Our goal is to provide information, ideas and support for working women who are also full-time mothers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It Takes Two

When my husband and I got married, we vowed to have a marriage based on equality. And we were pretty good at it, or so we thought. Any relationship involves a steady balance of give and take, but I never fully realized this until we had our first child.

When it was just the two of us, it was okay that I cooked and did the majority of the cleaning. He handled the car and outdoor maintenance, so it worked out well. But add a baby into that mix and things have to change. There are so many littles things that babies need that you just don't think about until it's right there in front of you! We muddled through while I was on maternity leave, but it was a different story when I went back to work. For some reason, my husband didn't understand that he needed to pitch in with dinners, housework, baby care, baby play, etc. And I went along every night, doing it myself, muttering insults under my breath, utterly exhausted from a full day of work, a short night of sleep, and the heavy guilt of a working mom.

This went on for about 2 months before I lost it. He was sitting on the couch watching TV one night after she had gone to bed, while I was up washing bottles, washing dishes, and organizing things for the next day. I looked at him and just started bawling. He was shocked and stunned, of course, because he had no idea what I had been harboring for so long! I was shocked and stunned that he hadn't picked up on it and tried to help out. Such is the story of men and women. Lesson learned.

So from that point on, we laid out duties as 50/50 as we could. I told him where I needed his help, and he tried to take on things without being told. He did need direction at first (and many reminders along the way), but it didn't take too long before we were on track and things were running somewhat smoothly. The best thing I ever did was leave baby alone with daddy, on their own, at least once per month. It took a lot of courage for us both, but after the first successful day, it got easier for us all. And, it prepared us all for when the next baby came along. Because when that baby came along, I realized that parenthood could actually get harder than it already was. Two young children, both needing/wanting attention, can wear a person out. Organizational skills had to be honed, especially while working. In some ways, it was an easier transition because my husband and I had already gone through the "who does what" trials, and he stepped right up to help out. But we hit bumpy roads along the way from time to time. Baby #2 is only 8 months old and we still hit potholes. I would like to complain about his lack of intuition, his laziness, his complete misunderstanding of what it's like to be a mommy (a working mommy at that). But really, I can't. He's a great dad and he's come a long way. He doesn't bat an eye when I ask him to do something for one or both of the kids, and he actually does take the lead on getting baths or getting them ready for bed at times. He drives me crazy a lot, and he still has bouts of cluelessness, but I know I have it pretty good. I have to remind myself of that a lot, but it's true.

I have several single parent friends and I honestly look at them in awe for what they do everyday, virtually on their own. I know what a precarious balance it is in our house, with two parents to split the duties. I cannot imagine doing it on my own, day after day. So when I want to throttle my husband for the times that he slacks in helping out, I try to remember that he's there. And 90% of the time, he tries.


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