I know why mamas choose their babies over their men

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.

But.

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.

FamilyThink

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…..

29 thoughts on “I know why mamas choose their babies over their men

  1. I think the first year is really the hardest with this. I felt so much guilt any time I did anything that wasn’t about the baby- work, gym, even just showering or doing make-up. I felt like the baby needed me so much that doing anything that wasn’t baby-centric was really hard. It got a lot better as my kid got older. Seeing her be able to be happy without me made it a lot easier to do things for me without feeling guilty. Now that baby two is coming I’m worried that I’ll revert back into feeling terrible about doing things that don’t center around the little baby for the first year, and I don’t know how I’m going to balance the new baby’s needs versus the toddler’s needs. Who knows where my needs will fit in?

    And somehow it really does seem like men don’t feel the guilt at all. My husband has had no problem throwing on his shoes to go running or go out on a trip with his friends or hit the bar or whatever her entire life. On one hand I’m jealous of that ability to just do whatever without feeling bad about it or even THINKING about feeling bad about it, but on the other I’m glad that my kid is my biggest concern. And my husband is a really excellent hands-on father who spends more time with our kid than I do most days, so it’s not like our kid isn’t his biggest concern- just not in the same way. I think I’m less jealous that he can go do these things than I am that he can do them and not feel bad about it. I know I can go do them, and he will happily watch our kid while I do, but I will still feel bad about it. So, it doesn’t make sense to be mad at him about it, but I still irrationally do sometimes.

    • @Megan, “I think I’m less jealous that he can go do these things than I am that he can do them and not feel bad about it.” this. Exactly this.

  2. A.
    Freakin.
    Men.
    Sister.
    So many things to respond to! The guilt is crazy- when I do actually decide to go do something for myself, if I’m gone for more than an hour I feel so guilty and usually cut short whatever it is I’m doing to get home. On choosing the baby over the hubby, I was just thinking about this the other day and while probably a little irrational, I was thinking that if it’s not me and baby vs him than it’s me and him vs baby which I find really hard to grasp. Ridiculous but thats how it went in my head at the time. And the hubs and his me time, ugh. Last summer I mentioned going back to doing hair and working thurs thru sun so we’d only need a babysitter 3 mornings a week his first comment was something about when does he get me time if he’s watching baby on weekends or what if he wants to go do something? Ummmmm, same thing I would do if he was at work and I was home with her… Take her with or wait until the other gets home?!? Us mamas do things very differently than daddy’s it seems.

  3. Yes. When I was complaining about this to an established mama friend, she imparted this gem of advice: Men will NEVER sacrifice the way women do for their children. You could be on your deathbed with the flu, but you bet you’ll suffer through every second to make sure your kiddo is getting what they need. But if my husband has the sniffles he’s out for three straight days. Such is life.

    Like everything else in life, balance is key. We as moms need to take more “me time” without feeling guilty, and dads need to step up and realize taking the kiddo on a bike ride isn’t the end of the world.

  4. My baby is still marinating but already I totally get what your saying. When my husband mentions some video game he wants to get the first thing that pops into my head is “Really? We have a child coming and you still think you should be buying video games that you will probably get bored with instead of save the money for the baby?” And the fact that he doesn’t think this way can make me seethe at times too. I always really cringed at the idea of women putting their kids before their husband, maybe more metaphorically then literally since obviously baby needs food more then husband needs a sandwich made for him. To me it just seemed like that first relationship of husband and wife should always be the basis (my parents have been married for over 30 years so could be based on that a bit)of the relationship. I do totally agree that even when I’m getting over a cold I know I am the one making sure the husband has what he needs for work the next day and he isn’t as likely to do that. Not because he doesn’t love me as much but he just doesn’t think like I do. Your post helps me to realize that a little deeper in the right way.

    • @Laura, YES! I’m also pregnant with our first, and every time he talks about buying something (a new Playstation, a tablet, etc etc), my brain short circuits. It’s hard for me to comprehend how he could *want* to spend money on any of that at this point.

      Also, ditto on the illness. Last year he was sick for a week and then I got sick right after he got better. While he was sick, I ran out to buy him medicine, made him soup, and took care of him. When I got sick, I had to take care of myself.

  5. Completely agree! Shaking my head in agreement– and I have a fabulous husband who completely loves our baby. But when I make plans (work or personal) I always think of the baby first and how it will impact him. Husband, rarely if ever!
    Case in point– our baby is nearly 7 months old, my birthday is coming up so my husband bought us tickets to a concert. On a Wednesday night. And it starts at 7 o’clock. My baby falls to sleep after a routine done by his parents, his bedtime is 7 o’clock. Also, I get up with him one or 2 times a night and work full-time, so my bedtime is 9 o’clock (I may fall asleep on the couch at 8:30…). And we don’t live close to family so we would need a babysitter. How are we going to be at a concert when I should be feeding my baby to sleep? And how am I going to stay awake for the concert?? And be at work the next day??
    Can I tell him all this and how mad it makes me that he bought the tickets for my birthday but now I am super annoyed because its up to me to do all the planning?!?!?! He did not think about the baby but if I do, its that I’m choosing the baby over him. Le sigh. Thanks for this post and it helps I’m not alone.

    • @Rebecca, Yea, I get this too. “But I was trying to do this for you!” Yea, hon, but now I have to figure out how to get us there, ya know? And somehow I can get myself and the kid ready to go and he’s still tying his shoelaces.

      Mamas have skills.

  6. I feel you. I think my husband is a great father, but there’s a huge chasm between being a father and a mother. And there is no one thinking first about the mother, especially not the mother. And there are times when that really comes to a head, no doubt.

  7. This hit home, I have a baby who is 9 months old, and at times I want to throw my son’s shoe at my husband’s head! I feel like I am always thinking about what is next on the list of the to do’s for the baby especially in the evenings when the baby has to eat, be bathed, and put to bed before 7:30 or he will completely melt down. And since we do not get home until almost 6pm that makes for a tight time line. I feel like while I am feeding him, my husband could be washing bottles or emptying the dishwasher. HA HA HA, nope he is on the couch or surfing the net, I have realized if he has a down moment he will automatically choose himself, and he is always thinking about what HE wants to do- period. It’s not that he won’t help, but the fact that I would have to say something just really makes me mad and it definitely brings about resentment. He will always choose what he wants, it seems instinctual, like the thought to do something other than what he wants doesn’t even pop into his head. I on the other hand am feeding the baby, and looking over at the pile of dishes, dirty baby bottles and thinking about the laundry to be done and am really starting stew. Meanwhile he is blissfully surfing the net or watching something he has recorded on the DVR. I just think as the Momma it is just in our makeup to always think of the baby first, and then if we get a quick minute, hey we might even take an extra long shower! It never even crosses my mind to think of myself first, much less think of what my husband might want. I agree with you, I doubt as he relaxes on the couch each evening he is thinking about what I might need or want. I like you need to get better at expressing my “Get off the damn couch” feelings. Maybe when he starts feeling the need to help out more, without being asked I might have more time to put towards thinking about what he might need? I must say, I do have a good husband who is an even better father, he loves our baby and does bath time duty and *would help out more, I just need to figure out a way to get better at asking.

    • @Amber, I try not to get into the “but I don’t want to have to ask!” mindset, but boy, I am there right now. Off to eat Girl Scout cookies. Maybe that’ll help? :)

    • I could have written these exact words! I think I have happy dreams about throwing the IPad out the window. My husband must think playing Words With Friends somehow feeds the baby or folds the laundry and puts away the dishes or takes out the recycling or feeds the dog. There are a million and one things that need to be done when we get home from work, but somehow Words With Friends always wins in his to-do list.
      If you figure out a better way of asking him to help out, let me know :)

  8. Yes. This. We run into this a lot because dad works at home and I’m often working at home as well. Because of this, we do share a lot of caregiving and when I go to meetings on campus (I’m a PhD student/research assistant), dad takes over. Whenever we’re both home and baby has a need (i.e. wakes up from a nap, cries, needs diaper change. . .) caring for him defaults to me. Dad is awesome when I’m not home, but if I am, it’s usually on me. Sure, milk comes from me, but I feel this resentment building, thinking “why doesn’t dad want to spend more time with this awesome being?” I think in some ways it goes in a circle–the more time you get with babe the easier it is to respond to him/meet his needs/be delighted by him. But I hate that resentment that builds between moms and dads. If dad doesn’t drop everything to run to babe, mom always will.

  9. Oh, yes. I feel guilty for doing “me” things for so many reasons:
    1) I shouldn’t want to get away from her, certainly not for something as trivial as a pedicure or a haircut, but sometimes I just need a damn break.
    2) My husband works all day and I’m home with the baby, and when he gets home he just wants to veg out, but if he’s “on duty” he can’t do that. (Never mind that he has an hour bus ride to and from work to veg out, and I am lucky if I get 15 minutes during naps by the time I’ve showered, dressed, and cleaned up the house — and if I choose to dry my hair instead of putting it up wet, I lose that 15 minutes!)
    3) Half the time, he DOES veg out, even while he’s watching her, and if I was a better mom wouldn’t I be staying home to play with her instead of leaving knowing that her dad is going to play video games while she whines in boredom? (He gets up with her and lets me sleep in on weekends, which is great, except that he plugs into his video games and expects her to entertain herself. Or he puts on one of her baby shows and lets it play on a loop until I get up. I HATE this, but she’s still not sleeping through the night, and I’m the one who’s up with her two, three times, so if I don’t sleep in on the weekends then I’m crabby and short with both of them.

    Those last two make me so crazy. I shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time to go run errands without her, leaving her with HER DAD, whose job it is to parent her when I’m not around, but I can’t help but feel bad that his free time is being infringed on so that I can have mine. Even though I don’t get much free time.

    And the fact that he plugs into the Xbox and lets her watch two hours of TV when he should be playing with her makes me crazy, SO CRAZY, but when I bring it up he says, “You always come downstairs right when I’ve stopped playing with her and turned on the Xbox. I play with her all morning!” Not true, because when she gets bored she fusses, and I hear her fussing.

    (He also will randomly bring her in to me when she’s fussing because “she wants her mom”. No, she doesn’t. She wants you to pay attention to her. So do I. Let me sleep past 8 just once, for the love!)

    I adore my husband and he really is a wonderful dad, but he definitely views his veg-out time as a priority over her sometimes and it makes me so.damn.mad.

    • @Erin, Oh, my gawd, yes! YES. YES! The video game/ TV thing drives me batty. I mean, straight up bat shit crazy. It’s not good for the kid, who inevitably gets bored anyway, and then I hear that he “was fussy and just wanted to climb all over everything.” Yup, he’s an infant!

      Our most recent discussion seems to have hit home a bit and we’ve agreed to do TV-free mornings, which has upped the parenting ante a bit. Now he’s as beat as I am, whereas before, he was surprised that I found hanging with Jav to be tiring. Ha. It makes such a difference, though, so I’m relieved.

      For now.

      • @Marisa, When she was a baby, we had an extra small TV in the living room as a result of recording a TV show to DVD for my parents (somehow the setup required looping it through the second TV). We learned that Baby Mozart calmed her when she was inconsolably gassy, and my husband learned that he could play that through the tiny TV and play his video games on the big one. Now we have a “system” involving a new, flat-screen tiny TV mounted to the wall so he can continue doing this. (He talked me into it by saying “When we have people over for football games, we can set the little one up in the dining room so everyone doesn’t have to cram into the living room to watch” — a good idea given the layout of our house, but it never happened once.)

        I mean, I use the TV to babysit if I have to shower during non-nap times, or if she’s really just driving me bonkers and I need 20 minutes to get dinner made, but generally if it’s on during the day it’s stuff like Big Bang Theory reruns that she ignores. So I don’t feel bad about it since it’s just for background noise so I don’t go insane, and neither of us is really paying attention to it. But the video game thing makes me see red.

  10. Yep. Not a parent, but I still see the difference between his priorities and mine. I feel guilty taking an hour for a manicure when there are so many chores or tasks or things I feel I need to do for us/the house/school/work, yet he’s fine spending hours goofing off–no guilt there. Priories are funny eh?

  11. I’m pregnant with our first, and I can already see the potential for this in our future. This weekend he told me that he assumed the first year would be “all about mama,” and that after that he would bond more with the kid. Umm, what? I know that the beginning of a baby’s life is VERY mama-centric, and I want that time, but I also want him to make an effort and not use this as an excuse.

  12. I already see this in the way that I feel guilty for being away from the house for work trips, whereas he doesn’t – and my husband even helps with cleaning/laundry/cooking! So it shouldn’t seem like it’s “my job” to me, but that is how I feel.

    Sometimes what is most galling is that he doesn’t feel guilty. And while I wish I could feel that way, I can’t.

    I can only imagine how much this will increase when we have kids…

  13. I needed to read this so badly today. I was up at 4:14 a.m. feeding our son, staring at the time on the clock with steam coming out of my ears. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things my husband doesn’t do, and how unfair it was that he got to doze off for two more hours while I, inevitably, was now awake for the day trying to get my fussy kid back to sleep. Of course, everything seems so much more dramatic in the middle of the night, but that’s what happens when I let these feelings stew. I don’t know that there’s any resolution to this post yet, but it does wonders to know I’m not the only one with a fantastic husband/father who I’m not always finding so fantastic these days. I need to focus on the wonderful things that he is and I am not, and reference this post as a reminder that women are simply wired differently. The way of mothers (right or not) is to feel guilty and love their children to pieces – I have benefited greatly from having this type of mother, and I hope my son someday will see the value in my commitment as well.

  14. Ditto! I have a hard time articulating this concept without making my husband seem like a bad daddy. Which he is not… he’s a great dad. But he’s still selfish (even if he’s unaware of this!) :) I love the comic!!

    Yes he’ll feed our son…. but who makes sure there’s food in the fridge?
    Yes he’ll change Roo’s diaper… but who makes sure there are clean diapers?
    Yes he’ll get Roo dressed… but who makes sure there’s ‘clean’ clothes that fit him?
    etc etc

    It’s most prevalent in the mornings. When T sets his alarms he allows for enough time to make his coffee, eat breakfast, and get out the door. Now if Roo wakes up while I’m still at the gym of course he takes care of him. But many mornings T is out the door before Roo even gets up. My day starts out ‘Roo’, ‘Roo’, ‘Roo’, ‘mom’. And I’m SO READY for a nap by the time I get to work!

    He doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about this because I have a ‘flexible’ schedule. Well – yes it is flexible – but I still have work to do! He could pack Roo’s lunch every once in a while so it’s one less thing I have to do!

    I’ve learned when we are traveling to request he wakes up with enough time to get himself ready and to takeover watching Roo while I finish getting everything packed. I have to be clear him being ready means showered and fed so he can take over Roo fully by XX time. Because guess who packs all the baby’s stuff for a trip!

    I also know I’m an enabler though. Because I love doing all this stuff for my son. My mom did it for us… so I step into that roll naturally. I’m trying to get better about delegating!

  15. HOLY CRAP my husband and I have been fighting a lot about this. All of it, surfing internet, laying on couch, not thinking about baby’s needs first, putting tv shows on and ignoring child then saying “he wants you not me!” when that isn’t what’s going on!!!!!! ALL OF IT. I CAN’T EVEN WRITE ANY MORE cuz it sucks so much. Work in progress. And it’s not just the first year that this happens in… our son is almost 18 months and it feels like it’s even worse now. Probably the fact that I’m still breastfeeding has something to do with it.

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