His, Mine, and Ours

crossing the creek

I went to NYC this past weekend for a baby shower.  Matt was home for the weekend with the kids.

When he mentioned that to someone at work a few days before I left, they were stunned — he’d have all four kids all by himself all weekend?!?!?

It made me mad.

I don’t think anyone is surprised that I take care of the children by myself when Matt has to go on a business trip.  It annoys me that it’s shocking that he would do the same thing when I go out of town. 

These children are absolutely equally mine and his.  Why couldn’t he care for them on his own?  Why wouldn’t he be able to do that?

And let’s be clear — Matt absolutely can.  He doesn’t worry about it for a split second and neither do I.  Honestly, it never occurred to us that he can’t do for the children exactly what I do.  (And he probably made pancakes for breakfast one day, when I would most definitely have given them cereal.)  These are OUR children.  And he’s an excellent father. 

Matt says I’m over-reacting.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that, but in this case I think I feel the sting from comments like this a little stronger than he does.  He is confident in his role as a father, and he’s better at letting this type of thing roll off his back.

I just hear the echoes of sexism in the expression of surprise from his colleague.  I hear that women are the ones who should provide the lion’s share of care for the children, and men should show up to coach baseball and deposit their paychecks into the bank. 

I just think those statements undermine the idea that men and women — mothers and fathers — are equal partners in a relationship, in a family, in society.

I don’t think the comment was really intended that way, and maybe I AM over-sensitive (it would also not be the first time I was accused of that).  But maybe I’m just tired of feeling like women have to figure out the way to make it all work — home and family and a job — and men get a gold star sticker for doing what women do every day. 

jennifer garner work life balance

Let me make it very clear, though, that I do not include Matt in that statement.  He cooks, he cleans, he does laundry, he cares equally for our kids, and he knows it’s not exceptional that he does those things.  He does them because we are equals in our relationship.  Although he is the killer of bugs, I am the cleaner of puke.  We play to our strengths and we balance each other’s shortcomings.  It all evens out.

It should not be a surprise that a father is capable of caring for his own children without assistance.  It’s time to change the way we view gender roles and parenting and men and women and mothers and fathers.  It’s time to change the conversation.

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12 thoughts on “His, Mine, and Ours

  1. Mish

    Although I would have no problem leaving my kids alone with my husband for an extended period of time. He is not equal in child rearing. I am the one that keeps track of eating habits, pooping habits, medical issues, etc. Hubby COULD do this if he had to but we definitely play more into gender roles. We also have more of a need for the typical male gender roles that I cannot slip into such as mechanic, plumber, carpenter, etc. . .

    From most mom’s I know, we still do the lion’s share (funny expression in this topic) of the work in child raising than our husbands do.

    Reply
    1. Jessica Post author

      I definitely know more of the nitty-gritty details when it comes to the kids (shoe size, weight, favorite foods etc), but my problem is more with the shock expressed that Matt would have all the kids all by himself for 2 whole days. What were we going to do? Hire someone to watch them so I could go away for a weekend??? OF COURSE HE CAN WATCH THEM, THEY ARE HIS KIDS!!!

      Reply
  2. Jane

    I agree it is totally sexist, even if people don’t mean it to be. When I go away on business, people Always say oh poor Zack, think he’ll survive?? Um yes, he will, and with the kids in daycare it really means he does wake-up, and 3 hours after daycare so pretty sure he can handle it. If he was the one travelling, no one would feel bad for me being left alone for a couple days, but for some reason they do for him!

    Reply
  3. Sheri Prescott

    I wholeheartedly agree that many, many dads need to take a more active role in their parenting. Our society in general would be a much better place, with stronger families!!! I also agree that dads should be completely competent to care for their children while mommy is away and they should do a much BETTER job then a hired care-giver, because they are HIS children! However, I do believe that all marriages are different, thus this will look different for each couple… if both of us are giving 100% to our marriage and parenting, this won’t be a problem.

    I also feel though, that if I walked into my husband’s office today, I would have “no clue” what to do. In the same way, my career at home, is often daunting to him… He is passionate about excellence regarding his career and I’m passionate about being a homemaker, wife, mother, educator, etc. with excellence. My “current” career. My husband has no idea how to manage our overall life-style at home; including our 4 little ones. This doesn’t bother me at all and I appreciate that we have different gifts and talents.

    Reply
    1. Jessica Post author

      I definitely agree that each partner should give their best and that a couple should know how play to each others’ strengths, I just wish it wasn’t such a surprise that a dad would “have to” care for his kids for a whole weekend so mom can get a weekend away! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Heather

        I agree Jess, I absolutely can not stand when I go to work on the weekends and people comment that Jon is “babysitting” or on “kid duty”. He is not babysitting, he is raising his children. That being said, I rarely hear that anymore. People we are around know that I work weekends and evenings,and expect Jon to be at the kids activities, b-day parties, etc. . and doing all things related to being a parent. They know he is equally capable of doing all parental things because they see him doing it and doing it well. I used to get angry, but now I try to look at a different way. I say thank God I’m not married to that person making the comment!!! (And you know what I do know many Marriages where the parenting is not equal, but to each their own)

        Reply
  4. Mark

    I am guilty of this! Before anyone verbally assaults me by text, let me explain. First off, when I (and almost every guy I work with) makes the comment “youve got the kids???” or “your wife is gone all weekend…good luck” or really any other comment that suggests he wont survive, it is always a joke. I can not name one father I know that does not share the responsibility of raising his child. I also do not know any father who would not survive being alone with his kids.

    From a guys perspective, it is hard for me to imagine some of the guys I work with on a daily basis going home and being a super awesome father. Now I know that seems harsh. It is all about perspective. I work in a field that is 98% male. We are all almost all prior military, we all had a rough time when we were in our 20’s (drinking, partying, and what not), we are very thick skinned, we sometimes tell jokes and stories we should probably keep to ourselves, and we are all heavy aircraft mechanics who work in the elements performing manual labor.

    With all that being said, when my buddy tells me he cant come over and BBQ because his wife is out of town and a BBQ with a bunch of guys isnt the most child friendly environment. The first thing that pops in my head is him sitting there, getting make-up put on his face, playing tea party, and watching princess movies. Thats a pretty far stretch from what I see and experience on a daily basis. So when I make a joke about surviving, it doesnt mean that he doesnt do that every day already, or that its not his job to play tea party, or its the woman’s job to do that, it is just me having a hard time seeing that “side” of him. What is interesting, because I have never really thought about who I say that joke too, is that I dont think I have ever said that joke to a really close friend (one that I am close with him and his whole family). That would make sense because with the guys who I am very close with, and their families, I have experienced them in the father and co-worker role.

    Just my .02 cents.

    Reply
    1. Jessica Post author

      I have NO PROBLEM with the teasing part–it’s not easy parenting when your partner is away so survival is not an inappropriate term for it, and it IS funny when dads play princess or dress up or tea party, especially when that sort of thing is far from the norm for that particular dad.

      My issue is more with people being surprised that a dad would have “ALL the kids” for the weekend with no help (were we going to hire someone to come in and help him???). Or call it “baby-sitting” when the father is in charge. That’s the stuff that irks me.

      And I definitely appreciate your .02 cents — the perspective of a non-parent is always a good one to add. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Mish

    Hubby gets upset when someone is over the house and will leave a room he’s in to seek me out to ask a child related question (i.e. Where are the baby wipes? or Can the kids have juice?). He is very offended by that. “I’m the kid’s parent too!”

    Reply

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