Changing roles in marriage

(92 Posts)
ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 08:02:11

I'm after some advice about how to change the balance in my relationship. I'm posting here as I read lots of the threads on this board and respect so many of the voices I hear. 

Before we had our baby (now 6 months) our marriage was pretty equal. I did the housework and laundry, he did cooking and maintenance outside. That kind of division of chores etc. We both had time away from each other with our friends and also did lots together as well. 

Since the baby came things have obviously changed and we seem to be slipping into a more gender stereotyped relationship. I'm finding more and more that looking after our daughter falls to me unless I specifically say "I'd like 11-1 on Saturday to do X, y and z". I understand I'm lucky in that he is a wonderful husband and father and will always put me and the baby first. 

But I can't help feeling like the way it is at the moment isn't how I want it to go! For instance, last night I asked what today's plans would be and he said "well I've got (leisure activity with a friend) at 9 till half 10 then I'll do lunch and then friend is coming round to help with DIY in the afternoon". I sound like an ungrateful spoilt brat as he does do a lot around the house but the way it's just assumed I'll be managing with the baby all day after all night with her is really starting to get to me. 

If I wanted to just get up and do anything by myself it would need to be completely planned. I know having a child changes things but am I unreasonable for wanting the same level of independence that he has?   How do I make that happen?

NameAgeLocation Sun 13-Mar-16 08:24:57

You need to set him straight once and for all.

Obviously every person is different but before our DC1 was born I said very clearly to DP that I had no more knowledge of or interest in babies than he did and was just as keen to get on with my previous life as he was!
The cultural messages around motherhood are so strong that I could hardly blame him for assuming that being a father = free child care on tap from the mother at any time.
You need to sit down and discuss it all with him.

NameAgeLocation Sun 13-Mar-16 08:26:50

Oh, also - I don't think that not wanting to be the default live-in unpaid child care makes you an ungrateful spoilt brat. How so? I could just as easily say the same of his assumptions eh?

MyCrispBag Sun 13-Mar-16 08:48:14

" I sound like an ungrateful spoilt brat as he does do a lot around the house"

No, you don't.

You are fighting against culture which tells us that baby care can be a bit of a nuisance but is generally a pleasure if you have a vagina.

This makes me furious, not at your husband but at society at large. It's all such a fucking scam.

Anyway, rather than rant I will agree with the first poster. Sit down and discuss it with him. Explain that housework =/= having round the clock responsibility for defenseless human that needs constant attention.

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 08:52:00

I just wonder whether I should not feel as much resentment as I do as he is looking after our house, etc etc. It's not he's sitting around doing nothing.

But I just feel so angry! We both wanted children and I don't think either of us are thrilled with the baby stage but obviously we have to get through it! I've gone back to work early as I felt I was losing myself and my identity. I'm only back part time though and this is another thing that makes me think - why?! Why is my pay cut, my career put on hold. It was never even discussed whether he could go back part time and I'm hating myself for just blindly conforming to this role of motherhood that has been fed to me. It is SO unlike me.

How did it work for you, practically with your first child? Did you take it turns to be the "main caregiver" on certain days? I just feel so so angry and am starting to really resent him and I'm even resenting being a woman. It's all so out of character for me.

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 08:54:31

MyCrisp Sorry - I X posted with you. You are both right. I need the discussion but I just know he'll act as if I'm nagging. I have worked bloody hard at getting him to do his fair share in all other aspects of our lives together. This will be such a fight sad

Pinkheart5915 Sun 13-Mar-16 09:01:34

You need to sit down as a couple and take this over.

Every couple is different.

After our ds was born ( also 6 months now) my husband took his job down to part time ( his a solicitor) to spend time at home with me and the baby. I own a dance studio but will not go back to work until baby goes to prep school at 3.
So both of us are home and we do equal cooking dinner, shopping etc.
Baby stuff dressing, nappy changes, bath time cuddles is done together or equally
The feeding was mainly done by me as I was breastfeeding but I started expressing a few months ago and my husband equally does that now too.
Once or twice a week he takes baby out and I get some me time.

Pinkheart5915 Sun 13-Mar-16 09:02:02

Talk not take

MyCrispBag Sun 13-Mar-16 09:29:33

How did it work for you, practically with your first child? Did you take it turns to be the "main caregiver" on certain days?

I did exactly what you did, I was complicit in allowing my husband to think the baby was my job, blamed myself and bitterly resented him. We argued a lot and it got resolved by the baby growing older (baby is now 14).

I wish I had more to offer you in way of practical advice.

Kiwiinkits Sun 13-Mar-16 09:34:41

This doesn't conform to feminism norms but it might help in your situation. Change your mindset! This stage of your baby's life is so short. Instead of resenting it and thinking it's all so dreadful, see your time together as a gift. Be grateful for it. Your husband is the one missing out, actually.
And now I will wait to be flamed.

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 09:37:55

MyCrisp - I'm sorry to hear that. But pleased that it did resolve itself for you. I must must must try to tackle this now!

I know I need solutions rather than just saying how shit it feels for me though.

MyCrispBag Sun 13-Mar-16 09:37:57

This stage of your baby's life is so short. Instead of resenting it and thinking it's all so dreadful, see your time together as a gift.

Is terrible advise, but not because (or not only because) of feminist norms. Telling somebody to feel a difference emotion? Seriously?

MyCrispBag Sun 13-Mar-16 09:39:28

Gahhhh what a terribly written post. =( Damn mumsnet and it's lack of editing.

MyCrispBag Sun 13-Mar-16 09:40:58

Channel

I absolutely agree you should, I wasn't trying to say it was unsolvable just that I couldn't/didn't solve it. I was very young then (as was my husband),I would like to think it would have been different had we had kids later.

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 09:41:30

Kiwi - I don't resent all the time with my baby. I resent the loss of freedom that has come with it that hasn't come for my husband. Children will of course make you less free but I feel like we should share that.

Stillwishihadabs Sun 13-Mar-16 09:41:58

I think a good start is arranging to do something out of the house that the baby can't come to ( I went to a yoga class on Saturday mornings) this could be exercise, socialising what ever you did before. Arrange it far enough in advance that you "get in first" on that particular bit of time.

As for the work thing, what would be your ideal ? Both pt ? Both ft ? Whichever way you organise it he should be responsible for 50% of pick up/ drop offs at childcare. For us it happened organically because I worked shifts so DH was the default parent when I was working at night or at the weekend.

AStreetcarNamedBob Sun 13-Mar-16 09:43:34

I'm going to take a deep breathe and ignore kiwiink in the interest of not starting an argument.

OPThis sadly happens all the time in our society it was the same with me. Blindly went from being feminist main wage earner to SAHM being the sole carer. The more I did for baby the more DH was less capable than me. I put it more hours so became a baby expert so it was a vicious circle where I did more because I was good at it.

I woke up quite quickly and we had Dc2 18m later and it was a lot more equal. I'm now due DC3 and DH is taking the time off this time.

The biggest hurdle is realising what's happening. Maybe you need to start doing what he does. If he says "I'm off to the pub 12-2" say oh what about baby? Because I'm meeting Sue for lunch then.

If he says "but you didn't ask me to have baby" you can point out why would you ask? He didn't ask? And he will realise that he's been expecting you to have baby.

One thing is certain you HAVE TO nip this in the bud or I promise you will resent your DH. I started being so bitter before we sorted it so it HAS to be sorted. Don't just suck it up

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 09:43:50

Sorry MyCrisp - I did understand what you meant with your post! That "must" sentence was me trying to gee myself up.

LittleBearPad Sun 13-Mar-16 09:47:10

Your DD is not crawling is she yet. I assume not. So she could be sat in a corner of a room with her toys and be quite happy.

Is there any reason your DH can't look after her and do the DIY? Clearly it depends what it is but it isn't a given that DIY can't be combined with childcare.

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 09:48:37

Thank you AStreetcar. You have summed up a lot of what is going on for me perfectly - I was independent, outgoing, main earner and now I'm none of those things. Often baby things fall to me because I am faster and more efficient but that's purely because of the hours I put in - I am no earth mother!

The suggestions you made are good ones as well, thank you.

ChannelFiftySeven Sun 13-Mar-16 09:54:19

LittleBearPad maybe DIY was the wrong label. It's more knocking down walls outside. Incidentally my daughter became mobile just this week and has never been a baby that you can just plonk down for long unfortunately!

I am however, enjoying one of the longest naps she's had in a while at the moment and feeling guilty for being on here instead of doing the laundry.

MyCrispBag Sun 13-Mar-16 09:57:55

I did something terribly unfeminist and asked my husband what he thought.

I should add that now my husband does the majority of housework and childcare and I am more career focused. We agree on reflection that we should have divided the work like this from the start (although we couldn't have done really but that's another story).

He gave very similar advice to the advice AStreetcar gave. Tell him what you are planning and see his reaction, then use that as a starting point.

FurryGiraffe Sun 13-Mar-16 10:05:57

I think it's very difficult to avoid becoming the default baby-carer for a while, especially if you EBF. You're on maternity leave, you're with the baby all the time, you're more tuned in, you develop expertise (in such thrilling questions as how to stop the screaming and when not to make sure they nap!) You may well criticise your partner for not doing it your way (I tried really really hard not to and I know I still did on occasion- out of pure exasperation that he was doing something I knew/had told him would be a disaster). He resents being told he's incompetent and withdraws. It's a bloody nightmare.

What made the difference for us was when I finished maternity leave. We both went back four days so we each have two days a week at home with DS (DH works Saturdays) and we became equal parents. DH has developed as much expertise as me and has been forced to remember changing bags/stick with nap routines etc because he is also the one who gets it in the neck if DS has a nap at 5! He is now, incidentally, thoroughly infuriated by societal assumptions that men are crap at childcare and regularly rages at me about it: the other day he met up with a (female) friend for lunch who congratulated him on arriving complete with a bib and a colouring book for DS. He was fuming at the sexism!

I'm currently 31 weeks with DC2 so it'll be interesting to see how things are this time around.

tribpot Sun 13-Mar-16 10:08:55

I think the reason you are feeling frustrated is in anticipation of him not recognising the inequality of the situation you're now in. You described a reasonably equal marriage prior to the baby (although I note that his chores were the more obviously rewarding ones of making stuff, rather than the drudgery of repeated, invisible tasks like cleaning). From your first post I thought 'well this sounds like it can be sorted out just by sitting down and having a proper chat about things'. Then you posted I have worked bloody hard at getting him to do his fair share in all other aspects of our lives together. This will be such a fight and I thought 'ah. That's the problem.'

You're starting from a very difficult place if he doesn't already accept that roles within the house should be equal (and that all work is valuable?). However, there is nothing stopping you from having a conversation that says:
- would you consider going part-time as well to reduce our childcare costs and mean you have sole caring responsibility for our dd? [Frankly as the main earner it would have made more financial sense for him to have gone part-time and not you, why was that never discussed?]
- I ask because you seem to have fallen into a pattern of assuming that is my job unless I specifically request 'time off'.
- this is not the case. We are equally her parents and we need to work out a routine that gives us both equal downtime, and where neither party is presented with a fait accompli by the other.

If he actually says you're nagging, I'd respond with 'nagging is a word used by sexists to shut down a discussion they don't want to participate in. I hope you have more respect for me than that'.

But the first step is to initiate the discussion and see how difficult a task this is (or isn't) going to be.

Ubik1 Sun 13-Mar-16 10:12:44

It took us a long time to get to a working partnership. In fact it took three children!

I was a SAHM for 5 years, p/t worker for 2 and now f/t for 2 years. I am
Exhausted but happier.

The key is to
Get your partner to
Understand the baby is his too

So
If he is playing golf and had just assumed you will look after baby then you just need to
Ask what he is doing with the baby at that time as you have made other arrangements.

You need to talk expectations. Could he compress his hours/work
Part time? So that you could share childcare equally?

It's really worth thinking about you tiles and what each other want.

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