How Not to Throw a Grenade into Your Spouse’s Day

Ever wonder why your stay-at-home significant other mutters under his/her breath or gets agitated when you delve into work (or hobbies or gaming or ass-sitting) on the weekend or evening? This is free time, right? You work all week. What gives?

You’re right, this is unscheduled time to get accomplished — or simply choose to not do — what didn’t get done during the day or week. You’re right, you do work hard all week so the family can function and live. Yep, this is the case for both of you. This time belongs to both of you.

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If one of you checks out to do work or rest, that firmly places the other parent on duty. So this means, if your work day is extending into the weekend or evening, so is your stay-at-home significant other’s. If you decide to pound out some work without telling him/her first, you’re saddling him/her with kid duty without warning. You’re making an insulting assumption that he/she is willing and available (in all capacities) to drop any and all plans to pick up your slack. But that’s the stay-at-home parent’s job, right?

Let’s make this easier for corporate minds to grasp. It’s the end of the day on Friday. You have been counting down the seconds until end-of-day Friday since 7:00AM Tuesday. Then, just as you log off, an email pings on your phone. Your colleague dipped out — either for a business trip or weekend plans — and dumped a project with a yesterday deadline on your lap. Was there a “please”, “thank you”, or “I owe you one” in the request? Nope, just task list and spreadsheet attached to a blank message. Curse words, right? A steady stream of them pour through your head. That colleague is now officially on your shit list. You have neither the time nor mental energy for this. Guess what? You’re that shit list colleague to your stay-at-home significant other when you wordlessly drop childcare duties on his/her lap.

As the stay-at-home parent, one is officially the default parent. The one immediately assumed to be one duty day and night. The one who must clearly communicate, “I’m not here” or “I need a break” to be temporarily taken out of the line of fire.

This parent is the one perpetually honing the running home to-do list, tending the kids’ schedules (from extracurriculars to school events, playdates to check-ups), preening the family calendar (vacations and extended family get togethers, outings and downtime), and running ongoing inventory for shopping lists, all while noting who’s gone potty or snacked when. Who’s watched too much TV or had a privilege revoked or needs to practice one skill or another. Who’s in a bad mood or who needs cuddles. Who’s in desperate need of one-on-one attention. Who asked for what playdate with whom and where haven’t we played recently. The mental load is an unending, ever-growing burden. It is a significant downside of the stay-at-home parent’s career path. But we all make sacrifices. As a working spouse, though, it’s worth the due diligence to be acutely aware of your partner’s taskload (if not for his/her sake, then your own.)

We all have stuff pop up. And you know what, sometimes we’re all selfish or tired or tapped-out or busy. It happens. We screw up. We take advantage of our significant other sometimes, but don’t be surprised when it bites you in the ass if the bad behavior becomes a pattern. Because it will bite you.

So, don’t want an angry partner or muttered aggressions littering your auditory space? Then don’t throw a grenade into your significant other’s day.

Communicate. Review expectations. Ask if this is a good time. You know, don’t be that shit list colleague. And if you know he/she is toast but you need to just get this one thing done or sit on your ass for a beat, own it and make up for it later. But expect a curse word or two. You can tune that out though, right? I mean, you do have kids after all… the ability to tune out is parental survival.

You can do this. I believe in you.

They’re Testes not a Free Pass

Men are not incompetent. Women are not innately or universally better caregivers than men. So why do we assume this to be true?

Why, when my husband wrangles our three children — 4.5-years, 3-years, and 10-months — do people react with shock, but it is assumed that I can easily manage the troublesome trio? Do my ovaries offer me a child rearing superpower? Do his testes render him incapable of tending to his own offspring? No.

Hubs takes offense to the notion that he is assumed underqualified to effectively tend to his own offspring. That mindset is one of the reasons I adore him.

“I don’t do diapers.” some men say with a macho sense of superiority, as if their y-chromosome places them above the unsavory portions of caregiving. Apparently, the universe granted these stallions the option of making such a choice, but not women. “I can only handle one child at a time.” Some fathers will claim, even though they sired multiple children. It’s as if these sowers-of-oats don’t realize they’re demeaning themselves out of sheer laziness. Then, there are my favorite set, the myopic brutes who insist that they — the paycheck-earning men — need regular breaks from household humdrum yet their female counterparts neither deserve nor require such respite. To all of these fathers I say: think again.

You spawned the children, you parent the children. What you expect your mate to do in terms of childcare, you must also be willing to undertake.

If you “don’t do diapers”, you are expecting your counterpart to assume a duty you deem lesser, thereby implying she is lesser. Is that really a conversation you feel like having? Grab some baby wipes and clean the baby bum. You’re manly, you can take it.

If your significant other, with whom you share guardianship, is capable of wrangling all of your shared children, buddy, so can you. It may take some trial and error but you’ll learn, exactly as she did.

Everyone needs regular breaks — from work, routine, etc. — and a presence or absence of female anatomy does not negate this requirement. You, dear sir, need just the same (yes, the same) number of breaks as your co-parent. You are not a babysitter any more than she is. You cannot claim to be too overworked or underqualified to allow her a break unless you offer her the same veto power for your respites. This is a partnership.

Even if your significant other is a stay-at-home mom, your bread-winning status does not absolve you from parenting duties. Her lack of financial contribution to the household does not mean her duties are lesser or that you deserve downtime more than she does. You don’t work 24/7 without assistance or a break; neither should she.

Claiming ignorance or incompetence when it comes to caring for your own offspring doesn’t make you more masculine, more attractive, or more powerful. It simply debases you, degrades your partner, and — quite frankly — makes you appear lazy, selfish, misogynistic, antiquated, and inept.

Parenthood is a joint venture. Do your part. End of story.