Another rage-inducing article about how much dads suck and moms are the most perfect, wonderful human beings ever. And the article, Mad at Dad, frosts the rage cake with some astoundingly bad advice:
60% of moms don’t tell their friends what they’re going through, or they make light of it.
This is particularly surprising, since our mom friends — who’d understand better than anyone — could be a great source of support. “When we make jokes about it, it’s one way of talking about it without admitting to ourselves that it’s really bad,” Schwartz says.
We should talk to each other — and be more honest about the depth of our feelings. There’s great comfort in knowing you’re not alone, you’re not unreasonable, you’re not crazy. If it’s uncomfortable to do that with a friend face-to-face — whether you’re worried about being judged or feel it’s disloyal to your husband — then, hey, find some online friends to commiserate with.
No, NO, NO. Do NOT go work yourself up into a froth, disloyally griping about how much of a jerk your husband is. Believe it or not, it makes you look even worse than it makes him look – after all, how much of an idiot are you for marrying this selfish, thoughtless moron? While you may take some short-lived, false comfort in “venting” your misery and hearing that yes, all your girlfriend’s husbands are jerks too, and men all over the country are as stupid and selfish as your husband is, that’s neither sensible nor effective about solving the problem. How would you feel to learn that he gripes about you to all his friends or on a message board? Betrayed? Hurt? Will it really help you to do that to him? What does that do to solve the problem?
After stoking rage – much of it based on outright stupidity – the author at least wraps it up with some somewhat reasonable advice:
The ones we also really need to talk to, however, are our husbands. The fact that so many moms are mad, and that so many of the complaints are similar, is significant. And maybe that can give all of us moms — who love our husbands but wish they’d just be…more like us — the push to make some changes, to delegate more and demand more for ourselves. Anger can be debilitating — but it can also be motivating.
Yes, we need to talk – calmly and rationally – to our husbands. That’s definitely the way to begin solving the problem. But no, the goal here should not be to make them more like us. As I read the article, I kept taking note of all the ridiculous things these women spent their time on, and were enraged that their husbands failed to participate in, subsidize, or otherwise support. Well, I wouldn’t have either. Many of the complaints were completely groundless. Not all of them. But enough to make me want to knock some women’s heads together. The fact that so many moms are mad and so many complaints are similar is significant – but it is a logical fallacy to conclude from that, that women are right and men are wrong. Correlation does not equal causation. Examples from the article, along with my two cents -
- He was cleaning out the basement, and took Grandma’s books to Goodwill instead of the antique book dealer. If you’d wanted them taken to the antique book dealer, you should have boxed them up yourself and taken them there. Be happy he cleaned the basement and quit micro-managing. The books are gone, the basement is clean. Stop sweating the small stuff.
- Another mom whines, “I’m making breakfast, getting dressed, and screaming at everyone to get ready — while he’s at the computer,” she says. “He always hops-to when I ask him, but it bugs me that he doesn’t just pitch in and help on his own. I have to ask every d*mn day.” Okay, he needs time to himself in the morning; a lot of people do. Either convince him to get up earlier, or pare down the morning routine by laying out the clothes at night and serve cold cereal or instant oatmeal for breakfast. I can guarantee you your children would rather eat cold cereal for breakfast than start their day listening to you shriek like a banshee about your dissatisfaction with your marriage and your life.
- “Why do they give the baby a bottle right before we come home, all bursting and ready to nurse?” He gave the baby a bottle because the baby was screaming and hungry – and quite possibly because he wanted to feed and bond with his child. Go ahead and pump, and be glad you’re not married to a man who is able to ignore a screaming baby.
- One mother complained, “No one’s ever gotten hurt, but once I came home and found that my toddler’s brand-new — expensive! — rug was covered in marker. It was clear he’d left them on their own for a while, with markers. I was furious. I’m still furious.” My mother was never lax, but my two year old brother managed to take a tube of lipstick and scribble all over the quilt my great-grandmother had sewn by hand. Things happen; if there’s a pattern, that’s one thing, but honestly, what are you doing buying an expensive rug for a toddler? Did he have a moment of inattentiveness (was he in the bathroom?) or was he sitting around playing video games and ignoring the baby? How justified is this fury?
- “Erin Martin of Seattle remembers the Saturday morning she spent rushing making football-shaped sandwiches for her son’s sixth-birthday party. Her husband, meanwhile, was goofing around on the computer, oblivious that he could be pitching in.” A pack of six year old boys are really not that into football shaped sandwiches. They’re looking at toys, playing games, and stuffing their faces with whatever’s handy. Mrs. Martin was doing that to show off for the other mothers who would be at the party. I don’t blame her husband one bit for not participating in such nonsense.
I won’t fisk every example, and not every example can be fisked. Men are no more perfect than women are. But the pattern I’m seeing is this – women want it all, their way, when they want it. We try to micro-manage our husbands, which is a guaranteed way to trigger passive-aggressive resistance, if not outright refusal to cooperate. We focus too closely on what we want to do, without considering the larger cost – yes, a hot breakfast has been put on the table, but the kids have to choke it down in a decidedly stressful, unharmonious environment. Is that really what you want them to grow up thinking marriage is like? We don’t like the results of his actions, but don’t fully consider why he did what he did. And while we marinate ourselves in that anger and hostility – with occasional gripe-sessions with our girlfriends that bring the pot to a slow boil – we fail to give credit for any good motives he may have. Nowhere, in all the examples in the article, do we see women calmly trying to work with their husbands – their life-partners! – to assess their goals and work to achieve them. These same women would never treat a business colleague so discourteously.
The article advises women to “delegate more.” I have a newsflash for you, ladies. Your husbands are not your employees.
If you’re struggling with anger at your husband because you feel overburdened with parental or household duties, and you believe he’s evading responsibility please consider taking these steps -
- Prayerfully assess how much of the crap you’re spending your time on is really necessary. Pare down your life while your children are small; reassess your priorities. You need a “a nut-free vegetarian appetizer” for curriculum night? Buy a vegetable and fruit tray from the grocery store, or tell the committee who’s organizing the evening what you’re willing and able to do. Don’t just take whatever assignment you’re given, and don’t concern yourself with what people will think if you don’t bring a Martha Stewart-worthy dish. Don’t buy an expensive rug for a toddler. Don’t plan an elaborate breakfast on school days. Make compromises on the details, in service of a larger goal – a peaceful life and a happy family. I promise you – six months from now no one will remember the appetizer you brought. Later in life, your kids will not recall what breakfast you served. They will remember how ugly mornings in your household were and how miserable it was to start the day in that fashion. This time in your life is so brief, and it will never come again. Choose to enjoy it. Take a step back, consider the big picture, and set your goals accordingly.
- Once you’ve pared down, take the list of what’s really necessary, share it with your husband and discuss it. He might have suggestions for paring it down still further; take him seriously, discuss and negotiate. Ask for his assistance in making a plan to deal with what really needs to be done.
- If you both, as equal partners, have figured out what really needs to be done and have formulated a plan to do it, but as a practical matter he’s still not doing his part – not doing what he agreed to do – then go back to him calmly and rationally. Ask him if the plan needs to be reworked. Does he disagree that these things need to be done? Learn why he’s not living up to what he agreed to do. You are not his mother or his boss. You want his cooperation, not his obedience. Treat him accordingly.
- Remind yourself why you married this man. Focus on his good qualities. Consider which of his good qualities you would give up in exchange for his doing that one thing you’re fixated on making him do. Pray for your husband; God may change him, but He’ll change you more. And all of it in good ways.
The bottom line – stop being mad at what you’re not getting in life. Cultivate contentedness. Redefine the problem and start solving it effectively. Don’t expect overnight change in either of you. Take the long view. Because whatever burdens or over-burdens you may feel now while your children are small – no matter how all the details work out, those children will eventually grow up and leave you. You’re going to be left alone with your husband. That was the plan you had when you married him, before you knew you’d have children or how your lives would turn out. Make sure you don’t forget it now, focusing on minutiae; trashing a lifetime commitment over short-term circumstances.