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Is It Me, or Do the Kids Save Their Whining and Tantrums for Mom?

Photograph by Twenty20

When my husband comes home from work, I'm typically frazzled, tired and need a break (or at least a shower). I go into the details of the day and lay out all of the crazy that happened.

Look, parenting is no walk in the park and being home with the kids is a full-time gig. If you are outnumbered, it’s a logistical circus. There are things that happen daily where I'm wishing for a third arm or an extra hour!

Some days, my husband and I will switch positions, and he takes point at home so I can leave for whatever reason. I know it’s healthy to get away from the kids and do my own thing (work, social life, etc.) but there is a small part of me that's more excited for him to experience what I experience at home. I do my best to stifle my maniacal laughter when exiting the driveway.

And then ... it’s time for me to come home again. Whether it be hours or a day, it seems as soon as I walk through the door, the whining starts, the big kids start to fight, the baby’s hungry and the toddler wants this or that and cries until she gets it. Why? What is it about Mom being home that suddenly sends the kids into a tizzy? Why does my presence mean I’m immediately back on point? And worse, why does he say everything was calm until I walked through the door?

Here are seven theories:

1. Mom was the source of food from the get-go, so of course the little ones still see me as such.

When they see me, they suddenly remember that they are ravenous and parched, as if they hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since I left. This always makes me think maybe Dad doesn’t keep them fed. (OK, fine, maybe they ask for food and snacks all the time, no matter who's around.)

When they see me, they suddenly remember that they are ravenous and parched.

2. Maybe he lies to me about how things really were!

The house is in chaos the entire time—he just wants me to think it’s all quiet and clean. Perhaps they see me pull in the driveway and hurry to tidy up and shut up before I walk through the doors. It’s very possible.

3. He probably answers their needs right away.

I’ll be the first to admit that answering the same cries and wants all day every day gets a bit old. The "I want this" or "More milk please" can sort of meld together into white noise. Perhaps he’s quicker on his feet and getting what they want, whereas I still have a "Just a minute!" or two in me.

4. Dad is way more chill, so his energy rubs off on them.

This one speaks for itself!

5. He’s allowing them more screen time than I do!

That's one sure way to keep them quiet, sitting still and from making any extra messes.

6. They are more scared of Dad than Mom.

He’s bigger and has a lower voice, so when he gets after them, they actually listen.

7. Mom is the "safe place."

We all have that person who is the safe place for us to blow up, the person who we go to with all of our problems. In our family, Mom happens to be that place for the kids.

Or maybe the truth is that our partners make it look so much easier than it really is. Maybe kids will be kids, no matter who is home with them. At least, that's what I tell myself.