I'm pretty sure I am on to something big, so if I disappear after writing this post, ask your resident Man where they have taken me.
Or at least what they did with my body.
So, in my six years of parenting, I have had thousands of conversations with other mothers in which there is a common thread of complaint. It is not 'husband-bashing' as they may like to believe, so much as it is consistent bewilderment at the way fathers - these men we have chosen- have assumed their roles as parents, in direct comparison to the way we have assumed our roles as parents. Sure, there are (occasional) exceptions to my gross generalization, but they are, sadly, the true exceptions.
But recently it dawned on me that there was something deeper here than just inequity of reponsibility, or confusion of the definition of responsibility. For when brought to task on these inequities, these fathers are as bewildered as we are at the notion that we would need to point this out. They are as defiant as we are insistent, they are as stubborn as we are incredulous. They stick to their guns and maintain that their position is acceptable, when it clearly is NOT!
Why so confident about something that makes them look like asshats? Why so insistent in their refusal to see our very good point and change their ways?
I think it is called the Absolutely Secret Survey (A.S.S.), and somehow, without women knowing about it and apparently for generations, fathers-to-be have been given this survey to fill out while we - the mothers-to-be - swollen and distracted, were resting our arms across our bellies and making decisions about bottle or breast, cloth or disposable.
Yes, I was shocked too.
But it explains so much.
I know from my own personal experience that it can be frustrating when this discovery is made. 'Outing' the problem did not necessarily improve it in my home.
When Supergirl was about 9 mos old, I realized that nearly every night trying to make dinner was a regular dose of great effort and stress that hardly seemed worth the effort. I also realized that Daddy was nowhere to be found at that hour, but showed up for the slave-labor-with-a-screamything-in-a-sling-home-cooked Dinner.
This did not make me feel happy. Or hot for him.
In spite of this, somehow I got pregnant with little E when Supergirl was one. (literally on her birthday - 'hurry up I have guests coming and a cake to decorate while she is napping' kind of thing).
With two children it was no different. If I had to do laundry, it was with one hand while the other hand kept the slung-baby from smashing his head against the washer and I hoped that the mind-numbing babysitter box I put on for Supergirl was continuing to entertain her for FIVE MORE MINUTES. When it was time to buy groceries, the kids got strapped into their carseats and off we went, 'Bye-bye Daddy!'
When Daddy handed me the baby 'so he could make a phone call', pardon me for laughing out loud at his pathetic-ness. For days.
When it was time to make dinner, there were two children that were magically fussy at this bewitched hour to placate while I tried to
I kept pleading, and was rewarded with blank stares in return. Refusal to acknowledge my desperate pleas, or just not hearing them anymore after years of the same. You did know, that if you repeat something over and over for long enough, even if it is something that is of UTMOST importance to you and that is why you are repeating it, that alone gives The Man the sole right to ignore you.
(It's in The Secret Man's Rule Book. I checked. Chapter 4, 'And she yammers on...')
So, about a year ago, I again found myself with two children alone every evening at that same goddamned magic hour. Again, I brought it up, but with more insistence (as in, no you are totally not walking away from me again or I will truly throw something at you).
Finally, he came clean. The honesty was refreshing, really. After all those years of wondering when he would see my point of view and assemble a marching band to apologize for him with style (right before the tribute dinner for all my hard work that he just now came to realize).
He said, "I need to take a walk every night and go watch the sunset."
(ahem. even though the sunset/ocean view is a five minute walk from here, this somehow takes 60 to 90 minutes every night)
I said, "So let me get this straight. After working from home all day (in between, periods of loud and strange music making can be heard coming from your office), while I parent all day while working at the same time because I am just a multi-tasker like that, you are just not available to parent at sunset which happens to be homework/dinner/bath/ then bed time???"
"No, I am not. I need this."
I laughed hysterically for a good long minute; his expression remained unchanged.
He was not only serious, but felt completely justified and was ready to go to battle to defend his position. Or just refuse to discuss it anymore. That would also secure his position as righteous.
I won't bore you with the details of that argument. I think it's safe to just imagine in your head what happened.
Not that I won.
But now, I realize that he didn't have to see my perspective, or even try. Because he had filled that out on the A.S.S. years before, he was covered.
I am not sure of all the questions asked on the A.S.S. - I haven't gotten a hard copy of it in my hands yet - but I do know many of the categories and options based on what other mothers have told me and of course, my own experience.
For instance, I know that there is a 'food' category with questions being along the lines of 'will you cook for others and if so, what types of food?', because in our house, I am expected to provide food for all adults and children present if I cook anything at all, but if Daddy wants to make breakfast, he can do so only for himself and maintain the right to question if and what his children have been fed (not by him).
Sadly, too many of us have experienced the 'Selfish Loads of Laundry', so we can safely assume there is also a category regarding laundry and/or general maintenance cleaning.
One of the most annoying categories has got to be the 'night time waking with the kids and taking turns with the sleeping-in schedule' which, you can imagine, most men do opt out of completely. And if they do put time into that category, you can bet there will be some whining about sleep deprivation, and they will want a hearty dose of awe and some sex please, for their fabulousness.
One of my friends told me that her husband informed her when she was pregnant, that he would not change diapers. Ever. He would hire someone to help her before he would change a diaper. That was probably one of the more fair offerings I have heard of.
Another friend's husband decided - when their children were 13, 10 and 3 - that he 'just didn't want to do this anymore.'
Had she known about what her husband had filled out on his A.S.S. Day, I am sure she would have been better prepared for his sudden announcement of 'opting out' of parenting.
So, it's Grudge Tuesday.
Now that you know about A.S.S., what have you learned today?