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Feminism: chat

Do men have an innate sense of importance?

62 replies

Icecreamistoocold · 23/01/2023 18:59

Am having a hard time negotiating the work/ childcare balance with my DH. After the birth of our second child I went back to work full time and he was the stay at home parent. This choice was made because I earned more and he genuinely wanted to be a SAHP. I had done it with our first and discovered that I liked work better. Ideally we would have both worked part time but couldn’t find 2 part time roles that paid well and worked together.

DH did a great job as a SAHP, he did the housework, cooked and did all the baby group’s etc. It wasn’t perfect but it worked for us.

Fast forward ten years and DH is back at work. He started with part time work but has recently started his own business. It’s going well and he is in demand (although pay is not high). At the moment we can’t afford for me to go PT and I am still the higher earner.

The problem is that now DH works he is rubbish at supporting family life. He has slacked on house work and child care. I have pushed back and in the end we have worked out a schedule so we are both pulling our weight. I am happy to do my share but was annoyed that because he started working more it’s fine for him to drop domestic responsibilities!

I have also noticed that he expects his work to take precedence if we have a conflict. This has taken me by surprise as he always acts like his work is more important. I feel like there is something within men that makes them feel superior. It’s like his contribution is always more important no matter the circumstances. It’s very strange to notice. I keep having to push back and remind him that we both work so there needs to be constant negotiation.

I am starting to believe that men believe they are naturally superior and more important than women. My DH would deny this if asked but I don’t think he is even aware of it. I guess it’s male privilege?

OP posts:

Namenic · 24/01/2023 08:29


Lockedinforwinter · 24/01/2023 08:43

I don't think it is surprising that men end up thinking their work is more important. It wasn't that long ago that most women stayed home to look after the home and DC, and the men worked. I don't think society has moved on from that yet mentally. I have a very equal set up with DH, and it comes up over and over again that people assume that the domestic roles are down to me. We have a cleaner, and I have been told so many times that I'm lazy and should be doing it myself. Not DH, who works half the hours I do!

I also had similar issues to you OP when DH went part time, but the mental load remained with me. I'd be at work, texting him to make sure DC had everything they needed for school, or remembered appointments. We had several conversations about it, and it did eventually improve, but the default was definitely that it was my responsibility despite me working twice the hours.


VioletaDelValle · 24/01/2023 08:47

I don't think it's innate, it's social conditioning/nurture.

And they can be conditioned out of it but it does need challenging.

We were in a situation where our school drop off/pick up plan was solely dictated by his work schedule which made it quite challenging for me. I pointed this out and once he could see what was happening he made efforts to change .... he didn't even realise he was doing it so it wasn't malicious. It didn't help that he was surrounded by people at work who did have someone else doing all the childcare.

The fact your DH did step up when was a SAHD but changed when he went back to work would suggest it's social conditioning not an innate quality.


FinallyHere · 24/01/2023 08:56

Great checklist @Namenic


It might be comfortable to go with the innate explanation, lots of people do, to explain why society appears to supports his view

I honestly think it's more accurately explained by the rule of 'worth a try'. If you act as if you are 'too important' or whatever for the grunt tasks and someone else picks them up, you are pretty much winning at life, making it worth a try.

Sincerely hope you can have the conversation about pulling once weight or earning one's oxygen rights.

Since you would then be swimming against the tide of societies expectation, you would need to resign yourself to a good stretch of remaining alert and continuing to point out the inequality.

I very much hope you remain vigilant but understand that you may prefer to retire more comfortably below the parapet and 'accept' it's how it is.

It happened to me, now DH is genuinely too old and infirm to pull his weight. Sigh.


lordloveadog · 24/01/2023 08:57

My DH always thinks anything he's doing is more important than anything I'm doing. If he applies his brain to the question, he can see it's not necessarily true. But that's his baseline assumption.

And I've seen this over and over again with friends' male partners. They think what they want to do is far more urgent and important, even when it's clearly completely unrealistic, like spending years building a recording studio no one ever uses.


RememberFlimsy · 24/01/2023 09:00

Men are definitely conditioned to think their work is an integral part of who they are, and that's the reason why they are so defensive of their jobs and why so few men are SAHD. Men who don't have a job are looked down on by many people, including women. And women are conditioned to accept this set up and to believe that their own jobs are "optional" - something they are likely to give up, or no longer consider important, when they have children. It's something I've seen in so many relationships around me, where the DH's job is so important he couldn't possibly be at home before 7pm, and the wife accepts it as a given.
Having said that, I do wonder if the OP's DH doesn't simply think it's "his turn" now? Perhaps he is so happy to be back at work he's kind of forgotten about housework... Trying to give him the benefit of the doubt here!


Beamur · 24/01/2023 10:41

Yes, this is the patriarchy.
Even more illuminating when you see it in action with a generally decent bloke who knows what it's like to be a SAHP.


ImBlueDab · 24/01/2023 10:51

I think you're right OP and after. I've always been the higher earner, but when I went back to work following my mat leave, it was always me that has to leave work of dc were ill etc, my dh would always push back and act like his job was more 'important'


Icecreamistoocold · 24/01/2023 16:17

@FinallyHere i think there might be something in that. He is kind of chancing his luck and hoping that I won’t mind doing more as he is back at work now. However I know how nice it is when you share duties so am not falling for it!

OP posts:

FinallyHere · 24/01/2023 16:19

Let's give 'em the benefit of the doubt and suggest its unconscious but otherwise, I'd say absolutely. @Icecreamistoocold


Beamur · 24/01/2023 16:36

My DH is as nice a bloke as you could find, has been the primary caregiver for his older kids, still expects me to be the default parent for DD. Has probably never booked a haircut or dental appointment for his older kids either. Female = primary responsibility for children. Not just kids either, when my MIL was temporarily staying with us while a care home place became available, he did a lot, but somehow, getting Mum dressed and sorting out commodes and such like was something he couldn't cope with. She didn't like him doing it either.
I don't think this is unusual in my experience.
Why do women put up with it? I guess there's many reasons. Partly our own social conditioning.


Icecreamistoocold · 24/01/2023 16:49

I also wonder now that he is back in a perceived male role and no longer a SAHP that he seems to think think he no longer needs to do the other stuff.

Its interesting how willing men are to overlook things as I was always very mindful not to take him for granted when he was doing all the grunt work with the babies!

To be clear he does do the housework now I’ve pulled him up on it but as someone said above I think I am always going to have to be vigilant with this. The same with the assumption I will organise child care when we have a clash.

Its all sounding worse than it is. I am generally very happy in the relationship.

I am just surprised at having to deal with this stuff with a man who has always been good with making sure our relationship is equal. It’s like he is fighting his natural instinct to assume his needs always come first.

OP posts:

Untitledsquatboulder · 24/01/2023 17:37

What about imposter syndrome? After quite a few arguments it came out that my dh always prioritises his work because deep down he feels insecure in his abilities (he's pretty senior and always gets good feedback) and is worried about what will happen if he "fails". Don't know if that sound like your dh but if he's been out if the workplace a long time then maybe he does feel a pressure to prove himself and you do lose confidence after many years as a SAHP


mackthepony · 24/01/2023 17:44

It's interesting (or sad, pathetic, mean) how men will allow women to take on the lion's share. It's a rare man who will say, hang on, things aren't fair here.

It's not in their interests to lose power. And they know that.


Icecreamistoocold · 24/01/2023 17:58

@Untitledsquatboulder i don’t think he has imposter syndrome but I think he is anxious to make the business a success. He is very talented and also hard working and passionate about what he does. I am very proud of him. He has definitely found his “calling” as I am more a work to live person. I think that passion has in the past been used as an excuse for neglecting housework duties and taking advantage of my good nature. He is definitely a bit of a delicate artist type sometimes!

OP posts:

Icecreamistoocold · 24/01/2023 18:05

Yes @mackthepony that’s the dynamic that fascinates me. I don’t mind helping people but I think men are more reluctant as they somehow think it reflects on them in a way that makes them less important.

My situation in reality is pretty mild and I am not shy about pushing back. I have a friend whose husband is a well known activist locally. He leads a lot of campaigns and is very vocal about equal rights. She moans about him constantly, how he does nothing at home, always leaving everything to her. He values equal rights when it’s a high profile campaign but doesn’t practice what he preaches at home. The importance of equality only matters when it’s in a high profile more important situation.

I don’t know why she doesn’t challenge him on it more. I know she shouldn’t have to but it’s never going to change if she doesn’t.

OP posts:

Glassbow · 25/01/2023 01:11

I knew someone who'd worked for a charity in rural Nepal. The men felt that their work was much harder and more important than the women's work. The charity workers sat down with them and wrote down what the men did and what the women did. It became apparent to everybody that in fact the women did most of the work, while the men pretty much lazed around.


ComfortablyDazed · 25/01/2023 01:43

No, it’s not innate.

It’s a constant drip-drip of socialisation that begins as soon as young people (children) start to become aware of the world around them.

Something happens that’s ostensibly ‘good’ but actually undermines women’s position, while reinforcing men’s ‘superiority’.

I have a tween and a young teen, and I’ve been noticing this for a while.

For example, in 2016 - ‘USA on the verge of electing first female president!’

Again in 2016, ‘Theresa May is Britain’s second PM!’

Pride in my home country that we were the first country to give women the vote.

Etc. Etc….

These are all good things. But every time I hear/read one of these ‘good news’ stories, I worry about what my DS is hearing and taking away about that.

It’s 2023, and the USA has never had a woman president? Why? Are they not up to the job? What’s wrong with women, that they can’t get the gig?

The UK has only had 2 female PMs, compared with XXX male ones? Why? Again, are women that incompetent?

Women got the vote much later than men? Why? They’re clearly not as good as men.

I am literally touching the absolute tip of the iceberg here. But this sort of thing is so widespread.

Men are constantly told/shown they rule they world. The women who manage to rise to the top, are the exceptions that prove the rule - which is: women aren’t up to the job. And when the self-styled ‘leader of the free world’ (AKA the USA) hasn’t even managed it at all, there’s obviously something really sub-standard about women. And then they’re ousted due to unrelenting misogynistic attacks (see: Jacinda Adern).

This is the drip-drip message that young people get.

And then the ‘Matthew Effect’ (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer) kicks in, and men coast along on their own self-importance, while women are constantly relegated to second best.


XanaduKira · 25/01/2023 07:03

@ComfortablyDazed 3 female PMs


flabbygoldfish · 25/01/2023 08:57

I work in a male dominated workplace and fo a sport which the majority is male. I do a lot of listening ☹️. Most of it self indulgent hot air.

If I am speaking or recounting a tale I will get spoken over by a man who just has to be heard. They do not even realise they are doing it.


ComfortablyDazed · 25/01/2023 09:51

XanaduKira · 25/01/2023 07:03

@ComfortablyDazed 3 female PMs

So you really got the point I was making.


Isheabastard · 25/01/2023 10:37

Yes I do believe men (NAMALT, some, most) have a more selfish streak. Is this down to innate biology and the extra testosterone, or is social conditioning, or both?

If something needed to be done, I know I would always have to wait for my husband to finish what he was doing first, wheras I would interrupt my own task. Maybe I should have been more like him.

Added into the fact I believe men generally are more competitive amongst each other, and have more face to lose.

As already said, it could be that after years of being a good STAHD, he feels it’s now his turn. It might be that his natural masculine traits have come to the fore and his chance to shine/prove himself have carried him on a bit of an ego trip. I don’t mean this in a nasty way, but it’s a natural consequence. It could happen to a mother who suddenly starts working, but I believe some/many/most women, like you would stop and check what is fair.

It may be as time progresses, things go back to normal with shared work.

But I get your point, you thought your husband wasn’t like this, and then you find he is, so hence your question.


deydododatdodontdeydo · 26/01/2023 10:22

He has neglected his career for 10 years (as many women do) and is now prioritising it (as many women do when they return to work).
So he's slacking in the domestic chores department unsurprisingly and you've picked him up on it and he's responded positively.
A happy ending all round.


Icecreamistoocold · 26/01/2023 11:18

Yes @deydododatdodontdeydo you are right. I am really proud of how his career is flourishing. I am looking forward to a time that he might earn more than me and I can go part time.

Its really not a terrible situation and as you say we have worked it out. It is a big adjustment for me having us both juggle more. I am sure there will be many more times when we have to work out all the work and childcare situations.

It just struck me that I don’t think women have to be reminded to juggle housework and work commitments. It makes me think that women are naturally more willing to compromise as men prioritise themselves. If a woman went back to work she would probably have to spend ages preparing her husband to pick up the slack or organising childcare!

OP posts:

ManchesterGirl2 · 26/01/2023 11:21

MillicentTrilbyHiggins · 23/01/2023 19:01

I don't think it's innate, it's social conditioning/nurture.

I agree with this, people assume they are important if those around them/ society treat them as important. You can see all kinds of examples of this, gender is one of them.

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