By Emily Harrington
I visited a girlfriend this month, a new mom, and spied something interesting on her kitchen counter. It was a five-page list written in bright pink pen. After zeroing in on the title I realized this comprehensive list was instructions for her husband on how to take care of their son when she isn’t there.
He’s a good guy, seems engaged and involved, but at the same time, I thought to myself, “Why doesn’t he know any of this stuff? The list included (but wasn’t limited to) feeding times, amounts and types of food, nap times, even behavioral quirks like hold him this way to get him to burp or he sleeps better with the blue fuzzy blanket not the cream nubby one.
She’s still on maternity leave, so I do understand that he isn’t with their son 24/7 like she is. But, this seems like a universal double standard. The mom doesn’t get instructions; she struggles with figuring everything out on her own, while the husband is provided a list for his convenience.
Even the women who work the same amount as their husbands seem to know more, be much more aware of the details and schedules. I can’t figure out why this is the accepted norm. The woman is counted on, expected to be the caretaker, while the man is referred to as a babysitter.
In a marriage you’re taught to have an equal 50-50 partnership, it’s even encouraged by society. But, when it’s comes to rearing a child the responsibility mostly falls to the woman. Is this simply because the baby comes from our body? That simple but major fact may be the prime reason that the scales tip to the woman.
I want to be able to count on my husband to care for our future children when I’m there or not. If I need to go somewhere, I don’t want it to be a problem. I think it’ll be up to me to include him and trust that he can do it on his own from the start. I’ve heard many of the moms in my life say, “It’s just easier for me to do it. It takes my 15 minutes to get her down, and it takes him 45 minutes. So, I just do it to save time.”
So, maybe the men aren’t really to blame. We’ve got to relinquish a little control to them, let them make some mistakes along the way, let them get comfortable. If we always grab the baby when the child is crying, they’ll never get a chance.
I’m only looking for a good balance. I want my husband to be in the know 100 percent—an equal caretaker, not a babysitter. Yes, I know he won’t be able to breastfeed, but I’d hope he’d know how to change a diaper at lightning speed and which toy makes them smile.
Emily Harrington is a 28-year-old townie on the cusp of full blown adulthood. She’s a wife still in the honeymoon stage and a mom of a borderline psychotic mini-Australian Shepherd. She has a full-time job in communications/marketing and a full-time life outside of work.