Tonight I stood in the shower and fought back tears. The reason? A mere thirty seconds after I began unwinding under the hot, soothing spray, the sound of the water being turned on in the bathroom down the hall assaulted my senses. Moments later, my water pressure dismally dropped and my near-scalding water transformed to an unappealing tepid. I was pissed. You see, spending ten minutes in the shower every evening is one of the few parts of my day that is truly relaxing. As I indulged in my confrontational fantasy-soon-to-be-reality in which I marched into my daughters’ bathroom and demanded that my husband please wait until my shower ends next time before he begins filling the bathtub, a second thought occurred to me. He was giving our six year old a bath. And I was not involved in this activity.

Earlier in the day, this same topic came up as I was getting my hair cut and colored. (A good stylist is truly a bargain- getting your hair done and having therapy all at once? You can’t beat that.) We were discussing how easy it was to spiral into double standards in relationships and child-raising. For example, here is a list of my utopian guidelines for my household:

All hail Queen Mommy!


Please load the dishwasher. Oh, but, not like that!
Help me keep our home free of clutter. Now where the hell did you put all my stuff?
Get the baby dressed without any prompting. Um, what the f-ck is she wearing exactly?
Please clean the bathroom weekly. No, wait, I prefer to use a sponge and Comet, not a paper towel with that multipurpose crap.
And the list goes on…getting my point? Another popular one I hear from moms is, “It’s not fair that you get to be the playmate all the time, and I’m the boss!”
My counter is, “But I pretty much hate playing, so feel free to keep your monopoly on that one!”
Daddy is pretty much the coolest

Also, as much as I resent the idea of being Parenting Project Manager 24/7, I am equally uncomfortable relinquishing control. It’s a Catch-22. (Wait, is that the correct usage of that terminology? I’m never exactly sure how to use that one. Or Murphy’s Law.) I truly don’t want to be in charge of everything- monitoring naptime, bedtime, nutritional intake, weather appropriate attire, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, etc. But I have made it abundantly clear that any effort to pitch in that deviates from my superlative level of planning is unacceptable. So what’s a dad to do?

Does anyone else cringe when recognizing this practice of Parenting Double Standards? It is a fine line between being grateful for a partner that is truly helpful and tuned in to the sensitive climate of family life, and knocking yourself out to thank a grown man for doing something that should just be a given. “Gee, thanks for spending fifteen minutes alone with the kids while I run to the pharmacy to get their emergency antibiotics. That sure was generous of you!”
I have a husband that doesn’t think it is a phenomenal act of heroism to bathe one or both of our children (alone!) or spend his day off vacuuming the house, (I haven’t actually turned the vacuum on since my second trimester of pregnancy. Our daughter is now 12 months. That is not an exaggeration, I am ashamed to admit.) but I realize that this is not necessarily a societal norm.
Which is why I experienced mixed feelings about biting my tongue over the shower incident. In the end I realized it was a stupid, needless complaint, but at the same time, is it really necessary to shower (ha ha) our partner with praise for engaging in a routine parenting practice? I guess I prefer to err on the side of gratitude: after all, basic psychology would dictate that behavior that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated!
Does it really matter if the kids are dressed strangely on dad’s watch?


Though I struggle with sleep deprivation and the chronic imbalance that comes with having two children and a job, I am making it a priority to reign in my criticism when it comes to spousal division of labor. When my parents were in town recently, my dad made one of his trademark flippant remarks about my “busting Shawn’s chops about something!” I cringed and realized that I really needed to lay off the irritated mom routine.
My frustration is frequently a projection of my own failure to maintain organization and order in my daily routine and living space. Again I can point to the parental paralysis that stems from our interrupted sleep schedule, but I feel that no matter what my current mental climate is, I need to reflect on what message I am sending with my “feedback”. It is often difficult to stick to the popular reminder, “Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?” There will always be some excuse to succumb to negativity, and the best I can do for now is to vow to be mindful of the words that are coming out of my mouth. Or better yet, try to breathe through the irritation and reproach that sprouts from my brain, whether or not it finds its way to my lips.
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