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Am I expecting too much, or is his attitude a bit sexist?

(24 Posts)
bookiewook Fri 14-Feb-20 17:43:41

Long post, sorry! Full of first world problems too.

I am pg and married (happily). DH at present and for the 5 or so years we have been together has appeared to be a thoroughly modern man. He cooks, he cleans, he likes things to be tidy and organised and eg for us to have a meal plan for the week, and he more than pulls his weight in making sure that this happens. I don't currently feel like I do too much 'wife work', as is often complained of on MN. Admittedly no kids yet. I definitely expend more energy on certain aspects of our joint life than he does (mostly frippery like researching holidays and decorating the house), but he does other stuff. He is a high earner and has to work hard and there is definitely some presenteeism at his workplace meaning longish hours. I am also a high earner, but much less than him. My job is more flexible and I'm also not particularlydisciplined (unlike him) but I muddle through and seem to be doing quite well at work too smile So far, so rosy, I can't complain about my life at all.

I just have this strong sense of foreboding that when we have a baby and I am on mat leave, and then after I go back to work, things are going to become and stay very unequal. It's just a few things he has said and done recently that make me think he has certain ideas about how his life basically won't change, and mine will. It's hard to explain, but it's almost as if there is some very deep-seated misogyny (maybe too strong) lurking beneath the surface.

They are tiny things really: Like he observed today that if we give the baby a bottle once a day, I will be able to go and do stuff with friends a bit even when breast feeding. I was a bit surprised to hear that he had previously thought I would have to give up my life entirely. He also said that he could 'babysit' while I went to the gym in the evenings or at the weekend. These things are all said in a helpful and enthusiastic manner as if doing me a favour, but to me they imply that I would be at his mercy to bestow on me these opportunities, rather than it being part of the natural give and take of life.

One thing that quite annoyed me recently is that he announced that he was going to take 1 week of paternity leave. Didn't introduce it as a discussion, or ask what I would like. I think the standard is 2 weeks for men, especially for a first baby? I have no idea what I'm doing looking after a newborn (!) and think if I am left alone after a week it will be quite overwhelming. That's assuming birth is straightforward, and I'm even able to cope alone! When I express any dismay the most he will concede is to see how it's going. He won't just say that he'll book 2 weeks off regardless, which is what I would like him to do. His company actually pays a few months paternity at full salary but he says it's not really the done thing to take it and will hurt his progression :-/Currently his plan is to take the second week of paternity at some point later on, tacked on to a holiday (with me I assume, but who knows!)

Other things, like I suspect that now he has been to the 2 main scans, he won't come to any more of the medical appointments with me. He will say it's too much time out of work, but it is for me too and I have to go (obviously I can't exactly not). I have so far mostly gone to appointments alone (and there have been many as we had ivf) unless there's a reason for him to be there, but I think maybe I have been too accepting of this as the status quo?

Then when we talk about getting a nanny when I go back to work, his view seems to be that he can't build any flexibility into his role at all so 'relieving the nanny' will fall to me day in day out. This of course means that if there is a late meeting for me at work, I can't attend, or the nanny has to stay longer. What about socialising after work? He can because he wouldn't be having to get home for a certain time anyway, but I can't? Ever?

I have tried correcting him on things - like pulled him up on the use of the term 'babysitting' to refer to what he will be doing when he is with his own child. I just think that deep down it is incredibly ingrained in him that my life will change a lot and he will just continue exactly as before, like his father did, and many of his male colleagues seem to. He has weekend plans for most of the 2 months leading up to my due date, it's not his fault how things have fallen, as they are mostly stag dos and other social things organised by other people, some of which I will also go to but most not. He has pissed me off today because I've just found out that he will be off doing his hobby for the entire weekend when I am 37 weeks pg (he will be home in the evenings). This has annoyed me, I feel like a) what if something happens and I go into labour and he is not around; and b) more likely, what if nothing happens and I'm not in labour but I'm also not up for doing too much so I just have to sit around on my own all weekend! It feels unfair and none of it was properly run past me, just arranged and put in the diary.

I guess I just don't feel like he sees parenthood as a fully joint effort really. But logically yes, he isn't pregnant so his life is currently the same and social events are still fun for him, and yes he does earn more than me, has a less flexible job, and is probably more ambitious, and I don't much want to change places with him and take on the main breadwinner responsibility, whereas if in time I wanted to be a SAHM I think that he would and could facilitate that for me. I also couldn't earn as much as he does anyway (which is annoying as the solution to all of this would be to get a better job than him grin). Rationally I know it is a luxurious position to be in and one can't have it all ways (yes wouldn't we all love to have an ambitious well paid husband who does his fair share around the house and also doesn't mind too much missingout on career advancement to change nappies if that would make you feel more equal, but will still be able to pull in the salary so that you also have the option not to work if you don't fancy). I know he already does a million times more than the feckless idiots out there, and hopefully this is a good sign for the future. He is definitely excited about starting a family and 100% into it. I wonder if I am just trying to find an issue where there isn't one either because my expectations are too high or because of my own feelings about the loss of my carefree existence, and blaming him for it because he is most obvious culprit. Or is this how it starts, how all those once bright and independent women gradually relinquish their careers and take on more and more responsibility in the home until one day they wake up to find DH has had an affair and there career is stagnant or rusty at best, with much less earning potential than they might have had? I get that biology means that there is always going to be a certain bias to it being this way around, except for a few couples, but it just feels like such a done deal.

Insights welcome... so far attempts to discuss have not been very openly received sad Because he is pro-active around the house, he finds any suggestion that his attitude might be rather old fashioned to be utterly absurd.

Hooferdoofer37 Fri 14-Feb-20 17:54:31

Have you been to NCT classes yet?

When you have a group of pregnant couples in a room and one of the men says daft things like "I'm only going to take 1 week paternity leave" the reaction of the rest of the room tends to knock those stupid ideas right out of them.grin

Do any of your close friends/family have small babies?

Invite them round for dinner and get them to speak very openly and honestly about things that would help your case, such as how their baby arrived at 36 weeks or how difficult the first couple of weeks were to get through.

He doesn't seem to have grasped the reality of having a child yet, you are going to need to spell it out to him in small words that he understands!

bookiewook Fri 14-Feb-20 17:59:49

Thanks for your reply. Good point about NCT - I have booked them but no not started. Was pretty difficult to fit them around his hectic social schedule too!

I thought about getting a doula (well the thought hadn't crossed my mind, but I heard a friend did it).

And yes, one of his best pals is about to have one and we do have others in the family too. So maybe he will start to realise.

At this point I find myself almost hoping to have to have a c-section so that he has no option but to be fully hands on!

LannieDuck Fri 14-Feb-20 18:40:46

Yes, this is how it starts. Stop setting the bar so low (practically zero) - he splits parental leave with you half and half, so you do the first half and then goes back to work while he does the second half.

Pick-ups/drop-offs from a childminders or nanny are split equally. Sick days are alternated. You both get free time at weekends and evenings. You split the lie-ins at weekends, and when the working parent doesn't have to work the next day they do the overnight wake-ups to give the SAHP a chance for some sleep.

LannieDuck Fri 14-Feb-20 18:42:41

he says it's not really the done thing to take it and will hurt his progression

...and if he complains about sharing the workload with you equally, tell him that anything else will hurt your progression.

They are tiny things really

They're really not.

jamaisjedors Fri 14-Feb-20 18:47:49

I agree. It's not tiny. It's a slippery slope.

With hindsight I have no idea what more I could have done to prevent this in my own marriage.

Exh was hands on with the dc, washed nappies etc but gradually his career stepped up.

What I would recommend is not letting your own career slide at all.

YakkityYakYakYak Fri 14-Feb-20 18:52:05

I can totally understand your fears, this is my current reality unfortunately; although my DH wasn’t much better before the baby so at least you are starting from a good point. I’m preparing to go back to work soon, into a more senior role and I just have no idea how I’m going to cope juggling everything with little support from him. Ultimately, I know (and I believe he knows) that I’ll prioritise DD and my career will suffer, while he prioritises his career safe in the knowledge that I’m handling everything at home. It just feels like I’m one of many many women who have fallen into this trap.

I think the societal stereotypes about what mothers and fathers do are so deeply ingrained (in all of us to some extent) that even ‘modern men’ who say they believe in equality fall back on the assumption that their wives hold ultimate responsibility for anything domestic or caring related, and that they are primarily responsible for earning.

I think the best thing you can do right now is to call your DH out when he uses sexist language (like babysitting hmm) or says things that make it clear that he isn’t fully taking responsibility for this child. I’d also suggest being really clear about what you expect from him once the baby arrives.

But wait and see what happens, you might be pleasantly surprised when the baby comes. It sounds like he is basically a decent man so there is still chance for him to step up and take these responsibilities on 50:50.

ukgift2016 Fri 14-Feb-20 18:53:14

I agree with the previous reply on not letting your career slip away. These are red flags.

Poohpooh Fri 14-Feb-20 19:03:16

Time to set expectations now OP, so he can't say he wasn't warned.

I thought paternity leave is now 6 weeks paid?

minipie Fri 14-Feb-20 19:05:59

Oh OP. I could have written your post word for word. Fast forward 8 years and I am a SAHM - not through choice but because I simply couldn’t keep up with my career when I was also doing almost all nanny handovers and child related admin/thinking. Might have worked out better if we hadn’t had terrible sleepers and one with minor SN, but still would have been tough.

With hindsight I wish I had insisted that DH take at least 2 months paternity leave. Separately from me, so he had sole care. I also should have refused to go part time/finish early for the nanny unless he did the same. This would have made a huge difference in how things panned out later. And would be less unusual these days than 8 years ago.

If you want to continue your career you need to make it clear now that he has to do his fair share (50%). Yes it may affect his progression. But it’s going to affect yours, so why the hell shouldn’t it affect his?

minipie Fri 14-Feb-20 19:07:38

PS DH is still great at domestic chores, hands on when home, not a fuckwit etc. But he will not do anything that might affect his precious career.
PPS Is he a banker perchance?

DICarter1 Fri 14-Feb-20 19:14:45

Sadly this happened with my dh. Three kids, two with Sen and I’m left carrying the load whilst he does pretty much what he did before. I’ve gone back to work part time but had to take a job that fits with the kids and I can’t call him out to get them if my work isn’t finished as he’s too important 😡

I think sadly ingrained in him is deep misogyny. I’ll admit I was young and naive and had a lot of mental health issues when I met him. Now late 30s thanks to age and MN I’m a lot wiser and would probably reconsider my relationship but I’m too trapped.

My advice is hold him to account and ensure he does his share. Men have a nasty habit of guilting women into doing what they want in the nicest of ways.

saraclara Fri 14-Feb-20 19:15:42

I suspect that now he has been to the 2 main scans, he won't come to any more of the medical appointments with me. He will say it's too much time out of work, but it is for me too and I have to go (obviously I can't exactly not).

Yebbut this bit is unreasonable. Your employer has to let you have time off for ante-natal appointments, his doesn't. It's not usual for the father to go to all the appointments. I think my husband only went to the scans (and even then, it was only due to his boss being sympathetic to him wanting to go, and covering for him)

So don't read too much into some of these things. You might actuallly be expecting too much in one or two of these areas. It seems as though you're looking for trouble (though I entirely agree that he needs putting right on a lot of them!)

bookiewook Fri 14-Feb-20 19:40:30

@saraclara - thanks for setting me straight on that, I wasn’t sure and it hadn’t occurred to me to mind at all until a) I saw someone I know there with their husband the other day, and b) I got my heckles up about the other issues. I’ll chill out about the appointments smile

bookiewook Fri 14-Feb-20 19:47:27

@ other posters, thanks so much for the insights, I’m glad I posted. I feel confused as he is a good man and certainly wants me to be a success too, and to spend time with his children. I won’t have to drag him out of the pub or off the golf course to spend time with his children. Some good points about setting expectations here. Realistically I know I will do more but I can see that it is on me to be strong about making sure my career can also progress. I’m in a field where once senior you can generally be more flexible and a lot of the work is quite autonomous. His is much more about the meetings and being there. Hopefully we can manage it so we both get to be parents and have careers.

Ps yes he is a banker @minipie ! Sorry to hear that you have suffered the same set of circumstances and thank you for sharing your advice.

Langsdestiny Fri 14-Feb-20 19:48:06

Dh didn't ask me about paternity leave either, he saved up all his annual leave plus took the full allowance, he was off for 6 weeks. But he wanted to spend time with his child. He is a high earner too. You are right to be worried.

EuroMillionsWinner Fri 14-Feb-20 20:01:37

These are flags! Do not give an inch on your career or turn you mat leave into 1950s Housewife Leave because 'you are at home'. You are right to be worried. Talk, talk, talk now and be clear and insistent. This is how it begins.

minipie Fri 14-Feb-20 20:04:55

Thought so! So is DH. Are you a lawyer, if so we have a full house of matching circs grin and I have some advice specific to that too. (Mainly, what I should have done but didn’t career wise).

OoohTheStatsDontLie Fri 14-Feb-20 20:42:49

I skim read your post OP and was about to say dont have a baby with this man. Then re read and realised you are pregnant.

For me, we started with the assumption we were going to take 6 month paternity each. We didnt because we had a baby that rejected the bottle. But everything after that has been equal. Night wakings (other than first 6 months when it was for a feed). Pick ups. drop offs. Free time for hobbies. Nights out. Days off emergency holiday when the baby is sick. Everything.

I would be very very wary. Have a discussion now or be prepared to leave and share custody 50 50. My husband earns double what I do and changed his hours to get in slightly later so he can drop off. I changed mine slightly early so I can pick up. We both catch up in the evening if we need to. You should be starting from a position that you're equal parent, he does half of EVERYTHING

ivykaty44 Fri 14-Feb-20 20:54:03

I’d sit him down and explain that this is our baby/child and not my baby to be looking after, we will both become parents with equal responsibilities, not me taking responsibility when it doesn’t quite suit you or your career. Parenthood doesn’t mean you only get to do the bits you want, you get to do all of it, sick days, shitty nappies, blah blah and it’s about being a team, doing it together & sharing the school run, parents evening, night feeds and bath time

dodgeballchamp Fri 14-Feb-20 21:02:46

Yes, this is definitely misogyny. In your position I would take the approach of just TELLING him how things will be, don’t ask him to take more time off but express that as a father and therefore someone who is duty bound to do their equal half of the parenting, he’ll be taking some time off while you recover. He will be equally responsible for leaving or missing work to cover sick days, appointments etc. If he brings up his progression then ask him why it’s acceptable to stunt your career progression but not his. “Not the done thing” at his work? You don’t care. You don’t think it’s the done thing for fathers to opt out of parenting and leave mothers without a choice

LannieDuck Fri 14-Feb-20 22:32:20

I would really, really encourage you to find a way to get him to look after the baby single-handed in the early days - parental leave is made for this. So few people take it up, and so many mothers on here bemoan that their husbands leave all the parenting to them.

He needs to feel responsible for your child in the same way that you will. Otherwise you'll always be 'default parent' (you already are, so much harder to change :/) and he'll feel free to assume he can spend his time as needed and you'll always be there to pick up the childcare logistics. You'll never get your career back because it's hard to find a job that allows you to do both drop-offs and pick-ups, and he'll be off out cycling wink at the weekends because he's 'been working so hard'.

RantyAnty Sat 15-Feb-20 03:41:20

I agree with not giving an inch on your career. He is good at doing things at home but does he do them at his convenience iykwim? He has an important job and he has the power to negotiate hours and other things at his job. Later start. Leaving to pick up a sick child and working from home. Seen many men do that. I'm in a male dominated industry and in an important role. I only took off 1 year for each of 2 DC. His social time will have to be reduced a little too.

bookiewook Mon 17-Feb-20 14:29:12

Thank you to everyone for your helpful comments and advice, really appreciated.

The good news is that DH has booked off 2 weeks paternity leave, the less good news is that he won't be taking any shared parental leave or similar I don't think, although he is potentially looking for a new job so I will keep fingers crossed for well timed gardening leave.

We have had some good discussions about things and, as previously mentioned, he is excited and keen to be hands on with the baby. We've also spent some time with extended family this weekend with lots of children around and he's great with them.

Reading my overly long OP back, I think I am a bit muddled because his attitude to the paternity leave, and his being away quite a lot in the few months before the new arrival made me concerned and made me question the long term effect on me of having a family perhaps more than I need to. I think DH does need to do a bit of growing up and accepting that life will change, but that longer term his attitude is pretty good and conversations we had this weekend reinforced that.

There are lots of posters advocating for a 50/50 split of everything and I understand why this is. For us I don't think it is going to be the right way forward - DH is more dedicated to work than I am, now, and since before I met him. He is more objectively 'successful' than me, not just financially but he also cares more, is more ambitious. I've had the big shiny career and it made me stressed and unhappy and now I have a very good career which looks possibly better than very good on paper but is quite flexible and doesn't cause me sleepless nights smile I therefore can't see how I can insist he changes his hours so that I can not do stuff for our family that actually I would be able to fit in around my existing role. If that means I don't progress as 'far' as him, that is still good for our family (including me) overall and probably only the same outcome as what would have happened if we had not had children. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the posters who have commented in stronger terms - you will help me not give too much up, and I will keep your advice in mind. For now I'm hopeful that my DH is sufficiently house-proud, family focussed, and non-lazy, that we will be able to reach a harmonious position but I will certainly keep a close eye on things!

Someone recommended that I read Fair Play, which I will order.

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