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 }

    Motherhood Uncensored February 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I think it’s fair to be pissed, jealous, and resentful, especially when we’re asked, no, required to give up so much for the sake of our kids when many of our husbands still enjoy a private pee.

    I wouldn’t be so annoyed if there was some sort of recognition. Some thanks, some acknowledgement, some “yeah, you do a lot and I don’t know how you do it.” But I got the whole “you’re such a grouchy bitch – I’m working and it’s more important – it’s how life is.”

    It’s gotten a lot better – mostly due to his work schedule, but also because it finally got through to him that this is hard. And it’s not just something we women suck up and carry.

    But women put up with way too much crap. There are too many husbands that take the weekend to play golf alone after a long work week. There are too many women who bitch under their breath while they wash their dishes as their husbands sit on their ass with the remote control.

    But whose fault is it? When we don’t expect more. When we don’t raise our sons with empathy and respect for women.

    It’s a tough question, but I think the anger has been building. Our mothers and their mothers. We’re the first generation to say FUCK THIS SHIT.

    Feener February 4, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    i use to be so mad at hubby. it was teh ppd and not his fault at all, but when they don’t tune in and choose to tune out it makes it worse. i feel less anger now, but the kid are 4 and 2, not 2 and a newborn. easier, but i still get upset every once in a while but not necessarly mad at him. more mad about the problem.

    Loralee Choate February 4, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    I do have anger. It’s not horrible, but I would have an easier time coping with having the brunt of the child care if I felt emotionally supported by my husband. In truth? I don’t, so it’s harder.

    Her Bad Mother February 4, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    MU – “But whose fault is it? When we don’t expect more. When we don’t raise our sons with empathy and respect for women.”

    YES. EXACTLY. It’s bigger than any one husband. And we’re complicit, unless we stand up and say NO.

    Adelas February 4, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Heh, I finally finished typing my post so if you went to that link and saw nothin, well, sorry! was blabbing! done now! you may now behold the blab that is my frustration!

    Jozet at Halushki February 4, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Yes…who said that it’s not the reality I’m angry about but the lack of acknowledgment.

    The lack of acknowledgment that keeping track of all the mundane minutiae is important. The lack of acknowledgment that yes, even if it’s a business trip, it’s a night away with a full night’s sleep with both ears closed and that’s a pretty good perk even with all the stress that being the breadwinner brings.

    I don’t get a weekly paycheck aka pat on the head for a job well done. I just want some acknowledgment more often than some Sunday in May that knowing whose underwear is whose and which kid is allergic to amoxicillin isn’t something hardwired into my genetic makeup or comes naturally.

    But I’m not angry anymore. I’m resolute.

    Heather February 4, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I think productive anger is a good thing. I definitely pick my battles and know what things I’m not going to let him slide on.

    What I hate is sitting in the waiting room and hearing a woman throw her husband under the bus for dressing her toddler in mismatched clothes.

    I get angry when he implies that he’s “letting me” do anything, yk like ‘letting me’ work on the weekend while he minds the kids. I’m no more “letting him” go to work M-F. Perhaps that’s the more academic debate best left in my head or in the blogosphere. He truly doesn’t ‘get’ that part of the argument, so I’ve learned to stop arguing it.

    But the passive-aggressive BS? Not so much.

    mothergoosemouse February 4, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Dude.

    This was my whole freaking point when I wrote that post about the inimitable, irreplaceable mother.

    We do stuff that they’d never think to do, we remember stuff that they think is forgettable, and we take care of so very much behind the scenes that they never even realize.

    It’s not a matter of being angry at them for not doing enough or wishing they’d do more or even feeling unappreciated.

    It’s that we feel trapped by our biological role. Even if we had lactating husbands who remembered every last detail – and scrubbed the toilets daily, for good measure – we’d still hold ourselves accountable, and we’d still lash out at those closest to us.

    The best I can hope for is a partner who acknowledges everything that I do, whether he thinks it’s anywhere near as important as I do. But I still reserve the right to get irrationally pissed off at him now and then.

    Ms Priss February 4, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    This perspective is very enlightening and probably so true. But for some reason my pissed-off-ness is still lingering?

    Her Bad Mother February 4, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Ms Priss – my pissed-off-ness is still lingering, too. As MGM said – I reserve the right.

    Fairly Odd Mother February 4, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    I used to always wonder why I could be so awful to my family (my parents, my sister), and I think it's because I knew I *could* be so mean to them & they would always be there. I wonder if that is part of the reason I can vent such anger toward my husband—he's my family now.

    When the kids were younger and I was getting less sleep, I felt a lot more blind rage. Now, I just get pissy every now and then, especially when I've been "on duty" for more days/hours than I can count.

    Michelle February 5, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Sigh. So timely in that my baby is four months old and I frequently want to scream, kick, and yell in frustration. My husband and I have never really fought, he is mild mannered and agreeable, and very very calm, I am the loon, but we work well together. We used to manage our little world totally in sync, and suddenly, it’s like he’s from another f*!@ing planet.

    I am just mad, angry, pissed. Almost all the time. At him. For no good reason. He works hard, comes home and takes the baby, is happy to take her on weekends so I can escape, and tells me what a great job I am doing every day, and appreciates everything I do. But. I…. am….. still…… just mad.

    I used to have a business, and I ran around all day and interacted with other grown ups, and you know, WAS somebody. Now, I am a walking feeding station. And I love my little girl, adore her on every level, but I am tired. Exhausted down to my bones. I didn’t know it would be this hard. And somehow that turns into anger at him. Poor guy.

    Lindsey February 5, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I totally read that article. I marked the page and told my husband to read it. Part of me was all like ‘HELLLO OF COURSE MY HUSBANDS A BASTARD SOLIDARITY SISTER!” and then the other part of me was “wow these guys are total asses for not treating their wife better.”

    I have a 9 month old and the first three months after I gave birth were probably the worst 3 months of my life. I had a beautiful daughter she was well maintained and a really fabulous baby. I wasn’t depressed I was handling everything well. Except my husband who just ‘ignored’ mothers day a week after our first and only child was born…lied and left for 15 hours one day a week after her birth….lets just say he wasn’t handling being a father well. I was beyond devastated. I was hurt and angry and stuck at home while he did have all these freedoms.

    Flash forward now…we have an almost seamless marriage/child raising combo team going on currently. A few months ago he really stepped up to the plate and became the father and husband he should have been from day 1. I am still hurt by those first few months but as time passes so does my frustration. What matters is how he is now. and when I read that article last week all I could think of was wow my husband does laundry all the time? He cooks and cleans regularly. He jumps at the chance to give our daughter a bath and encourages me to get out and do new things without being a mommy.

    I do agree it is fully totally completely a problem so I’ll end with “i love my husband’ SOLIDARITY SISTER!

    The Any Key February 5, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Wow. I am so glad you wrote this.

    This is exactly the kind of thing I will need to keep in mind to keep me from going ‘crazy batshit’, my new favorite term.

    I am 7.5 months pregnant with my first baby, a boy, and while my husband has been wonderfully supportive during the pregnancy, and I know he will be an amazing father, I know I will have the same issues if I am feeling ‘trapped’ at home.

    I do think it is unfair that some of us women have to ask husbands to watch the kids to go to the store along, get a haircut, etc. I realize husbands are working to pay bills, keep food on tables, etc, BUT that doesn’t mean that AFTER they are done work, they shouldn’t ask to go out alone, either. If for no other reason than respect.

    I think after hubby’s work hours are over (within reason – my hubby’s occupation might have him gone for up to 18 hours of straight work) they should be equally responsible and if EITHER parent wants to leave to go shopping, golf, get a massage, have a break, it should be discussed, not assumed.

    This is what I have in *hopes* for the future with my husband as our family life develops.

    excavator February 5, 2009 at 12:10 am

    My kids are older now; it makes a difference that they’re no longer physically dependent on me. I so remember those days, though.

    I think what may have made the difference in the intensity of my anger would have been empathy. He didn’t have to have a lactacting prosthesis but true, heartfelt empathy was what would have assuaged the rage.

    I’ve spent years trying to find words to describe the experience of mothering young children. So far the closest I’ve come to the understanding I’ve craved is what I’ve received from other mothers.

    When my husband would come home and want to know why I felt so exhausted, so overwhelmed I would feel deep despair. He was asking me to call out each molecule of water in the flood that was drowning me. Any individual detail sounded so trivial. Why couldn’t he see that I was drowning?

    Other mothers knew. Thank God for other mothers. Whining has saved my sanity.

    Shannon February 5, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Oh yeah. Me, too. Absolutely. Count me in the pissed off 50%. I can’t figure out how that other half is doing it – and I really do want to know. Your description could have been typed by my own fingers. You were living in my head (or I in yours). He is a good husband and a good father and things are infinitely better now that the kids are 3 and 5, but if he talks about what he’s earned one more time like that means he shouldn’t have to participate, I think I’ll lose it. And you know what? I hate myself a little sometimes for just quietly letting it go on. And then, of course, I periodically just blow a gasket.

    Awesome Mom February 5, 2009 at 2:22 am

    I tend to only get angry and rage filled when we both have bad days and he tries to claim that my bad day was nothing and that his was way worse. The problem with my bad days is that they never leave me until bed time (if I am lucky), but he gets to leave the office and leave it all behind.

    daniloth February 5, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Oh, I struggle with this one. Sometimes I’m angry at him, not for not doing household chores and childcare, because he does those things, but because I feel like I have to ask, and remind, and ask, and why the hell can’t he just remember???? Remember to take care of filling the diaper container and giving baby medicine and etc., etc., etc. I remember all of it, and more.

    I think reading your post has driven home the importance of talking to husband about this. To let him know that sometimes I will be angry, because he doesn’t remember, and because he’s not required to by society. So some of the anger is at him and some at the world, but how do we handle it together? Because if we don’t tackle it together, the anger is going to be a hell of a lot worse.

    Francesca February 5, 2009 at 6:17 am

    This is such a brilliant entry. I too felt irrational anger when my second was born. Yes, it was tied up with my experience of PND. No, it wasn’t always directed at my husband but it was often directed at all those childless people in the world who actually enjoyed their lives.

    My husband was amazing in those first few months when I was struggling so severely. It was hard to be angry. I was too scared that anger towards him would mean that he would stay away more.

    I totally agree that there seems something taboo talking about mother-rage. I didn’t experience it with my first so it was a violent slap when it came.

    It’s nice to hear other women have experienced this as well. No nappy, formula, baby bathing gel ads show mother-rage for sure.

    blue milk February 5, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Interesting post. Personally I think if you’re not experiencing some rage as a mother at least occasionally then you might actually be dead.

    And as Meredith Michaels said – “Now, a lot of couples enjoy more equality until children arrive. It’s as if the introduction of the child is a chance for the man to regress. Maybe once a woman is a mother, she can kind of be his mother as well. I keep saying to women that wondering, “why am I the one doing ___?” is a feminist thought”.

    Mommy Writes February 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I am mostly over the anger stage now as my youngest is 4. But I think, looking back, that I did have anger “at my husband” when the babies were little and so, so needy. But I think it was me re-directing the anger that I was really feeling towards the baby. When the baby is colicy and won’t stop crying and you just want to throw it really hard across the room — you feel horribly guilty. Bad Mom! But getting angry at your husband for not being there to deal with colicy baby? That’s OK. So I think I re-directed all the rage we felt at the helpless infant/toddler to my husband.

    And I have since come to realize that my seeming inability to go out without kids is more me than him. As in, I don’t simply say: “Hey, I need to do xx next Saturday. You’ll be home, right?” Instead, I ask permission. Not because he ever said or did anything to imply that he thinks he deserves to be asked permission, but because, somehow, in my head, I think I need to ask it. I don’t have the right to get angry at him for my own head games.

    Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub February 5, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I know exactly what you’re talking about and love how eloquently and thoughtfully you have put it all together. I saved all my rage for years and years and had it all come seeping out in the last year (after 9 years of parenting!) much to my dismay. I had to start seeing a therapist to help me deal with it…. so much resentment and anger toward him, but so much directed at MYSELF for letting myself get into this situation where I had never voiced how pissed some things made me and how I was the one that asked him if he would watch the kids while I did other things, like I needed permission. Anyway, I am starting to let it go because he now knows how I feel and is trying to pick up some of the slack. But I will always be the “encyclopedia” of the family and that’s just the way things are. :)

    Chantal February 5, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I had never felt anger, real searing anger, until I had my first child. That first year, I could barely look at my husband. I think I had expected him to understand what I needed. Why, oh why did I need to tell him when I needed a break, when I needed help. We had many a huge blow out and I realized I needed to tell him what I needed from him. And I don’t let him brush me off. I have to be reminded here and there, but it has helped.

    Melamalie February 5, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I am not a mom, but in some ways I can still relate (to a much smaller degree, I’m sure) to some of what you’ve said. I’m already experiencing anger at my husband’s “forgetting” about household tasks. I can relate to the other people who have commented that they just want him to remember what needs to be done without being told. I also feel anger at his freedom – he can stay late at work because he knows I’m home making dinner for him. He can spend hours training for triathlon because he knows I’m at home doing the housework. I think my strong reaction to this post is a good reminder that this is something I need to deal with in my relationship before we decide to have kids!

    Thank you.

    Ami February 5, 2009 at 10:10 am

    There is anger. Most of the time the AWARENESS that I/We chose this lifestyle makes the anger seem like a small sliver of ugliness in an otherwise idealic life. But, BUT, other times the enormity of my responsibility engulfs me and the anger roars to the size of a tsunami.
    I think many things contribute to this. The lack of appreciation that I have in all honesty the “harder” job, the lack of a paystub saying “this is how much you are worth”, the lack of sleep, the inability to go to the bathroom by myself, and the million of other things my husband takes for granted. All of these things fan that small flame of resentment and anger.
    Usually, however, the small blessings I receive by staying at home quiet that beastly anger. So I try to focus on those small blessings and the fact that knowing all of this CRAP I would still choose my life as it is. This helps.

    anniemom February 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    This is exactly where I am right now with my 2 year old and 4 month old, and on top of the anger (and sometimes rage) I feel, usually directed at my poor husband, I feel guilt for feeling it. Smacks of PPD, I’m afraid. But damn, I just can’t seem to get ENOUGH – - I mean, enough sleep, enough lovin, enough self-time, enough fiber… it’s just really, really, really hard, and that’s why we do it, and not them. I think the emotional overload could cause a lot of men to just shut down. Who knows. But damn. And damn. I’m angry and not proud of it.

    Anonymous February 5, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I’m a single parent, but me and dad have a really good friendship and we’re in similar positions right now, we’re both students. He’s doing a PhD while living at home with his parents. I’m doing my first degree whilst caring for the monster and looking after my own house, paying the bills yada yada. I get about 9k a year, he gets 13k a year research grant — and pays no rent at home. If the JERK tells me he’s broke once more I’m seriously going to murder him.

    If I have an assignment due in, I have to book a weekend for the monster to be at his about a month in advance. He gets all the time in the world to do his. If he wants to go out in the evening or weekends he just does it. I have to ask permission for everything. He bought a PS3 the other day because ‘if I don’t have some time doing something I enjoy then I’ll burn out’. O.M.G. My evening = cleaning, running up and down stairs putting the three year old in bed and trying to do this degree.

    He stays at my house Saturday nights since he lives a couple of hours away which is nice because I make him cook and do the dishes. He sleeps on a camp bed in the monster’s room. Saturday night the kid was SCREAMING, I had to go downstairs from my attic bedroom to see if he was ok because daddy hadn’t even woken up and he was in the same goddamn room.

    It’s not so much the unfairness of the situation for me. I’m happy as a single mum and I wouldn’t really want my life any other way. It’s the fact that he BITCHES that he never gets a fucking minute to himself, when seriously, he has a girlfriend, he has friends at uni, he goes for nights out, his MUMMY COOKS HIS MEALS. It’s the fact that he has this ‘oh woe is me’ attitude that I just can’t handle.

    If he isn’t careful I’m going to freak out on his ass this weekend because I have PMT and he’s going to ask for next weekend off babycare duty tyo wine and dine his new girlfriend, he just hasn’t had the bals to ask me yet.

    Me? I have to ask 4 weeks in advance, him, he just assumes he can have a weekend off whenever.

    Anonymous February 5, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Oh, thank you. Last weekend we took a day to connect (requires sitting on the porch drinking beer, lol) and our conversation touched this- specifically why I had screamed and gotten all mad about him tracking mud onto my freshly mopped floors after he came home from work. I said that mud+ floors=no respect. No respect= no love. He bristled, of course and said that my anger at him was not an isolated incident, and I guess that I have to agree, none of it is that big of a deal, but I feel like MY WHOLE LIFE CHANGED, his did too, but he can ignore it a bit more now, whereas my life change is with me and on my mind every minute. Motherhood is the most precious life change and disaster to happen to my personhood as of yet. I love her, yet sometimes I don’t feel like a whole person, and never like the person I was before.

    Apryl's Antics February 5, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I recently renovated (painted) our master bathroom and was patting myself on the back for doing it completely alone. My husband chimed in that he contributed by watching the kids. Yes. He. Did.

    Michaela February 5, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Personally, I think that as long as we think of fathers as ‘supportive’ of the (their own!) family gig, and western societies are set up in a way that that’s as far as we can imagine things to go, us women will remain angry. For good reasons, most of the time.

    Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy February 5, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I relate 100% to this post because I have felt the resentment MANY times, especially because I work from home full time AND take care of the children and the house. I have communicated this to my husband many times and we are working together to split up the parenting and household duties more now, and sometimes my husband just does something nice or goes out of his way to make me feel good when he knows I have has a particularly stressful week. It seems to be working and I resent him a lot less lately. Less, but it is still hard.

    Lindsay February 5, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I can’t even count the number of times my husband and I have had the “It’s not like I just sit around at work and drink coffee all day you know – it’s a hugely physical job!” “Yes but you get to sit down for 30 minutes and eat your lunch while it’s hot, and get 2 15-minute breathers without wiping an ass or having your boobs gnawed and you get to LEAVE your job every day and I work 24 FREAKING HOURS A DAY without an emotional break and you DON’T UNDERSTAND!” argument. I definitely got way pissed that I had to ask him to watch the kids while I peed and felt guilty about it, or that if I tried to get a break I’d get a baby shoved at me because he was STARVING you know, or because the baby HATES my husband you know.
    However, he’s definitely getting it back now that the baby refuses to settle for anyone else but him in the middle of the night and he has to get up at 5 AM to go to work.

    Chicky Chicky Baby February 5, 2009 at 11:59 am

    *furiously nodding*

    Oh HELLS YES.

    Also it’s easy to get mad at our husbands. They’re the other “responsible” adult in the house. It’s infinitely harder to turn that anger back at ourselves for accepting a lot of the shit work.

    I’m in the same boat you are right now and when I look in the mirror I’d like to punch the person looking back at me sometimes because she’s tired and overwhelmed and just can’t get her act together and I hate that about her. So I take that anger and take it out on the only person who can shoulder it for awhile – my husband. Not that he doesn’t deserve a lot of the anger, because oh boy, he does…

    Sigh.

    PiggyToes February 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    What an awesome post. I am constantly struggling with the feelings of anger, frustration, happiness and envy. My husband starts his day with a shower after sleeping through the night. He drinks his coffee while surfing the internet. He get dressed in the bedroom with the door closed. That get him to about 8am and his day has been a breeze.

    I understand he has to work and that he makes money. He understand my job does not have a price on it and that what I do is important but it is still not fair. Happy hour, lacrosse weeknights, weekend trips to hunt, ect. WTF? Cause I do not need a break or help. He is a good man and I know he appreciates what I do but the balance in our house is so out of sync it is crazy. And it isn’t fair. AT ALL. It would help if I did not have to nag him to put the laptop down, get off the blackberry or help with housework but he doesnt get it. He thinks because I am home all day I have free time. Um, hello? I also pee with the baby on my lap. I get dressed in the kitchen. I cant shower when alone because the baby can now climb out of the crib. It is both wonderful to be raising my children the way I want to, but also frustrating and lonely. It is hard to watch him want to “relax” when he gets home. Um, because driving home alone in the car is not relaxing? Well, for me it is. No baby songs, no whining, no entertaining someone. ALONE. Just give me what you have. Give me that time to myself. Give me a hand. Give me the extra care you give your friends in need. I am hoping this gets better as the kids get older. Hope Hope Hope.

    Mayberry February 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I posted on this briefly, once; I direct my rage at my husband because I don’t want to direct it at my children or myself.

    Karen February 5, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    When i was married i got angry at my husband only once (that had to do with this)my less than 6 month old was sick and so was i. I begged him to stay home (we also have a 3 yr old at the time)and help or take care of the kids. nope. he went out. and stayed out. Now im single and i get mad at dads who get SOO much credit for doing things they should be doing in the first place. OHHH i changed a diaper yay me. Riight. But im not bitter. :)

    her bad father February 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    You, pissed at me? I hadn’t noticed.

    Jo February 5, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Whoa. I hate to be a bit egocentric, but I think you wrote this post for me. My husband and I have had the most incredible, loved-up relationship until our beautiful bundle came into the world last August. Last night we had one of our biggest arguments to date and it was because of just what you wrote here. Except I didn’t know that at the time and I just began yelling this incredibly crazy rant about him turning his socks right-side-out and it all started because, God forbid, he tried to have sex with me — I refused, and he got whiny about it. Anyway, I guess I do have the rage.

    What do we DO about it?!! I hate it. I don’t want to be like this. I feel frigid and grumpy. But it is so hard to not be envious of him and his freedom even though I know he is working and feeling loads of pressures in his own life.

    I guess drinking and foot-rubbing are the only solutions?

    Jenera February 5, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    I have a 2 month old now so I’m in that weird stage of hating everyone. But I don’t think that anger has ever been directed to my hubby.

    he’s a trucker and has been since we got married so I’m used to doing everything by myself. He does help when he’s home but it’s not the same.

    I find my anger directed at other women that complain about their children when they DO have a partner/spouse at home or other people supporting them. I get angry when I am told to suck it up and I’m just being a baby yet they complain of things more trivial than I.

    That’s where my anger is directed at.

    Meli February 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I never really thought about it before but I am angry, disgruntled and jealous. I know that I shouldn’t be but there were times when I have wished that I didn’t have an audience when I went to the bathroom or that house magically cleaned itself.

    My husband is great but you’re right there are doofus moments when I just want to kill him.

    I am not sure how to handle my moments / hours of anger but I wish I had a heads up that this was going to happen.

    That’s for the post. You’ve really given me something to think about.

    LAVANDULA February 5, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    i have in the past felt anger at my husband but now i feel none. he works hard at what he does and i work hard at what i do.and yes sometimes things are not evenly balanced.

    Amy Jo February 5, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I get angry, but my husband is one of the good ones. He is always pitching in and doing things without asking, so I feel like an awful, raging bitch when the anger creeps in. But no matter how hard I try, I have moments when I seethe. I think it has to do more with a fundamental lack of understanding about each other’s daily lives. Maybe that’s why moms tend to bond so strongly with other mothers, especially in the early days.

    But I love him so. I really do. Even when I’m blind with rage that he went out on a three hour lunch date on my 30th birthday. Which fell on a Sunday.

    Jenny February 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I don’t know if my opinion really counts yet, since I am not yet a stay at home mom. My husband and I are expecting our first child in May. We weren’t really thinking that we could afford for me to stay at home with the baby, but we relooked at our finances and relooked at them again, and figured out a way that we could do it. It means cutting back a lot, but we figure it will be worth it in the end.

    So right now, what I feel the most is grateful to him. I feel guilty that he is having to take on the huge responsibility of having to support us all by himself. And I just feel really lucky that I have such a great guy.

    To me it’s a privilege to get to stay home with your children, because again, there are so many who can’t afford to do that. It’s just not even an option.

    I don’t know if I’ll have this clarity of mind once the baby comes, say in July or August. Perhaps then I will be angry, but I can’t help thinking that even then I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to be the one to care for our baby, because even though we might have been able to find a really good care provider, no one is going to care for them or love them as much as he and I do.

    hschinske February 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I totally agree with Mommy Writes about displacement of anger. You don’t get to be mad at a little baby, so you get mad at the adult, who can presumably take it. (I’m of course leaving out the cases where the husband *is* being a pill.)

    In my case, I’m not sure I tended to get mad at my husband so much … it was more getting mad at myself (which wasn’t all that healthy either).

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting February 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I think perhaps in our family we’ve found the balance that keeps the anger away. I am a WOHM and my husband is a SAHD. However, many of the responsibilities that you described above with regards to medical appointments, school related responsibilities, kids friends, buying clothes for the kids, etc. do fall primarily on my shoulders.

    However, I do also get to walk out the door in the morning, wave goodbye, and say “see you later” to my husband and daughter and I get to drop my son off at school and say “see you at the end of the day”. My job is stressful and its hard. But it is also rewarding and gives me a change of pace from parenting. It is hard in all the ways that parenting is not and easy in all the ways parenting is not.

    And my husband does take care of many things that I might have to if I was a SAHM. He does almost all of the laundry (we cloth diaper and I can’t remember the last time I washed a load – that is love!!!), he does the dishes, he cleans. I cook and do the grocery shopping, school related stuff, and clothes shopping.

    My husband is also doing his PhD and goes snowboarding with friends, so he has some intellectual and physical relief from parenting.

    I think this balance allows us not to get angry. It doesn’t mean that we never get upset with each other, but I don’t think either of us harbours any deep resentment about the division of labour.

    Beth B. February 5, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I do feel somewhat jealous at the walking at the door thing and then coming back late that night for hubby. But in the morning and as soon as he steps in the door he is hands on with the kids (so I try not to complain!). What is frustrating is that these wonderful little critters that you love so much have not real idea of why it is important that they do their routines everyday (brushing teeth, going to school, doing homework, practicing reading). And your job is to keep them moving in the right direction while they fight and disagree and do kid like things.. And all I want to say is “I am doing this to help you be successful – can’t you see that.. homework is essential to your future”!!! Not that it makes me angry or anything..

    Anonymous February 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I guess I did not realize how equally my husband and I divide things until now. With us it was never a discussion – we just did it. I suppose we had to talk about it at some point, though… I can get annoyed at him when he comes home and starts picking up the house instead of taking over the kids, but I know he is annoyed that the house is destroyed, too. We each clean (actually clean, not pick up) when we can't take it any longer. I do everything with the laundry except putting away. I HATE putting it away, so that's his responsibility. I generally cook, but he will if we are having something he can make (like ham & beans tonight… which he is doing so I can go to a step class at the gym).

    We also have the agreement that I work out on Tuesday & Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings and he gets to go in the morning before he goes to work and after the kids are in bed for the night. We ask each other "permission" to be away when we are usually home. I breast feed, but I leave milk at home for the times I want to be away. I also work part time, so I get a break from the kids (one is nearly 3 years & the other is nearly 3 months). But I also get to be home to take the older one to library group and dance class and/or to lunch or play with friends' kids (yes, the baby goes with us).

    I have a friend who totally fits into the "mad at dad" camp. And she is talking about having #3. Dad does not want another one. I cannot understand why mom would want another one when she feels that dad does not help enough with the 2 that they have. She'll have even more work to do with the same amount of participation from dad as she gets now – which will feel like less then b/c there is another person to take care of!

    However, we may also have a unique situation of having no one to help us at all. My mother died about 5 years ago and no other grandparents are around enough to help. The most involved live 2 hours away and "most involved" means seeing them about once every 6-8 weeks. That being said, we know that all we have is each other, which may very well make us more cognizant of our needs as a family.

    I agree with one of the anon comments that you need to get away. I also tend to think that Jasper will take a bottle if he's hungry enough and there is no other option. This isn't fun, but maybe you need to buy several types of bottles and find the one he likes. I actually think you could use regular breaks, even if that comes in the form of a part time job (so that you can't easily skip it). Good luck and thanks for making me realize that I should appreciate my husband and let him know it!

    Dana Whitaker February 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I do get angry. I get angry that we’ve been parents for almost 11 years, and the default is still free to do whatever, whereas I am the one take care of it all. I’ve tried, many times over the years, to explain why I get frustrated and burned out, how I cannot have him just assume that he can make plans away from home without checking. I get angry that leaving town for 4-5 days for a business trip or a training course means I spend the days before I leave making lists of reminders for what day the ballet bag needs to be taken to school, which days are hot lunch, how to cook the casserole that I left in the fridge. That those 5 days gone will be filled with messages asking for whatever I didn’t anticipate needing to pass along (where do we keep the library cards?)

    I do get angry. I get angry at things at work, angry that my children are facing uphill battles at school or in their mental health, and there is nothing I can do to fix it. And sometimes my husband gets caught in the crossfire. I try not to take things out on him, try not to let him be the ‘whipping boy’ for the times when the universe conspires against me. And sometimes he gets mad about those same universal conspiracies, and I am the one who takes anger that isn’t earned.

    I get angry. I get angry at the attitude of so many people who observe the brief moments when I put my foot down and step away, forcing my husband to do what needs done on his own for just a little teeny while, when he is heaped with praise for what an outstanding father he is for doing what I do day in and day out, week after week.

    I get angry. I get angry that I cannot let myself enjoy a few hours away from home, getting a haircut (ha! my last haircut was in June!) or reading a magazine while I drink some coffee. Self care and leisure activities are something I deserve, but I’ve let myself be programmed not to just take what I deserve. I allow myself to feel guilty at the rough time my husband had at home when the dog got sick on the carpet right at the same time as the youngest needed help pouring the milk and the two older kids were fighting over whose turn it was to be on the computer…

    yes. I get angry.

    Joy February 5, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I get angry at my husband, sometimes. Not as often as the children grow older. But it’s generally when I am exhausted, sick, and at the end of my limits. And wouldn’t you know, those are the times that he is usually sick, and exhausted and at the end of his rope, too. So, I get blisteringly angry, and we fight. But I know that he does help out, he twists his schedule so I can get my time away, and while he doesn’t clean toilets, or floors, he does bathe the children pretty much daily, and helps with homework, and will grocery shop, and the list goes on of where he assists when needed.

    I used to get a lot more angry, during the time that I felt I was being held hostage in the home to small children, who nursed, and wouldn’t take bottles, and needed my touch on their skin and my voice in their ear for them to settle and be content in their world. But I thought about it, and realised that even if they would take a bottle, I generally chose not to leave them anyway. I chose to not introduce them to strangers to provide them with care, so I could go out for an hour, because the work involved in introducing the bottle, or adapting them to another’s care (and the fallout at home, as they freaked out after) just was not worth the hour away. So, I accepted. I didn’t like it much, at first, but I accepted that this is the way it will be for this (relatively) short span of time. And I could use my energy being mad about it, and mad at the world, or I could accept my choice with a measure of grace and calm, and soon many of the edges of my self-directed anger smoothed out. I still got mad sometimes, because, the lack of sleep, the job of mothering and being a SAHM, is all tough, and we’re entitled to our feelings. But I was not mad at my husband in the same way, because of the circumstances that I chose.

    But I get furious at the pats on the back that men tend to get for small feats of helping out, as if they are performing magic tricks, instead of doing what they should be doing as an involved co-parent. And that fury is directed at society, for the gross double standard with respect to women assuming all aspects of child care, and men not being expected to take on the same level of care, or any care sometimes.

    tallulah February 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Yes, I get angry. But would I really trade it for being away from my children all day? Would I want the HUGE responsibility for be the financial supporter for our large family and the pressures that comes along with it? No.
    Sure, the men have some perks… but certainly not enought for me to change our family circumstances.

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