Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Husband Bashing and Other Sports

The topic of husband bashing has been on my mind lately.

But, let us call it Indirect Spousal Criticism, or I.S.C., instead.  Husband bashing sounds petty and violent, like hitting your hubby over the head with a grill pan because he doesn’t make the bed.

This is probably a little dangerous of me to write.  And probably a bit stupid.  My husband will read this at some point.  But I know there are readers who agree with me, and others, especially single moms, who might think me an ungrateful so-and-so who should get back in her handbasket and make a return trip to you know where. 

Let me say that I love my husband dearly.  He is a great guy and a fantastic father. Barring work obligations, he is home every night before 6:30 p.m. to help with the witching hours.  Yep, just gets home for the point in evening when the kids act like they are on crack and you have a strong urge to survey the scene from the sofa, drinking wine straight from the bottle. He regularly takes Riley for super fun outings like riverboat tours, museums and to the lake.  He’ll grapple with Aria’s 19th nap put down of the afternoon.  When I am sick he picks up the slack so I can sleep.  He continually compliments my ability to seemingly do it all.

So what is my problem?  I ask myself the same thing, as I prepare to hop in that handbasket.

Like most mothers, I am the C.O.O.; I want things done a certain way.  My way.  I remember seeing a gentleman on the Today show promoting his book.  His premise was that today’s Dad is a far cry from the do-little father of the 60s.  Today’s Dad makes an effort, so even though he might not do it your way, Mom, you should let him do his share.  Children benefit from seeing partnership and different ways of going about things.

Okay. Makes sense. I’m not perfect and my systems may need some tweaking.  And I’ll admit that the baby has fallen off the bed on my watch, too.  But when John decides to watch a game and Riley draws on the wall, or when our home smells like one giant diaper because of delayed garbage removal, this different strokes stuff is very hard to swallow. 

So running to the phone I go, to vent. 

My problem is I want another me. I want someone who once he’s home lives by the fast food rule.  Not the one in The Happiest Toddler on the Block.  The one that goes, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”  Being home these days is constantly supervising, cleaning, cooking, straightening up; it’s a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. Going out is no picnic either.  Just getting out of the house with two little ones can be an ordeal, and no trip out is complete without bringing stuff in - diapers, wipes, milk, something we ran out of between big shopping trips.  Sometimes it’s too much to have to ask, delegate or negotiate.  I want someone who picks up where I left off, and who knows my system. Someone who does something about the fact that the contents of the kids’ hampers could fill a Mini-Cooper.  Someone who sees what needs to be done and just does it.

I might sound a bit petulant, but here’s the thing.  We both work. I work part-time.  When I come home I’m instantly plunged into mommy duty as well.  Yes, I do spend more time at home with my children than John does, and while there are some fun, sweet, silly times, there is constant vigilance in terms of maintaining safety and schedules.  Frankly, it is easier to be at work, where I am only responsible for myself.  Resentment brews because I feel that my share of the housework is like pushing a boulder up a hill, while John’s duties have a sanctioned cut-off because he has to work. 

And yes, his losing his job would be a debacle.  I KNOW this, but sometimes, when I feel particularly overworked, I would love just the pretense of being asked if I need help.  Is that so wrong?

Everyone knows the classic line, “You complete me,” that Tom Cruise says to Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. When I was younger, less of a snarky cynic and looking for HIM, this line made me yearn for my soul mate, the one who began where I ended.  Perpetually finishing each other’s sentences (in a good way), we’d be in each other’s heads and live happily ever after.  Of course, this is totally unrealistic.  And the "you complete me” idea is just as unrealistic where housework and childcare are concerned.  We have different things we need to get done, different ways of seeing the house (where is the pill that makes you blind to dirt and clutter?), and we are both exhausted. But completing domestic tasks should be more feasible, not to mention more practical and obvious, than fairy tale love, shouldn’t it?  Perhaps that’s why in a marriage where little kids are the focus, unfinished chores can be far more disappointing than the absence of constant earth-shattering romance. 

Now, as far Indirect Spousal Criticism is concerned, it would be better to confront the problem directly.  But that would mean constant fighting.  Instead, I choose my battles with hubby, and save the small stuff for my girls.  It’s my pals who give me perspective - letting me know whether I should get over it or get on with a “talk.”  Personally, I think I.S.C is a godsend. Otherwise there might be a lot more hasty calls to lawyers and movers because of some unwashed dishes.


  1. Amen! Sometimes the little things get in the way of the big picture. I just asked the other day, "Why is there peanut butter on the wall in the staircase?" Luckily, I was able to laugh about it. Deep breaths help, but without support from the girls and appropriate venting time, we'd all be single moms... and wouldn't THAT be worse?!?!? It's hard for the driven types to give up control, but I guess that's what we signed up for, like it or not! Must have been in the fine print on some form that we signed in the hospital. Probably the one I had to sign in order to get the epidural, damn it.

  2. Oh boy do I hear you LOUD AND CLEAR. I was just telling my BFF that things would be perfect if I were married to another me; doing everything the way I do. Ahhh, but life would probably be boring, then. Maybe. LOL

  3. i think most folks who parent in dyads feel this way at some point. godknows i do. i think it's inevitable that the one of the two partners takes on the lion's share of the childcare burden. equity isn't really possible, especially when there are real-life challenges like jobs that get in the way. the problem is probably more pronounced for heterosexual couples because there's societal pressure about who axiomatically assumes the childcare burden, but i wouldn't know that for sure. for us, as two working full-time gay men with two rambunctious and behaviorally challenged (though sweet and smart) kids, we had to figure out which roles best suited our abilities and interests and availability. and more often than not, it works. do i sometimes resent always being the one who schedules and schleps the kids to doctors' and dentists' appointments or fills out school paperwork? yes, but i love not having to deal with laundry. i don't know, i guess i think that we find our homeostasis somehow and manage, even if it's not perfect. but thank god for the girls (or the gays in my case). nothing cures the ISC blues faster than a conversation with a single gay man swimming in the dirty water of the dating pool. it doesn't take long before i'm thanking my stars for my mate.

  4. I gave up the idea that my husband (or anyone for that matter) could do things like me. I learned this six months into our parenting roles. This only affected me negatively and I was the one who "suffered". Since then I've been a happier person. My husband is 100% involved in household/parenting work and I am, albeit in different forms and I've learned to accept and respect his ways. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I have to consciously stop myself from bursting into a command or a criticism but I've learned and am learning to be a better partner.

  5. I am totally getting your point! I believe that it would have been better if I married another version of myself. Alas, would that be boring after a while? I find it difficult to stop myself from exerting control. I have a certain order and method of taking care of house and babies and sometimes I feel it gets thwarted. Hey, the most important thing that I have to remember is that he actually helps. I know a couple of hubbies who do absolutely nothing. AT All.

  6. After your e-mail I had to read this. I definitely see your point! Though my only job are these kids, this house & the hubs, I DO need help. So we've got an agreement. I do all the shopping & errands. I take care of lunch & dinner, he's in charge of breakfast (b/c mom's not a morning person). He'll grill about once or twice a week & is always responsible for dinner dishes. We team up on bathing the kids & getting them to bed. He is solely responsible for all waste disposal (taking out trash & recycling). In exchange his children are well cared for, he opens his closet/ drawers to always find clean clothes, he opens the fridge to always find the necessities as well as his favorite beer & lunch meat. He doesn't plan a menu & hasn't been grocery shopping or to Costco in ages. And he walks in from work to smell something good cooking (usually) & 2 kids, 2 dogs & a wife that are happy to see him. The house may not be spotless, but I'm not perfect :)
    Point being, no man on Earth can figure out a woman's wants or needs, so you'll have to delegate. Give him a "honey do" list of his responsibilities around the house & with the kids. And after you hand over said list, don't scrutinize the way it's done. Just be happy it's done & you didn't have to do it. :) xoxo hope this helps!!

  7. This was great and a little too close for comfort!

  8. I really agree that letting off the steam is the way to maintain sanity and you can always add a little humor too. I created so that you can release that steam even if you don't have time to get together with a friend! Try it, I am sure all of us have some story to share.

  9. AMEN!!! Are we twins?! We are definitely living the same life! Thanks for writing this. I feel less guilty about my ISC..I love him dearly, but if the lawyers were on speed dial some days...OMG!


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