Friday, June 3, 2016

Mother duties = father duties

I recently realized something.  Something I don't like, that I've been doing without even knowing it.  I have been thanking my husband for doing fatherly duties.  Example:  He says he is going to pick up our daughter from daycare, and I say thank you to him.

Does anyone else see something wrong with that picture?  He never thanks me for picking her up the majority of the time.  He doesn't thank me for loading/unloading the dishes, or for doing the laundry.  But I thank him when he does anything more than go to work and come home.  

I have friends who have clear division of labor in different ways, where their husbands are actually expected to do laundry, dishes, wake up with the baby, etc.  Mine has never had such expectations.  The tasks are all mine, with him helping out when he sees fit and convenient.  The dishes will not pile up if he doesn't touch them for days, I will put them away.  The food will not run out, I will make sure we are stocked up.  The kids will not go hungry, I will make sure they're fed.  I don't blame him at all for any of this, because it is the precedent I have set in our marriage and home.  But I wanted to ask fellow MiM's:  What kind of precedent do you have in your homes?


  1. We have things split up - some by convienence (i do drop off, he does pick up), some by rules (who cooks does not clean), some by who has time (i do doc appts, he does sports practices), some by who likes it less (he vacuums, i dust), some by he just gets annoyed if laundry basket is more than 2/3s full so he does laundry. As you can see if varies by task, and we often thank the other if we end up doing the other's "chore". We came from families that the men did traditional women's chores and traditional men's chores.

  2. In our home we have "mom duties" (me) and "mama duties" (my wife). I tend to cook more, garden more, and be the money/insurance person. She is ALL over the kid scheduling/childcare/birthday party RSVP/homework tracking sphere, thankfully. Stuff like laundry/cleaning is shared. We have gravitated towards our natural gifts. We run into some trouble with regards to the "thank you" part of it however. I do not expect to be thanked for doing my stuff...but my wife does, and feels quite disappointed/upset with her efforts not being recognized and appreciated--but it doesn't occur to me to say thank you for fulfilling our usual roles in our home. I'm guessing this is just a personality thing, that we each have different expectations/needs re being thanked for things? Maybe this is how it is with your husband too. Interesting post. Will be curious to see responses!

  3. We were married for 15 years before Eve was born and we pretty much split household chores 50/50. We have housecleaners so neither of us dusts or vacuums. He carried laundry up and down stairs, I washed it, and we each put away our own. We both cooked and whoever didn't cook did the dishes. He did the yard work; I paid the bills and dealt with insurance paperwork and investing. Since the advent of the kid and the move to a smaller house with a MUCH smaller yard, it's still 50/50 with a lot of adjustments. He does all the laundry and most of the cooking and most of the shopping; I do most of the dishes. We still have cleaners. I still pay the bills and deal with insurance/investment stuff. We split drop-off and pick-up. I take her to the doctor, he takes her to the dentist. I mow the lawn, he does the rest of the yard work. I deal with Eve's clothing and dance and cosmetics needs (because I actually enjoy shopping with her.) And Eve, at 16, does her own laundry, cleans her own room, and does the dishes some of the time (after her finals next week that should change to all of the time.)

    No matter who does what, we thank each other. I thank him for cooking, he thanks me for doing the dishes, we both thank Eve for doing whatever she does (even if it required four requests and some arm-twisting before she did it.) I don't think "thank you" is reserved for special favors or special occasions. I think that's both personality and family of origin - my family said "thank you" all the time and his did not. We never talked about it; we just fell into the pattern of thanking each other.

    Division of labor is a major issue for most heterosexual couples. I am grateful to my mother-in-law for raising sons who expect to do their fair share of work around the house. It's never been a battle in my marriage. It's more like an ongoing negotiation (and we've both learned to live with things not being done quite the way we'd choose to do them.)

  4. I'm a huge thank you person. I thank my husband for doing everything and anything. Doesn't bother me at all, but I agree with the other commenters, that's probably a personality thing.

    Division of labour is something I mull over in my mind a LOT! My husband was raised with a stay at home mom and in a family where men generally did not help out around the house. That being said, I've made my expectations clear, and he's a neat freak by nature, so he helps around the house quite a bit. Right now, I do all of the cooking and also usually do dishes afterwards - this is mainly because I enjoy cooking, and for the majority of our marriage I've been more available in the evenings (I have been a student or on maternity leave, and when I am working I have a 6 minute commute whereas he has an hour commute). He does all the outside work and gardens, and is very handy so does a lot of renovations, projects and household repairs. We've learned over time to split cleaning, paying bills and laundry. It will be interesting to see how things pan out when I go back to residency and we're both working full time with a one year old...we will probably have some adjusting to do in terms of cooking and dishes.

  5. I'm a second year medical student. My wonderful boyfriend of 5 years and I moved into our apartment together at the beginning of med school. I had always just assumed that we would both contribute as much as we could to household duties and by both contributing 100% of our efforts, the house would stay clean.

    It took me an entire year to realize that while my darling pulled his weight in the kitchen (cooking, cleaning, dishes, grocery shopping) I was the only one who had ever vacuumed, dusted, cleaned the bathroom, laundered the sheets and towels, or scrubbed the floors. I was livid upon realizing this. How could he not see the dirt? (I'm not one to clean a clean thing just for the sake of cleaning). How could he assume that it would always be my job to accomplish these tasks? How in the world would I survive my medical career AND all the additional responsibilities that would come with motherhood someday in the future if he didn't do half of the work?

    After much research I came upon a website and corresponding book that helped me articulate exactly what I hoped our future division of labor would look like. He has read the book and we are steadily moving in the right direction with chores. His efforts to do his fair share have greatly reduced my fears that I will someday be both a doctor and the kind of mother who must accomplish the majority of the household tasks and childrearing tasks on her own. I'm so grateful to have such an open-minded and motivated partner.

    We do say thank you to each other frequently, especially when someone goes above and beyond the norm, de-bugging the pantry during a recent infestation, cleaning out the attic, etc, but we also try to say it often for the little things like doing the dishes as well. I think it is nice to note his efforts and I appreciate when he notices mine.

  6. I am also a thank you person, and my mom thanks everyone for everything so I started out the same way. But as a surgeon with a child who does 95% of the house work and child care duties, at this point I'm so blazingly frustrated and bitter that I rarely thank my husband anymore. He thanks me when I boil over and loose my sh*t over his lack of helping and underappreciation - those episodes usually buy me a week of infuriating thank yous and no additional help. I feel like the division of labor thing in my marriage is hopeless but I don't want this for my daughter but I feel that if this is what she sees growing up I will create a cycle. I'm a month away from being an attending and hope to staff up to provide the help I need so I don't loose my mind and so she doesn't see me always doing all the work.

  7. We are pretty much 50/50 in general, but both will step it up and do most if the other needs it (temporarily busy schedule or travel, etc). We do also gravitate towards our "natural gifts" as Zebra put it. I do all of the bills/investing/financial aspects, laundry, he cooks most nights and does most of the household shopping. We both clean up after dinner and split school drop-offs (our au pair does pick-ups and some after school activity shuttling). I tend to be the one most annoyed by dirt and disorder so will intervene on those situations first. Key to our balance is a housecleaner every other week and a naturally neat au pair who straightens out the kitchen after each whirlwind school/work morning. We often thank each other for our contributions to household functioning, especially if someone has gone above and beyond, but also for just doing the regular things because we both know we couldn't do it alone.

  8. I work.
    Kids go to daycare/school.
    He does the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, transportation, cat care, phone calling and organizing.
    He also works on his dissertation.
    When he's gone he leaves me lists so I know what needs done.

  9. That would not fly in my home. We both work, but since he works from home via the computer, he does more childcare and home duties than I do (about 60% him and 40% me), split up by what we prefer or are better at or have time to do. For example, I do the dishes because I prefer it, and he does more laundry (although I still do laundry, there is a never ending supply of laundry). He makes school lunches 3/5 days a week, along with drops offs, and I do lunch and school drop off twice a week, as works with my schedule. We use Wonderlist to keep a joint shopping and pharmacy lists, so whomever has time can buy stuff, but I tend to do this more, only because I am type A and like to get things exactly (as many other doctor mommies that I know). There's no room for old fashioned parenting duties in a working household, IMHO.

  10. Hi DoctorMommy,

    First of all - I hear you. While our situations may not seem similar - and on the surface they are not - I hear you. My husband was a stay at home Dad for seven years while we had our three children - two in med school, one in residency. He was, and is, a wonderful father. But eventually, I realized that people everywhere were practically tripping over themselves to make a point about how WONDERFUL he is...... for doing the same things that Moms do thanklessly, day in and day out. Example: approached by neighbour I don't know well while walking down the street: "Your husband is just a WONDERFUL father" Me "yes he is, thank you" Neighbour (gushing, like dripping): "I see him take the children to the park all the time" Me "yes, he does". I wait for more, but that's it. Just more gushing about how he takes them to the PARK. That's it!! No superhero stuff, he didn't save them all from a burning building, he just walked down the street and took them to the local PARK. WTF?? I doubt that the stay at home Moms (or any Moms!) in the neighbourhood ever got complimented for taking their kids to the park! They just did it. Or, some version of this from hundreds of colleagues / preceptors / patients / nurses / staff: "Your husband stays home?? WOW! My husband would NEVER do that. You are so lucky". My husband never thought HE would do that either. Ever. But that's how our life played out.

    The thing people DIDN'T know, and what took me YEARS to realize (as you are realizing now), is despite the apparent sex-role reversal that we had in our parenting duties, this was FAR from accurate! When I try to picture a male colleague with a SAHM wife doing what I did - it's laughable. Unthinkable. Me: work whatever stupid hours as resident or med student, rush home after X hours, drop everything to fully relieve hubby from all duties - whatever the kids were doing, I "took over" - dinner, bath, bedtime routine (selfishly of course - I wanted to be with my babies!!!!) but also very much with the "let me give you a break" mantra. Weekends I'm not working: encouraged hubby to relax, take a break, go out, etc (me - zero breaks, ever. Not saying this is right! Just what I did). All playdates (even though I couldn't attend them!), birthday party invites, our own children's Bdays (from invites to cake to gifts), Christmas (Ah! Stockings! gifts! hosting! travelling! meal planning! Grocery shopping!) was fully coordinated by me, though he would get some "jobs" i.e. go grocery shopping with this list. He did cook and prepare bottles and do dishes (he had no choice), but I still did most chores, laundry, etc. He also took ZERO planning initiative for anything.

    After 4 or 5 years, as I sat down in tears one night realizing my daughter's 4th Bday was just a few days before my LMCC2, and how was I going to make sure she had a nice BDay when I had all that studying to do, I swear, I had a lightbulb literally switch on over my brain. I asked hubby to do the whole Bday. All of it. The invites, the RSVPs, the planning, the cake, the gifts.... everything. And - no, I do not need to see or confirm or vet ANYTHING. Just make it happen WITHOUT ME BEING INVOLVED IN THE PLANNING. And he did. (Also, I feel the need to point out here - men often complain that even when they TRY To do something, their wives don't like HOW It is done. Nope. Not the case here. Or really EVER. I let him have full reign). And over the next few years, more conversations followed, me hoping for the holy grail of not even having to tell him he needed to plan for X, Y, or Z. Things got pretty good. Now, he has been working full time x 2 years, and honestly, I think we had a good understanding before he went back, so even though it remains challenging logistically (per all families with kids and two working parents!), I really no longer feel like the "default" for all things home-related. It does indeed feel more equal.

  11. OK sorry I know this will now be longer than your post. Want to add:

    I want to conclude with a quote which I cannot attribute (don't remember), but which has stayed with me:

    "Women CAN have it all - they just can't DO it all".

    I love this so much. My male med student / resident / and now physician colleagues with SAHM wives - it never would cross their mind to arrange Xmas, birthdays, play dates, doctor appointments, grocery lists, house stuff - wife literally Takes Care of Everything and they can focus on their career +/- any assigned or delegated duties at home. Meanwhile, working mothers remain the backbone at home, too. It happened to me in an outwardly appearing completely role-reversed marriage, but I eventually learned, it only LOOKED reversed - I had way, way, way, waaay more responsibility at home than my male colleagues with stay-home spouses. And, truly, my husband really is wonderful!! It's just that we both had to LEARN, over many years, what our own expectations were, what the others were, and to be fair, to break down expectations that I think neither of us were even aware of (i.e. cultural).

    I completely agree with Cigal MD, above, with one addition: old-fashioned parenting duties have no place in ANY household, anymore, period. My sons AND daughter will grow up understanding this!!!

  12. I also thank my husband, and he always says, "There is no need to thank me." I guess he already gets it.

  13. I think it's ok to thank one another as long as it's a) reciprocal, and b) for reasonable things. Eg. I thanked my husband for taking care of the school search/ application process because it was a ton of work and he did a great job. However, for making dinner or changing a diaper? Nah. That's part of being a parent. I do wish he'd thank me more. He never does. :-p

  14. Great post! I hear where you're coming from. My situation is pretty similar to Cigal MD's above. We have a balance that works. I do find myself saying thanks at times, sometimes it's when it's a shared task that I really didn't feel like doing or when something was particularly difficult (eg. THANK YOU for dealing with the dead skunk under the deck!) Sometimes I thank when something routine is just noticed and appreciated... But I have actively stopped myself from thanking for every "expected" household contribution, because it does feel like a double standard.

  15. This was a huge contribution to my divorce. I have learned to communicate my needs better in my current relationship. The role expectations in our society are very unfair to women. It's up to us to teach the guys that we need something different (if their mama's didn't) and it's up to them to listen.


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