The other day, in the middle of a spousal tiff, I realized why all those stories abound about men who feel pushed out by the love and focus their wives have for their babies.
Because men have no problem choosing themselves.
My husband is a great dad and a great husband. (Most days) I’m glad I married him; (every day) I’m thrilled he’s my son’s father.
The man drives me bonkers with jealousy and resentment because he has absolutely no problem choosing himself – his needs, his free time, his desires. And me? As many mamas do, I writhe with guilt if I try to spend “me time” when I can hear my son fussing at his dad because he’s not me… or, if I’m being honest, because he’s a baby and life is hard!
I see my husband make a choice that seems so freaking selfish from where I stand – because where I stand is generally covered in spit up, thinking ahead to the next thing my kid will need, with half a mind on the work stuff I undoubtedly need to do. Sometimes those “selfish choices” he makes feel like they’re in direct contradiction to what my kid needs.
So I choose my kid. The option to choose myself never enters my mind, so far am I from putting myself first. The idea, then, that I’d somehow put my husband next on my list, before myself, is galling.
In fact, why does it never occur to us to ask why the husband isn’t choosing the kid over the wife? I’m betting because this whole “he’s not getting his needs met” argument never takes into account what the mama needs, because it wouldn’t necessarily occur to her to insist. And I’m thinking he doesn’t carry primary responsibility to make sure the kid’s needs are met, either. (Note: not saying isn’t involved, just that he’s not the one thinking ahead to make sure everything is covered.)
Look, I’m not a martyr. Far from it, actually. I can go about three days putting aside my frustration for the benefit of marital harmony before I blow, so it’s really in my best interest to let it out more slowly. In my bigger moments I realize my husband is setting a really great example for not losing oneself in the new role of parent.
In my smaller ones, those stories just kind of piss me off.
Tomorrow I’ll have a better perspective. Later I’ll use this as the kick I need to stop asking for some time to myself and instead take it as though it’s my right. In a while I’ll realize that life isn’t a zero-sum game; my husband playing video games doesn’t automatically mean that my son loses in some way. Not long from now I’ll want to make clear that my husband is a partner in parenting, does take on stuff while I manage our kid’s needs, would be annoyed that you might think he’s not cleaning up right now on his Spring Break. Heck, by tonight I might take this post down.
Right now, though, I just want to know: do you feel like this sometimes? Does it trigger your Resentment Detector? Like you want to say, “I would have room to make your stuff a priority if you made an effort to make them a little less so,” or “I would be able to think of you first if I could trust that you could think of him first.” Both still leave me out of the equation, but hey…..