What My Husband Will Never Understand About Being a Mom
by Kristina Wright
Photograph by Twenty20
I have a pretty equal marriage in terms of housework and childcare. As equal as it can be, anyway, with my husband being a middle school teacher with a set
schedule and me being a freelance writer whose schedule (and paycheck) is a lot
more variable. But no matter how much my husband does—and he does a lot—I'm
always going to be the primary, default, go-to parent. And this won’t ever
change unless I literally die. Dramatic, yes, but it’s true—and most mamas
Women are the default parent, regardless of how many hours we
work or how much money we make. We are the primary parent because we are
expected to keep the memories, remember the necessities and manage the lives of
I don’t usually mind being the primary parent, but there are
times when I want to hand off the duties and, more than that, the mental labor.
Is my husband self-centered because there are times throughout the day when he
is 100 percent focused on his job or his interests? He’ll say he’s
always thinking about his kids, and I believe him, but I’m the one who always
has one eye on my phone if I’m away from my children.
Even if I’m with my
husband on a date night, I’m the one with my phone on the restaurant table or
in my hand at the movie theater. One night, my husband and I were seeing a movie
and I missed a call from our babysitter. She then called my husband, who didn’t
recognize the number because he’s never called the babysitter and he didn’t
have her number saved in his phone. It’s a small thing, but it reinforces the
difference between primary parent and secondary parent. And I have a hundred
examples just like it. Most moms do.
I can't shut off my brain at night because I'm thinking about all the
parenting things I have to do—and I just don't know how to get my husband to see it
from my perspective.
For example, he took my oldest son for a haircut. I was
supposed to be working while he did this parenting chore, but I texted to see
if he had the picture of the haircut my very picky son wanted. Of course he
didn't. Even though he had done the work of taking my son to get the haircut,
he didn't have a photo of the haircut because it hadn’t crossed his mind to
plan for something like a kid’s haircut.
My husband would do—and has done—these things if I ask him, but sometimes I resent even having to ask, you know?
While it wasn’t a big deal for me to do a
little bit of labor in texting him the picture, it'‘s just one way in which I'm
the one expected to know, remember and be prepared for everything, even when my
husband is the one “in charge” of the kids at the moment.
And who spends months planning our family vacations so that everything goes smoothly? It's not him.
On one level, he knows there’s work that goes into the planning of a vacation, but
on another level, I think he believes I do it all because I enjoy it, not
because it’s a necessity.
Yes, maybe I do enjoy some aspects of planning some
things, but there are just as many things I don’t enjoy planning or executing.
I’d happily pass off the responsibility of kids’ birthday parties, after-school
activities and summer camp research. Why should it
be assumed I’ll buy the Valentine's Day cards and work with the kids to get them
written? Why is there no conversation of who will do it and when?
My husband would do—and has done—these things if I ask him but sometimes I resent even having to ask, you know?
I know my husband works hard to fight gender stereotypes in
parenting. But he doesn’t notice when people ask him how work is going, but ask
me how the kids are doing in school. He doesn’t see that as far as everyone
else is concerned, his primary job is teacher and my primary job is parent.
to undo the stereotypes in our house through ongoing conversations with my husband and our sons. I’m calling attention to the
imbalances as they occur and explaining why a particular situation is
frustrating or what I need from my husband or my kids. The irony, of course,
is that I'm the one doing the work, which itself is an imbalance. But the
alternative is being quiet and complacent, and doing the kind
of parenting I grew up with—and that's still reinforced every time we step
outside the door.
My husband isn't helpless or clueless, my kids don't expect
Mom to do everything for them and, in fact, my husband is the go-to parent for
middle-of-the night wake-ups. So, we’re getting there. Sometimes progress is frustratingly
slow, but we’re getting there.