As if "Please, Mother, stop typing" would be any better
A few unrelated totally random thoughts

This doesn't really have an ending

In college I wrote an overwrought and truly awful poem that I called something like 'The Gendered Division of Labor'. (I KNOW.) I blame the women's studies class I was taking at the time, and also the fact that I had just started a Very Important Relationship and maybe I was freaking out a tiny bit. While I had been "into" the Devastatingly Handsome Chinese Man for what felt like centuries, now we were dating and we were the sort who took dating super seriously and holy cow I don't want to get MARRIED?!

(I also wrote a poem about the time Phillip dug his chopsticks into my bowl of pho without asking first. Which made me feel like I was 1) the girlfriend whose boyfriend walked all over her and 2) wasn't supposed to ever appear in public finishing off her own food because girls aren't supposed to eat. Issues much? And when I got angry about it Phillip totally played the Culture Card and was all, "That's how Asian people eat! Family style!" which BALONEY PHILLIP, YOU JUST WANTED TO EAT MY PHO. And now? He always asks. And I never ever give my plate to the server before I have cleared it with him.)

I don't know where I got this idea that marriage was all Man In Charge and Wife Has Babies and Does The Laundry. I mean, the men in my family are their wives' biggest fans. It wasn't like I had bad examples of marriage, by far. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I think my fear was that once you got married you stopped getting to do what you want to do. I had some independent-ish ideas for post-college life and you couldn't do those things if you were DATING let alone MARRIED. GAH.

Obviously that all changed (got married at 23!) (stays home and has babies!) (totally loves it!) but all that stuff rushed back to me last night when I came home after a church meeting.

Well, it wasn't just the church meeting. First I'd left Jack with Phillip so I could see my doctor that afternoon. (1cm dilated! Baby not fully descended! But cervix very low (whatever the hell that means) and, according to my doctor a "very impressive!" exam! And yay, I am all about impressing the people in charge of me. But seriously, what does she mean by "impressive"?) ANYWAY. Jack was being sort of awful yesterday. Random crying jags, incessant whining, total freak outs when made to do something unreasonable, like putting his milk back in the fridge. Whatever. So Phillip was in charge in the afternoon and because I had to wait so long for my appointment, I didn't have a lot of time when I got back before my church meeting. Phillip would be doing dinner and bedtime on his own, but you know? I've done dinner and bedtime on my own plenty of times. He would be fine. I did not need to feel guilty for leaving Phillip with Jack. Right? RIGHT.

When I got home the remnants of dinner were all over the kitchen and table and high chair. Phillip was trying to finish up a work project and about ready to put his fist through the laptop screen. He threw out a, "Jack was HORRIBLE, didn't eat ANYTHING, cried the WHOLE TIME, I don't know what his DEAL IS, I put him down EARLY." And that's when I got angry.

I started slamming around the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, hand washing the big stuff. I cleaned up the table and high chair, all the while fuming that when I take care of Jack I also manage to pick up after him. He whines at ME all day long, but I can still put the food he doesn't eat back in the refrigerator so it doesn't spoil. I still wipe up the counters and pick up the peas that fall on the floor.

Phillip was so frustrated with Real Work and I was feeling like the wife who should have never asked her husband to take care of household things and I stomped upstairs to get away from the whole situation. I mean, this was it, right? This was the Division of Labor.

But really, I think I was mostly mad at the fact that I felt guilty. I wasn't really mad at Phillip. I know exactly how rough it is to deal with a kid who won't eat and won't calm down and you have no idea what's going on with him. And I rarely see him wanting to harm his beloved MacBook so I knew that just doubled his frustration. But I shouldn't feel guilty for asking him to watch Jack for an evening. I shouldn't worry when I go out with friends for a few hours on a Saturday. I shouldn't wonder if it's okay for me to ask Phillip to take care of Jack so I can get my hair cut or return something at Target.

He said as much when he came upstairs an hour later. But I laid there for another hour, wondering why I feel so guilty when I leave the two of them alone. It's not like Phillip can't handle it, or that he does a bad job. (He doesn't ALWAYS leave peas on the floor.) Is it just because I know how much I look forward to when he gets home from work? And having two of us on the weekends?

Then he asked me if he could go to this big gaming convention in town on Saturday and I said of course.

At Parenting today! The obligatory Can We Be Done With This Yet? pregnancy waaahhh.

Comments

Dr. Maureen

I know! Why do we feel guilty? And it's not like Phillip (I assume) or Andrew ever roll their eyes and sigh dramatically when we say, "Do you mind if I get my hair cut this Saturday?" They don't mind! So what is our problem?

Actually, I think I've conquered this a little bit by just telling Andrew that I feel inappropriately guilty when I leave him with the child, and also by reminding myself that I'm being an idiot and just GO TO TARGET already. (Also, weaning made an enormous difference, even if it was over a year ago.) I still feel a little guilty every time, though. Even if I don't feel guilty immediately, then I feel guilty because I'm taking too long at whatever thing I'm doing, and then I rush rush rush rush home, and Andrew is always TOTALLY FINE.

Jess

I was reading that article in the NYT about the gendered division of labor in a marriage, and those couples who are determined to beat that by splitting everything exactly down the middle. Did you read that article? If not I'll send you the link. But my point is, when I was reading it I just felt like it doesn't matter if labor is divided by gender. The idea is that people are comfortable and happy with what they are and aren't doing in their marriage. And if what those people in the article are doing works for them, great. But for me, it would add more stress to my life instead of making things simpler. I think what you have works for you and that's what matters.

Sucks about the guilt, though. I don't know what to do about that.

lindsay

hmmmm, I think us women are just so ridiculously wired to be nurturing and people pleasing that even though we now have the world to a place where we don't have to be that way all the time, we still freak out about it just for fun. When our apartment is in complete and utter chaos I feel like it is more my fault than my husband's and that is just insanity. Rather than just accepting I have weird guilt issues, if my husband makes a comment about the state of OUR place, instead of being like ya it's a mess, I lose it! Snap! Over react! and am all, this is not 1950! I have a job! Roarrrrr! and he is like wtf lady, it's just an observation. So basically I am just going crazy to appease my guilt over the fact that this place is in shambles when it's obviously both our responsibilities. Anyway, I just keep reminding myself that and allowing for doses of CRAZY, when necessary.

And holy crap your baby is due in 2 weeks? Oh my stars!!! How exciting.

Tara

Let me know if you ever figure out the why-guilt thing. And if in the off chance that I'm not feeling particularly guilty for leaving, I still make sure to set out the night-time diaper and jammies and pour her milk and all that stupid stuff that Adam can do just fine by himself. For some reason I feel like I need to make it easier for him or something.

I did have to laugh to myself because I swear I've come home to the same situation (food left out to spoil, etc) and felt the same way, even though he doesn't always leave it out.

Elizabeth

Um, are you me?
I always feel SO guilty when I ask (or make) Erik do things for the boy. And then I get mad because he doesn't do as much as I would do, he complains that he can;t get things done.
I don;t know if it's a male/female thing, I think it's just different for the person who is home all day with the kid versus the person who is not. We have NO CHOICE but to come up with strategies for getting stuff done while dealing with a toddler, and we have a lot of practice, and the husbands just aren't as used to it as we are, and they aren't as good at it because of that.
And some things I'm just better at. Some things I care more about (the clothes). And some of those things fall along gender lines, and who knows why.
But the guilt thing? I have no answer for that.
And yes, read the NYT article on this, it was fascinating.
And watching my lesbian friends navigate this is even more interesting after reading it.

Lisa

I feel the same way. Olivia loves her Daddy, and he loves her, but he has a much shorter tolerance level for the "crazy" that comes from a 9-month-old toddler wannabe. I have developed the ability to multi-task...eat my own lunch standing in the kitchen while she's strapped into her high chair, pick up after lunch while she's temporarily distracted by her box of toys, and make it to the living room before she decides to destroy the CD tower. He has a hard time doing this, and it frustrates him. I think there's something in our brains that's wired differently than men's. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it's wired in us for survival. It would help, though, if our husbands' tolerance level for whine and crazy were a bit higher.

Keena

Good post.

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