My husband tried to feed one of our five girls (the last one) Honey Nut Cheerios when she was 4 months old.
Nothing happened, but I remember being annoyed that he didn’t remember he couldn’t do that, and worse, that he felt like he should have gotten credit for trying.
I sounded like one of the women described in a recent piece by Martha Brockenbrough titled “Mad at Dad” (online at www.parenting.com). She explains that many mothers are angry at their husbands in ways that can seem straight out of a bad TV sitcom, only no one’s laughing.
Brockenbrough cites a survey in which 46 percent of respondents “get angry with their husbands once a week or more,” 40 percent “are mad that Dad can’t multitask.” One-third “complain that parenthood has changed their lives more than their husbands.” And no surprise — the more kids you have, the more anger.
Brockenbrough says, “We carry so much of this life-altering responsibility in our heads: the doctors’ appointments, the shoe sizes, the details about the kids’ friends. Many dads wouldn’t even think to buy valentines for the class, for example, or know when it’s time to sign kids up for the pre–camp physical...We’re the walking, talking encyclopedias of family life, while dads tend to be more like brochures."
I think many women have grown up on the idea that equality isn’t a goal, but a right. We’re taught that parenting is a 50/50 responsibility, and have an expectation that a good, modern husband will jump at the chance to change a diaper during Sportscenter.
The reality is that is men don’t help with half the work — and it’s not just chauvinists, it’s good men too. Whether it’s biological hard wiring or the lingering effects of tradition, a lot of men really do want to come home to a warm dinner and then read the paper (okay, Internet news) while mom puts the kids to bed. This puts women in an unfair position. They can get mad at their husbands and harass them to do more around the house, achieving some degree of equality at the expense of marital bliss, or they can accept an unequal burden. It’s no-win.
There’s probably a balance in there somewhere, because I don’t think real equality is even possible, and it’s not always dad’s fault. The majority of the time women are more in charge of children from infancy, and like it or not, it’s easier for men to continue careers uninterrupted.
I’d like to add another layer to this anger. When you are military, you often don’t even have the option to get angry at your partner — he isn’t there. We deal with a different set of anger. We are alone and there is no spouse to get mad at, or to love, and sometime that absence itself is a source of anger. It gives a different perspective to someone getting mad at a husband who forgets to put a hat on a child when it’s cold – he’s often not there in the first place.
I bet being a single parent also gives a different perspective on family stress — it’s no wonder so many military marriages end up that way.
Of course, we don’t want to be angry. We want more help. And I bet if they had sent this survey to military moms they would have found that under anger, what we want even more is having our husband around, whether he does things correctly or not.