"It took my husband and me about a year of adjustment that included a fair amount of fighting after the birth of our first, but I can truly say I do not do more than my husband does and probably less. My techniques for success included being willing to let him fail in a spectacular fashion, being willing to ignore everything except that which was downright dangerous, and (most important) being willing to appear to be a rather mediocre mother. My kids looked worse than any kids around. But mismatched and stained clothes on your kids is a small price to pay for not having to dress them or do the laundry yourself."
"Also strangers often seem to direct all questions to the mother. I frequently say "I don't know, ask their dad" and point at my husband. When other moms e-mail me to see if my kids can do a play date, I forward all the e-mails to him, and then have nothing more to do with it. And I don't act as a manager, delegating tasks to him. I figured he would be able to rise to the task if I were dead, so that meant he could rise to the task even without me being dead."...
"But there is a reason behind what appears to be on the surface just a "control freak" behavior by mothers. Mothers really do have to field judgment from those around them about their parenting and housekeeping. Men almost never do. This is, I think, at least part of why women go back and re-do [the household chore] when men do it poorly. Until everything got adjusted and worked out between my husband and me, there were times that things *really* looked bad. I remember that he left food scraps in the carpet in the sunroom and there was a horrible invasion of ants everywhere and yet he still didn't vacuum it up and one of his family members came over and saw it, but who do you think got criticized? Me! And other moms have teased me about how tangled my kids' hair was (and actually still is occasionally), but he's the one who gets them up and dressed. And when one of his elderly relatives sends a gift and he doesn't make the kids write a thank-you note, it is me they call up and ask "If it arrived". And these are just the criticisms that make it to my ears. I'm sure there are more judgments that go unsaid, and I'm sure they are directed at me, not him. Oh well, still worth not having to do it all yourself!"
Amen, sister. Amen. One question though. Did you really *need* to engage in a fair amount of fighting for a year after you first became parents? I ask this because I've been there, done that on the postpartum fighting with my DH (after we had our second child 3.5 years ago) and now in hindsight, I don't think any of our old behavior was productive, nor in any way feminist or cool. By "fighting" I mean verbal spats that felt really intense (activating fight or flight response/flooding), that were about the same issues repeatedly, and ultimately went nowhere - and we've learned that for us, that brand of going-nowhere fighting was a total waste of our time and energy. We should have seen our marriage counselor much sooner because we truly needed a neutral third party to get us to get past our own defense mechanisms (learned from dysfunctional marriages witnessed in our families-of-origin) to be able to see and say where the other person is coming from, and to finally work towards a solution. We certainly could have done it without all of the drama. Lessons learned!
These days though we do seem to be able to put into practice some better, research-based conflict resolution skills, and I'm thrilled we have a generally peaceful, happy union these days as a result. For a great resource, see "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In" by Laurie Puhn, J.D. - originally recommended to me by Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project" and "Happier At Home" as one of the many fine books in her excellent bibliographies. And don't hesitate to make that first counseling appointment.
Yes, it's hard when society is all about judging the woman for all of the various appearances-- her own, the kids', the home's -- but never the man. I think it is a worthwhile project to develop your "But is this really my priority?"-meter. It takes guts though. Not everyone is comfy enough with themselves to be able to let some things FAIL sometimes. Most women I know have simply not been socialized to be able to let appearances go, and they can't operate outside of the proverbial box. Just do it.