“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“You dads have it easy. You don’t know what it’s like being a mom,” she said as we waited for our children to exit the school.
I glanced at the guy I’d been conversing with, wondering if he knew this woman or if she just decided to throw herself into our conversation.
“I mean, we never get a day off even when we’re sick. I had the stomach flu once and it was the…worst…thing…ever and I was still changing diapers while my husband slept.”
I’m no Mr. Mom, but I do work from home, which means I spend a good deal of time with my daughter. Every morning I wake her, prepare her breakfast, review her spelling words for the week and get her to school. When school ends I’m on the steps to walk her to the car and drive her home, take her to soccer or piano lessons or dance lessons. I help her with homework, answer her questions and do all the things I assume every dad does.
“Who the heck does this woman think she’s talking to?” I thought. I took offense that she was assuming I was some oaf that did nothing but watch football and suck down beer, but decided to keep my trap shut.
She laughed at our ensuing silence, giving us an incredulous look – as if to say “And you poor shmucks don’t even know what we women have to endure.”
“Yes, as a dad I do have it easy, because I don’t regret time spent with my child,” I thought about saying.
But I didn’t want to respond out of anger. How could she possibly know what I may or may not do?
Instead I began wondering what sort of husband she must have, what sort of pressures this woman was under that she would volunteer this kind of information to complete strangers.
So I stayed silent and went home to do some research.
A survey on parenting.com said 46 percent of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more. Their anger seems to come from numerous angles: not paying attention to children, household chores or generally not pulling their weight.
Irate. That’s a strong emotion to feel every week.
An article on Time.com said 60 percent of working moms felt like they single-handedly had to take charge of laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, bathing, feeding, dressing and entertaining the children.
There were stories of men who never changed a diaper, never got out of bed in the middle of the night to check on their crying child. Most of what I read revolved around men who had physically demanding jobs and felt entitled to ending their day when they punched the time clock.
And in this day and age, I was a bit surprised to hear fatherhood was still stuck in time.
Most of my surprise was because my friends who have children don’t act like this at all. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t cite any friends with kids still in their single digits who aren’t active in raising and caring for their children. Still I also know dads who let their babies crawl around bar floors so they could have a few beers until their wife arrived to take care of the child. I suspect that could be a reason I don’t count them as friends.
Many studies I’ve read remind me of my childhood, with dad often coming in from work, pouring a drink and watching television for the rest of the night while mom still was busy preparing dinner and making sure I bathed, brushed my teeth and was ready for bed on schedule.
My dad wasn’t absent, but he certainly wasn’t around the house like mom was. It’s a generational difference many people apparently can’t shake. Mom’s aren’t expected to be housewives these days, whether they wish to be is another matter.
“Make no judgements where you have no compassion,” author Anne McCaffery said. I suspect this was the lesson I learned. It was easy for me to judge this woman when I neither knew her or had an understanding of what she might be going through.
I suspect in the future I won’t stay silent. I think now I’m aware enough to have a conversation.