“Don’t let her monopolize raising the children,” he said.
It was number three on a list of fifteen do’s and don’ts for marriage, part of a sociology lecture my senior year in college. I took the class to fill elective credits and only half paid attention most of the semester. But this day, in a classroom that sat 300 students on one of the largest campuses in the country, I stopped drawing trees and circles in the margin of my notebook and sat up a little straighter.
Along with edicts for women – “work hard to find a good father for your children” and “don’t play the little women” were rules geared toward men as well.
“If you drink, don’t marry a woman who doesn’t” and “reduce looking at women as sex objects” are in my memory. But the one that I hear in my head every day is, “Don’t let her monopolize raising the children.”
That day, as a 21-year-old, single, childless girl, I didn’t know the weight of those words. I thought it meant something like ‘show up for baseball games’ or ‘eat dinner as a family’ or ‘hand over the credit card when asked.’ I never could have imagined that keeping balance in a marriage and in a partnership between parents could be as hard as finding the ever-elusive balance between ‘career woman who wears cute shoes and likes drinking wine with friends’ and ‘person who never gets to pee by herself.’
10 years later, I think about those words and wonder if I do just that. Do I take charge of our children? Am I sometimes forced to take charge of our children? Does my husband defer to me?
And if so, why?
I have been a parent for exactly the same number of days that he has. We both work. He sees our kids every day. He gets them out of bed, changes diapers, puts dinner on small, bright, plastic plates, and kisses boo-boos.
But when I see him struggling with a tantrum or a fussy infant, I swoop in and fix it. I distract the toddler or take the baby to another room. In the moment, in my rational mind, I just want to fix the problem and soothe the child. In the back of my mind, I want to save my husband from feeling the same frustration that I feel too many times to count.
I walk the hallways in the middle of the night and push myself out of bed when the toddler wakes up with the sun on Sunday mornings. I make decisions about bedtimes and naptime and whether she can skip her bath. I enforce rules. I answer questions about how much medicine to give, if she should have sunscreen on or whether or not he needs a jacket. I schedule doctor’s appointments and talk to nurses.
Is that just the way it is because I’m the mom?
Does being around a lot of kids growing up give me more knowledge of their needs? Eh, I don’t think so.
Does that make me a better parent? Not even a little.
We all need a break from time to time. We gladly accept a pinch hitter who gives us a chance to catch our breath, cracks a joke, offers up cookies or hands out punishments. In my mind I’m being helpful.
But, am I monopolizing parenting?
This guest post was written by Krista, author of the blog Not Mommy of the Year. You can find her blogging about life, motherhood and everything in between.