Now That’s A Real Break.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


My husband and I are one of those couples that divide up the childcare and household responsibilities without ever discussing them. He takes care of groceries, garbage, light bulbs, basketball coaching and taxes. I do diapers, play dates, doctors’ appointments, pet care, date nights and midnight sick kid duty. I don’t recommend this system – talking about strengths, weaknesses, preferences and fairness seems to lead to more ideal solutions -- but somehow this haphazard divide-and-conquer works for us.


Except that I have gotten stuck packing for all three kids and myself for every trip, vacation and weekend away for 13 years. My husband always shrugs off packing with a dismissive “Come on, honey, it’s no big deal.” And then he’d watch me, time and time again, as I frantically scrambled to pack pacifiers, diapers, Tylenol, toothbrushes, favorite books, prized stuffed animals, shoes and underwear for everyone – while simultaneously getting the kids showered, dressed, fed, and out the door. A monumentally boring, stress-filled job. By the time we pulled out of the driveway, I was a sweaty frazzled resentful banshee with a throat sore from shouting.


Meantime my husband would casually shower, eat a sandwich and pack for himself without a care about forgotten blankies or bathing suits. During the packing frenzy he would invariably say something sufficiently clueless and condescending to make me want to garrote him, like “Wow, you are really stressed out! Why don’t you just relax and enjoy yourself? We’re on vacation, babe!”


It often took several hours – or days – for me to calm down.


This year my husband surprised me by offering to pack everything and everyone himself.


“All packing. All kid prep,” he said. “You need a break. Get some exercise, get some work done, I’ve got this one.”


Speechless, I agreed.


Perhaps he was motivated by the fact that for the past three months I’ve been taking care of my dying mother. My world is filled with medicine, diapers (adult this time), nurses, tearful visitors and hospice care. Without a doubt, it’s the most stress and sadness I’ve ever experienced in one finite time period. I had two mini-nervous-breakdowns in the past week alone; my husband was probably terrified of me packing for the family in that state.


Departure morning I slept late, went running, packed my bag, and showered up. I did not make breakfast or lunch or fold a single sweater for our ski trip. I did not print out the boarding passes. I ignored the kids’ wild shouting “Who has my socks? Where are my goggles?”


I gotta say, it was awfully relaxing. A real break.



I can totally relate! I always pack for my two boys and myself and get the same "it only takes ten minutes to pack" comment every time! While he does set up the light timers and the electronics (Gameboys, iPods, etc), I'm always running around cleaning out the fridge, packing extra goodies, snacks for the ride/flight, etc. The ONE time he offered to pack he did a pretty good job except one son had only two pairs of socks and the other had only old long sleeve shirts that didn't fit anymore.

leslie morgan s...

Leslie Morgan Steiner

That's the dirty little secret about divorce...that it can often lead to "equally shared parenting" FINALLY!!!

However, reading between the lines, some people blame moms for "doing it all" and not "letting" dads do more. I think this is baloney. Dads need to be more proactive about parenting and childcare and housecare, period, and then maybe there might be fewer divorces! Not Moms' faults!


I absolutely LOVED this post!!! I can completely relate. Anytime my husband, 2 year old son, and myself go somewhere, it's always my responsibility to get myself ready, get my son ready, and get the diaper bag packed. Meanwhile, my hubby takes a relaxing shower then watches a little tv or plays the PS3. When it's close to time to leave, he gets all drill sergeant, rushing me, and asking why I'm not ready yet. I can't even imagine how many things would be forgotten or the crazy mismatched outfit our son would be wearing if he were in charge!


When I first got divorced, I always worried about what my kids were doing "over there" — was he feeding them? getting them to the doctor on time? making sure they did their homework? — all things he never did when we were married.

When we women stop doing things, and let the men take over, it's amazing that, yes, they can do it.

If every marriage did that, they'd be less-stressed (and resentful) moms, more dads who "get" it, kids who get to see their parents in different roles and, I'll bet, fewer divorces.