Mediocre Moms Need Helpful Husbands
This weekend, I, like many other women in America, saw the movie “Bad Moms”. It clearly resonated with a lot of women, as the Facebook groups have been buzzing about it all weekend. My own theater was packed, with a ratio of ninety percent women and ten percent husbands who probably had no other choice. Indeed, the movie made twenty-three million dollars over the weekend, and I am still speaking with a number of women who intend to see it this week.
I liked the movie well enough and certainly laughed along with our rather lively audience at the all-too-familiar-as-moms gags. But while I was watching the movie, I also felt a gnawing sense of understanding of what my husband, who had seen the movie in advance, had taken issue with in the film. Although he had lauded the movie for its mostly female cast, unfortunately still a rarity in today’s Hollywood, he also took issue with the glaring absence of men, or more specifically how it is the patriarchal system that we live in, wherein the lack of male responsibility for the family, pits women against each other in the first place.
There was a bit of this touched upon in the movie with the scenes involving Kristen Bell’s husband, including one that resulted in thunderous applause from the audience late in the film, but not much else. If anything, the men were merely incidental to what was taking place in the film, particularly as it related to the kids’ educations, the school, the PTA, and school activities. This absence, whether unintentional or not, is a sad commentary on the state of current family dynamics, and underscores the fact that perhaps we have not come as far as we think we have.
As I sat musing these contemplations, I came to another realization. While I found many of the situations in the film to be funny, I could not truly relate to them because I am in the minority. My husband, despite his imperfections, is in the small percentage of men that are actually helpful and participatory spouses and fathers. I can, and do, completely trust him to watch the kids while I run errands or to pick them up from school. I have no compunction leaving them on a Saturday or Friday night to go out, and would have no difficulty leaving them with him for a weekend if I ever needed to go somewhere for work or pleasure. Perhaps what makes him different is that he, unlike so many men, doesn’t consider what he is doing “a favor”. Rather, he considers it part of his responsibility as well to make sure that everyone gets to where they need to be on time with everything they need to be there. He considers us a team.
From speaking with other women friends, both online and off, I know that this is a rarity. Whether the women work outside the home or not, the men in their lives still consider the children and all of the chores that go with it, to be squarely within the purview of their wives’ job descriptions and only help on occasion, as a favor. They tend to act like a relief pitcher, someone to be called upon on occasion, but not actually part of the team.
This kind of thinking, for lack of better terminology, frankly sucks. If the woman works outside of the home, why is she the only one relegated to a second full-time job of childcare and house care? If the woman is a full-time stay at home mom, the issues remain the same, because the time allotted to childcare (especially if she has kids under five) and house care don’t magically end at 5:00 p.m.
Part of the problem is that men simply have no concept of all of the additional “bs” work that women have to do in a given week. I consider “bs work” everything that I really don’t want to do, don’t get paid for, and isn’t seen as typical childcare/house-care functions, but still need done. As a limited example, in an average week, this would include picking up something the kids need for a school project, buying gifts for birthday parties or gift cards for some other event and putting that together, volunteering for a school function and/or meeting with teachers, getting kids to barber/doctor/dentist or other non-weekly activity, and making calls related to these events. That is just an average week, at least for me. If I estimated that I spent at least ten hours per week running around doing this nonsense, it would be a conservative estimate. Even in this arena, my husband is clueless. He will help if I direct him (please get gift cards!), but he doesn’t automatically think “it’s the end of January, I need to go get valentines for the kids’ classes before all of the good ones are gone”. In this sense, I think women are just better hard-wired to remember these extras, and multi-task accordingly. But I don’t think it makes it any less stressful; on the contrary, I don’t find it surprising that numerous recent articles have found that women are more stressed at home than at work.
The question, then, is how to relieve some of the stress on mothers. Clearly, I have argued that we as mothers need to tone it down a bit and quit being so obsessive about being the perfect parent. But I think that in order to dial it back, fathers are going to have to step it up, too. Because I love airplane references, consider it this way: a good pilot needs a good co-pilot to fly the plane, not a flight attendant. Although it’s great to have that person hand out beverages every once in a while and have in an emergency, the pilot (mom) needs actual help flying the plane (children). (Unfortunately, in a family setting, there really is no autopilot.) Too many fathers act like another child, and not like a partner. Perhaps I will touch upon this in a subsequent post, but for the men who read this, if nothing else convinces you to help, at least consider your marriage and sex: if you are acting like another child that your wife has to take care of, do you really think that she is going to want to sleep with you? Nothing kills the mood more like having to pick up after someone that is fully grown and perfectly capable of taking care of himself.
For women I would suggest toning down your standards. As I was recently told, “different is not automatically wrong”. So what if your husband dresses the baby in clothes that don’t match or gives the preschooler ice cream while you are out? (Fun fact: I have actually seen that thread on Facebook where a woman considered it a divorceable offense that her husband gave her children a non-approved treat while she was away). In a few years, that same baby will be picking out his own clothes and mismatching them terribly but you won’t give a hoot because at least he dressed himself. That preschooler will buy herself a nice ice cream treat from the camp’s snack shack with her allowance money and you won’t be able to oversee her choices anyways. So let down your guard, invite your husband into the cockpit, and get him to help fly the plane. It will make your life easier, especially when life throws you turbulence.
I am mediocre mom!
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