When I married my husband, I expected, and received a partner. Someone who would run the house as my equal and when it came to it, take care of our children. Sometimes we can’t be 50/50 and that’s okay, within reason. But it’s not all the time, it’s not for less quality, and it certainly isn’t the standard.
I’m not sure where this idea started. Certainly all of humanity has not exclusively been divided into perpetual gender roles. There were no incidents of daddy Neanderthals, holding a poopy infant, confused and disheveled, with a laugh track in the background.
Maybe I’m just generalizing the things I see and hear in mom groups. But maybe I’m not.
I saw a big eye roll meme about how husbands do chores “incorrectly” so they won’t be asked to do them again. Incorrectly? My husband certainly does chores differently than I would but as long as dishes get cleaned and water doesn’t get wasted, that’s his deal. I trust he will do what needs to be done.
Recently, I was at an event and without a word from a couple, a dad excused himself to go change his child. An older woman asked his wife, “How did you get that to happen?”
Uh, it’s his kid? Why wouldn’t he go change his diaper?
What almost bothers me more about her genuine confusion about a dad changing diapers is what it reflects from her own marriage and children.
My husband and I both understand that the other needs time for themselves, and time together, without our children. We understand that it’s necessary and we work to make sure that this happens for us. I take girls’ time, my husband goes on bike tours. I go backpacking, my husband goes out for a beer. We make date time a priority.
But when I’m out by myself:
“Is your husband babysitting?”
“Where’s your kid?”
“With my husband”
Que quizzical look, but my husband is not babysitting. Babysitters turn on the TV and make cookies and do things that are fun and novelty. My husband keeps a consistent household for our daughter. I do not expect to come home to a naked toddler covered in pudding and a disheveled house (well, no more than usual). There are plenty of TV shows that show how hilarious it is when dad is in charge, but this should not be an expectation of real life. Part of that expectation needs to be the respect we hold for dads.
I did not marry my husband so that I could have a practice baby or a forever child. I am here to take care of him just as much as he is there to take care of me. But it is not as his mother, it’s as his partner. We each hold our own roles in our household, ready to switch or take over if needed. These roles were and are continuously discussed so each of us remains comfortable and we view our roles as fair. The same goes for child rearing. We aim to keep consistent expectations, which means we discuss, all the time, what values and boundaries we intend to hold for our children.
I know life is not a sitcom. It is not one of my favorite shows where hijinks are the result of lack of communication. We’re adults, we talk. So why is there still an idea that dads are incapable goof-balls that somehow get it together just at the end, right in time for the important message?
“It’s so great your husband is involved.”
Yeah, it is great. It’s also what I expect.