Whose Job Is It? The Common Question Asked When Married with Kids
Author: Stef Daniel
Your baby is here. The first few weeks you will no doubt experience more help than you could really use, and both husband and wife feel privileged in the newness of caring for their baby. Then suddenly, all the extra people are gone, laundry is piling up, and strangers and friends have stopped bringing by food for you and your husband to eat for dinner. Housework that used to be done like clockwork seems to be a ticking time bomb, and while mom is on maternity leave, dad may have returned happily to work. Now, he comes home, kisses the baby, and takes a look around the house and wonders what in the world you have been doing all day? Your situation may not be exactly like this; however, the birth of a child often leaves couples reeling with silent expectations of gender roles and both parents feeling like they are doing more than their share of the work. How do you decide?
First, from the eyes of a seasoned parent, it is important to understand that it isn't always a man's fault. Yes, this is being said as a woman - mother - wife. Most of the time when mom gets home from the hospital, there is this innate maternal instinct that takes over. We feel energized with the rush of having a baby at last and do everything we can to take perfect care of the new bundle of joy. This often leaves dad out, and often, under the brutal eyes of Super-Mom, he is scathed for changing a diaper wrong or using too much soap should he attempt a bath. If mom is breastfeeding, the baby naturally wants his or her mother and becomes almost addicted to her smell, which can make dad feel even more left behind. Then suddenly, once the exhaustion sets in - moms feels indignant, frustrated, and angry because she is left with ALL the responsibility. Well, whose fault is that? While mom may do it best (at least moms think so), dads can usually handle things pretty well too even if it is drastically different from the way you do it.
The other scenario is that when husband and wife, perfectly able to split duties pre-baby become mom and dad, deeply ingrained ideas of gender roles can step in without consciousness. Visions of Ward and June Cleaver may just naturally take over, and both parents have "silent" expectations of the other. Often, these ideas of gender roles, which clearly dictate who does what and how, are left over from our own raising and remembrances of what the dynamic in our household growing up was. It isn't always intentional. Bringing home a baby is definitely a transition phase in a relationship, and both partners have to be open to discussing and dividing responsibilities with the baby and around the house.
Before you decide your husband is a lazy dud or that your wife is home eating bonbons all day, ask yourself what you expect of them? Then, decide whether you have clearly told them of your expectation. Chances are that neither of you truly understand how overwhelmed the other one feels. The next step is to unveil your opinion of gender roles. To be frank, many of us were raised in homes that clearly had maternal and paternal roles, and these get handed down as unquestionable garbage from one generation to the next. They just may not rear their ugly head until a baby comes into the picture. When the two of you start to realize things from one another's vantage points - you will probably find that neither of you meant to hurt each other's feelings nor be selfish.
The next task at hand has to be done quickly. This is called training. Both husbands and wives have to be "trained", so to speak, to feel empowered to do whatever it takes around the house or with the kids to make things run smoothly. Dad should be just as adept at changing diapers as he is changing oil, and mom shouldn't feel offended if she has to drag out the trash. The bottom line is that when the responsibilities around your home run smoothly and both partners see and feel equal in all things (raising babies included), you can revamp the workings of your home. This step is ongoing and takes a bit of compromise and commitment to work. You have to constantly be aware of how fast things changed. If one partner seems to be letting go of their so-called duties, check to make sure they aren't overwhelmed physically or emotionally; and if so - try to help. Give and take, ebb and flow, all require two people to work TOGETHER.
Sharing responsibilities around the house doesn't have to be a mathematical equation with an equal sign. Some days you may do more. Other days your spouse may do more. If one person works outside the home, then the person who stays home, quite frankly, should pull more weight with the kids and the house. You know it's working when you aren't secretly seething at your spouse and don't spend your evenings slamming doors and treating each other with passive aggressive behavior that gets you nowhere. Talk. Discuss. The family dynamic will constantly change, and as long as both of you are committed to the same cause, a happy family, you will be able to work things out in the most amicable way possible.