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Parenthood on Equal Footing?

The Differences between Mothering and Fathering

I often chuckle when I overhear my husband saying how hard it is being a parent.

It’s not that he isn’t helping out. But if he only knew one-tenth of what I do as a working mother...

As much as I appreciate his efforts, I have to say that there are so many things I would love him for him to take on more, like changing diapers more than once in a while (“I don’t know how to wash diapers," he says) or waking up to our child’s cries in the middle of the night even though he swears he sleeps right through it (“Really? You don’t hear that?”, I say).

Yes, there are instincts and certain capabilities mothers indeed are hardwired for, but is it so much to ask to just get a little more involved?

Thinking back when I was pregnant, I can recall this picture I had of complete equality in parenthood (or close to it at least) with my husband helping out with the babywearing, late night feedings and morning wakeups and so much in between.

In fact, my husband was going to take on the role of stay at home dad for a while until we changed plans to both work. If we were equal partners before we became parents I couldn’t see why that would change?

Here we are two years later, and even though we both work full-time jobs and both juggle parenting with our careers and other interests, there are times lately I feel I get the rawer end of the deal, especially when he leaves everything baby-related to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a parent. But when he gets to go out most nights, and it’s near impossible for me to have a full day to myself, I see some inequalities here.

Perhaps it is because of the differences in mothering and fathering. I think as a mother, I tend to be more sensitive to our child’s needs and have been because of our early bonding from pregnancy and birth. Or perhaps men think they are not capable or dare I say, insecure, about their parenting and follow our lead.

I don’t know. But I can’t be the only mother who feels that a simple diaper change here and there does not make a parent. And there are a lot of responsibilities in between, including bath time, night time and meal time that our partners could really be more involved in. I mean, in our modern age, have things really not changed that much?

I hate to sound all doom and gloom here because as a thoughtful and caring father he is to our first child, I am proud of the parent my partner has become.

And there are things to be very grateful for like when he takes our child to the playground or his after work horseplay sessions I know she loves so much. And let’s not forget their nightly back and forth ritual when my husband tries to sneak a goodnight kiss.

What is your experience in a two-parent household? Do you feel like you are doing most of the work? Do you feel the father's role as a parent has evolved much over the past 50 years, or do you feel it will inevitably forever remain unchanged?

jill September 28, 2011 at 12:20 AM
I think you just married a lazy guy. Most of the men I know take pride in getting up for their babies and my husband does a better diaper than I ever could. Not to be rude but does your husband make a significantly higher salary than you?
Daddy by Default September 28, 2011 at 10:10 AM
It's a two parent household here and my wife and I usually split duties half and half. We both work; she in an office and me mostly from home, though my job requires visiting construction sites and ALOT of phone work, so I'm not always present at home even when I'm there. We have a nanny that helps out a few days a week, so I'm probably not the typical stay at home parent. I take care of the baby during the days and she at night, though when we are both home at the same time we are always present and try to spend as much time with the baby as possible. This is a schedule that works for both of us, and one that we can both enjoy. Thankfully, money has never been an issue, though I can appreciate that for some families it is, and that can make work/life arrangements much tougher. I try not to pass on any advice, especially because I am far from a parenting expert, as you'll see from a parenting website I maintain called Daddy by Default (http://daddybydefault.com/about/), but I think it's important to set boundaries, to agree on who is doing what work, and to keep it all flexible. It doesn't make sense to try and split changing diapers if one person hates changing diapers. Sure you can help out once and awhile but it doesn't work well when one party feels they HAVE to do something they hate. Try to find something to do that you can both live with and enjoy. Good luck.
Sung Bin Park September 28, 2011 at 12:47 PM
I should clarify that my partner does help out and is not a lazy father. It's just that there are some duties that are often defaulted because I tend to be quicker to respond or more sensitive. I do think there are some responsibilities that are more weighted on the mother because we tend to sacrifice more time and energy but perhaps other families have a more balanced approach and it sounds like there are some households that have been able to make it work. It's certainly a good idea to set boundaries and set clear and equal chores but there are a lot of other nuances in between that I think are not so easily shared. Please keep the advice coming. I would love to learn more about what works and doesn't.

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