Think Partnered Parenting Is Hard? Try Going Solo
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Commentator Lori Gottlieb is a brand new single mother. Most of her friends who are moms are not, and that's where the trouble begins.
LORI GOTTLIEB: I can't take the crying anymore. I mean, if I hear one more whah, whah, whah, I'm just going to lose it. I'm not talking about the whah, whah, whah of my adorable newborn son, but the whah, whah, whah of the new mothers I've encountered. It all started when I stopped by a Mommy and Me group. I figured it wouldn't matter that I was the only single mom there. We would all be new to parenting, overwhelmed with feeding schedules and dizzy from sleep deprivation. But as we went around the room each woman lodged a complaint against her spouse. Soon I realized this wasn't Mommy and Me, it was Mommy, Me and My Slacker Husband.
I began like this, my husband makes dinner but then he leaves all the dishes in the sink, like I have time to do the dishes. Another chimed in with, when my husband gives the baby a bottle at night, he always forgets to change her diaper. Another grumbled that whenever her husband gave her a massage, he wanted to have sex afterward, but all she wanted to do was sleep. Then she looked at me to indicate that it was my turn. I couldn't think of anything to gripe about that these women would relate to. If I want a massage I have to use a credit card. If I want someone to do the cooking, I have to write a check. And as for feeding the baby at night, sometimes I'll splurge and pay two hundred bucks for a baby nurse, or what I like to call my surrogate husband, without benefits. Heck, I don't even get a kiss goodnight. But the more I talk to friends with new babies, the more I noticed that when I asked how they were doing, they inevitably trashed their husbands. My friend Wendy was annoyed because when her husband was watching their daughter, he put her in a baby swing while he played computer games. I nodded in empathy, with her husband. Maybe he was tired from working all week, I wanted to say. Besides, who cares if he's playing with his Game Boy or looking at Internet porn? Wendy got to take a bath, an actual bath. No matter what these women said about their husbands, there was always a silver lining that only I could see.
There were the husbands who wouldn't do housework but who would put together the cribs, carriers, baby gyms and high tech toys with the expertise only a Y chromosome provides. The ones who wouldn't cook but would gladly pick up groceries. The ones who refused to do night feedings because they had to wake up early, but who paid all the household bills. The ones who were unemployed, but who took care of the baby while mom went to work.
A colleague complained that although her husband happily cleans up poop, spit- up and sings as many mind numbing renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that it take to get their baby to sleep, he won't volunteer his help. She always has to ask. If I didn't ask, she moaned, my husband would do nothing. Oh the horror, I thought. These women don't appreciate the dozens of tiny baby related things even the most non-participatory of husbands do on a daily basis. But look, I'm not complaining either. As I tell my son each day, I'm so lucky to have him that I feel like I've won the mommy lottery. Besides, I'm betting some of these husbands might leave their whining wives eventually. And when they do, they sure sound like good catches to me.
NORRIS: Commentator Lori Gottlieb lives in Los Angeles with her son Zach.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.