by Tony Chen Parenting.com recently posted an article entitled "Mad at Dad". While the gross stereotyping is insulting, the article did help me to think about what has worked in my marriage to defuse the "mad at dad" sentiment. The premise of the article was a 1,000+ mom survey that addresses this "mad at dad" feeling in particular (thus, don't call this a "nationally representative sample" as this is the posterchild for self-selection bias). Nonetheless, the feedback and raw comments are insightful. Here's a sampling: "I'm making breakfast, getting dressed, and screaming at everyone to get ready -- while he's on the computer" "It's like being pecked to death by a chicken. I call call these silly little things the pecks that are nothing, but when they keeping happening, they drive you crazy" "When I've had sleepless nights staying up nursing the baby, and I'm up early cleaning after last night's dinner and trying to have a moment to breathe for myself, and my husband, by his own choice, gets up early and spends a lot of time at the gym." "Since we've been married, he has cooked twice that I can remember. He doesn't know how to operate the dishwasher. He's never vacuumed." And those were the nicer ones. They are reporting that a full 46% of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more. As a dad who is proactive in bringing up my kids, my first reaction was actually one of empathy for the moms who were brave enough to be quoted for the article. No matter where we've been in life, feeling like we got shafted by others' inaction is particularly disturbing. However, my second reaction was that of being treated unfairly (hence, my immediate poking holes into the survey methodology). And I admit it -- this thought also crossed my mind, "What about a "nationally representative" survey on the topic of mad at mom?" I let that stew for a bit, but then I came back to my senses. Unfortunately, the results of such a survey would be just as biased, and we already know what would come out of that. Probably along the lines of these rules from the male side, which are so wrong, and yet so funny and true. That list has been forwarded to me at least 4 times these last few weeks. Back to the article. First the positives: I'm glad that the author balances it out a bit to say that they still love and respect their husbands and all that. And I think it's also a valid conclusion for moms to support each other more -- just knowing that others are going through the same thing helps tremendously. And the points about dads being too selfish are right on - for some. Now the negatives: The article is essentially demographic profiling, singling out all dads as buffoons. It's like when I see a Chinese guy walking down the street with big glasses and a pocket protector, I think, "thanks for representing us Chinese folks." These stereotypes are reinforced in people's experiences every day; we don't need yet another reinforcement. Sure, there's truth in every generalization, but that's exactly what it is - a generalization. Does this also mean that men are more selfish than women? We just do our thing and leave the rest to you? These are counterproductive discussions. Instead of dwelling on those stereotypes, how about we put aside all of that and find some ways to work together. Although there are times when I sincerely and absolutely have no idea what I'm doing, here's some things that have worked in my household (so far...). 1. Accept that we're wired differently. Don't make me more like you; instead, draw out the best of me. And I'll try to do the same. Can we agree on this? I'm one-track, you're multi-track. I tend to be project-oriented with fixed parameters. You tend to be relationship-oriented without parameters. One is not better than the other -- each is good for its own purpose. It's good that we have each other! Let's utilize that wiring to our advantage as a family. I know I'm sorta guilty of my own judgment here (I'm making generalizations), but I'm just saying that whoever is more relationally-oriented needs to talk to their project-oriented partner more in terms of projects/parameters. And vice versa. 2. Split up the responsibilities more clearly. I've often found it useful for me as a guy to know that I "own" something. For example, garbage is my domain, so I'm going make sure to do it no matter what. If I don't do it, don't do it for me or else I don't "own" it anymore. Let the garbage pile high, baby, and I'll learn my lesson. 3. We all need down time, but we need to tell each other what that looks like. For me, I tried to get along without that downtime and ended up getting mad at mom for not giving me room for it. But the problem was that she didn't even know what I needed. Crazy, huh? It took me some time to figure out how to say it. But once I told her that this is what I need, she is now always on the look-out for time slots I could go have my cavetime. And I returned the favor for her. I either go to the local Barnes & Noble or I go work out. Some journal. Others hit the bar or coffee shop. Others hit the internet or the TV. My wife sleeps and goes out with friends. 4. Figure out your partner's language of love. If I bought my wife flowers, she's say, "why are you wasting money?" But if I spontaneously put my arm around her shoulder as we're walking, that speaks to her. Sometimes our expressions of love are lost in translation, and sometimes that means we both have to learn a new language. Check out this book on the topic. All in all, the main thing I've learned is that I have to be a student of my wife. I need to learn more about what she's like, what she likes, how she thinks, and what she needs. I hope my wife (as well as the wives mad at dad) does the same for me because sometimes I can't even figure out me. The crazy thing is that I'll never really know 100% about her or me, but it'll be a fun life trying to figure it out together.
- Survival Guide
- RAISING SAVVY KIDS