Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Role(s) of a Parent

My husband and I don't really fit into a parenting category. Or rather, perhaps we fit into several categories. Dad is in charge of the sports, for the most part, except I took them to their first baseball game and introduced them to kites. I've been the main breadwinner for a while, but Dad's bringing in the bacon since I got laid off. Dad spent two days a week with Donovan for much of his preschool career, as well as doing a lot of the pickup and hanging with the moms at school. I usually make the meals and buy groceries and clothes, but all I have to do is ask and Brian will make sure they're fed and keeps the soccer drawer well stocked.

When it comes to chores around the the house, raising the kids or being a loving partner, there is no question we have likes and dislikes, our skills and incompetencies, and, it must be said, we have our thoughts about how the other performs. Sometimes it's cut and dry, no emotions involved. I have been known to leave the occasional crayon in the laundry, we both forget to buy milk, and I have completely written off putting together Ikea furniture. I also have to confess, I have to call him in to get Donovan to listen. I swore I'd never utter those words "should I call Daddy?" or "just wait till your father gets home", but I've even gone so far as to ask Brian to tell Donovan to put his pajamas on or explain that he has to wear socks with tennis shoes. My husband is a fine cook, but hates it with a passion, and can live with slightly more mess than me. He ends up working a lot at night, leaving me in charge of baths and books, but happily takes on the bulk of the dog walking and soccer playing when he's around.

There is absolutely no question we do not have a perfect marriage. There are resentments and fights, over your typical and not so typical topics and our communication is a continual work in progress. The thing is, for those chores we would gladly pay someone else to do, I cannot imagine one of us complaining. Brian may not bring in the big bucks, but he still works hard, and would never complain if dinner was not on the table, consisted of only vegetables, or I burnt the steak. He occasionally passes on the meal I've prepared for a late night bowl of cereal, and I may feel some resentment, but I've learned to accept that. I might have a hard time reigning in the kids at reading time, but I either ask for help or deal with it, which I admit took me longer than I would have liked to learn. I might come home to find the same unfolded loads of laundry, even after he said he'd fold them, but it only took me a few (okay, many many) months years to realize something came up, and he often acknowledges and apologizes for not getting it folded.

I know my husband feels the same way sometimes, just the other day said I have got to stop yelling at Donovan. We make sure we thank each other, and the kids thank the other parent. We would both love a cleaner and a cook, more organized living space, and Keegan is constantly complaining about his lack of socks (I told him sort out the socks and I'm happy to do a separate load). However, we understand life with little kids, a growing business and an on-going job search does not leave a lot of extra time.

I recently read, partly, "What Happened To The Girl I Married?" by Michael Miller for the latest Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club. It's sort of a "how-to" for husbands of SAHMs, self-help type memoir, in which Michael seeks to answer the question "What does she do all day?" he poses to his buddies at work, and find out what happened to his wife. The thing is, I've thought about that too. Gee, if the kids are in school 4-6 hours a day, maybe at a friends for a couple more hours, doesn't that leave plenty of time to eat, read, cook gourmet meals, fold the occasional load of laundry and put on a little make-up? For some reason it took Mr. Miller about 10 years and cushy amount of dough allowing him to stay at home to answer that question. Seems to me, he could have just asked his wife, with an open mind, of course.

I don't know why this booked rubbed me the wrong way, after all, I have a friend who had a similar experience, and his wife nearly left him. He just could not understand why all the money he made was not enough, he was supposed to be there too? He read "Men are from Mars" and swears by it. I remember him panicking about being alone with the kids for a week, considering asking his wife to hire some help before she left (which I explained is not such an easy thing). Then I discovered he was planning to take the week off, and I just burst out laughing. He didn't think he could handle his 5 and 8 year old alone for a week. I've also come home after a long day at work then grocery shopping, and being pretty pissed find the kids still needing dinner and pjs at 7:30pm.

Perhaps it's because I've never been the "full-time" stay at home mom. Many of the posts I've read from my fellow mom bloggers were from SAHMs who could relate to the book, and in fact I have a friend who wants to borrow this book for her husband. My husband gave up his corporate job before we had kids, so I really have no choice but to have the high-paying job just to pay rent in the Bay Area. I may work the corporate job (admittedly not an executive position), I still do a lot of child and household stuff. I may not have been to as many doctor and dentist appointments, but I've remained very involved in the day to day activities of the kids lives. I don't believe it's only because I'm a woman. I know plenty of husbands who do all the cooking, take the kids to the park every night and coach their kid's soccer team. I can understand ignoring laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning, but it seems like the author was also completely uninvolved with his kids' and wife's lives.

The reviews seem favorable, although most of the Amazon ones were from men. To me came across as a bit of a jerk, IMHO, and I swear I know nothing about him, I'm sure he's a much nice guy in real life. It also seemed like every time he noticed he and his wife tackling something in a different way, he chalked it up to men versus women. I can't say I'd recommend this book, except perhaps to men in his exact same position (busy executive and stay at home mom/wife who he doesn't seem to recognize anymore). Or maybe I'm just jealous his wife gets to stay home, or of their money.


  1. This is a subject close to my heart- being a working mom of three, married, a's very difficult to find a good balance and keep it.

  2. This is a test, only a test.

  3. I don't fit into a neat parenting category either! Although my husband does, being a full time working guy. So I did relate to the book more than I thought I would, actually. I think that this book is, after all, written for dads and guys. Miller writes in a business-y tone, even referring to his kids as "constituents" and admitting that he needed an admin. I agree that is a rather extreme situation - the uber busy executive absent husband with the SAHM wife and they are both growing apart. But I think that in many marriage with kids involved, it is very easy for the two people to grow apart. You have to work at understanding and appreciating each other.

    Love the new site!

  4. I don't think there is a traditional definition anymore on how a family should be, or shouldn't. The economy is the source of some of that... moms returning back to work as a means of survival, dads getting laid off.

    I personally have lived on both sides of the grass is always greener cliche and I must say, for me, being a stay at home mom is much harder than be a working mom.

    That said, I do believe that we can have it all with a lot of communication in between. You must learn to function as both companions and teammates, without defining traditional roles.

    I've spent the past 8 months interviewing moms on this very topic. Women today are strong and independent and many do believe that working makes them a better mothers and wives. It does for me.

    Thank you for your post...


  5. Sounds like you've experienced the work/parenting situation from a lot of different vantage points and that you and your husband have divided up responsibilities pretty fairly. You're right to point out how extreme the divide was in that book. We used to live that way too back when my husband worked a million hours a week at a law firm, and I felt like a single Mom all week long (albeit one supported financially by my husband). I imagine that's how the author's wife felt. It is such an extreme way to live with one person trying to be 2 parents and the other one killing themselves at work. I didn't enjoy the book either and wouldn't recommend it but I found some useful insights from the author about the ways parents shape their identities.