The Other Side Of Anger

February 4, 2009

Before I had children, I understood that parenthood would be challenging. I read a lot of books about it, actually, because I was a little worried. Would the first months of my child’s life be like boot camp? Would I go insane from sleep deprivation? Was I going to be comfortable breastfeeding? Would I gag at all the shitty diapers? Could I do this? I was pretty confident that I could do it. I figured that I was about as well-prepared as any mother could be, and, besides, I was not in this alone. My husband would be right there with me, doing his share and gagging at runny poos. We would be doing it together, and together, we would be strong.

And then Emilia was born and it was, as expected, hard. And my husband was there, just as I had expected him to be, and he provided all the support that I could hope for. He provided all of the support that I could hope for, and more, and yet: I found myself feeling very, very angry. At the situation. At him. Mostly at him.

I was struggling with post-partum depression, which of course exacerbated things, but it was more than just a byproduct of the depression. It was a deep, almost aggressive, resentment that burbled up in my throat – burning, like an acid – and choked me, every time that he walked out the front door to go to work, or to pick up milk or cat food or whatever, his arms swinging freely, his keys dangling casually from his fingers. Maybe I’ll just stop by the barber for a hair-cut, he’d say. Or, I’ll swing by the grocery store on the way home from work. Or, I’m headed out to work; call me if you need anything; love you! The bastard.

He could just walk out the front door, just walk right out and head off to wherever, totally unencumbered, totally unburdened. He was free. I was not free. I could not even go to the bathroom without undergoing complicated rituals to ensure that the baby would not scream for the five minutes that I would be out of her line of sight (having failed to master this activity, I soon resorted to waiting until she had one of her two eight-minute naps of the day, or jerryrigging the baby carrier so that I could hold her and pee at the same time.) If I wanted to leave the house, even to venture the half-block to the bakery for a take-out cappuccino, I had to plot my outing like a military manoeuvre, making certain that my plans were in accordance with nap schedules and feeding times and stocks of supplies and the appropriate alignment of the stars. I was not free, and I resented my husband’s freedom with a fury that sometimes made me tremble. I was angry. I was sometimes not sure whether I was angry at him, or myself, or the universe, or all three. Usually I settled for just being angry at him.

Last week, the New York Times reported a story – originally posted on Parenting.com, later covered by Jezebel – about moms of young children feeling anger toward their husbands. According to the original story, nearly half of all moms who took a survey about anger reported that they “get irate with their husbands” at least once a week. Fully half of them described their anger as “intense.” Moms, the study concludes, are mad. Which, whatever. I could have told them that.

The story that I would tell about this anger, however, might be a little different than the one told in the Times. The Parenting.com story focuses on the imbalanced distribution of parental responsibility in most households, and their characterization of that imbalance rang perfectly true for me (“We carry so much of this life-altering responsibility in our heads: the doctors’ appointments, the shoe sizes, the details about the kids’ friends. Many dads wouldn’t even think to buy valentines for the class, for example, or know when it’s time to sign kids up for the pre–camp physical… We’re the walking, talking encyclopedias of family life, while dads tend to be more like brochures.” Yes, I said to myself, reading this. YES.) But I’m not convinced that that imbalance necessarily leads – must lead, should lead, justifiably leads – to rage directed at one’s spouse.

Is it really my husband that I’m angry at when I find myself trapped (yes, that’s how it feels sometimes) alone inside the house with a squalling baby? When I’m awakened for the umpteenth time in the night by a baby who won’t take a bottle? When my husband reveals that he doesn’t know when Emilia should visit the dentist, or when Jasper should go in for his next well-visit? When he complains about being tired or overwhelmed while I’m scrounging in the medicine cabinet for the Ativan? Sure, I feel angry – I sometimes feel very angry – but is my anger really directed at him? And if it is directed at him – should it be?

My husband is not – I am pretty sure about this – acting maliciously when he walks out the front door to go to work. And he does not actively try to avoid retaining certain information about the household schedule or the children’s appointments or how many Valentines Emilia needs to bring to school next week. Nor is he making a conscious effort to disregard how challenging things are for me when he complains about his own exhaustion. Sure, he’ll never be as exhausted as I am – nobody will ever be as exhausted as I am – but that doesn’t preclude him from experiencing his own sleep-deprivation-related discomforts. So why do I feel anger about these things? These things are not his fault. He’s a supportive husband and father, but he’s got his own challenges to deal with: his job pays the mortgage, his cooking skills keep us from living on soup and donuts, his ability to stay awake at night and get up early in the morning to wrangle baby is required to keep his sleep-deprived wife from going batshit crazy. This new household order isn’t a walk in the park for him, either. So why do I – and, presumably, half of the married mothers in North America – blame him for the seeming imbalance in that order?

My point: it’s not my husband’s fault that I carry most of the burden of responsibility for caring for our kids. It’s just the way that it is. I could blame him – and believe me, sometimes, in my darker moments, I do – but mightn’t it be more reasonable to blame society’s patriarchal hangover? Or even more reasonably: mightn’t I blame the choices that we have made as a couple, that I have made as a woman and mother? We made choices as a couple that established a certain division of labor in our household, and we agreed upon those choices. I’m a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom. The children are in my care for a far greater share of the day than they are in his. If he didn’t work, things would be different. If he lactated and could breastfeed, things would be very different. If parenting were just an easier gig, things would be different. I could justify my anger as rightfully directed at him if I felt – if I believed – that he just didn’t take the care of our children as seriously as I did, or if he actively shirked parental duty and left the burden of work unfairly to me. But he doesn’t, and so I can’t.

And my guess is that this is very probably true for many women. Pressed with the question, do you get angry at your husband?, any one of us might say, “hell yeah, I get angry!” Do you feel that you work harder in caring for your children, that he doesn’t do as much as you do, that things are easier for him? “Yes, yes and yes!” Does that make you mad? “YES!” But are we really mad at our husbands and partners, or are we mad at the circumstances of our parenting arrangements? Are we really a continent of enraged mothers, silently seething at our significant others, filled with justifiable rage at their failure to measure up to our needs and expectations? Or do we all just find parenting really, really hard sometimes – not to mention isolating – and so just fall easily into the trap of resenting our partners for not – from our blinkered perspective – having it as hard? When we talk about being angry at our spouses, aren’t we really, many of us, talking about being angry about hard this motherhood business can be, and about what a drag it is that the larger share of the burden of childcare has, over the course of human history, fallen to women? You know, as the ones with the boobs? Is this really about our own husbands at all? Or this about long-standing, world-historical tensions concerning divisions between men and women generally?

None of this is to say that my husband doesn’t f*ck up sometimes, nor that he is perfectly attentive to my every need as his parenting partner. Sometimes he’s just an outright doofus about things. And so I feel completely justified in feeling a teeny bit – maybe a whole lot – pissy when he asks why I can’t just go to sleep earlier, or maybe nap when the baby is napping, or when he doesn’t put away the laundry or when he says oh, hey, would you mind terribly if I just went out for a while to do whatever and left the kids with you? But the larger issues, the challenges and obstacles and difficulties that provoke real anger and deeper frustration: these are not his fault, and my emotional struggle with these should not be his cross to bear. This should be our shared burden, one that we manage, in part, by acknowledging that we both ache from the strain and and that we both buckle, sometimes, from the weight.

And then he should mix me a drink and rub my feet. Then we’ll be good.

Where are you at with this whole angry-at-mah-hubby thing? Are you one of the 50% of the population that’s filled with rage? Would a foot-rub help? Is it just me, or does even talking about mother-rage feel discomfiting? Like, if I had a good feminist household I wouldn’t even be talking about this crap because dude would have a prosthetic, lactating breast machine strapped to his chest and would be nursing our baby himself while I added a few more degrees to my CV and maybe found a cure for cancer? GAH. Maybe I get angry because I fetishize the inside of my own head. That shit’s tiring.

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    { 140 comments }

    Miss Grace February 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I’m a single mom, in charge of the full time working and the full time parenting an the full time existing for the needs of another. My anger is only directed at those who don’t think my life might, in fact, be a daily challenge.

    wherewiller February 4, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Last year, on mat leave with a 2 year old and a newborn, I had RAGE. Never mind mild resentment. And to be honest, I still get pissed off at his ability to go to the toilet without scheduling it with the world. I feel like we’re on a more even keel now I’m back at work, but I don’t think it’s ever really going to go away.
    I just read ‘Baby Proofing Your Marriage’ – kind of a silly title but it was on the discount table at Chapters. It explained a lot of how we feel and act (damn, we are so stereotypical) although it hasn’t really helped me stop feeling that way yet. Maybe I need to read it again.

    petite gourmand February 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I never really thought about it this way before…
    *ding* lightbulb just went on in my head.

    I guess I AM angry a lot of the time- and for all the reasons you just listed.

    well that and big daddy gets to go to a super cool job everyday, eat delicious catered lunches and hang with interesting and gorgeous people everyday- present company included ;.

    Thank-you for writing this.
    And hell yeah-a foot massage might help a wee bit.

    Ashley February 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I’m angry…but not as angry as I used to be. 3 kids later my anger has dulled and I realize that this is just the way it is. I stay home, I do more. He is a good father and a good husband. My previous rage was unjustified, brought on by the sheer shock of how much work it takes to keep another human alive. And a tiny bit of PPD.

    But I’m fine now…really.

    Someone Being Me February 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I’ll admit it, more often than not I am one of those angry 50%. It started when Bear was an infant who ate every 3 hours. I wasn’t breastfeeding so my husband could easily have taken a 6 am feeding before work or a midnight feeding before going to bed allowing me a 6 hour stretch to sleep. There are many nights he doesn’t go to bed until midnight or later and most mornings he leaves around 6:30. But every time I asked he would tell me that he needed to get to work or he couldn’t stay up because what if he fell asleep on the road and got in a crash? Ugh. It has continued all the way up until as recently as this past Sunday when he refused to get off the couch and do anything to prepare for the Superbowl/birthday party for our son with the exception of poking at the brisket every hour or so. I am 6 1/2 months pregnant and chasing a 2 year old yet I got to run to the grocery store 3 times for supplies, clean the house, cook all the side dishes and appetizers, make the goody bags, and clean up everything after everyone left. Then we got in a fight because he was mad that I didn’t have a good time and didn’t want to have any more parties for awhile. It is frustrating. I agree with the lady who said it was like being pecked to death by a chicken. Its not the big things. Its the million little things like the clothes on the floor, the dishes in the sink, the big purchases of things he wants while telling me we need to cut back on spending. He is a good father and a good husband but it does drive me crazy sometimes.

    heels February 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Yes, I’m angry at my husband. When I feel like I must beg for my one-hour/week dance class, when he makes me feel evil for coming home from said class a minute later than I said I would, when he gets to use “but I’m staying at home to clean the house” to get out of caring for our son for an hour for me to run errands (even though I can clean the house perfectly fine with our son there- he’s THREE, goddamit!), when I have no sick or vacation time left because I’ve used it all for our son’s illnesses and doctor’s appointments yet he has over 98 hours of vacation and 40 hours of sick left- yes, I’m angry at my husband. I love him, he’s a good dad, but I’m angry.

    Mommy Melee February 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    When it comes to my kid-related responsibilities, I feel pretty badass. Kind of supermom-ish sometimes. (When I’m not yelling at the big one or letting the little one cry too long and then guilting myself about it for two hours.)

    But I feel unappreciated and thusly angry. The kids aren’t going to thank me. It’s not their jobs. So it’d be cool if my husband thanked me. We both work, but I keep the house in order, pay our bills, take care of school, schedules, doctors appointments, blah blah. (JUST WRITING THIS MAKES ME ANGRY, CRAP.)

    So yeah. I dunno. I wish he’d just hug me sometimes and say “damn lady, you’re a good mom. Thank you.”

    That would genuinely, 100% make it all better.

    Brooke February 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I agree, although my resentment doesn’t always stop at my husband – sometimes it moves on to non-mother friends who complain to me how tired and exhausted they are. Maybe I just need a nap.

    Issas Crazy World February 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    With us it’s different. With the girls, my husband was that parent, the parent who knew it all. I was the one working, making the money and coming home at night complaining about how tired I was. Now it’s him and I’m the one in charge of remembering it all. So I see it from both sides. When I worked all the time, I thought about my kids and my husband constantly. I wondered what I had missed today and what I’d come home to in the evening. I didn’t always remember who had snack day at preschool or who needed to go to the dentist. He took care of it all. At the same time, it is hard to work all day and know that you are responsible for all the financial burden.

    Now the roles have switched for us. I’m not sure which is easier or if it even matters. I try not to yell at him about stupid comments and he tries not to leave me a list of things he needs all the time. It doesn’t always work out. Some days, we both still get angry. But we do try and remember what the other side is like.

    courtney February 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I do get really angry with my husband and mainly it’s because he takes his freedom for granted. He just ASSUMES that he can run and do something after work before coming home or that he can just run out and get something done. I have to ASK PERMISSION to go out so I can go to the gym. Or the grocery store. And that makes me really annoyed. I can’t just pick up and walk out the door like he can.

    growingapair February 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I could have totally written this post, if it wasn’t 100% certain to set Hubs off about how he “does a lot more than most husbands.” Seriously, I am going to jab him in the eye in his sleep if he says that one more time.

    For me, it’s NOT that he doesn’t carry 50%. It’s that he is under the DELUSION that he does. I don’t need him to do half, in fact that is not practical, but would it kill him to acknowledge this as fact and, say, try to do things to help me out when he can? It’s not that he doesn’t do a lot– he does– but I shouldn’t have to TELL him that a child needs a bath. He should smell the funky child, and take said child to the bath, without having to be asked.

    When I have to ask, he’s already screwed before he begins. I want doing the things he CAN do to be his idea, not my request.

    So, yes, I struggle under the weight of it all. But I think that’s no excuse for these men not to use their brains and actually take the initiative. Carry a damn card in your wallet that tells you their shoe size, for the love of pete!

    Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas February 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Are you living in my head? If you take out the post-partum depression and give yourself a briefcase, you’ve got my deal down to a T.

    Unfortunately our situation is a bit more complicated. There’s more to it than the anger at the intrinsic unfairness of the roles we, at one point, accepted so willingly.

    I don’t think my scenario will end well, but I hope, for your sake, that yours will.

    Junipers Jules February 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    *Raise Hand!* I get the anger, and my baby is 7. And it is not all the time, it is when things pile up, I’m not feeling well, the kids are particularly bad, etc. And if he just offers to help or even acknowledges that it is just too much, that means so much.

    Carrie February 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I was never able to talk about this on my blog since my husband is an avid reader. I was one of those enraged mothers for the first couple of years. As soon as my son started sleeping through the night my rage lessened. I don’t know if I had post-partum depression, but I suspect I did. I wasn’t sad–just enraged. I think sleep deprivation was a big part of it for me. Now I have a sleeping three year old and life is sooooooooo much better. My husband and I are back to our normal happy selves and I’m so glad. I kept thinking I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t see how having a baby without my husband’s support would be better.

    We’re trying for #2 and I think I’m dreading a postive test. I don’t want to live through so much anger again.

    Andrea February 4, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    WOW! You pulled at all of my thoughts and frustration that I feel about being a mother to a baby that requires all parts of me all the time. I often feel deep anger towards my husband many times through the week. When he can just go out and about vs. me having to plan an hour out to…do errands. I loved how you wrote about having to balance everything just to go down the block to get a coffee. That is me exactly. Every day. Motherhood is much harder than I thought it would be.

    samantha marie February 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Yes.

    My first child I had as a single mom, and I don’t remember being angry at all. I just . . . was. I guess that’s because I sort of chose to do it on my own, and there was no one to get angry at but me.
    With my second, I’ve been ANGRY. Like, filled with just RAGE. If I could literally bite someone’s head off and spit it out, I think I would. I don’t feel like my husband does a lot (or he knows that he can do just enough to keep me from totally freaking out, and how long between those moments he can go) to help me out. He also works nights (working from 8pm until 8am), and he knows I’ll feel guilty about bugging him to do stuff when he does work all night. Even so, that also creates resentment. I mean, do I honestly have to ask you to dishes when I made dinner (because you said that you’d do them when you came home for lunch and instead decided to mess around on the computer, so they were waiting for me when I got up this morning)? Really? I have to ask you to help fold laundry because I’m the one that sorted, washed, and dried all of it? If I have to ask you, then you’re already screwed, because I’m about to be pissed off that I had to ask.
    I’m luckier than most because my 3 month old sleeps through the night, so I do get a little bit more sleep than most, but it still seems like I’m the one doing EVERYTHING even on the mister’s days off, or after he wakes up. God forbid you let me out of the house without suggesting I take a child (I understand that it’s important that the oldest not feel like she’s been forgotten – but what about my SANITY?!), or that YOU make ME dinner.

    Amo February 4, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I never really went through the anger as much as jealousy. In my warped/sleep-deprived mind, I was sure he was having fun at work and had no clue about the trials and tribulations in my life.

    Now, however, after having been through this twice, I am now thankful. I am thankful that he is the one working. I tried it once; worked full-time for about 8 months. I honestly hated it. I have now retired (according to me) and never plan to return to that lifestyle again. I still don’t think he has any idea what I go through. But when I return from an afternoon away and the kids are happy but the house is trashed, I just smile and know that he wouldn’t want my duties any more than I want his.

    Not that the house ISN’T trashed now…heh.

    Gillian February 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Honestly? No. I mean, once in a blue moon we each get pissy, but no is the real and true answer.

    I think it helps that he’s the one “trapped” – I’m a WOHM and he’s a SAHD, a grad student trying to write a doctoral dissertation and care for a 9 month old (he goes to daycare 3 days a week, so dad gets a break, too.) It also helps that we both desperately want to switch roles and can’t wait til we can, and it helps that when we do switch we’ll have a deeper understanding of what the other goes through. And finally, I am positive that the fact that both of us get our baby-free days and our baby-full days helps. I can’t wait to spend more time with my son (1 hour a day DOES NOT CUT IT,) but I hope that I can always have at least a couple of half days a week away, even if they are working a part time job. It will be worth the time away, to me.

    I do, however, sometimes get irrationally mad at my childless friends who complain about being tired and having a long day and being poor. I have to consciously tell myself to not be such a bitch, because I chose this and they chose NOT this, and back before I had the baby I felt exhausted a lot, too.

    Don't Lick The Ferrets! February 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Wow, amazing post. I am all kinds of impressed!

    Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas February 4, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    My husband does a lot. So much that I hate to complain. Much.

    I get angry mainly about the walk out the door thing. He’ll just go to the gym in the evening. Or plan a bike ride with his buddy Saturday morning. Or whatever. He doesn’t ask me, he just goes.

    I have to ask to go anywhere unless I’m taking the boys with me. And then he has “attitude” – how long will you be? can you be home by 2 so I can blah blah.

    That’s what makes me furious. That he can still just go with the assumption that I’ll be there with the kids but I have to ask to leave the house alone.
    (We both wirk full-time outside the home.)

    I need a drink now.

    Anonymous February 4, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I loved the first half of your post and was going to send it to my husband until you got wishy washy at the end.

    Hell yes I’m angry at my husband for the inequality. Who else would I be angry with? The situation is what it is because of him.

    Patricia February 4, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    The thing is, it’s not only about the boobs. I’m like you in the sense that part of the reason I carry more than my share of the burden is a result of my own choices. And I agree it can help (or at least give both of us a little breathing room) to acknowledge that some of the anger is misplaced if fired away at my very involved and supportive partner. But while it is true that it is not my husband’s fault that we live in a society where I am socialized to be the encyclopedia and he is socialized to be the brochure, he does benefit from this arrangement. I think this helps explain why the anger can seem so disproportionate when he heads out the door. Its not only about the boobs, and its not only about individual choices – its also about culture and there are lots of cultural options out there involving more or less egalitarian sharing of caregiving work. Easier said than done of course, but in an ideal world we could all be directing our anger towards these political choices and attempts to create new options for ourselves. In my opinion, there would be fewer angry moms in a world with affordable quality public childcare. Thanks for the great post.

    sheSaid.purplehouseonpearl.com February 4, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    YES. YES!

    My husband said to me a while ago, you seem angry at me for going to work. I was like I am. I am so pissed. We ‘agreed’ to this, sorta. I allowed it to happen. But staying home is not what I would have really chosen. I am so pissed at his freedom, or my perception of it.

    Things have been better lately. More sleep? More balance? I am not sure. But next time? I am not doing it this way next time, no way.

    It is so easy to be a ‘good dad’, do something and you are great. We both wanted to have children, we should both be parents. My day job is my work + the baby, his is in the office. But we share equally in everything in the evenings and weekends, and with dr. app. and researching things. I felt so CRUSHED by the weight of those things… though I do have to remind him sometimes…. :(

    I love him, I don’t want to be mad at him. I think it’s a F*ed up system we have.

    Karen MEG February 4, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Yes, I used to be filled with rage a lot more when the kids were younger. Now that they’re in school, and I get a little bit more of a break (when I’m not working intensely on a project), it is a little better. Not so much better though, when he’s jetsetting off for work purposes to places that I would love to go to (figures, he got these gigs AFTER I got pregnant with #2 and decided to stay home for a while.)
    He is an amazing father and husband, very hands on, but to be honest, there is a lot of stuff that I do that is totally taken for granted. He does try to acknowledge it, but when he responds with “if you ever want to consider switching places with me, just let me know”… I don’t think he realizes the half of it.

    The past little while, when he’s had to deal with the kids on his own while I was out dealing with stuff for my sick father and helping Mom out, it was very intense for him and I almost felt apologetic that I was leaving him with them so much… but why should I, he’s their father!!! He would call and ask when I’d be home (they really put him through the wringer); I’d have to write out instructions, reminders etc. I don’t know if this gave him an appreciation of what I do or not. I’d like to hope so, but maybe it’s just a Venus/Mars thing.

    Great post, if my novel is any indication…

    Mandy February 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I’ve definitely struggled with anger (I hesitate to say rage) towards my husband since we’ve had our kids.

    What you haven’t addressed, which I think speaks to my situation, is when both parents work outside the home (our kids are 16 months and 4 years), and yet the far greater half of parenting and household chores fall on my side. And don’t get me wrong, my husband does a lot to help. But not 50%. Of course, his job demands more of his time, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to slam dishes around when I come home to find that yes, the kids are fed and happy, but the house is a complete shambles.

    Tiffi33 February 4, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    hm, not so much anger, or rage as much as jealousy..and maybe a tad of resentment..
    my kids are older now (12 and 9 YEAH! FREEDOM!!)
    so it isn’t so bad, but it is *me* who knows the teachers, friends and issues..homework and library days..he works on the road, so he cant be there for many events..
    I did put my foot down on the sports tho..he has GOT to be able to haul them where they need to go as much as I do..and he does..

    I guess I always looked at what I knew and he didn’t know as my superiority as a mom..lol..sounds simplistic, but I don’t know that he could remember everything I do..
    ..and besides, if he cooked, we would all die of malnutrition in pretty short order..

    Veronica February 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    A foot massage would help. Or maybe some help preparing dinner, instead of me dealing with 2 crying children and things in the oven.

    So I guess I’m a little resentful. How come I’m the only one who can pick up a fussy newborn? Or feed the toddler? Or change pooey nappies?

    for a different kind of girl February 4, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I suppose I never wanted to call it anger, but what I’ve felt and perhaps labeled as jealousy or envy was (is)(sometimes) anger. OK, it was with anger when, a couple weeks ago, I got home to find my husband rushing out the door to tell me he was en route to getting his hair cut. “Did you make happen to make appointments for the boys, too? They need haircuts also, and you all go to the same place.” His response? “No. I didn’t think to do that.”

    Gah! I sort of lost it, and railed a bit on how he has to think, that when I make appointments for the boys, I also make one for him, because it’s just one of those tasks that goes hand in hand. I’m not really conveying how upset I was, but I felt like I had to make him understand that sometimes I feel like I’m taking care of him as well as our children because that’s all I do, you know? And that if I am capable of thinking of others, shouldn’t he be, too? Of course, I felt bad when all was said and done, and admitted as much to him.

    But still. The ‘but still’ part is what lingers in my mind.

    I know he is the primary income contributor to our home. I know that when I begged to stay home (now with a part time job) that I would be the one taking the bulk of this role. And he does help. He does. It’s just sometimes it comes with prodding. The prodding wears me out.

    So yeah. I guess there’s some anger there.

    Avonlea February 4, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I definitely had some anger for awhile there when he would just disappear back to his office after we both got home from work. He just assumed that I would be the one watching the little guy. We had lots of talks about that. Things have changed up now that I’m still working full-time, but he is working contract work/part time and doing a lot of the household stuff. He does most of the grocery shopping. He pays the bills. He is learning to cook more. However, I still want to know why the only way our little guy gets his teeth brushed, hair combed, or a bath is if I either do it or specifically ask my husband to do it.

    (As an aside, I really dislike it when women say their husband “helps out” a lot. Because that still gives the assumption that the household duties and parenting duties are still the woman’s responsibility.)

    Syko February 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    It’s been years, and it’s all history, but yes, I remember the anger toward an unfeeling husband. With my first baby I was bored out of my head and we had NO money, I cooked on a two burner hotplate (and even made from-scratch German chocolate cakes on it, by god) and every night I washed my one maternity outfit by hand and ironed it the rest of the way dry the next day. I developed toxemia and my feet swelled to the point that I could not put on rubber flip-flops. And yet he would ask me to do this and that – and after the delivery he said that he did that on purpose so I wouldn’t get out of shape. I cannot describe the anger.

    He did much the same thing after the third – I had a horrid delivery, nearly died, and the doctor thought I should stay in the hospital the full five days (see how long ago this was?) to get some rest – and on the third night I called home to talk to my two daughters, and the 8 year old was trying to make grilled cheese sandwiches on a gas range.

    Yes, anger.

    Yes, divorce.

    I’m much happier.

    coolteamblt February 4, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Oh man! My son is six weeks old, and I’m angry. I’m not even sure what I’m angry about half the time. He would cry and I couldn’t go get him immediately the first few days because it made my heart hurt to listen to him. I would sit there and weep for a few minutes before getting him. My husband would wake up and fuss at me for letting James cry long enough to wake him up! Then, when he went back to work, he would ‘generously’ offer to take baby duty until midnight. Of course, James is a champion sleeper. He goes down around nine or ten, then sleeps through the night except for one feeding around two or three. That means my husband’s baby duty time just makes him feel like he helps.

    When he comes home, if I ask him to feed the baby while I go get dinner ready or shower or something, he invariably props a bottle in his mouth. Drives me insane! Why is it so much to ask him to hold his son? He tells me that he’s tired, and he’ll play with him when he’s older. What sort of crap is that? Oh, the anger!

    I used to be cool. February 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I think about this alot. I have had plenty of anger at my supportive husband since my first child was born and have pretty much chalked it up to a personality defect of my own, as in, how could I be so angry with him when he is such a good dad and so many women have it so much worse? I have to admit that I am relieved to read this entry and the responses. I’m not alone in this.

    My husband just lost his job and we are about to trade roles. I am going to teach again, b/c I can get a job easily while he, in business, cannot. So I will be working all day and then working on my business at night. While my husband is a really good dad, he cannot multi-task. He will take good care of the kids, but that’s all. I will still be in charge of the pre-school immunizations and registration forms/deadlines, medicine dosages, remembering when Stride Rite has the “Buy one, get one 1/2 off” sale and getting the shoes, toilet cleaning, and the million and one other things that we all do as mothers. Just as my kids have gotten a little older and my anger has started to dissipate (a little), I am worried that I am about to go in deeper than ever.

    Mommy Mo February 4, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Did you step inside my head? because, you and me girlfriend, have had the SAME thoughts regarding this. I love my kids, I do, and I wouldn’t trade being home with them, BUT I feel trapped and isolated at times. TRAPPED. You hit it spot on about the whole freedom thing with the husbands. And you were right on AGAIN when you spoke of not really being mad at our husbands but more about the situation.

    Now what?

    Amber February 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I am actually not generally angry at my husband. But I am terribly unsympathetic towards him. God forbid he complains about lack of sleep, or being sick, or anything. I get sick and I still have 2 little kids to take care of. I still get up at night and buy the groceries and all that jazz. There’s no one to pick up my slack. So yes, there have been a few occasions where I’ve ripped him a new one.

    But for the most part, he really pitches in and helps out, and he’s the only one keeping me sane. In many ways I’m much more appreciative of him while I’m in the new baby stage, because I need him so badly.

    TeeTee February 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    This was a very interesting and thought-provoking posting. I’m pissed at my husband, but right now it’s because he knocked me up. I know logically that I was equally responsible for getting pregnant again, but he really wanted another child more than I did. I’ve gone thru 6 miscarriages and I’m happy with the one kid I got out of it, even tho I do feel like the majority of the parenting drudgery falls on me. But he kept insisting he wanted another, so I half-heartedly agreed.

    Now I’m pregnant – 8 weeks – and sick as a dog, giving myself injections once a day, hormonal beyond belief, and pissed at him for not being able to have his own damn baby. I told him no matter what the outcome of this pregnancy is, there’s no way I’m doing this again.

    So I guess I’m more pissed at the mechanics of it all. Have your own damn kids and leave us out of it!

    Kelly February 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I get angry when my husband wants to sleep in, even though we both went to bed at the same time. I wait up for him at night and then we chat and fall asleep together and then 6 hours later I have to get up and he doesn’t. Then I remember that he has to go to work and make sure that the prisoners don’t escape their cells and I get to make crafts with the child.

    Stephanie February 4, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    So. Very. True. I feel the same things ALOT. I was actually warned that this would happen by our childbirth class instructor. I feel resentful, as you said, but at the same time when my husband tries to share the responsibility I won’t let him do it. Because the baby is MY job? Because he’s not doing it the way I would? Because I feel like I am less of a mother if I’m if not doing the work? You described it perfectly.

    Heather February 4, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I feel a sense of this (displaced) anger toward my husband every time he walks out the door without a child’s hand in his own. I resent the fact that he can take a shower without having little people peeking in (or trying to climb in with him); the fact that he can get a haircut every week if he wants; his “alone time” in the car on his way to and from work. He doesn’t see any of that as freedom, but he’s also never lived with the second-to-second responsibility of Being In Charge the way I have.

    I have this argument with him every weekend: Saturday morning comes, and he sleeps in (because I can’t sleep in. I’m not physically programmed to do so.). He putzes around the house, doing this and that, and finally at noon he says, “So what are we doing this weekend?” And I get angry – really angry – because 1. Why am I in charge of our family’s leisure schedule in addition to our weekday schedule? And 2. Why is he waiting until it’s our 18-month-old’s naptime to ask for us to leave the house for an extended period of time?

    I keep threatening to leave him for two weeks; to go on vacation by myself and leave him with our children, alone. He’s never been alone with both of them for longer than three hours, and he’s in desperate need of a metaphorical bucket of ice water in the face: “Hey you, see what I do all day long? Let’s see YOU do this!”

    Anonymous February 4, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Heck Yeah I’m mad.

    We’re both working. We have different days off. On his days off, he “just needs to chill,” “maybe kill some stuff.” His days are when the kid is still is school and he has the luxury of picking him up when school gets out or letting the kid stay in the after school program. Because he chooses to get the kid, he thinks he’s doing so much. It makes the kid happy but it doesn’t get my dishes done.

    Naturally, my days off are when the kid’s days are off and I get to spend tons of time with a kid who acts like he hates me, mostly because he’s 7. I also clean the house, make the meals for the week, get the laundry done, and occasionally sit down and read a book.

    My husband looks at me after I cleaned the living room and says “Why are the cats so happy?” Well, Dude, every living thing in this house is happier when it’s neat and tidy. We just are. Clutter and the whatnot are stressful. I still don’t think he gets it.

    Backpacking Dad February 4, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Husband hit-and-run: “Your anger is not my fault. But apparently it’s my problem.” :}

    I appreciate that you genuinely wonder if your husband deserves the anger you feel; many people don’t wonder this at all. They just assume he deserves it because they feel it in the first place.

    But this isn’t a parent thing. I don’t ever recall feeling trapped in a situation and resenting my wife for not being in the situation, or for not acknowledging my stress about that situation. But she sure as hell has resented me for getting to stay home while she had to work. Maybe “resent” is too strong: at the very least I was inspired not to describe too enthusiastically what a great time I was having being a SAHD while she was working. I don’t know that it’s right that I should have walked on eggshells a bit, and I didn’t do it because I felt it was the moral thing to do. I just knew it made her feel badly so I didn’t rub her face in it. A further demand from her to acknowledge her hard work and stress levels with some sort of foot rub would have been a gross injustice, however :}

    Momily February 4, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Thank-you for this post, for so eloquently expressing all that rage, anger, marriage stuff! And the comments – thank-you! I have felt very alone and overwhelemed and freaking angry lately and i feel not so alone now. My kids have been sick with some awful flu(s) thing FOR TWO WEEKS and being home day-in, day-out with sick kids, cleaning vomit and diarrhea over and over again, well it’s hard not to rage a bit. I am very tired. i am isolated. i have sick kids. normally i can look at things a bit clearly, but yesterday in the midst of all this, I kind of lost it when i realized my husband went out for lunch and went cd shopping just for fun and I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing puke out of the carpet.

    Sissy February 4, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    wow, this post is awesome! I didn’t know that when I was saying “since I won’t work outide the home and you will, I won’t expect you to get up with the baby. it’s my job.” that when that time came I was gonna want to smother him with that nice fluffy pillow he was enjoying. but on the occasion that he does get up with a kid at night, I don’t sleep anyway because I’m feeling guilty and worrying that he’s doing something wrong. yeah, I’d say parenting has kicked my ass every single day since my first child was born.

    Janet February 4, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Each baby we had was very hard on our marriage. I was very angry because, damnit, it just wasn’t FAIR. And before the babies, it really was pretty fair. We both had careers, I made as much money as he, we took turns making dinner, yada yada yada. Plus, when I had a paying job, people would say, “Great job! You are an asset to the team! Here, have some stock options!” Babies are sometimes not very good at giving positive feedback; husbands can be even worse.

    As the kids grew older, the anger dissipated. I got more sleep, felt more balanced. I was just at Beck’s reading her post and she said the past ten years at home was like a gift she unknowingly gave herself. That’s exactly how it feels to me now.

    Her Bad Mother February 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Anonymous – wishy-washy?I don’t think so. I’m just trying to be reflective about the things that anger me. Sure, some of it warrants me being angry at HIM, but much of it doesn’t. Much just has to do with the situation. There’s no such thing as the perfect husband, perfect father, perfect spouse. If my own lags behind perfection during this most difficult time, I don’t know that my anger is warranted, or useful.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t ‘bad’ husbands/fathers out there, and that they deserve anger. I just don’t think that my own husband – or indeed many husbands – really fall into that category.

    Doesn’t change the fact that I get angry sometimes – hoo, boy, do I get angry. But I’m trying to not get carried away by it.

    ourlittlefunnybunny February 4, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    You’ve described how I feel to a tee. Unfortunately I have let the anger show a little too often resulting in a lot of fights between the 2 of us. So much so that the damage has been done and I can’t fix it anymore nor at times do I want to.

    Life is funny, all the things I wished for so dearly; marriage and children, are the things that have “screwed” me over. Maybe that’s a strong word; screwed, to use, especially against having children. Having our child has brought me so much joy while at the same time caused me such pain and anguish at seeing my marriage fail.

    I’ll stop now.

    Anonymous February 4, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Catherine,
    I’m going to go WAY out on a limb and sound like the most horrible mother EVER, but I just think this idea needs to be put out there.

    I’ve been following your blog for awhile. I understand your passion for breastfeeding, your devotion to your children, your serious struggle to get the sleep you so desperately lack. I admire these things about you, so, please understand that I’m writing this with a huge amount of love and sympathy for what you’ve been going through.

    You absolutely MUST get some time for yourself OUT of the house. Sans children. If you need to schedule it with your husband ahead of time, so be it. Walk out with your arms swinging, keys dangling, just as you described your husband doing. Be gone for an hour and a half.

    I know you said that Jasper won’t take anything but the breast. That might make the 1.5 hour rough for daddy and baby. But here’s the truth: they will find a way to DEAL with it. Dad will be okay and baby WON’T starve to death. Nobody will be traumatized, they’ll just be a little sad for a little while. And you know what? That is OKAY. Because you, my dear, are at a point where it is piling up all on you. Them being a little sad for a short time is a fair trade off for you to get some much needed balance and relaxation for yourself. And I don’t meant to sound “old school” like I know better, and I certainly don’t know your child so this might be “ass”vice, but I’m just wondering if Jasper gets hungry ENOUGH and is offered a bottle OFTEN enough that it’s not a completely foreign concept, especially if that bottle is consistently coming from Daddy, he might learn to accept it. He might learn that you are not coming to his rescue right away, and that this bottle is his only option… I don’t know. But in my opinion, listening to you, as someone who cares, I think it’s worth a try.

    Talk with your husband about it. Explain to him that you simply need the time alone, even if it’s a miserable short time for him, it will do you a world of good. He will probably see that what you’re saying is true. It just sounds like right now you need to train your kids to learn to BE without you. And that is okay, eventually that’s what we all want anyway.

    Okay, hope these suggestions come across in the spirit in which they are intended. I just see you struggling so much… when really, this is a good time (though it seems like the worst time) to assert your need for time to yourself. You should not have to be on the brink of exhaustion in order to earn it. You deserve it.

    –Denise

    Tara February 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    If giving me a 2 minute foot rub didn’t “cause” HIM fall into a deep sleep, yeah it might make things a little better.

    TB February 4, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Yeah, I’m right there with you, only I also feel terribly guilty for being so angry and then the guilt makes me angry at myself and the whole cycle continues. And the nicer my husband is to me, the worse it seems to be. But, for the record, I’m coming off of horrible PPD and things are finally, finally getting better, so I’d be interested to see what kind of correlation there is in your responses between the two.

    Jennifer February 4, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    My kids are older (8 & 17) but I still get angry at their father, he can go and/or do what he wants and I still can't. He can sit around on Sat & Sunday while I clean house, fix dinner, do laundry and the kids like him better because daddy doesn't yell/scream/ground whatever. Yes I am angry and have been for a long time.

    Adelas February 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    I’m so right there with you, I was considering making a post about it today. Of course, because I ended up taking two naps (don’t kill me, I know I’m lucky the little monkey sleeps a lot) to make up for the major disruption from the couple nights previous, I didn’t exactly get around to that whole blogging thing.

    I started writing my response here in this comment box but about halfway through it, decided it was so long I needed to just post the darn thing. So, go to daily-della.blogspot.com I guess. I had a lot to say.

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