Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when your spouse feels they have a Get Out Of Parenting Free card simply because they work more hours than you? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I work a part-time job from home (pandemic or not, I’m always working from home) and my husband has a typical office job that he has now been doing from home since March. His job is pretty intense, and he works a full day every day. My job requires concentration and I can’t slack off while doing it, but I work half as many hours as he does. He thinks that when our kids (ages four and two) have a need throughout the day (so, a million times) that I’m the one who has to meet it, no question. His argument is that I work less hours, and I’m the one who’s home all the time anyway so “nothing has changed.” While these things are true, it’s kind of weird that he just refuses to acknowledge a crying child or a hungry child (his “office” is in our den so he has very little privacy from them) because he’s working. When I work, I have to work and meet their needs with little to no intervention from him. Am I wrong to think he needs to step it up? I know he won’t be working from home forever and it’ll all go back to “normal” at some point, but it’s pissing me TF off.
I genuinely cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard women describe this exact same frustration during the last 10 months. So please know you’re not alone. But also, please know nothing about your husband’s attitude or outlook is acceptable.
While this year has thrown many of us for a loop when it comes to balancing working from home and parenting and schooling, one thing it didn’t do is absolve anyone from responsibility. If anything, it’s slammed us all with a significant amount of additional stressors. So why your husband thinks it’s okay to act like he’s the only one being inconvenienced here is worth exploring.
I don’t care if he works 12 hours a day. I don’t care if he’s curing cancer from your den. I don’t care if you work 13 minutes a day. He’s the other parent, he chose to be a parent, and regardless of whether the kids are around or not, he’s a parent. He doesn’t just get to take off the Dad Hat the second he opens his laptop. When he’s away at the office and can’t directly soothe his crying child, he can’t be faulted for that. But when he’s at home, right in his kids’ faces, hearing them express their needs and he’s not like, actively in the middle of saving someone’s life (or, more realistically, in the middle of a bullshit meeting that could have been an email but he can’t get out of it), then he should be able and willing to put a quick pin in whatever he’s in the middle of to be “Dad” and not just “Cog in the Corporate Machine.”
We’re all doing it. We’re all trying our best. Some employers are being very reasonable about this, what with there being a deadly pandemic, childcare crisis, economic disaster, and mental health crisis all occurring simultaneously and all. And some employers think that everything should be running “business as usual,” because, well, American capitalism is a special brand of abuse. If this is part of your husband’s issue, that sucks. It truly does. That’s patriarchy for you — he’s a male employee so no one likely considers the fact that he’s responsible for parenting his own children during the workday.
But he knows he’s responsible for parenting his own children during the workday. And he needs to do just that while he’s working from home.