Role reversal: Is your husband a better mother than you are?

You know you’re the mom. But are you the mom who had the baby, or the mom who plays the maternal role at home? Family landscapes around the country are changing, and the biggest yield of women’s lib years is how hard we women are now allowed to work. Socially, culturally, we have can hold more jobs and work longer hours without (always) being stigmatized like we use to.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s still a long way to go. But by at least having new opportunities opened up to her, Mom can put on many hats and give her kids even more opportunities than she had. That is, as long as she still does all the cleaning and cooking like a good mom and wife should.

In many families, dads are starting to pick up the slack when their wives are hard at work. But how far is too far? Does your husband taking care of “Mom duties” take away from your relationship with your kids?

Here are the signs that your husband might be better at playing the Mom role than you:

  1. Cooking – whether or not he’s any good at it, your husband takes charge more often on feeding the kids.
  2. Cleaning – everyone has their chores, but if Dad is doing the heavy scrubbing, it probably hurts your “wifehood” a little.
  3. Spending time with the kids – if most of the activities your kids enjoy and talk about are the ones with their dad, you might start to feel left out.
  4. You’re stuck being the disciplinarian – it’s inevitable that one parent will come off as the “stricter” one, but if you always play Bad Cop you might get a little tired of it.

If you’ve seen these signs at home, it’s very possible that your husband is picking up a lot of loose Mom duties. How you feel about it and what you do, however, are totally different considerations. You want to be proactive and not internalize the issue. The more straightforward you can be about getting to the heart of it and skipping the emotional traps, the better!

Here are some signs you’re starting to internalize it:

  1. Justifying – if you find yourself justifying this shift in “momhood” or explaining it away, this is typically a sign that it’s bothering you, and that you’re sweeping it under the rug. You know you’re justifying if your explanation or view of a problem doesn’t make sense when you write it out, or if you catch yourself making little adjustments to the truth so that your explanation fits better. For example, if you justify having less time with your kids than your husband by saying, “Well, I work more,” that might sound reasonable but you still won’t feel any better.
  2. Irritability – greater irritability (or sensitivity) around your husband or your kids is another key sign that you might really be taking this personally. Remind yourself that getting emotional doesn’t fix anything, and that you’ll make it worse if you regularly come off as grumpy or difficult in addition to absent or un-momlike. It’s probably not your husband’s fault, and it’s definitely not your kids’, so don’t let yourself take it out on them.
  3. These lists come hard – if you try listing out all you do at home, you can start to get at what’s really bothering you. If you list everything out and discover how much you really are doing, despite still feeling like you’re missing out on quintessential “Mom duties” you might feel better right away. And if you feel like your list is disappointingly short, open up and talk to your husband to get his perspective on everything you do. A lot of little things you might not think about could add up quick!

Let’s say you’ve read through all the signs, and your husband is playing the mom part better than you. And you’re internalizing it, too. What is there to do? You might think the secret is in taking task from your husband to reclaim them as your biologically-given “mom right,” or you might feel compelled to desperately start doing everything at home you can think of. This is unproductive, however, and will not get to the core of the problem.

Here’s the secret: the problem is probably your attitude. What IS your definition of a mom, anyway? What are your expectations? If you’re like most of us, you think of housekeeping and diaper changing, when you should really be focused on love and support. Your expectations might be based around the women’s libbers who burnt out fast—trying to live the entitled-to-work-like-a-man life while still doing everything traditionally expected of a mom is impossible. Talk to your husband, and make sure your kids are well cared for between the two of you. Nothing else could possibly be more important!

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