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When Dad Doesn't Step Up

karen21

Hi Babble Readers! I’m Karen Bridson, author of Stunned: The New Generation of Women Having Babies, Getting Angry and Creating a Mothers’ Movement. I’m going to be guest blogging this week for Strollerderby.

Perhaps the sexiest words I’ve ever heard my husband say are, “Don’t bother Mommy.”

I was curled up with a book in my bed one day, door closed, trying to have some much-needed alone time, when I heard my five-year-old son come thumping up the stairs.

My husband was downstairs, on “Baby Duty,” as we call it, and he called to him to stop. As I listened, I heard my husband tell our wee lad that Mommy was having some time to herself and that I shouldn’t be bothered. He asked him what he needed and how he could help him.

My mouth fell open and I felt a very intense appreciation for my husband’s thoughtfulness in that moment. “He gets it,” I thought. And I was able to sink back into reading my book, undisturbed and have the Me time that helps keep me sane.

As great as my husband was in that moment, and continues to be, it’s important to note that this incident was the first time I recall my husband stepping up to the plate in this particular way. Prior to that, he’d let our son come running to me whenever he wanted to, which was often, even when I was supposed to be “off duty” and taking a break.
My belief, sadly, is that this is the case far too often with far too many husbands.

Case in point: A friend of mine had asked her husband if he would give her a break of a couple of hours and watch their three-year-old little girl. Since she knew the child would never give her a moment’s peace if she remained in the house, she asked her husband to take the child out to dinner. The father agreed but when they were getting set to leave, the child melted down and said she didn’t want to go out to dinner, she wanted to stay home where Mommy was. Instead of trying to calm the child, then insisting they go have some fun Daddy time, my friend’s husband shrugged his shoulders and said, “Geez, she doesn’t want to go, I guess we’ll just stay.” He knew full-well that that meant his wife wouldn’t get a moment’s peace, but he just didn’t want to have to make that bigger effort. More to the point, he didn’t appreciate his wife enough to know that she needed a break and that he needed to step up. Plus, I think he knew his job would be easier if they stayed home.

This is one kind of care creep that contributes to the reality that women today do five times as much childcare as their male partners. Shockingly, that statistic, as a ratio, hasn’t changed in 90 years.

So how about you? Is this the way things tend to go down in your house?

Karen Bridson is a journalist, TV producer and author of Stunned: The New Generation of Women Having Babies, Getting Angry and Creating a Mothers’ Movement (HCI, 2009). She blogs at http://angrymamas.blogspot.com/ She also produces a parenting show for Canadian Public Television.

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