Parenting isn’t always fair or equal

Until a few weeks ago, I worked in upper management … of our household. Since I only worked part time and from the comfort of my own home, I was left, almost by default, to take care of domestic duties. That meant keeping track of doctor appointments, making dinner, going grocery shopping, organizing playdates and sometimes waiting for hours on hold with the health insurance company.

Three generations of mothers harvesting strawberries last summer. Photo by Brian Feulner

Three generations of mothers harvesting strawberries last summer. Photo by Brian Feulner

To me, it felt fair. My husband is in a management role at work and also in the process of starting a side business. He has long days multiple times a week, and is often fielding phone calls and emails late into the night. I on the other hand, had roughly 25 hours of work to do each week and quite a bit of flexibility.

For a long time I was satisfied, even happy, with our arrangement. And that was a good thing for our marriage. According to the Council on Contemporary Families, when women’s perceptions of fairness rise, couples experience less marital conflict.

Cooking with mom.

Cooking with mom.

But now, I’m at work all day too and recently, those feelings of fairness have diminished. Resentment, jealousy and guilt have quietly and slowly crept in.

There’s still laundry to fold, dishes to wash, meals to prepare and babies to take to school. Not to mention the self-reproach felt knowing my daughter is at daycare multiple hours of the day.

“Why can’t I calm the baby?” I find myself asking in a moment of irrational desperation ignoring the fact that she’s teething and fighting the flu. “Is she bonding more with her teachers and now doesn’t want to turn to me for comfort?”

But worse than the guilt, is the overwhelmed feeling that consumes me some nights, particularly towards the end of the week or when the baby is particularly fussy.

Teaching baby the art of music. Something dad does better than mom.

Teaching baby the art of music. Something dad does better than mom.

In talking with a friend recently, the feeling that all things are not fair and equal is not unique to the Feulner household. As a fellow momma put it, some days you’re completely exhausted, your partner wants to help, but you just can’t lie in bed listening to baby cry.

Ultimately, all children have a primary caregiver whether it’s mom, dad, a big brother, a teacher or a foster parent. Once you’re that designated person, you can’t really let drop the reins like the other people in baby’s life can.

But I guess that’s why there are so many essays out there on the world wide web about how you really can’t “have it all.” It’s hard to articulate without sounding whiny, but there are just some times as a parent that the whole “equal” thing is not as evenly distributed as we think it should be.

I know eventually the tides will turn, there are already things dad does better and more frequently than I do. And in those moments I have to remember to slow down, relish in the help and let go of the control.

Natalie Feulner

About Natalie Feulner

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the same time.