I watched a recent report that the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past 10 years. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/mr-mom-stay-home-dads-rise-16600045 It made me think
about the different parenting dynamics between men and women.
As a working mother of 3, I can relate to issues of guilt when taking time for myself. My friends express similar feelings.
Women who are stay-at-home moms feel the same even though they spend almost 24/7 withtheir children and may feel it even more. We are hopeless, ladies!
Comparing our thinking during a weekend getaway -- my mind wanders to the children; my husband thinks of other things entirely – alone time, quiet dinners and, you know, “alone time”!
Sometimes I think we women feel like we have the “corner” on parenting. Being a mom is such a huge part of who we are, and we want to make sure it is done right even if we aren’t there.
For example, when you leave the kids with your partner, a detailed list usually accompanies them. Think about simply going out for a haircut (of course it should be a cut, style, manicure, pedicure, and massage, but we decide that the cut is necessary... everything else will have to wait) and leaving the baby with the dad:
3 PM - Feeding (use the bottles in the front and don't microwave them)
Burp every 5 minutes
3:45 PM - Nap (not you, the baby)
3:55 PM - Change out the laundry (don't use bleach on the colors)
4:00 PM - Check to make sure the baby is breathing
4:05 PM - Text me if the baby is breathing
4:15 PM - Vacuum the sitting room
4:20 PM - Check to make sure the baby is breathing
4:30 PM - I will be home
or for toddlers the list might look like this:
- no TV
- nothing with Red Dye #5
- no climbing
- no roughhousing
and it goes on and on.
Think of who is the “majority parent”--the one who takes the largest load of the childrearing. A common habit may be to “peripheralize” the “minority parent” by making them feel more like baby sitters or “fill-ins”.
My perception is probably skewed since my husband was one of those stay-at-home dads 10 years ago and, believe me, there were very few at that time. I was shocked when he decided to stay at home with our 2,4,6 year olds – I gave it about 1 week, 2 tops! 5 years later, when our youngest went to school he expressed gratitude for his time with the children and returned to the workforce. [PS. having a stay-at-home husband is NOT the same as what I witnessed from my colleagues who had stay-at-home wives, but we will save that for a different day).
I recall the first time he left ME with the 3 children for a long weekend away. I expected lists, house rules, dos and don’ts.
What I got was “Feed and Water Them”!
Now did that mean he wasn’t a list maker or that he trusted me... hmmmm?
Either way, I do make lists for the kids' activities, camp needs, etc. When Iasked my husband what he does with my lists he just raised his eyebrows. I’m pretty sure he didn’t check and double check to make sure nothing was forgotten...
Oh well, we are different... The majority parent should include the other parent without strings attached. Make them feel a part of the process, not like a substitute or a babysitter.
Overall,recognize and respect what each parent brings to the table. In the end, moms need time for themselves and so do dads, Avoiding “me time” because the children may get an extra hour or two of television or pizza and soda isn’t the answer.
Take time for you and share the load - healthier parents make happier parents.