a specific breakdown of who does what chores for things to be fair. That way, at least you each know what the other expects. And perhaps you could let him be the first to know that there's a problem, instead of thousands of strangers?

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 29, 2006 10:12 AM

I envy those of you who get even 20 percent out of your husbands (or ex-husbands). My ex-husband left the country and I am raising my 10-year-old daughter completely on my own (no help from my family, his family, no child support, nothing).

Posted by: single mom | March 29, 2006 10:20 AM

And sometimes talking just isn't enough. You partner can nod and say (s)he understands.

What counts is action to follow those words.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 10:23 AM

Single Mom,

That stinks, and I'm sorry. Not that you have a choice at this point, but hats off to you anyway for raising your daughter solo. If I had to guess, I'd say that one day, she'll be speaking with pride of how hard her mom worked to take care of her when nobody else would help.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 29, 2006 10:25 AM

Kids don't stay little forever.

It's probably better for a Mom to accept that hubby won't be good at some things - and seek out those things he will be good at.

My husband is supposed to put the trash out, and I can tell you that if he misses trash day, it just sits there.... That's his job.

If you get too focused on who is doing 'more' you'll be unhappy and you'll still be doing it all anyway.

Posted by: roseg | March 29, 2006 10:26 AM

Single Mom:

I second NewSAHM's "hats off" comments. You are in a tough spot, but, it sounds like you are trying to do your best for your daughter, and, even if she doesn't realize that now, she will when she's older. Moreover, she'll be the pride of your life. Nothing you could do is more important.

I hope you have or will try to find some people to connect with--if not family then friends, people at church, a support group, perhaps a parents group at your daughter's school. There are a LOT of single parents out there. Sometimes just talking with somebody who's been where you are can help.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 10:48 AM

Sounds like a conversation that should have started years ago. It's not about complaining, it's about working and communicating.

Posted by: Liz | March 29, 2006 10:54 AM

My ex-husband and I were pretty much 50-50 with household tasks - or so I thought. While we were in counseling before we split up one thing he said, with great feeling, was that he always resented that I didn't thank him for doing so much (he had never said so before). I was taken aback and started to thank him when the therapist asked him, "Well did you thank HER for doing her part?" - which made us both think (of course, he had not). Yes, it is assumed by most of us that childcare and housework is a woman's job, and that husbands who do half are heroic. I even kind of thought that!

And then after we divorced I found out to my surprise, he hadn't been doing half really. My workload really didn't increase all that much and some of the things he did like paying bills and doing the finances etc, were not as big a deal as he seemed to make them.

So I tend to agree that at least in my case, the tasks the husband did were given more weight and more fanfare than what I did... not to generalize but that was true in my case.

Posted by: Catherine | March 29, 2006 11:03 AM

After my husband died, I found that the few things he did were easy for me to pick up or I could hire someone to do the tasks - who wasn't looking for any medals beyond their pay!

Posted by: Diane | March 29, 2006 11:11 AM

To A Dad, I think your perspective is different because you took extended time off to be home with your children. I'm not denying that many men are great dads, just that they are involved on a different and lesser or secondary level than the mothers.

Posted by: Cadence | March 29, 2006 11:21 AM

Seems that whenever this comes up it's all a question of definitions.

My wife does not work. I do.

Why?

Our goals for our children (reached JOINTLY, mind you) include a certain lifestyle, income, and level of child care. We decided I would work and she would stay home; I can make more money than she can in the same number of hours.

My work is JUST AS IMPORTANT in the total care of our child as hers. That's why we (jointly--gotta emphasize that) included work in the decision of how to raise our kids.

Does she change more diapers? Yup. But there is nothing she does that I can't do.

The problem is that the "men-do-nothing-for-kids" folks ignore the process. Do you want a parent staying home paying attention to their children? I do--my working allows for that. Do you want your child to have a good education? I do--my job allows for that as well.

Is this "childcare"? To me, it sure is. To my KIDS, it is. But to many people, it's just 'making money'. Newsflash: You can't provide childcare without money.

We have AGREED on a division of labor, for the moment. And yes: we give each other "credit" for doing things outside our role. That means I often get praised for childcare, and she often gets praised for nonchildcare.

I have to say as well, that many mothers I know (including my own wife, at times) have two false beliefs: 1) They think they're better at child care than they really are, and 2) they think their husbands are worse at child care then they really are.

You seem good at child care because you are practiced at it, not necessarily because you're a natural. And your husbands often seem bad because they lack practice. Worse yet, many women insist their husbands use what works for them (the woman) which, as personalities differ, often isn't best for the husband.

Want to have a husband who's good a child care? Follow these easy tips:
1) Encourage all attempts.
2) Ask if he wants preemptive advice. If he says 'no', don't give it. Remember how annoyed you were when your mother-in-law tried to lecture you on the proper way to feed a baby? It's worse if you're married to her.
3) Accept his tactics may be different from yours. Do NOT insist on a process; only look to results. He may read a book before bed; you may not. He may be a sloppier feeder than you are. What does it matter if the kid is asleep; if the baby is fed and the mess cleaned up?
4) Be willing to deal with the increased difficulty of having two different tactics. Yes, it's a pain to explain why Papa reads a book and you don't before bed. But after all, you want him to help, don't you?
5) If you can't stand the autonomy, and can't stand changing, and can't stand watching him do things the "wrong" way (while you forget that your OWN way is the "wrong" way to other people), take comfort you're not alone. But stop complaining about it.

Posted by: Erik H | March 29, 2006 11:26 AM

Erik: I find it interesting that you stated "My wife does not work." What do you call what she does all day?

I don't think anyone's saying that men do nothing for kids. In fact, if anything, it seems like most of the people who've submitted comments say that the dads in their lives are great.

Posted by: Other Mom | March 29, 2006 11:31 AM

Task v. Responsibility -- that sums it up nicely, Kris D.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 11:35 AM

Erik:

Easy tip #1 - toddler goes to Mommy looking for a reward every time he is a good boy!

Posted by: Diane | March 29, 2006 11:41 AM

Give Leslie a break. She managed to communicate something that was bothering her in a way that didn't undermine her marriage, and may have some benefit down the road. Very, very few really significant issues in a marriage are resolved in one conversation. Changing habits of thought and the way we routinely do things takes time and patience on both sides.

We should also remember that a marriage is not a business deal. Neither partner should take advantage of the other, but if the relationship is approached with the attitude of "I do this in exchange for my spouse doing that, which he does in exchange for my doing . . ." and keep track of the percentage contribution made by each, a marriage is doomed to fail. If someone is inclined to approach it that way, I'd suggest they consider the fact that no two people will ever value the individual contributions to a marriage in quite the same way.

One may want the lawn to look like a golf course, while the other doesn't care. One may spend hours keeping the house spotless and organized, while the other would actually be more comfortable in a more homey (read "messy") setting. It's amazing how many people expect gratitude for doing something their spouse never particularly thought needed to be done in the first place.

But even if both spouses place the same value on things, marriage is still a matter of love, respect, and mutual effort to make a life together rather than keeping score. Doubtless Mr. Leslie could, and should help more with the kids and recognize the disproportionate contribution that Leslie is making towards child raising. But Leslie obviously loves and respects him - there must be more to the marriage than the "deal" over taking care of the kids.

We don't know what else he does, the other contributions he makes to the household, or the other forms of love and support he provides to Leslie and their kids. The particular things we do for our spouses and families change over time, as their needs and our resources, abilities and level of maturity change. What doesn't change (or at least, should only increase) is our love and commitment - which can't be measured in percentage terms.

Making a marriage work is hard. The last thing any couple needs is outsiders second guessing the accomodations they make with each other.

Posted by: Marriage is NOT a Business Deal | March 29, 2006 11:58 AM

Agreed: Marriage is hard work.

However, when your career is based on letting a very public forum know details on workings, you are opening the door yourself. We are more than happy to come on in.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 12:03 PM

Other mom - oh, come on. You know he meant "outside the home."

Erik - well stated.

Posted by: DLM | March 29, 2006 12:21 PM

I don't have kids, but this blog is a real eye-opener. This kind of stuff should be required reading for anyone considering marriage and parenthood. I am very adverse to double-standards and imbalances in stuff like household contributions/responsibilities, so naturally I am very concerned about what effect parenthood will have on my relationship with my (potential) spouse. Unfortunately these comments aren't putting my fears to rest (with the exception of Happy Mom). While it's one thing to just give up your standards about vacuuming or dishes, it's another to lower your standards about raising your kids. You can walk away from a messy kitchen or cluttered living room, but you can't walk away from a child's needs. I just wish I saw more examples of men and women displaying mutual respect and cooperation towards each other.

Posted by: Leslie | March 29, 2006 12:26 PM

The first step in getting your husband to take on more with the house and kids (besides asking, duhhhh) is to give him his own space without being critical of the details. The next is to simply say thanks regularly. A simple formula --

The women who complain that their husbands don't help out are the same ones who nit-pick and complain. Whether you like it or not, that's just not the way to motivate a man.

Posted by: pta mom | March 29, 2006 12:27 PM

DLM: No, I don't think Erik did mean that. I think it was a telling statement. He obviously has issues with the way his wife does her "job". There is a lot of frustration in his comment.

Posted by: Other Mom | March 29, 2006 12:34 PM

To PTA Mom:

Way to motivate a man -toddler gets a reward from mommy every time he is a good boy

We're talking about grown ups here!

Posted by: Diane | March 29, 2006 12:46 PM

I though Erik made some good points re the issues that come up around childcare and household tasks. It's always better to ask and show appreciation than to sulk, complain, and criticize.

I also think it's valid to point out that the work he does in "the marketplace" can be understood as childcare in that it produces resources that support his kids. That work is different that childcare and housework, though, in that, very likely, he'd do it whether he had kids or not. And, he'd receive a salary and whatever recognition he earns now. He might spend more time at it because he didn't have to worry about being a dad, or he might spend less time because he could by on less money. But, unless he aspires to be a ski bum or some other fairly unconventional thing, he'd probably be doing most of what he's doing now, enduring the same frustrations, and getting the same rewards.

That's not true for Erik's wife---or any SAHM. Most of SAHMs do is done because the kid is there. Their lives would be entirely different if they didn't have kids. Of course, I'm not saying that women don't want their kids! But most women don't want to stop being seen as smart, entertaining, capable, and worthy of appreciation and recognition. And no matter how much you like your kids, it's just hard to get a lot of strokes from other adults when you're not bringing home a paycheck.

This is not a terrifically original observation, but perhaps it bears repeating. Erik is making an important contribution; his wife is making a different kind of contribution. But not all contributions are created equal. Even when both partners agree that one will be a stay-at-home parent, it is very, very hard to get past that reality.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 12:47 PM

Leslie,

I hope the blog doesn't cause you to give up hope! Like most things, people don't tend to say much when all is going well and they complain a lot when it isn't. My husband and I have worked out a pretty good system, I think. We both worked when our first child was born. I tried very hard to let him parent his way and not tell him how to diaper, hold or feed our baby and the result is that he is completely competent at childcare, if not better than I am in some respects. When our second was born, we made the decision for me to stay home for a few years on the theory that our overall family stress would be reduced, which turned out to be true. Sick days were never a problem because I was there. We could use his vacation time to vacation and took more trips. Cheap trips, but we still traveled more when I was a SAHM.

2 years ago, my husband decided to go back to school, so I went back to work. He has taken up more household chores than I do because his schedule is more flexible. I drop off kids, he picks them up. He makes dinner, he does laundry, I put the laundry away.

The keys to making it work seem to be communication about expectations and when you're unhappy, and appreciation for everything the other does to make the family work. It's been hard work but it's worth it.

Posted by: Working (for now) Mom | March 29, 2006 12:56 PM

(to Leslie Morgan Steiner) You are getting a lot of flak for airing your marital issues in public, but I think it takes a lot of courage. Did you discuss this blog with your husband before it was launched? Did he give you his blessing? If so, please share this with the peanut gallery, if only to silence the side discussions about the appropriateness of your actions.

Posted by: Leslie | March 29, 2006 12:58 PM

Oh, and one more thing: Erik and a number of men have pointed out that they made the choices they did re which parent would stay at home based on who could bring in the most money. Some women whose husbands are SAHDs have said the same thing. But that situation is much rarer.

I would say that the longer we make decisions on that basis, the longer it will be true. Erik's wife will probably always make less than he does, because, even if she returns to work when their children are relatively young, she will have been out of the labor force for several years, so she'll be "behind," and, because she will likely be the "responsible" parent, she will never catch up. So, it's economically reasonable to make decisions based on who makes the most money in the short run, but it may not work out in the long run. With regard to economics, the primary wage-earner can get sick, die, or be laid off. With regard to how people feel, the lower wage earner may always feel secondary.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 12:59 PM

Leslie, I'm so glad to hear that your husband is starting to reconsider his role in your family. Maybe some good will come of this blog after all.

Posted by: LB | March 29, 2006 1:01 PM


cadence wrote:
Leave Leslie alone. Why some of you turn your posts into a personal attack on her is beyond me. The purpose of this blog is to generate discussion<<<

the purpose of this blog is to generate attention for Leslie's book!

Posted by: Rita | March 29, 2006 1:15 PM

Thanks Working (for now) Mom. You made some good points. The things you mention to keep your stress levels low (using vacation time for vacations, staying home rather than trying to do be everywhere at once) resonated with me. I don't have a problem with staying home full-time to raise kids. Parenting would definitely take a priority over my career (which I see more as a means to pay for my life, rather than a defining element of my identity).

However, I do harbor some concerns over the way our society tends to devalue unpaid contributions (like homemaking and childcare). I'm wondering how SAHMs establish boundaries so they don't end up working 24-hours/day to their husband's 8, simply because their work isn't viewed as *work*. Also, how many women out there have husbands who make a good salary, but work late most nights and some weekends - leaving them to do everything else? That could be equally frustrating!

Posted by: Leslie | March 29, 2006 1:19 PM

Good points, Erik.

Perhaps Other Mom is projecting her own frustration -- there was none apparent in Erik's comment. To the contrary, Erik seems to view his family situation as a mutually agreed upon choice that has proved to be good for both he and his wife and, most importantly, his kids. "Work" is not a synonymn for "effort" or "contribution." Work, at least in this context, is something you do for money. Erik's wife stays home, enabling him to work, for their mutual benefit and, most importantly, the benefit of their kids. Erik works, enabling his wife to stay home with the kids, again, for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of the kids. There was a time when SAHMs didn't feel like they had to justify their daily routine by calling it "work" -- motherhood wasn't just a part of a multi-tasking, "balancing" lifestyle. Divisions of labor such as that which Erik describes are hard-wired, and, as a society, we mess with the hard-wiring at our peril. That doesn't mean it can't be Dad that stays at home, and it doesn't mean that we can't find examples of other arrangments that have worked, but the traditional model does work best as a general rule.

Posted by: Not A SAHD | March 29, 2006 1:36 PM

Not a SAHD: Actually, I'm a single woman with no children. I have a dog who is my "baby". So I'm pretty sure there's no hidden frustration, but it gave me a laugh. Thanks for trying.

Erik stated: I have to say as well, that many mothers I know (including my own wife, at times) have two false beliefs: 1) They think they're better at child care than they really are, and 2) they think their husbands are worse at child care then they really are.

Also: You seem good at child care because you are practiced at it, not necessarily because you're a natural. And your husbands often seem bad because they lack practice. Worse yet, many women insist their husbands use what works for them (the woman) which, as personalities differ, often isn't best for the husband.

Not a SAHD, If you can't see frustration in those sentences, you need to read more carefully.

Posted by: Other Mom | March 29, 2006 1:44 PM

I have been reading this blog for the last week without commenting and the negativity is astounding. I don't know if it's like this with all blogs -- I've never read any others. It's not just stay-at-home moms vs. working moms, it also seems to be husbands against wives, and working men against each other. Bizarre, and not at all what I was expecting.

I guess I'm going to ask once again, why can't we all just get along and let families make whatever decisions (homeschooling, stay at home parenting, division of labor, whatever) that they're comfortable with? And I also wish along with another previous poster that we could collectively redirect our energy toward affordable child care and more on-ramps for parents who choose to stay home with children for any length of time. It is just a shame that all this anger is aimed at one another.

Posted by: MomNC | March 29, 2006 1:51 PM

Erik,

Some really good points -- for future reference I've found that substituting 'employed' where you put 'work' tends to make everyone happier [My stay-at-home wife certainly works, but she is not currently employed].

My wife and I went through a similar exercise and it has been extremely effective for us as well. She manages the household and lets me know when / where she could use assistance on the things that she has under her control. As a result, I've been able to do extremely well for myself professionally -- with the increased income significantly increasing our overall quality of life.

I would not be in the professional position I am in right now if my wife had been employed. I've had times where I've had to work 100+ hour weeks for 2-3 months, and I've had times where I've had to take overseas trips with less than 8 hours notice. If I hadn't made those sacrifices, I wouldn't be in a position now that allows me to work at home and still make a great living.

We work well as a team. We don't do the same tasks as the other -- we each specialize in different areas -- and we both take the time to express to the other how happy / grateful we are that the other does what they do.


Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 1:53 PM

"I guess I'm going to ask once again, why can't we all just get along and let families make whatever decisions (homeschooling, stay at home parenting, division of labor, whatever) that they're comfortable with?"

MomNC, I agree there should be more "can't we all just get along" but I jumped in against Ms. Steiner since I felt I needed to defend her husband (as he is not here - to my knowledge). I'm just a man sticking up for a man. Maybe it's the brotherhood of being a married man, I don't know. But her critizing him by saying "You're just not as good at the childcare stuff as I am" just felt wrong - especially since her husband is helping out and believed he was doing good. Sure, if he was a deadbeat, I would pounce on him (for giving us dad's a bad name).

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 29, 2006 1:57 PM

MomNC,

Most blogs attract individuals with strong opinions -- and they often come across as negative. In some cases it's the personality of the poster, and in some cases it's a function of the on-line medium [you can't see the person and thus read the words more negative than perhaps intended].

That said, the best way I've found to improve the situation is to attempt to post your views / thoughts politely and ignore those who choose otherwise. Over time, you find some posters who provide insight and that makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 2:01 PM

A Dad brought up an interesting point. Many of the stay-at-home moms I know have husbands who travel for business, and say categorically that it is one of the reasons they stay home -- because with one parent gone sometimes at a moment's notice, it is almost impossible for the other parent to work outside of the home. I'm wondering if that's the experience of others reading this blog.

Posted by: MomNC | March 29, 2006 2:01 PM

MomNC,

It's not just moms staying home for husbands traveling, one of my close friends who is a father moved into a much less demanding part-time job because his wife had a position that required significant travel.

As a manager, I have had positions I've needed to staff that simply could not be done unless the person could travel at the drop of a hat. It might only be 1 trip a quarter -- but when it needs to be done it needs to be done. In general, the people that I encountered that were willing to fill the jobs were either single or had spouses [male or female] who were not employed. Suffice to say these were also the positions that led to the most rapid corporate advancement.

Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 2:10 PM

I'll be the first to say that if I wasn't such a control freak (grin) regarding my kids, my home, etc. my husband would definitely step up more. The first couple of times I went out of town for work and he watched our two boys (under 5) alone, he called me twice an hour. "What to feed them?" "What should they wear to school?" "Jr. has a 99 fever -- you need to fly home NOW!"

After a couple of trips now he's got his own routine, his own methods, and it works. Or at least I think it works since the house is clean, the kids are fed and smiling in their PJs and there is no social services parked in the driveway when I get home. He even took the boys to the dentist while I was away and got the insurance right and actually scheduled their next appointment (Okay, I did have to call the dentist 6 months later to find out exactly when that appointment was). The point is, this man can't boil water when I am at home. But he is completely capable when on his own. Is he lazy? I think not. I'm just too quick to intervene and do it my way. Trust me, while there may be some exceptions, the guys can do it and do it brilliantly. We just have to give them the chance!

Posted by: Micromanager | March 29, 2006 2:12 PM

Could we have some input from same sex couples on these issues?

Do you face the same concerns that have been expressed?

Posted by: Diane | March 29, 2006 2:17 PM

I am a single (but engaged) woman and have learned SO MUCH from this blog (and other parenting-related WP articles) lately. I've learned:

(1) After a painful childbirth (because a c-section is SO 1970s), I will likely suffer from PPD but I can't take anti-depressants because I MUST breasfeed my newborn and if I don't the kid will either end up: (a) a juvenile delinquent; or (b) stupid. Oh, and there are people out there who have actually BF their kid until they were 4.5 years old, which means there's a good chance my kid would do something horribly embarassing like ask to BF at a "family friendly" restaurant.

But... would anyone really notice that because there will be dozens of out-of-control kids running around and screaming in the restaurant because their parents don't want to stifle their "creative spirit"?

(2) If I decide to SAH, I will never have adult conversation again, but if I am a working mother then I will always have the guilt trip. But if I work, then my kid could actually go to a decent college without piles of student loans afterwards, but that's only if I decide to take on the school guidance counselor, teachers, other pushy moms in the PTA, and the soccer dad/coach who won't play my kid on the team because of whatever reason.

(3) Everyone calls it "teamwork" but really there has to be a loser and it's always the woman because women are "so good at childrearing."

Hmmm...I should probably stop reading this blog, but it is just like a car wreck. You try not to look but just can't stop yourself.

Posted by: very apprehensive now | March 29, 2006 2:22 PM

Dear Very Apprehensive Now:

If you cannot handle people discussing issues and their realities on a blog, then actual childrearing (not to mention marriage) is definitely going to overwhlem you.

Now matter what you do, everyone has their struggles. But, as a grown adult, if you haven't learned the lesson that the things most often fraught with difficulty are the most rewarding, you might cause yourself to miss out on the best things life has to offer.

Posted by: DC Mom | March 29, 2006 2:33 PM

Very Apprehensive,

Don't take this too seriously - lots of people are venting over the little annoyances of life. Millions of people in this country still choose marriage - even though they are no longer forced to by economic necessity. Yes, we have a very troublesome divorce rate in this country, but millions of husbands and wives make it work (we've been married since 1982).

Men and women are different, and many times have very different expectations about who does what, and how it should get done. That does cause conflict. It doesn't have to sour a relationship if both people love each other, and are willing to put in the effort and tolerance necessary to make their marriage work.

Whatever the accomodations a particular couple make with life and each other, no one loses when a marriage really works

Posted by: It's Not That Bad | March 29, 2006 2:33 PM

very apprehensive now,

Umm, it's really not that bad.

Honest.

This morning I took my elementary schools kids up to the bus stop. The other parents at the bus stop included a SAHD whose sons are best friends with mine, a work-at-home dad whose wife is works out of the house twice a week, another father whose wife is currently traveling for work, and another father whose wife had an early morning meeting. About once a week it seems that the bus stop is all fathers.

If you and your husband have children, talk about how you plan to manage it -- and then be prepared with Plans B, C, D, ... as you find out what doesn't work and what works.

My co-workers were shocked when I took a couple months off from my dream position that was moving up the advancement ladder quickly so that I could spend time taking care of with my infant son while my wife was employed. Her graduate school friends were equally shocked when she gave up a respected management position to stay at home full time.

If you communicate it can work. And when it works it's more fun than you can imagine.


Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 2:41 PM

"Apprehensive":

It's messy. It's hard. It's frustrating.

My wife and I frequently see our respective contributions as undervalued - and we argue about it.

Sometimes I take her work at home for granted. I try to do more but sometimes I do take on tasks instead of responsbilities - and she calls me on it.

Sometimes she treats the ten hours I spend away from home at the office as a vacation instead of work - and I call her on that.

At the end of the day, however, we have a nice home, our kids are well-fed, warm, safe and growing up happy.

Anyone who focuses on anything - especially marriage or parenting - a day at a time is asking for hurt and disappointment.

Keep your eye on the prize. Being a parent is the worst job you'll ever love.

Posted by: Muddler | March 29, 2006 2:41 PM

A Dad,

Women in general seek a balance while men in general seek accomplishments. This is one major reason why well qualified women do not always make it to the top of the heap. Men on the other hand typically do whatever it takes to succeed. Men are more willing to be slaves of their employer.

I used to work for large chemical company in their corporate R&D headquarters before leaving for an academic job. Before I was married, I worked loooooooong hours and after I was married I worked looong hours. My future wife, a pediatrician, worked only 3 days a week (granted they were long days). Working longer weeks was not her thing since she liked to have balance (something about smelling the roses and what more do I need). As you can tell, she is very un-patriotic.

My wife expressed an interest in being a SAHM when we had children. It was something she enjoyed as a kid and wanted to share it with our own children. I on the other hand was forced to deal with the reality that I am not going to be driving as an expensive car as I liked, live in a house that I desired, or have all the gadgets to my hearts content. However, after watching my wife become a SAHM (it was not an easy transition), I marvel at her sense of balance. Maybe that rapid corporate rise is not all that's it cracked-up to be and perhaps we men should take heed to a little balance in our lives.

Posted by: Admiring Husband | March 29, 2006 2:44 PM

For V. Apprehensive: I think you've summed it up pretty well. I have two kids, am a working mom, and this blog gives me nightmares. Bottomline is you do what's right for you and don't worry about everyone else. Keep the lines of communication open with your SO and don't be afraid to let yourself be happy.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 2:49 PM

Admiring Husband,

Good points. [Willingness to forego that balance is probably one of the reasons we men tend to die off much earlier.]

For me, the long hours have led to a postion where I have tremendous job security and job enjoyment. I work primarily out of my house, with some occassional travel. I get to take my kids to the bus stop, have breakfast with my wife, and generally enjoy life. I wouldn't have been able to do that without the hours I put in earlier in my career [as well as a couple of trips through graduate school]. Is it worth it? I like to think so -- but certainly arguable.


Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 2:55 PM

Another childless lurker here, I notice that a lot of reference is made to certain things my parents just didn't do for me and my brother. FOr example, no parents were ever at the bus stop and parents volunteered to throw a holiday party - but that was it. Are all these things commonplace now?

Posted by: How much have times changed? | March 29, 2006 2:59 PM

Some folks throw expensive birthday parties for 20 or more of their four year old's "closest friends", complete with professional entertainers.

(See earlier blog).

Posted by: Diane | March 29, 2006 3:05 PM

Does anyone else really worry about money?

My father was a doctor; my siblings are a doctor and a lawyer; my husband and I (still childless) are a public school teacher and a non-profit worker. I know we chose this path, but I fret so much that we simply won't be able to afford kids in this area. Makes me think maybe I should have gone to law school after all.

Posted by: Jane | March 29, 2006 3:15 PM

Can't speak for birthday parties, but we do take turns walking the kids to the bus stop - the world has changed too much to leave an 8-year old on the corner at 8am in the morning.

Posted by: Muddler | March 29, 2006 3:18 PM

When my children were babies, I had to remind my husband a thousand times a day to give the kids vitamins, what was their favorite story, what goes in their lunches, etc.

You know what? When he was staying home as SAHD, I found that I started forgetting to give the kids their vitamins, forgetting their favorite story, forgetting what went in the lunches. I found it wasn't a MALE thing, it was a secondary-responsibility thing.

Now we both work, and we really share responsibility for our children.

Posted by: HollyP | March 29, 2006 3:24 PM

I'm not sure how anyone affords kids in the DC area, especially if they didn't buy a house before the real estate boom. It's not just the high real estate, though, it's the high-consumption lifestyle expected (in some places-- your experiences may vary).

We wanted to live on one income-- mine, which is lower than my husband's but has much more flexible hours, telecommuting possibilities, family-friendly policies and more vacation. In order to do this we moved out of the DC area. We sold our larger house in the DC area for an 1800-square-foot house in a small town. There was enough difference in real estate prices that we could actually buy our smaller house outright, with no mortgage. As Admiring Husband said, we sold out of the American Dream. (Or perhaps just bought into the New American Dream-- More fun, less stuff-- http://www.newdream.org/)

Obviously, this wouldn't work for everyone, and we do miss a lot of the advantages of living in a big city. But I do wonder if the public-school teachers, police officers, etc. will decide to sell out of the DC area and move to someplace where their dollars go a little further.

Posted by: Ms L | March 29, 2006 3:31 PM

MomNC, I’m with you in sometimes feeling shocked at the hostility. But it’s also heartening to read about parents who have established peaceful domestic lives undeer sometimes difficult circumstances. With all sympathy for Ms. Steiner, I do think that married women who want fathers to make domestic harmony a higher priority than career or hobbies should be careful about suggesting that their husbands (the only fathers whose behavior they can reasonably expect to influence) “just aren’t as good at” tasks they would in fact like those husbands to do. Does the husband who is told that “it’s not your fault” feel as though he needs to change, or does he feel that nothing needs to change, since it’s not his fault?

Anyway, resistant as I’ve been to the anecdotal approach, here, I feel compelled to leave a comment for Leslie (the poster, not the blog author): your question about 24 hours of work vs. 8 is a good one. I feel extraordinarily fortunate that in the years I’ve been an at-home parent, both my husband and I have figured that my primary job, while he’s at work, is to nurture and teach our children. His primary job during that time is to earn money, which, as Erik points out, is a way of providing care, too. Anytime I can comfortably combine my primary job with household chores, I do; I can fold laundry while teaching the toddler to match socks and the preschooler to put away her own clothes, for example. And I make some regular times for phone calls, etc. (thereby teaching the kids that they must sometimes entertain themselves). But as soon as my husband comes home, everything’s a team effort. We’ve both worked a full day at that point, and we both make it a point to be kind and helpful to one another. He knows I need a break from the kids, and he plays with them while I get dinner ready. Like a lot of couples, we tag-team on getting the kids ready for bed. We share bill-paying and other responsibilities (I do medical bills, he does mortgage and utilities). He does the dishes every night. And before I wrap up bragging about my husband (sorry!) I have to add this story: At his previous job, he attended a meeting where he and his team were told, with a straight face, that everyone had to work 70 hours a week for a period of six or eight weeks, until their project was completed. Technically it would not have been impossible for him to do this, since I was available to care for our kids. But he values his relationships with them (and me) more than he values his career, and after the meeting he went to his boss’ office and said he’d quit rather than work those hours. He had my full support -- and admiration. I’d rather be out on the streets than give in to such bullying. His company backed down (and hired a couple of contractors to help out with the project), and he eventually found another job where the demands and hours are more reasonable. Even so, he’s on the “daddy track,” since he’s not willing to put in the kind of hours that would earn him promotions past a certain point. But he’s highly productive during his work hours and earns enough for us all to live on, and beyond meeting our basic needs, the thing we value most as a couple and a family is time together.

That, and my newfound hobby of posting on this blog. ;-) Seriously, I wish more people had the means to make choices that satisfied their emotional needs as well as their financial ones. That's something I'd like to work toward.

Posted by: Gloria | March 29, 2006 3:46 PM

Oh, Gloria, there you go saying sensible things again. Not to mention warm and witty. Your husband is a lucky man, and, it seems, you are a lucky woman. And, that being true, your kids are lucky too!

It would, indeed, be good to be doing something to make the world a little better for families who are not so lucky.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 4:01 PM

What a patronizing little (oops, no profanity allowed) you are to your husband. Bless him for sticking by you. I would think more about the value he provides overall to the family including what he enables. You harp constantly on what men don't do, or worse, when they don't do it the way you think it should be done. So they get a failing mark no matter what. But I think men, appearances aside, are far more engaged than you give them credit for. They just don't fixate on all the minutae you want a medal for over-caring about; or jump in the same time and the same way you do. I think you owe the boy an apology.

Posted by: Marcus B. | March 29, 2006 4:11 PM

At one point, I earned twice of what my husband earned, while I was financing his part-time college education. Now, he makes a little more than I do. Our kids are in elementary school. He's a CEO. I'm a senior-level employee. Neither of us have the option of being part-time employees. My husband's position is subject to the decisions of the board of directors and my job is more stable. Neither of us has the option of staying at home if we want a stable financial situation.

Luckily, my husband, who has the shorter commute, drops off and picks up the kids at before and after school daycare and starts cooking supper while I'm commuting. We take turns cooking breakfast. I do the kids' laundry, but he does his own. We both have to work long hours on occasion, but we pull the slack for each other.

I think it helps that we were married a decade before we had kids. We learned to live with each other before we were forced into juggling this crazy situation, which isn't always so crazy.

When one of us is out of state, the other learns to be thankful for what we have. We may complain about minor matters but we wouldn't change it for the world.

Both of us were raised by SAHMs and didn't see our working dads when we were young. While some people believe this situation works well for them, they may want to rethink it. The WOH parent who leaves the majority of child-rearing duties to the SAH parent tends not to realize what he or she is missing until it is too late. When our fathers were older they often expressed their regret for missing out on our childhood. And both of us have no memories of activities with our fathers when we were young, only with our mothers, except for vacations. Fathers who believe they can sacrifice themselves by working tirelessly outside the home so their wives can be at home with their kids may be sacrificing more than they realize.

Posted by: Opposite of my mom | March 29, 2006 4:12 PM

I have to agree with "Apprehensive". I grew up with a single mom, so I have no idea what married life is like. But from the tone of these blogs, married life is starting to remind me of the roommate I once had who made up a chore-chart and stuck it to the fridge. (I was actually a little sad that she didn't go the distance and reward us with gold stars when we completed our chores on time.) I'm not that comfortable with the idea of sharing my closet with another person, let alone arguing about who's turn it is to do the laundry or take out the trash, and whether or not each person is contributing a fair share.

And to Admiring Husband: There is no better way to start a fight then to use broad statements like "Women in general seek a balance while men in general seek accomplishments." Please either provide evidence for such asssertions, or use qualifiers such as "IMHO".

Posted by: Beginning to enjoy single-life more and more... | March 29, 2006 4:14 PM

Look, the thing about mom vs. dad issues is not male vs. female. If it was, gay men would be terrible fathers. But that's not the case, is it?

It's the fact that the mother automatically assumes the role she expects--to be 'mother knows best'. Any father could be the best in the world if he was given as much time with his kids, from birth, as the mother. Before you jump down my throat, just think of your own relationships. Objectively. Step back and think.

Many mothers are defensive of their position because they carried the child and they learned from their own mother, possibly, that it was the mother's duty to do all of these 'household' things. It's not that men can't, and I'm surprised that people think so. There is a wall between the father and his kids that many, but not all mothers put in place. It exists because the 'mother knows best'.

My father, when I was very young and my mother was still at home, worked in the city, which was an hour-long commute away. He had to wake up before dawn and wouldn't come home until late. He travelled around the world and was gone often. When I entered preschool, my mother went back to work part-time, and I don't pretend to know how it was for my parents in dealing with the fact that my dad's job took so much out of him, but I do know that he was the more clueless parent. (Of course, part of that is simply his personality, which gets overwhelmed easily, but I digress.)

Then, when I was in school full-time, my dad quit his job and started to work from home, just as my mother found a full-time job and began to work five days a week. Soon, it was my father who was brushing my hair in the morning (I taught him how to do a ponytail and I was only eight), my father coming in to do school fieldtrips, and my father the one that everyone at school wanted to see.

Every situation is different, but it's the way that mothers grasp onto their role that makes fathers take the backseat. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but in order to be a better spouse, it's a good idea to understand that it's not entirely your husband's fault.

Posted by: what's in a name? | March 29, 2006 4:15 PM

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't automatically assume that I know more about raising our son than my husband does. I'm just as new to this as he is. Plus, he's had more exposure to young kids than I have, especially his niece. He's also several years older than me, and has more world experience than I do. We end up discussing how to handle different situations with our son, rather than me dictating to him what he should do - after all, what the heck makes me such an expert? Sometimes I think "mother's intuition" is a myth - my husband's intuition with our son is just as good as mine, because we spend equal time with him. This is where I think (and this is just MHO) there is a POTENTIAL problem when one parent is SAH and the other is WOH, which "Opposite of my mom" touched on in her post: if one parent is the SAH, and one parent is the WOH, the WOH parent runs the risk of missing out on more stuff with the kids because the WOH parent may have to work longer hours or have a longer commute. That could create an imbalance in the parenting relationship, and the children might be closer to one parent than the other. (Notice I am saying "runs the risk of," "may," "could," and "might" - I am in no way saying that these things WILL happen, just that they MIGHT happen.) Now, if a couple is lucky enough to have a situation where the WOH parent doesn't have a killer commute or long hours, it probably works great - the kids have continuity at home with a parent always available, and they don't miss out on time with the WOH parent. Sadly, though, in this metro area, the WOH parent would likely have to have a 6-figure income to be able to live close to their job and afford for the other parent to stay at home, and that level of income is not easy to come by. The alternative would be to live farther out into the exurbs or more rural areas, but then you run into the commute issue. My point is, it's a delicate balance, with many factors to weigh. Each individual family has to decide what is best for their particular situation, and make peace with that. When people post things like "One parent should stay at home," that's like saying that everyone should wear the same size clothes - we are all different people, with different situations, and just because we make this or that choice, it doesn't mean that we still aren't putting our kids first.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 29, 2006 4:35 PM

Reading this makes me wonder if I'm some sort of freak, even though my wife and I have been married for 15 years, have stable careers and two happy, smart healthy kids. I have always done virtually all the cooking in our house, including the ten years before we had our first child, all the shopping, and most of the laundry. Until a couple years ago, when our oldest got big enough to handle the lawn mower, I also did the typical "husband" stuff: the yard, the garden and the snow shovelling. Until my wife changed jobs a couple years ago, we split time staying home with sick kids pretty evenly; now that rare duty falls to me. (Frankly, I like it: I'd far rather stay home with my sick kid reading stories or playing games than be at the courthouse dealing with other people's problems.)

We had the kids in daycare full time for most of their preschool years-- no small financial burden, that-- mostly because there was no way we could afford for either of us to not be working outside the home full time. It really did work out ok. Our kids, like most who did the daycare thing, were much more ready for kindergarten than those who didn't. After all, it was just a new school with mostly new kids for them.

And we're all happy. It seems to me that if you talk BEFORE you're living together/married about how to divide up responsibilities, or at least keep talking about it as you go along, you won't develop resentments. Neither will you make asinine generalizations about how men can't seem to do more than supply genetic material and a paycheck, even if that's want you want them to do.

Posted by: wihntr | March 29, 2006 4:37 PM

To Apprehensive and Beginning,

Don't worry. There are many wonderful things about being married and having kids that just don't get discussed much. For instance, nobody told me the absolute joy I'd feel when my kid smiles at me, or that I would happily spend hours a day chatting and playing with her. And don't even get me started on how great it feels to see them growing and changing -- today I saw another woman's child roll over for the first time, and nearly cried with happiness. I know it all sounds stupid and slightly cloying right now, but having my daughter has made me happy in ways I never knew were possible.

And marriage can be like that, too. Neither my husband nor I are perfect, but we do tend to face the world as a team. Even when I'm frustrated, there's nobody I'd rather see at the end of the day than him. I'd bet (or hope, at least) that many of the married people who post here feel similarly. It's just that the good stuff seems special and private somehow, whereas it sometimes helps to hash out the negative, be it with friends or on a blog.

And FWIW, I think Erik made some great points on finding that balance between parents. I'm the first to admit that it can be really hard for me to let go and let my husband parent our child. But he's really, really good at it. ANd there's nothing wrong with both people in a marriage taking a moment to appreciate what the other does, no matter how mundane the task.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 29, 2006 4:37 PM

Wihntr: Thank you for your post! It's nice to hear of someone whose situation is close to that of my family, and hear that down the road, it worked out well. I hear you on the financial aspect of daycare, too - I can't imagine what it will be like when we have a second child (which may be a good argument for spacing them out a bit!). I myself was a daycare kid starting at age 2 1/2, and I feel that I was much better prepared for a full school day than I would have been had I not been in daycare. It also sounds as if you and your wife were able to strike a good balance with the day-to-day responsibilities (my husband cooks too, and I am SO thankful - not that I can't cook, but he is so much better at planning meals). IMHO, the success stories, and the happiest families - whether both parents WOH, or one is SAH and the other is WOH - have a common element: COMMUNICATION. If you have trouble hammering out the division of the day-to-day responsibilities and coming to an agreement that is fair and equitable, there will be problems and unhappiness. (Important to note, though, that "fair and equitable" varies from family to family.)

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 29, 2006 4:52 PM

Outer Fairfax mentions COMMUNICATION. Good point -- and it sounds like many here need that.

When I was working I did all of the cooking and he did all of the laundry. I don't think I even knew how to work the washer/dryer. When he was on a business trip for two weeks I saved all of my dirty laundry for him to clean when he returned home. It was probably months before he told me how mad that made him.

Talk about DUHHHH. I felt pretty stupid that someone had to tell me something so obvious but, if he hadn't, I'd still be saving him all my dirty clothes.

Posted by: pta mom | March 29, 2006 5:28 PM

"He didn't get angry."

OF COURSE he didn't! That'd just show up in your self serving, self promoting blog. Or even worse, maybe in your next book.

"But at least there was no fight."

OF COURSE there wasn't! That'd just show up in your self serving, self promoting blog. Or even worse, maybe in your next book.

"But this blog is about telling the truth, so I did."

Nope. Not drinking the Kool Aid. As Rita said, this blog is about selling Leslie's book. Nice try, though.

Posted by: rather amused | March 29, 2006 5:47 PM

To answer another Leslie's question from 12:58 pm today:

"Did you discuss this blog with your husband before it was launched? Did he give you his blessing? If so, please share this with the peanut gallery, if only to silence the side discussions about the appropriateness of your actions."

My husband is more private than I am, so it was particularly important to ask him if it would be okay if I put some of our conversations and conflicts on this blog. So far, so good, for both of us. Of course neither he nor I enjoy getting bashed by posters, but more often than not the comments have led to pretty constructive conversations between us. He probably checks the blog as often as I do. We are both frequently surprised by what sets people off -- shows how individual marriage and parenthood are.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 29, 2006 5:57 PM

There's all this talk about communication, but sometimes, hard as you try, you don't hear what the other person is saying. Sometimes, one way to navigate a marriage is to simply give up on some things. Face the fact that no matter what you say or do, maybe your spouse won't change on something, decide that you can live with it (if you really can), and then just let it be. It sounds to me like Leslie did that here. She complained for a while that her husband did not chip in enough, apparently he did not listen/hear/understand or get it, and then she gave up, stopped complaining. She figured that it was just not worth it anymore. This is a dynamic of many, many marriages. In fact, the ability for both parties to do this on some issues, IMO, is crucial for the survival of a marriage, because really, we are not all going to agree or understand each other on everything, and we have to be able to just let some things go. To try to negotiate and renegotiate everything we aren't agreeing on would just be too dang tiring. Everyone who talks about communication, good for you. But there is a time and a place for accepting what you can't change. Leslie seems to have done this, and I would bet all our communicators have done it also.

Posted by: cg | March 29, 2006 6:00 PM

Leslie,
I think it is very cool of your husband to agree to have some of your conversations posted on the blog. Kudos to you both for being that brave.

Posted by: cg | March 29, 2006 6:05 PM

I work outside the home. My wife does not.
This is how we do it:

We both clean house.
She does the laundry.
I do the yard and wash the cars.

She cooks. I do dishes.
We both bathe and read to the kids.

She tackles the lion’s share of “infant duties” (diapers, bottles).
I do a smaller amount of this work, but do step up.

I fix things around the house.
She handles the money and the books.
We both play with our (3) kids constantly.

She handles appointments – doctor, karate, Little Gym.
I do “weekend fun” – McDonald’s, the park.
She arranges after school fun, visits with friends and art projects.
I save extra office work for late, late a night.

We both know the kid’s friends, interests, fears and strengths.

I try to give her “me time.”
She tries to give me the same.
It isn’t ever much for either of us, but we chose this life – and love it.

The biggest thing we do?
Respect each other. She’s a wonderful mom. I do my best to provide for her.
I consider my paycheck OUR paycheck.
She gave up a career – making twice what I did – to be a stay-at-home mom.
I’m ever aware of this, and grateful.
And often jealous, volunteering to switch.
:)

Really, it isn’t hard.
Divide and conquer.
Get each other’s back.
Talk when things bother you, and remember –
you’re teaching your kids.

Posted by: Hard Work, Either Way | March 29, 2006 6:18 PM

"My husband is more private than I am, so it was particularly important to ask him if it would be okay if I put some of our conversations and conflicts on this blog. So far, so good, for both of us."

You are pretty public. Your husband may be more private than you, but you didn't say HOW much more private he is.

Also, you didn't indicate whether he actually AGREED to having you post your "conversations and conflicts" on your blog, or whether he, like you have with him being "not as good at the childcare stuff," simply "resigned" himself to the reality of it.

"He probably checks the blog as often as I do."

Yeah, I bet he does! And that's ALL he can do!

Posted by: rather amused | March 29, 2006 6:19 PM

How utterly presumptous, to judge someone else's marriage based on a tiny snippet on a handful of blog entries.

Then again, the target audience IS a bunch of self-obsessed yuppies who think different choices have different relative values.

"I'm better! I chose X!"
"A woman's place is X!"
"My woman wouldn't ever X!"

Does everyone realize that your kids are picking up on this crap? How can you teach your kids to make choices when none of the mommies are allowed to make a choice without endless repercussions?

Make a choice, live your life, and stop agonizing. God. This entire debate is like the difference between Tysons 1 and Tysons 2. The only people who think one mall is "better" are brain damaged.

Posted by: Even more amused | March 29, 2006 6:51 PM

I think rather amused needs a life or at least her own husband, so she can stop picking on Leslie for ridiculous stuff.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 7:23 PM

Rather Amused is not really amusing.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 7:53 PM

Hard Work, Either Way- right on! This is what I'm aiming for in my marriage and family, too. Thanks, I like your attitude! :)

Posted by: nadezhda | March 29, 2006 8:35 PM

Opposite of my mom:

Me too. I was raised in a "traditional" household with a SAHM. I had a great childhood with wonderful parents. My father was typically hands off as men of his generation were. I harbor no resentment toward him and we have a great relationship today. Before I had children I would have told you in a heartbeat that I wanted to stay home with my kids after they were born.

You won't hear me say that now. Everytime I see my husband with our children and see the relationship he has with them (which I am convinced he would not have if I stayed home and he had to work longer hours to support the family) I know that we have made the right decision for all of us.

By the way, I put "traditional" in quotes because I think many if not most of the posters to this blog assume that two working parents is a recent phenomenon (and perhaps the eventual downfall of civilization! Actually, having one parent at home (at least in the way most of us picture it) happened only within the last few generations. Prior to that time the wealthy hired out the care of their children and everyone else relied on grandparents and unmarried aunts to raise the kids while mom and dad were working the fields. Kids have been surviving for centuries without a "traditional SAHM". Not that SAHM are at all bad, jsut not the be all end all that some would lead you to believe.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 9:37 PM

Thanks, THS, I've enjoyed your posts, too. Maybe we need to start a revolution.

"Beginning," that's funny about the roommate and the charts. It's true, you don't want to be endlessly communicating with your spouse about dishes and dusting when you could be communicating something amusing or interesting. The goal, I think, is to have daily rhythms and routines that allow family members to enjoy each other's company, and that work well enough that there's no need to continually renegotiate them. It's troubling that such a basic goal of civilized life is so difficult for many people to achieve.

Posted by: Gloria | March 29, 2006 10:09 PM

I'm lucky to be a work-at-home dad. My wife also is home taking care of the kids (two preschool aged girls).

I actually do a lot of stuff around the house, but we still get in arguments about it.

Basic problem is that my job is to handle crisis situations with a client of my company. Some weeks work is easy - I cook a lot of meals and play games with the kids in the afternoon. Some weeks are terrible - and I close the office door for 10hrs a day and talk on the phone. And I never know it's gonna be a terrible week until the phone rings.

I watch kids if my wife wants to go shopping, do most the grocery shopping, cook dinner about 1/3 the time, do about 1/2 the laundery, etc. But in the end, it's her responsibility.

And I can never really promise to be available to do any of it more than an hour or two in advance. I probably do more with the kids and house than the other dads in my wifes circle of friends (well based on what I hear thru the office doors). But we still argue about it pretty frequently.

Actually we argue more now than when I worked 9-11hrs a day at the office for a lot less money and did nothing with the kids or house.

I think that in the end it's about expectations. The fact that I suddenly become unavailable or need to fly off for a week on less than a day notice tends to disrupt my wife's mental plans. And that makes her upset.

Just wanted to throw that out there. Sometimes it's not about what you do, but what you do relative to what your spouse is thinking you should/could/will do. Sudden disruption to the routine brings out the worst in both people.

Posted by: jello5929 | March 29, 2006 11:36 PM

"Find me a man who knows the date of his child's last doctor appointment and the date of the next one, the child's current weight and height, the names of the child's current friends, likes, dislikes, etc."

FWIW, my husband is WOH and not only does he know all of this, he comes to every ped appointment with me. We have never had a well-child visit that was not attended by both of us.

The difference may be that we *both* work fulltime and therefore feel like both financial responsibility and family responsibility is split.

It works well for us. I feel like I have a happy marriage, and unless my husband is lying, he does too.

We both make a conscious effort to notice each other's work both in and out of the home, though. I thank him if he does the dishes, he thanks me for getting our son dressed, etc. Little things, yes, but I don't know, I think making the effort to notice really helps us be aware of what we both do to contribute to our family. Awareness and respect are the keys, I think.

Posted by: Catherine | March 30, 2006 12:14 AM

Chiming in late here to comment on the points made by Opposite of My Mom ---

I think your observations are very important. I, too, was raised by a SAHM and a dad who was always present in the sense that he was, for the most part, there for meals and traveled rarely (so he could kiss us good night), but he was rarely engaged with us.

My mother did pretty much everything related to our care: cooking, laundry, sewing, cleaning, shopping, doctor visits, music lessons, sports practices, all the thousand and one tasks that have been mentioned here. My dad did the "dad things"--helped us learn to ride bikes, came to the music concerts and sports events. Note the difference between the amount of time and real engagement required to teach a kid how to ride a bike and all the tasks that my mother was doing, not to mention being the one responsible for managing it all and the teaching that she did, which involved "girl things," i.e., cooking, sewing, gardening. (I lived on a farm in the Midwest.)

My dad was (and is) a great guy---truly a terrific person who was liked and respected by everyone who knew him. But, to me, he was a sort of vague benevolent presence rather than someone with whom I had a close relationship. When I was younger, I really felt the absence of that relationship and even felt that our lack of closeness somehow reflected a lack of interest in me on his part.

I came to see that that wasn't true and that both he and my mother were both doing what they thought good parents should be doing, and that what they did was pretty darn good.

But there were some real costs. A day or so ago, I wrote about my mother as being someone who was born before her time. She should have had a significant career and left us alone to grow up without quite so much supervision and criticism. If she hadn't been there to do everything, my father might have had to do something, and we might all have been better off.

He'd have had a closer relationship with his children---a real understanding of us as people. My sibs and I would have had a real connection to an adult male and the sense that our father really knew us and cared about us for who we were as individuals, not just because we were "the kids." And my mother might have had more of a life of her own, which might have made her a little bit less hard to get along with.

So, this is not to complain about the shortcomings of my upbringing. It could have been better in many ways, but it could have been a lot worse too. What I did want to emphasize, though, was that, even if it's feasible to have a SAH parent, and even if one parent is content with that arrangement (heck, even if he or she desires it), some thought should be given to the implications of that choice for the relationship between the kid(s) and WOH parent.

P.S. We really do need a preview button on this blog.

Posted by: THS | March 30, 2006 1:41 AM

I was using the common meaning of "outside the home". I think my wife works harder than I do; childcare is difficult. And my wife and I have worked it out very well. I get frustrated when I read columns like this: given that the writer HASN'T worked it out especially well, she seems to be giving bad advice.

Posted by: Erik H | March 30, 2006 11:00 AM

Oh yeah: can't not respond to this THS doozy:

"...That work is different that childcare and housework, though, in that, very likely, he'd do it whether he had kids or not."

Are you out of your #$#%#! mind? You think I wouldn't rather be back in grad school again; working at a low paying, high reward public interest job; living on a boat; and all the other things I would like to do? Sure, I'd be "working". Oops, sorry, "Employed". But my entire life would be different, just like my wife's.

"And, he'd receive a salary and whatever recognition he earns now...unless he aspires to be a ski bum or some other fairly unconventional thing, he'd probably be doing most of what he's doing now, enduring the same frustrations, and getting the same rewards."

I think this is untrue for the vast majority of parents. Maybe you're deliberately trying to cast a broad net to make your point, what with terms like "most of". Bit if you want to draw such feebl;e distinctions between different lives, the comparison fails.

Your point is premised on a faulty assumption: That keeping some sort of "magic list" is possible; that it makes much difference whether you might have been doing something anyway. Conveniently for you, it seems that ANY direct childcare falls into the "special points" category, and ANY non-childcare would "probably have been done anyway".

A much better question might be: How often during the day are you doing something that--right then--you don't want to be doing?

When you're in child care, it happens all the time (much as we love our kids, the blowout poopy diapers are stinky). But when you're at work, it's happening all the time as well.

"This is not a terrifically original observation, but perhaps it bears repeating. Erik is making an important contribution; his wife is making a different kind of contribution. But not all contributions are created equal. Even when both partners agree that one will be a stay-at-home parent, it is very, very hard to get past that reality."

Who gets to decide what's equal? You? At SOME point, you need to merge the concepts of respect for women and lack of respect for working parents.

Why do I think the contribution is equal? Because my wife thinks so too.
Why do I think she'd rather have things set up this way? Because we talked about it, and agreed on the current setup.
Why do I think my wife wouldn't want to change? Because we bring it up periodically in many contexts, and I've offered, and she's declined. THAT tells me you're wrong, and that she's getting a net positive out of it (as am I).

Posted by: Erik H | March 30, 2006 11:17 AM

Matt 4'11 110lbs March 8th last Dr Appt Best friend Cody, likes computers, the bands Sum 41 and simpl plan
Andy 5'1 95Lbs dec last Appt, best friend Jesse, likes rabbits, skateboarding and Good Charlotte(Hilary Duff too)
Josh 4'6 75lbs Kidney ultrasound last May, Bext friend Villi, Likes Spongebob, and 6Teen, musical tates are open.

I am a full time working Dad, but know these things because it is my job

Posted by: wayne | April 3, 2006 12:59 PM

Ah, Leslie whining again, about her husband, again. I can't even read this blog anymore, but, like looking at a car wreck, feel compelled to check in every once in awhile. I don't know why because all she does is make me mad. Leslie constantly blames someone else for her own choices, like her husband. And she is doing "the bulk of the work" because she chooses to. And she chooses to so she can whine about it and act like a martyr. Give it a rest, already.

Posted by: Teresa | April 3, 2006 5:02 PM

These posts make me never want to have children - ever. I'll stick with my beagles instead.

Posted by: Ted | April 7, 2006 12:48 PM

I am a dad. I apprecate how late my comments are, but when I was raisng my children (youngest is now 21 and I have been separated 18 months) I was responsible for the orthodontist. From the time my daughter was 13 until she was 15 I was responsible for her hair salon appointments. I bought most of my childrens clothes until they could manage a trip to the mall by themselves, even my daughter. I scheduled their chores when they were old enough to do all the housework.

I worked full time and often out of town. I did these things because I loved them. I understand not all men do these things, but many woman refused to beleive I was capable or interested.

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