For a long time I’ve wanted to write this. Somehow something always got in the way. Maybe I was afraid. Or maybe I didn’t want to seem angry. People tend to dismiss mothers as well as incensed women and especially incensed mothers as an attempt at silencing or shaming us.
Or maybe I wanted to believe things would change. Maybe I didn’t want to upset my husband (I do love him). Or to be judged ungrateful because I understand just how fortunate I am to be married to my best friend and have two healthy children. But I can’t stay silent.
For over a decade I have felt like a married single mother. I understand it’s not the same as an actual single mother, and my point is not to compare the two. I understand single motherdom is extremely hard, unfair, wrong, heart-breaking, infuriating, and exhausting. My sister was one. I get it. What I’m saying is that whether you are a single mother or a married one your role isn’t vastly different.
I may have a co-pilot, but I don’t have a co-parent, and although the two of us endeavored to create a family together, and together we are charged with the task of raising that family, only one of us is doing the raising.
And I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how two people can become parents, but only one is saddled with the responsibility for it all. It seems as if upon the birth of the first child all parental responsibilities default almost automatically to the mother.
It’s not that my husband doesn’t help or that he isn’t an excellent and loving father because he is. What I’m saying is he’s not a full and equal parent.
To illustrate my point, I’ve taken the liberty of devising a list of his and her responsibilities. You should try making one of your own sometime. Or just use mine. I’m certain it’s fairly interchangeable.
My list of responsibilities is as follows and I quote:
1. Set all parenting standards and troubleshoot standards when proven inadequate or ineffective.
2. Enforce all parenting standards and discipline kids when standards have been violated
3. Research, procure, schedule, remember and take both kids to all doctors, dentist, pediatricians, and specialist appointments
4. Ensure kids take in the occasional fruit or vegetable
5. Get kids ready in the morning and deliver them to school
6. Maintain school schedules and correspondence with teachers
7. Attend all school conferences, assemblies and concerts
8. Read through school papers and keep up on school notices and permission slips
9. Fulfill school volunteer duties
10. Collect kids from school in the afternoon
11. Care for kids when they’re sick, make arrangements for all half days and school breaks and patch together camps for summer recess
12. Help kids with homework
13. Ensure my son reads to a parent nightly (i.e. me to make sure he understands what he is reading)
14. Make sure my son learns his times tables before graduating high school
15. Devise, remember and maintain bath policy (i.e. every other day)
16. Brush and floss my son’s teeth twice daily as per dentist’s reprimand and make sure my daughter does the same
17. Enforce bedtime and ensure kids have completed their nightly routine (i.e. bags packed for school, teeth brushed, bathroom used)
18. Make and take kids to all hair appointments
19. Shop for all kids’ clothing, shoe and school needs
20. Monitor kids’ laundry to ensure they always have clean clothes for school
21. Wash all household, my own and kids’ laundry
22. Switch winter and summer clothing according to season
23. Organize all old clothes and toys, box them up and schedule them for donations
24. Plan and prepare weeknight meals
25. Take inventory, compile grocery list and do the food shopping
26. Clean the kitchen and dust and clean all furniture
28. Sweep and wash the floors
29. Vacuum the rugs
30. Assign the kids chores and enforce those chores
31. Arrange social calendar for both kids
32. Host and attend playdates for kids
33. Plan and execute birthday parties for both kids
34. Buy all gifts for every occasion for every person the two us know jointly
35. Remember all birthdays and significant events of family and friends
36. Maintain all social contacts and relationships
37. Force kids to practice instruments nightly or at least occasionally
38. Organize and find a home for every single item that enters the household
39. Signing-up and taking kids to after-school activities
40. Go to work (part-time)
41. Fulfill just about every domestic duty down to replacing every sliver of soap left in the soap dish, every empty shampoo bottle, and every spent toilet paper roll
42. Write a book
By contrast, my husband’s responsibilities are:
1. Make coffee
2. Take out the trash and recyclables
3. Pay the bills
4. Go to work
5. Clean the bathrooms twice monthly.
Wait, I lied. My husband also makes sure we are always stocked with a fresh supply of green grass. He manages our grass seed reserves, replenishes it as necessary and fills in bare spots year round. Thank God for that. Without lush green grass, we’d be destitute.
The thing is my husband is a good guy. Anyone would tell you I’m lucky to have him. Especially my parents. If we were ever to split, my parents would take him over me any day. I’m also not saying my husband doesn’t work hard or wouldn’t do anything I asked. Of course, then I’d be responsible for asking, and making sure it got done. What I’m saying is he doesn’t bear responsibility at home, and I’m just a little tired.
I can understand how I should shoulder a bulk of the responsibilities when I was the one at home caring for the kids. My husband was out of the house for 12 hours a day at least, and as the primary parent I didn’t dispute that I should take on a majority of the domestic responsibilities. But all of them? All?
I’ve done just about everything in an attempt to restore balance, but whatever my situation, whether I worked part-time, full-time or at home, my childcare responsibilities never changed. And while cleaning the bathroom is good, I mean really good, does it exempt you from everything else?