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Pracitcal Tips for Being Friends

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moms, your husbands are not complete idiots

Here's what you will never hear a dad say, " Oh I can't leave the kids alone with my wife, she doesn't know any of their schedules and who knows what type of mess I'll come home to." Once dad goes out the door he has enough faith in his wife that she will be able to keep the house and the kids in one piece until he gets back.

But moms do not seem to have the same amount of confidence in their spouses. In fact, they will almost gleefully point out that husbands can be like having another kid around the house. The big lovable dopes. Now here's the problem I have with this thinking. If dad can't be trusted to take care of the kids that means that my mom friend either has to cancel plans with me or she has to bring the kid along. And mimosa brunches are not that fun if everyone can't drink.

Moms: while I am sure that dad may not dress/feed the kids exactly as you would, so what? Is he really that much of an idiot? This exact question was answered by Ms. Magazine founder, Gloria Steinem. At a speech I attended, she mentioned that one of the top questions she would get is, How do I get my husband to help take care of the kids more? Her response was to actually allow him to do it. And not criticize the way he does it. I could tell this was not what the women in the audience were expecting. Why wasn't she talking about how irresponsible the men were? Instead, she told the moms they were partially to blame because they refused to stop thinking their way is the only way to take care of kids. Ms. Steinem pointed out that their husbands loved their kids and were smart enough to figure out how to get them dressed and fed. Maybe not perfectly but you know what they say about practice. The audience was somewhat outraged but couldn't really argue with the premise. After all, if we women want to claim that we're as smart as men, we can't really say men aren't as smart as we are. It's been years since that speech yet mothers haven't changed their way of thinking. M mom friends continue to protest (way too much) that their husbands won't do as good a job as they will. He won't prod the kids to do their homework correctly, he'll let them watch inappropriate TV, he'll feed them cereal for dinner. Once again, so what? You only learned to be a better parent with some practice. Let him learn. And ask yourself, is your need to be the Officially Best Parent, more important than having some free time away from the kids?

I think moms do know deep down that their husbands aren't idiots and won't let the kids leave the house with nothing but two mismatched shoes and a pair of swimming goggles. So what's with all the condescension? For moms who work outside the house, it's a way to assuage their guilt. Maybe they aren't with their kids like alpha stay at home moms, but at least they do a better job of taking care of the kids than their husbands. I discussed this topic with a working mom who explained that stay at home moms are especially likely to be sensitive about this topic. Because what if her husband is just as competent as she is at taking care of the kids? What's that say about her? He's got his big-ass important career. He has tangible proof-- the salary to support the family-- of his importance. So if he's able to figure out how to dress the kids then does that mean she's not as uniquely as important as she thought she was? Or, and here's the real deep secret, if he can figure out how to take care of the kids and have a success career, why can't she? So as long as dad never really gets the chance to take care of the kids, mom can safely say she's much better at it with no pesky proof to show her otherwise.

Moms, here's the big secret for you. No one, not your kids or your husband, is appreciating you more because you are always around. You're like running water. Extremely important, the family can't get along without it, but no one is grateful every time they turn on the faucet. You only come to appreciate it when a main water line bursts and you're without water for a while. So every once in a while burst a pipe-- just leave the house without planning for it like it's a space shuttle launch. Your kids will notice you more when you're suddenly not around (you know what the say about what absence does to the heart). And your husband will gain better parenting skills and more appreciation for how much you do. So let's go out to brunch. And if you still don't want leave your husband with the kids, who's the real idiot?


  1. Great blog. I hate it when women (mom or not) bemoans about their husbands habits and/or likens them to children. I'm not married to a child; I'm married to a fun-loving, capable and more responsible than me MAN! Sure he's a little more childish when he's sick and wants to be pampered, but that's about it. As far as moms go - no experience, I dont have mom friends.

  2. Good point. I've been thrilled every time my husband participated -- and he jumped in from the first moment they were born! So I cheered! Lots of men don't start out that way, or even grow into it later.

    It helps that my husband absolutely does not pull that "I'm incompetent" crap. He doesn't do things wrong to "prove" that I'm better at it and he should be let off the book. Right there that makes him better than a lot of husbands I know. But the fact is, he does parent differently than I do. And my kids are better for it.

    I knew jack-all about parenting when my first was born. How would *he* know anything without doing it? He has to just do it. (In our case, it's his out-of-control workaholism that keeps him from parenting as much as he should. Oh yeah, we are working on that. Negotiations are deep underway as I'm now pregnant with #3.)

    If women cheered for their husbands, even for their mistakes (that's how people learn!), then they'd jump in more. If men would stop playing incompetent to get out of the gritty tasks of parenting and housework, women would jump in less. We both have a job to do to make this parenting thing work.

    Thanks, you're awesome!

  3. Er. Paragraph 2, that's "he should be let off the hook" instead of "let off the book." What would Freud have made of that slip, I wonder?