My husband and I had a big fight this morning and I just don’t know if I am right to be asking more of him. I could really use advice or perspective from some outsiders, if you are willing to give it. On the one hand, he does a lot around the house and with the kids, more than the average father (I think). On the other hand, the bar for being an engaged father is set pretty low in our society so I don’t think I should be using that as the standard for comparison.
We have an almost 3-year-old and a 4-month-old. My husband works full time and makes enough to support us, which I know is a big responsibility to have; during 2014 I worked part-time adjuncting (which is to say that I made very little money). Before that I stayed home full-time with our first son, and I am home full-time now with the second until September. The older boy goes to a shared nanny three days a week and I have the two boys together two days a week.
Our routine looks like this: I do most of the overnight care— all of the night feedings for the infant and most of the soothing the toddler back to sleep when he wakes up during the night (which happens multiple times a night most nights; he might sleep through the night once a week). For the past few months I had been taking care of the infant and my husband was taking care of the toddler during the night, but our older son has been having trouble with night terrors and his doctor thinks it is a reaction to having the new baby in the house. Since the major change with the new baby is a lot less attention from me, I have been trying to give him more attention by doing his bedtime routine myself and going to him at night. My husband will generally wake up with the two boys and watch them for an hour or two in the morning so I can sleep in, which I desperately need most mornings because I am often up most of the night between the two of them. During this time he often does some other kind of chore as well— unloading the dishwasher or doing last night’s dinner dishes and walking the dog. Once I’m up I’ll get the toddler ready to go and make his lunch, and then my husband usually drops him off with the nanny. During the day I do laundry, light cleaning, and cooking while I’m watching the kid(s). Dinner is ready by the time my husband gets home and we share equally in managing the kids while we eat. If I have the energy I do the dishes afterwards (but usually not). Immediately after dinner is the bedtime routine: I nurse the infant, I take the dog + toddler for a walk, and then I put the toddler to bed while my husband has the infant and does some more work for a couple of hours before bed. Weekends we are usually together; my husband generally will take the toddler to run short errands (to the farmers’ market or grocery store, for example) and once in a while he will take him for a longer outing. Once he took both kids out for a few hours, and that was the first and only time I had been alone in the house since the baby was born.
Basically, our conflict this morning arose because I recently criticized some things he had done. On Monday he allowed our son to play in a cabinet that contained genuinely dangerous items like prescription drugs while he was supposedly watching him and I was nursing the baby in another part of the house. I heard him and stopped him, but felt very angry and my husband’s response to my criticism was defensive/angry, which is total bullshit. The other thing I criticized was that over the weekend I asked him to take the toddler for new shoes; it was the first time he had done this and I told him what brand has worked in the past, where they carry them, and that our son has extra wide feet so he should make sure to get wide shoes. He came back with normal width shoes from a different brand and this morning my son said he wanted to wear his old shoes (which are too short) because his new shoes felt too tight. I was pissed at my husband because this means that we are out the money he spent and that at some point I will have to go get the right size. Plus it made me feel like he doesn’t respect that I know what I am doing taking care of these kids. Why did I give him all of that information if it wasn’t important? How can I trust him to get things done right if he doesn’t listen to the information I give him based on 2+ years of experience? Again, when I told him that I wasn’t happy with the outcome of the shoe-shopping, he was defensive and angry.
The other thing that has been simmering for me is that when we are both home on weekends I usually feel like he isn’t really paying attention. He’s often on the computer (sometimes working) and I feel like he sees the kids as my responsibility and he’s just kind of helping. But it often results in situations like the toddler climbing all over me while I’m trying to feed the baby and my husband sits nearby not doing anything. Part of me feels like if he is working then I shouldn’t complain because that is supporting all of us. But part of me feels like he gives enough hours to his job during the week and I can’t be primarily responsible for both kids all the time like that— it isn’t good for them or for me.
I know some people think that a stay-at-home parent should do all of the household chores, so sometimes I think that I am asking too much here since he does a lot around the house. But then I think that me being home has allowed his career to be basically unaffected by us having kids and has been a significant sacrifice for me, so I am contributing and am justified in wanting a break on the weekend sometimes. I mean, I haven’t gotten my hair cut in three years because I feel like I shouldn’t take the time to go do it. He hasn’t said that, but when he acts like the kids are mostly my responsibility, that’s how I end up feeling.
Sorry for the novel, folks, and thanks to anyone who has read this far. If anybody has thoughts/advice, I would love to hear it.