by Vicki Larson
When my marriage imploded and my then-husband and I sat in the couples therapist’s office trying to make sense of what had happened, I remember a moment when he looked at me angrily and complained about how I had to have the pillows placed a certain way on the bed.
Pillows? We were spending $125 an hour to talk about pillows when we had so many more pressing things to talk about, like, oh, infidelity and booze?
Not only did I realize that our therapist wasn’t very good — she was the first of three we eventually had — but I also saw that the daily annoyances of living with someone can add up to a lot of anger and resentment. Double or triple that if you have kids.
And that’s what’s at the heart of “Mad at Dad ” — an article by Martha Brockenbrough in the January issue of Parenting that has touched a nerve. Based on a survey of more than 1,000 mothers, the article details just how pissed off so many wives are at their husbands.
What are they angry about? Writes Brockenbrough: “We spend more mental energy on the details of parenting. We're mad that having children has turned our lives upside down much more than theirs. We're mad that these guys, who can manage businesses or keep track of thousands of pieces of sports trivia, can be clueless when it comes to what our kids are eating and what supplies they need for school. And more than anything else, we're mad that they get more time to themselves than we do."
As a once married stay-at-home mom and now a divorced full-time working mom, I have a different perspective of those pissed-off moms’ complaints.
Not to say that their complaints aren’t valid — I had a few of those same complaints myself in my marriage, and obviously, so did my ex! But if they feel like they don't have an equal partner when they actually have a partner, they might want to project what it’s like to not have a partner, period. Not surprisingly, many divorced women are still mad — at their exes — and now also taking care of everything, even the tasks their hubbies did “inadequately,” by themselves. Sure, you get to call the shots and have everything your way, but you’re also poorer and a lot more exhausted, mentally and physically.
Except for time off — and that’s one of the biggest issues, according to the article, angering more than 60 percent of moms weekly and many daily. But perhaps without even realizing it, Brockenbrough answers the dilemma — “Moms tend not to let themselves slack off when there are chores to be done” — and the poor dads evidently are getting blamed for that. To which I ask, why? Instead of getting angry at their husbands for being able to walk away and use their off time to reenergize or entertain themselves, shouldn’t the moms do the same thing?
It’s a lesson I’ve learned since my divorce, but one I wish I learned while I was still married; making time for yourself, and letting go of what happens when you’re not around. It wouldn’t have salvaged my marriage — there were much bigger issues going on — but I would have been a much happier woman. I have learned how to “slack off.”
Not too long ago, a married mom of two kids told me how she, like many married moms, secretly envy the free time divorced moms have. I get it; because I share 50 percent custody with my former husband, my kids live with their dad every other week. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to do with all that free time — I wasn’t used to it. And I worried about my kids when they were with their dad: would they eat right, sleep enough, have clean clothes, do their homework? (The answer is, yes, although his household looks and lives differently than mine.)
But that time off has become one of the blessings of my divorce, time that I devote to whatever I want to do with no apologies. If the husbands of the pissed-off moms appear to be able to do that, the wives should encourage them to continue — why deny them what makes them happy? — and then do the same for themselves.
And the wives should also appreciate their husbands for being different instead of wishing they were “more like us.” They aren’t, they’re never going to be and perhaps shouldn’t be, so instead we women should figure out how we’re going to work with them.
It seems like a cliché to say that those pissed-off moms need to communicate their needs to their husbands, in a kind and loving way, but being angry accomplishes nothing — except putting them on a fast track to divorce court.
Ultimately, we all have to decide if our relationships are more important than all the niggling things our partners do that annoy us.
And, you know, nowadays I often don’t even make my bed, let alone put the pillows on it.
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