Ever since I gave birth to my second daughter a year ago, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a breastfeeding mother say or saw a social media post where she refers to her spouses’ nipples as useless. I often see a social media post where a woman vents about how she has been caring for her children, cleaning, cooking, and on top of that breastfeeding her child on demand. All that hard work just for her spouse to come home, run to the bathroom, eat and then space out before falling asleep. That was me… I am that mother… She is me…
Although I see the mother’s point of view clearly, I had to change my perspective and see what it’s like for the father/spouse in this situation. Well… from a good and caring husband/father’s perspective. No, he hasn’t been at home cooking, cleaning, or tending to the children all day, but he has been at work all day. If you’re a stay-at-home mother who doesn’t work from home, well that means he takes care of all the financial needs. The weight of the world is on his shoulders. He has to make sure there is food to put on the table each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks), electricity, water and to make sure a roof stays over the family’s head. Depending on where you live, he hits rush hour traffic going and coming home from work, which is hassle itself. If you’ve worked before, you also know the feeling of having an unsuccessful day at work, feeling defeated, fearful of losing your job or not getting a promotion as well. You never know, he may HATE his job, but sticks it out because he understands his responsibilities. When he comes home, he probably feels joy in his heart to see his beautiful wife and children, but he just needs a moment of relief. Not to be tasked with chores as soon as he enters his safe place—home.
Now I know many will read this and say, well his job doesn’t end when he gets home. He’s a husband and father so it’s his duty to help out. This is all true. He knows that being a father and husband never ends. Put yourself in his shoes for a minute. I imagine my husband coming straight home and having his moment of relaxation interrupted to be equivalent to me finally getting a break in the bathroom and my children knock on the door because they want to know if I’m ok. How about when a mother has finally gotten the children to bed, she pours a glass of wine, turns her show on, and her kids comes out of the room and says they’re thirsty. In that moment, all she is wishing for is a break. Just a little “me” time before having to doing anything else that requires an effort.
When I changed my perspective, I had to think about how I greeted my husband. I have the tendency to think I’m being gentle and kind, but my facial expression and energy reads stress and irritation. That sets off smoke signals for him to know what he’s in for. I try to give him at least an hour to get himself together and then slowly unload some tasks on him. Immediately immersing him into more work usually stirred up frustration and caused unnecessary disagreements between us. Our disagreements rarely turn into arguments, but they leave us fuming inside. Everything is intensified when the children are screaming in the background, or worse… they’re watching and listening as you go back and forth.
Being able to let your needs and requests be known to your partner requires a lot of communication from both individuals. As mothers, both working and stay-at-home, we have to think about what tasks we need the most help with. When we discuss them with our partners, and agree to let him do them, we have to LET HIM DO IT! I say that with a passion because I am that wife. The one who asks her husband to do something, see him doing it wrong and then say never mind I’ll do it! Show him how to do it, and then let him do it.
Sometimes we may have everything under control with our children but need more help around the house to relieve ourselves from being overwhelmed. It may be helpful to write down all the things you have to do daily around the house and with the children, and then ask your spouse what he feels most comfortable doing. For example, my husband prefers that I bathe our daughters. He only feels comfortable giving them a bath when I’m not around to do it. Luckily our oldest no longer needs assistance, just slight guidance and reminders. We haven’t agreed to it yet, but if I asked him to feed the girls or tuck them in and read a bedtime story, I’m confident he would do it.
Majority of the time, it comes down to communicating your needs and compromising. My husband offers to wash the dishes, but I don’t like the way he washes them. He uses too much soap and it takes what feels like 5 hours! However, I love when he does the laundry. He’s efficient and gets the job done. He doesn’t have to re-wash the clothes three times because he forgot to put them in the dryer. He doesn’t have to wash them two more times because he forgot to turn the dryer on. In addition, he actually folds and puts the clothes away right away. He’s very anal about how the clothes are folded and placed in the closet, so it works in my favor! It’s a give and take process that we had to figure out.
Not all men are created equal, and I completely understand that. Some spouses are complete butt-holes and believe that since you’re home all day you should be able to do it all. They grew up with a mother or grandmother who stayed home and took care of all the house duties while her husband worked. That’s not always realistic. Other men don’t have a problem with helping. They tend to show discomfort or greet us with an attitude because they can already sense the vibe that is radiating from us. I can imagine a man finding it pointless to try when they have already been counted out as useless and unable to provide any assistance or help. What’s the point in trying if you’re thought poorly of?
I had to rid myself of some of the struggle and delegate some of the hard work to my husband. He may have useless nipples, but his hands are useful. I choose to let him use them! In the early months of our youngest daughter’s life, after breastfeeding, I would hand the her to him for skin-to-skin contact or cuddle time. It made him feel more involved and useful. Since I breastfed more than I used pumped milk, he would always say, “I can handle her once she’s fed.” “Otherwise in the middle of the night, or when I’m sitting here and she’s crying, there’s nothing I can do for her.”
If your spouse doesn’t know how to cook, give him a designated day to choose dinner for you all to eat and let him pick it up on the way home. My husband spends majority of his time away at work, so I plan to use this method when he gets home. When we get back to being consistent about our date nights, I plan to find a cooking class so that he can gain more confidence in the kitchen. There are ways to make this dynamic work, we just have to be willing to make it work. That’s where being a couple is really tested and strengthened. It’s when you really have to act as a team to get things done. When things aren’t working out, you come together and figure out another plan. Giving up shouldn’t an option.
When things in the house go haywire, it can be taxing on a woman’s mental health. When things at home are out-of-order, I always feel like my life is out of order. As mothers and wives, we can save ourselves a lot of stress if we use our words more effectively and allow our husbands to step up.
This post isn’t meant to shoot down women and lift men up on a pedestal, giving them excuses. I also know that help from a partner isn’t an option for single mothers. I’m married, but my husband is gone a lot, so I know the struggle. However, I am a woman who believes in holding herself accountable. It’s not always our significant others who don’t want to do anything. Sometimes we spit on their attempts because they don’t look the way we want them to. In my opinion, men aren’t gifted with the natural instincts to parenthood like mother’s are. It’s not always easy for them to jump up and step in like it is for a mother. I have to show my husband daily and explain a lot to him. THAT’S OK! The fact is that he is willing to learn, try, and then master his skills.
I. AM. NOT. PERFECT…. MY. LIFE. IS. NOT. PERFECT. My husband and I discussed a lot before getting married. The matters that we didn’t address are now improving after recently discovering our love languages. You can read more about that in Found My Love Language.
Ultimately, it’s best that we discuss household chores with our partners and see what their mindset is like BEFORE marriage and cohabitating. We can then see if they apply gender roles to certain tasks or don’t believe in doing anything around the house. After that, we can make an informed decision on whether to move forward with him or let him go. Otherwise, lower your expectations. The higher they are, the bigger the disappointment. I talk about this a lot in my post Standards vs. Expectations.