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The Novelty Parent: It's not me

Many evenings, while I get dinner onto the table, my partner is relagated to toddler- and child-management.  I bustle around in that very stressful pre-dinner hour, and I often hear squealing and giggles coming from the other room, surely the result of my husband nuzzling his head into the toddler's tummy.  More squeals come from the other kids, playing around with their dad little brother.

Not every household has two parents, but - for those that do - each of the two parents often settle into roles.  For me, thanks to my efficiency and love for edible arts, it is my role to mange the kitchen.  My partner, then, has the role of managing things outside the kitchen - in this case - the kids.  In other cases, I often still take on the role of primary caretaker, tending to the basic needs of my family such as laundering, kitchen inventory, handling the calendar.  It wears on me, while many times I find my partner takes on the role of playmate, sports coach, tickle monster.  To be honest: I get jealous.  To be honest: I sometimes get bitter.

To be sure, I can challenge the roles, start a mission to lowly change them.  But, who has the time?  Right now, I do feel that efficiency trumps, and I am indeed the Mistress of Multitasking.  My skill set is better suited for the caretaking and nurturing tasks.  I just want to know I'm not alone.  Does it happen in your house too?  Is there a primary caretaker, and does the secondary caretaker get all the fun jobs?  And, dare I ask: have you managed to swap roles here and there?  Has it worked well?


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Oh my does that sound familiar!! I am always the one that multi tasks and my hubby is the one that takes the easy or fun jobs. I finally realized after quite a few years of this, and many fights, that he had no idea what I do on a regular basis. So to show him I have gone on "strike" a few times and since then of course told him why ( you really have to explain in detail and draw a map with directions for men). Anyway the times I went on strike the house really went down the drain and we had take out for dinner, but it really got my hubby to see the light. It showed him that laundry does not get done by itself, made him appreciate my cooking, and he realized he was being very unfair. He helps a lot more around the house and we trade "jobs" from time to time. He even comes in the kitchen and offers to help every so often. It really takes an effort to go on "strike" and I did have to do it for about a week at a time, and it had to be done more than once. But with going on strike and many conversations - arguments later things have really gotten better, so I'm glad I did it. Another thing I did was jot down what I do in a typical day, that was really an eye opener!! We tried making charts and trading jobs every few days too. Good luck!!

My husband is the primary caregiver, and I hope he doesn't feel this way about me! Actually, I don't always get to do only the fun stuff. Maybe because we still sometimes follow traditional gender roles, I'm often the one who finds and signs up the kids for various sports classes and summer camps. But he mostly does the laundry, dinner, and kid care (getting the kids to and from school). I'm also employed full-time, and his employment is part-time and irregular. It works for us, I think.

I wonder, for mamas feeling this way, what would happen if you volunteered to coach the next sports team? Wouldn't that force a change?

What about considering "sharing" the roles from time to time, rather than "swapping" them..that way, you would get a welcomed break from your "role" and he from his. What seems to work well for us (as we have similar roles to those you state), also as working parents, is to have at least one weekday eve and also one weekend day/eve (this often changes based on our social schedules) when he does the cooking, etc. and I don't. I look SO forward to that evening/day, knowing that I can "relax" a bit and he enjoys having an evening/day when he can cook for all of us (he cooks things things I don't and the kids love seeing what daddy makes!). I know it's not just about cooking meals, but this could be a start...

I want to respond to the last person who commented. I think your situation is a bit different because of the employment issues with your husband. I'm pretty sure that the other person and myself are talking about both parents working fairly even hours but the woman doing more work. As far as coaching a team I would consider that more of the fun stuff. The other stuff like laundry, dishes, making the child do homework, cooking, etc. is just the mundane stuff that has to be done. It's not fun for the parent or the child, but still has to be done. This is the work that should be shared if both parents work aprox the same amount of hours each week. If not I can see how this would be a totally different situation, and understandably.

I'm a SAHM mom, so I naturally fall into the primary caretaker/home manager role all the time. My husband works more than full-time hours, so this arrangement simply makes sense for us. But that doesn't mean that I don't get sick of my job and long for a little break. I gradually learned that instead of getting frustrated, I really had to just tell him how I was feeling. He knows that I have experienced a sense of loss upon giving up my career to stay home (at least for a time) and he does his best to pitch in with the household tasks. Seriously though - men can be really dense! I'm always wondering why he can't just be like me and just see what needs to be done. But he can't. I really have to set aside my expectations and just let him know when I need help. Occasionally he'll surprise me by offering to make dinner or suggesting that he watch our daughter while I get away from the house and do something fun for a few hours. But most of the time, I just have to tell him when I'm overwhelmed and needing him to share the household workload. Sometimes I feel guilty for asking because I know he already has a demanding job, but the deal is that my job is not something I can get done and then take a break from - it's 24/7/365. I do my best to support him in his career and he does everything he can to support me in my work. But seriously, sometimes I have to stop thinking that he should just
"get it" and make a point to ask.

I totally agree with you, Beka. I would hate to go so far as to say that men are "dense" (seems a serious generalization to me), but I have discovered that I simply have to say to my husband something like, "The bathroom needs cleaning. Please do it sometime in the next two days." I say it in a calm, pleasant voice, before I have gotten frustrated or angry. And that works pretty well. He simply doesn't notice all the mess and tasks that I do. I also have taken to making a to do list, and hanging it in a prominent place. I write everything on it -- even the little things. Often, this is as much for my own personal organization as anything else, but I have noticed that it also is a way to communicate to my husband what I am thinking needs to be done. Sometimes, he even does things on the list and crosses them off before I have a chance to do them.

I will also add that I often prefer to clean house. First, it gives me a break from the kids and a chance to finish a project from start to finish. Sad, but true that I enjoy mopping the floors for this reason. However, I have also noticed that I can clean the bathroom in about 10 minutes, while, for some reason, it takes my husband 30 minutes to do the same. So, like OP, I often clean for efficiency reasons.

my husband and I share chores and caring for our child more or less equally but we also have a routine. I tend to do certain chores more and he does other chores frequently. It was not planned, it just worked out this way. I sometimes would like to mix thing up a bit and spend time with our daughter in situations that are usually reserved for dad but somehow we are stuck in the routine most of the time.

My husband and I work opposite schedules so we very much share cooking and child wrangling because there is often only one of us at home to do it. However, the bulk of the household tasks fall to me because I only work part-time out of the home. It is an agreement we've made so I can't complain too much about it. And honestly, there is a bit of my control freak that comes out around it. It would drive me nuts to have him be in charge of laundry or groceries. He just doesn't do them the way he should!

In any case, when we are both home together we try to divide up the fun and work evenly, so, for example in the evenings, one of us will do bath and one will do the bedtime books. And the flip side is, whoever does not do bath has to do dishes. (The only exception to this is I won't do the dishes if he cooks. He makes too big of a mess and I can't deal with it. But he knows this going in. If he cooks, he cleans and I do bath.) This division has evolved for us, and mostly it has been by me outlining the things that need to be done and asking which one he plans to do because I wasn't going to do both. And I'm willing to let him usually do the choosing because I really don't care which task I do, as long as I'm not doing it all.

We have wrestled with this problem in several iterations since our daughter was born 4.5 years ago (I went back to work when she was 6 mo old). At first, part of our dilemma was dictated by the fact that I nursed her until she was two -- so I did all bedtime (while he got dinner clean up). As soon as she weaned, we swapped that one (at his request -- he hated being stuck cleaning up every night) and he has become the primary bedtime story reader although she sometimes asks for me.

Dinner prep got solved when we switched to a new system of planning meals a week in advance and using a cookbook designed to get dinner on the table easily (Six o'clock Scramble). I take responsibility for planning which meals we're making and organizing the grocery shopping each weekend. That means that all ingredients for the entire week are in the house by Sunday eve. We usually go to the store together or I do it, but he does like to grocery shop. Whoever walks in the door first gets dinner started (and by default, gets to decide which meal to cook!). We try to do the I cook/you clean up routine but it's not perfect.

Regarding cleaning the house - he used to claim that he liked to clean (but it was never as clean as I liked!) **but** he also didn't want to spend every weekend stuck home doing chores. We ran the numbers and in our case, it was well worth it to us to pay someone to come in & clean twice a month. They do all the deep clean stuff, and of course, we do the tidying up/organizing/putting things away before they come.

I would estimate that I do 75% of the laundry, and I try to do most of the folding after the kid has gone to bed, in the living room, while we're both there -- and we usually just fold it together. His shirts need to be pulled out of the dryer as soon as it's finished, so when the buzzer goes off, I remind him that they are his shirts and he hangs them up while I continue folding.

Recently, he asked to be relieved of bath duty, so he does dishes while I'm doing bathtime. Daughter is asking for him back because he's "quicker" but I'm not sure we're making the switch yet.

I should note that we divide daycare pickup/dropoff by days (he does it Mon/Thur, I do it Tue/Wed and Fri - my day off) and that gives each of us a couple nights that we can finish work projects without having to walk out the door right at 5 pm.

I'm terribly jealous, resentful, snarky, annoyed, hurt, etcetcetc by the seemingly carefree, wonderful, amazing, quality, delightful, easy playtime my husband gets in the evenings w/the children.

Until I realize that (1) I'm usually burnt and want alone time and, as for so many working moms, that means grabbing a few moments in the kitchen cleaning/downstairs doing laundry; (2) it's not actually all that carefree ,wonderful, amazing, etcetcetc w/two tired, wired children.

However, thank you all for some suggestions re: dinner time and meal prep. If I could reduce my stress from 3pm-7pm, I'd be very relieved.

I totally relate to this post! Except I've realized that my problem is that I am way too controlling about cooking and cleaning, and if I ever want to equalize the duties in those departments I need to let go of that. I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning (and I work full time), but I would like to relax and play with the kids and then come the dinner table to eat sometimes. But I can't keep myself from going in and "checking" on how things are going in the kitchen, and then he feels like I'm being critical and it just doesn't seem to work. I think I'm going to keep trying though, thanks for highlighting this issue. I also think it's good for the kids to see parents in both roles.

I totally feel that jealousy and bitterness sometimes! At the end of a long day of my being the primary caretaker I don't have the energy or reserves to be fun with my boy at that time of day-- I prefer to make dinner alone (they aren't allowed to play even NEAR the kitchen) and even do the dishes afterward to avoid doing more childcare/bedtime. Sometimes I dislike having to make and clean up dinner, but I remind myself the difference is that my husband is doing the childcare during that time which is a job I don't want to do at that time of day. The goal is to both finish our "work" (childcare & dinner cleanup) at the same time so that we both get to sit down and spend (what little time there is left) together. We also split up the laundry a few years ago and this has helped-- he does his own laundry plus my child's laundry (which means wash, dry, fold & back in drawers) & I do my own laundry plus the household (sheets/towels etc.). Lastly we share grocery shopping trips. I usually go once during the week and he goes once on the weekend WITH our son (otherwise it's just more childcare for me). I still pay the bills & a lot of other household work, but I try to do it on the weekends when my husband can garden with our son or take him out. It doesn't always work perfectly and many times I do feel bitter about how much work it takes to run a household and how much of it is done by me, but I am also grateful for the time I get to spend with my child while he is little that I know my husband misses while he is at work.

My husband and I both work full-time and we've divided up the household/childcare responsibilities fairly equitably. In order to make it all work, I've totally had to let go of some control, but it's survival so I do!

Where I do WAY more than him is in terms of planning. I mean planning anything! Meals, budgeting, those projects that don't fall into routine household/childcare, dr's appts for the kid, long-term financial issues, trips, etc. He is willing to do almost anything in these areas, but I have to take the initiative to plan it. Honestly, it drives me crazy, but after 18 years together, I know it's a personality difference.

What helps me is now I make a big list of all the things that are rattling around in my head, making me feel overwhelmed. Then, we look it over and pick out who's going to do what.

It's working fairly well!

This is all good to read. I think that, at least for me, my vision of how much more I (think I) do clouds how I see whatever it is that my husband does. I know that's not fair and I try to correct it, but we also have very different ideas of what is important and how to do things, and we are probably never going to see eye to eye on these things. He is the primary cook, which I love, but I admit that when I go into the kitchen I see a lot of standing around staring at the iPhone while dinner is cooking, whereas I would be taking those free minutes to get some laundry done, or clean up the prep dishes, or take a swipe at the bathroom or whatnot. When we switch places I'm doing those things while cooking, and many times instead of playing with the kids he has them do stuff on their own while he surfs the web. Not what I would do, but is it wrong? I'm not sure, and my opinion of it changes depending on how grumpy I am from my day at the office. Basically, he's never going to do things my way, so I need to give that up and appreciate what he does do, and try to take some notes from his playbook. I've started to sometimes sit and read while the kids play, or I let them watch a show at night (while usually that's verboten) and try to not feel guilty about it.
What I want to know is: how do you get your spouse to do your things your way? That would be gold!

Almost all conflict with my hubby who I adore is around housework. He just is not attuned to tasks and chores to keep house neat and running smoothly but has come to learn over time that they are very important to me, and therefore it has to be relevant to him. We pay for a housecleaner twice a month which has helped a ton. For us it goes in waves of very low conflict then periods of high conflict. I think the times we do better is when he pitches in more and takes initiative instead of me having to direct everything. I hate feeling like air traffic control. My sister and I were just talking about this very issue though and she thinks that the periods of low conflict really are just us having a higher tolerance. I don't know. I do know that my husband read part of a book I asked him to read called Building Blocks for Babys Brain and it is about the inequity in housework btw men and women. I think it actually says that having a husband ADDS 7 hrs of housework per week for a woman. After reading that chapter he told me he was taking over grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up.....all dinners every night. I was floored. That has since fallen by the wayside but it was a great run for a while. I have worked on what seems to be an insatiable quality when it comes to household jobs. My husbands complaint is he can do 10 things and I will ask why he didn't do the 11th. So, before I start mentally or verbally complaining about him not doing something, I try to ask myself what he has done. I often am surprised that there is a lotthat I have already dismissed because I am onto the next thing. Another helpful mental tool a friend told me is asking yourself, "what can I give" in the relationship, not "what can I get." sounds crazy a's feels like we a's women give so much already but it helped me feet out of the tally /score card mentality I so easily get into. Don't know if any if this helpful but sure nice to know other women have similar struggles.

Man, I feel you mamas! After struggling with this issue and feeling frustrated/grumpy/default-caretaker I finally realized that my husband if he wants to do things outside the home..just does them! He figures it out with the babe if he's in charge of the her for the day by either taking her along if appropriate or finding childcare. We finally both agreed that since he had scheduled in so many activities that Saturday's are "my day" and if he wants to do something on that day he is responsible for finding child care. Some Saturday's I choose to spend "my day" doing a family activity, some days I have ladies night out. It's worked well for us. Just a thought you might want to try...

Oh yes, this absolutely is the dynamic at our house too... The balance shifted dramatically when we moved for my husband's job two years ago. He's in a very demanding organization, working more than he wants and I'm home with our boys 10-12+ hours a day. It's not by choice, it just is what it is and we try to deal with it the best we can. At some point, things will change and we look forward to that...He's very hands on with the kids and around the house. He comes home and it's serious, fun playtime with the boys--they only get 1-2 hours a day but they pack in a lot of giggles and fun. On weekends, I'm free to do pretty much whatever I want, when I want for how long I want. He'll clean if something needs cleaning, without me asking. If he knew how to cook he would. He's wonderful. The thing that bothers me more than the cooking, cleaning and physical chores, is the mental energy that I spend keeping our house running and kids thriving that doesn't even occur to him--the behavioral issues with kids, drama at school, meals planned, homework done, backpacks packed and ready, etc. Yes, he's "the fun one" and I'm the "bossy one", the "nagging one", etc and that irks me frequently.

my husband does A LOT of the cooking and grocery shopping. It' doesn't hurt that he fears what I will make, and has found that if he doesn't stop at the store on his way home from work, he won't have bread for his sandwitch the next day - because kids and I ate it up. I'm not saying this is the way to "share" the load. Sometimes ineffeciency does have it's rewards.

Yes..I'm there too.

This weekend I feel surprisingly refreshed because my husband didn't go snowboarding, as he usually does. He cleaned the kitchen,top to bottom, took the kids to a puppet show and lunch, while I cleaned the rest of the house, organized all the drawers and closets, payed bills. Then, we had some adult time after the kids where asleep. And Sunday, he got up with the kids and made breakfast, so I could sleep in. A staycation!

This is not our usual routine. He generally plays hard on the weekends, while I do the same thing that I do all week. This dynamic is since we had our second child. He works 50+ hrs/wk, while I work 15+, outside the home.

He jokes that we now barter housework for sex. I think that we both are trying to find our center. I am often touched out, spending all day with two snuggle bunnies, and find it much easier to focus (on my and his feelings) when my environment is neat and organized. He sees me as his haven, and feels most centered when we have intimate time together.

So, housework for sex it may be..

Although, this cycling clothing sale only lasts until October 31st so you wouldn't want to waste any time in checking it out.Choosing the right designs and colors for your cycling sets is important to the appearance you give off when you are in a cycling competition.

Cycling shorts, knickers or tights - again it depends on the type of bicycle touring you are doing with some cyclists taking the traditional shorts while other take the baggy shorts which have handy pockets.

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