The Facebook Status Update My Wife Didn’t Send (but should have)

My wife–if you’ve never had the opportunity to meet her–is a pretty hip woman.  She is an extremely talented photographer, smart as a whip, an organizational genius, a fiercely loyal friend, a phenom of a mother, and the very embodiment of everything that I could hope for in a wife.  She also possesses a seemingly endless capacity to forgive and forget almost all of the things I do from the moment I wake up in the morning until the moment I fall asleep at night.  This is vitally important because, other than my ridiculous skillz in the kitchen, I’m kind of a dink.

To wit:

(From my inbox this morning after I got to work.)


So Child 1 has been the master of whine this morning. He kicked Child 2, pushed her off the couch while fighting over the computer cord, and then whined that Child 2 broke her train (because she fell on it)! And all this got me all worked up and annoyed that you didn’t do anything around the house while we were gone. I so wanted to write on Facebook the following:

What’s up with a grown man who doesn’t pick up after himself (mainly his clothes, the hamper is like three feet away)? We’re not fifteen anymore, and mom’s not here, and if mom didn’t pick up after him, you don’t have your own room anymore that nobody has to see, so please be a little more respectful about other people you share a room/house with.

I didn’t write on Facebook, since I realize that I am just totally overreacting, but I still need to get it off my chest so I’m not mad at you or anybody else all day. I’m sorry I’m venting to you; I have no one else.

I love you and thanks for listening.

Because you knows me so well, this is the part where you probably expect me to begin listing the reasons I didn’t clean up the living room, the dirty rug, the bathroom floor, or my laundry. To provide excuses for not doing all the dishes, for not making the bed, for not vacuuming or sweeping the floor. The part where I tell you that–like you said yourself–you’re overreacting.

Perhaps it’s because of the tales of evil spouses on the Unrealistic Expectations thread going on, or perhaps it’s just because something finally clicked in my brain, but you won’t find that part this time. No B, you’re not overreacting. You’re underreacting, actually. We’ve been married for over 8 years, and I still put forth basically no effort to sort my laundry how I should, even though you’ve asked me to a thousand times. I didn’t clean the kitchen up, or vacuum, or make the bed, and the only explanation is that I was too lazy to be bothered with such things.

This is made more horrible by my sure knowledge that, had our roles been switched, and I had been out of town for two days, you would have done those things for me.

So, enough talk. I can do better.


  1. nat kelly says:

    omg. can you hold a training session for all our spouses? here’s my husband’s RSVP. :)

  2. Nat, he’s obviously not an expert yet. Let him practice a little.

  3. Well said, Scott. Doing really is far more important that talking.

  4. Please clarify. Does your wife clean for her or for you. If the answer is “for her” then you are off the hook.

  5. Kristine says:


    Seriously? Did you miss the part about 2 kids and Scott not putting his own laundry in the hamper? The cleaning we’re talking about is about the basic functioning of the home. No such thing as “his” and “hers” on that–it’s a family affair.

  6. thanks for posting this. I needed something to balance out the expectations comments!

  7. Kristine,

  8. Well, if my husband hadn’t already written off BCC as a bunch of crazy liberals, he certainly would now.

  9. Are we going to get to hear from wife in the comments? It would only be right.


    (She sounds like a superb human being, BTW.)

  10. So your wife demonstrates the good judgment to keep a trivial complaint private and the first thing you think to do is broadcast it to the world. At least you have your kitchen skills.

  11. Scott B. says:

    I guess the point, Bill, is that her complaint wasn’t trivial in the slightest. She kept it private because she knew it would make me look bad, and she tries not to do so in public.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Great realization, Scott, but talk is cheap. Please comment again and report back here once you have actually put a garment in the hamper…

  13. Scott B. says:

    I will do a quarterly review. That’s partly why I put this up–to keep me honest.

  14. I think there are a lot of people, male and female, who need to be better at many aspects of housework. I am a lazy slob when it comes to preparing meals or picking up my (holy Hannah, so many!) papers off their horizontal surfaces, but in my soon-to-be home, I will definitely be the one doing laundry and initiating bathroom scrubbings, since my fiancé seems to have an inversion to those. I think the attitude that has helped me most is the STUFF shouldn’t control my life or my fiancé’s, and that living in a reasonably organized, acceptably clean home is more about your health and sanity than any grand social marker or indicator of righteousness.

  15. *aversion. Haze on my mind lately with this weather, I guess?

  16. I would never in a million years send my husband an email like that, for a couple of reasons. One, he does not respond well to nagging, and he would definitely see it as nagging. Two, I’m a bigger slob than he is. Three, in our world, it’s small stuff. We don’t care about small stuff. (We’ve got too much Big Stuff to worry about.)

    I realize there are people to whom being organized and neat is important. I’ve just never really understood those people.

    My husband had a nightmare the other night about living in a super messy house. So the next day he organized the kitchen. Now I can’t find anything–and if I do find it, I can’t reach it. But hey, all the cans in the cupboard are lined up neatly. I just have to stand on a chair to get to them. And I’m OK with that, because it’s small stuff.

  17. Wow, your wife is one gentle soul. I loved that even her “venting” was softly worded. While many a spouse can learn a lesson from your personal epiphany here, I’m going to take a little bit of B with me and learn to be kinder and gentler even in the frustrating moments.

    Also, (Susan M) this was about as far from nagging as one could get. Nothing wrong with having and expressing expectations in a home.

  18. Sunny,
    I think (hope) that Susan was not calling my wife a Nag, but saying that her husband would have seen it as nagging.

    The thing that perhaps didn’t come out clearly in the post is that my wife has been patiently trying to get me to “deal” with my laundry for EIGHT years. This is not a one-time issue. It’s a bad habit I have–the problem is mine, not hers.

  19. I didn’t mean to say I considered it nagging–I meant my husband would.

    And I also meant to say that I’m glad you’re going to try to be more considerate where your wife is concerned. It’s important. My husband is very considerate to me (in the ways that matter to me).

  20. Susan M,

    Sorry to misunderstand. Thanks for clarifying.

  21. Susan… what if your LIFE is made of the small stuff? Then the small stuff is no longer just “small stuff” it just becomes the stuff life is made of, and I think it is reasonable to ask a grown up to clean up their own messes, heck I do it with my 7 year old…

  22. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for his wife to gently ask him to please think about it… and I think she did it well and in a loving way really.

  23. Norbert says:


    I always think about you and the vacuum cleaner when I’m about to do something stupid at home. You have blessed my life, Brother B!

  24. I think this is my favorite BCC post. Ever.

  25. “I’m sorry I’m venting to you; I have no one else.”

    Ah, the true problem, hidden in plaintive sight?

  26. Scott B. says:

    I should have linked that post in here somewhere…

    As one might see, I have a history of jerkholery.

    One step at a time…

  27. Scott B: 1
    Martin: 0

    Scott, do you have any idea how SEXY this post is? LOL. This is the kind of man I’d cut (or not cut) my hair for.

    Now go pick up the living room for your wifey and give her a back massage. ;)

  28. Aaron R. says:

    Scott, you post reminded me one of something I wrote elsewhere

    That night my wife got home and was a little frustrated and I showed what I had just written and asked to do better. I think this is perhaps a perennial circle that we might face. Thanks for writing about it.

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 27 raises a good point; this post constitutes female pr0n! Scott, you have made yourself walking pr0nography for the sisters here. Have a little compassion, man…

  30. Hooray! Reasonable expectations, reasonably communicated, with a reasonable response. I think that “Unreasonable Expectations” thread filtered into my subconscious and was responsible for my nightmares last night. Thank you for the palate cleanser.

  31. Yeah, the U.E. thread shook me up a bit too. I cleaned the entire apartment after reading that and bought my wife flowers. So much drama in this world. I hope my wife never thinks I take her for granted.

  32. Peter LLC says:

    a reasonable response

    Any response that is eight years in the making and then only after a thousand requests is hardly “reasonable.”

  33. Scott, they say that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Maybe you should join your local addiction recovery group to figure out where to go from here. (Is being chronically lazy around the house an addiction?)

    Now to round out this series on marital relations, we need a post from the perspective of the spouse who does all the stuff around the house and doesn’t mind. A nice, honest discussion of why it isn’t a big deal to do the dishes, do the laundry, put away the clothes, clean the house, and make dinner every day.

  34. mellifera says:

    Yeah… good luck finding somebody to write that one!

  35. living in zion says:

    I think you missed the point of his wife’s email. It wasn’t about doing the household chores. It was about child 1 and 2 pushing her to the brink on top of the regular chores, then her husband’s bad habits as the icing on the cake.

    Besides, I don’t know of any woman who has only the house to take care of. That would mean she has no children at home and a husband who makes enough money to live on and set aside extra for the future. Even if she doesn’t have to work outside the home they often get hijacked to be the Relief Society President.

    Wait – I forgot my mom. Yeah, she has it made. She cleans everything cheerfully because her 8 children are grown and gone, my dad died and she lives alone in an assisted living center. She’s great.

  36. Scott B. says:

    See, Alex, I believe the problem is that the person you describe just had a mental breakdown, ran up $40,000 in credit card debt, left the spouse and kids, and was last seen driving across New Mexico.

  37. mellifera says:

    Anyway… speaking of pr0n for women: Kevin Barney was 100% correct, according to the Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative. This is link Safe For Work and hilarious.


    It’s the funniest thing about unspoken expectations and mental training differences between genders. My husband is a very supportive, even-minded, determined-that-I-make-it-through-grad-school, dinner-cooking and dish-washing dude; basically he ROCKS. We had a conversation at the beginning of our marriage though when he said something about “I’m going to clean toilets because I want to help you out.”

    This was very sweet, but who’d told him it was MY job to clean toilets and him doing it to “help me”? I sure don’t clean toilets because it’s “my job,” I clean them because when you use a toilet, they get dirty, and eventually it has to be cleaned. I sure don’t scrub toilets as an “act of service” to my family, I do it because it grosses me out if it goes unscrubbed and I’d rather spare myself the unnecessary eyesore.

    FWIW I’m the main toilet-scrubber, but that’s because the division of labor we’ve worked out over the years has him doing a lot of the menial stuff I can’t stand, and me doing the nasty gross stuff he doesn’t really care for (like scrubbing toilets and cleaning out the fridge). I guess we’re just super-compatible like that. He did dishes with his dad while growing up, so he has warm fuzzy feelings about doing dishes. I got shooed into the kitchen at 5 years old by myself and told to do the dishes or else, so I have horrid feelings about doing dishes. Meanwhile scrubbing toilets or cleaning out stinky rotten food from the fridge is something that stays “done” for a long time after doing it, so it makes me happy to get it done. Also I’ve done a lot of microbiology work and nothing at home is as gross as stuff I’ve done in various jobs (who wants to play CSI on a horse colon? Oooh me!), whereas he gets grossed out to the point of barfing a lot more easily, so it’s all good.

    I’m going to second everybody who’s here as an escape valve from the UE thread. My husband ROCKS!!!

  38. melifera (37),

    I was so enjoying reading about the balance of work in your household when I happened upon this:

    “scrubbing toilets…is something that stays “done” for a long time after doing it”

    Hold the phones! What is this magic? I have three boys and cannot keep a toilet clean for more than 6 minutes at a stretch. Please explain the witchcraft involved in keeping a toilet “done” for a long time.

    Thank you in advance. You may change my life forever.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Sunny, your first mistake was in having three boys. (I have four. I also have four little brothers, and guess who had bathroom duty growing up? There is little more cruel than making a teenage girl clean up the toilets after four little brothers)

    I saw a great Father’s Day card at the store last night. It had a bare chested man ironing on the front and said, “What is wrong with this picture?” On the inside it said, “Yeah, I couldn’t find anything either” and played that song that starts “Oh yeah . . . ” Definite pr0n for women. I get a little thrill just thinking about it.

  40. Stephanie says:

    And just to brag a bit, I went to clean a huge empty house with some RS sisters at 9:30 this morning. DH got up at 5:30 and went by himself to clean it for two hours before our kids got up so that it wouldn’t be so hard for us women when we got there at 9:30. Oh yeah . . . I’m feelin’ a little frisky. I am married to the sexiest man alive.

  41. Stephanie says:

    And while I was gone cleaning that house, he was home leading the kids through Saturday chores to clean our house. Okay, I’ll stop now. I don’t want anyone to try to steal him from me. :)

  42. Wow, Stephanie, many kudos to your DH! I’m not even good with 5:30am on weekdays!

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    Hell, Stephanie, now *I* want to steal him! You’d better keep your location a state secret.

  44. mellifera says:


    Sorry to disappoint– I guess it’s just that we only have one infant daughter and if she does use the potty, it’s the little baby model. And I was also referring only to the bowl, not the rim and stuff- I don’t deal with that. We have crappy (!) plumbing and this leads to the bowl getting lots of deposits, which need to be scrubbed occasionally. My plan for dealing with future young boys’ bathroom sloppiness may or may not involve trees outside… or the bathtub… or whatever it takes. I too grew up as an oldest sister with little brothers and I WILL find some way to never deal with pee painting again.

    And now for something completely different: It’s all about the choreplay my friends. When my husband does the dishes it makes me hot. And he’s all “But honey, now I’m all tired ’cause I just did dishes! Can I sit down for a minute first?” Of course I am only too happy to oblige, ’cause a woman whose man just did the dishes can be a patient woman.

  45. Scott (36),

    Well my husband hasn’t run off to Mexico yet after running up $40,000 of credit card debt. In fact I think he just did the dishes this morning. And is doing the laundry today and will fold it and put it away. And did the vacuuming the other day, and cleaned the bathrooms (all three of them!), the kitchen, the car, the hardwood floors, the bedroom (and makes the bed everyday), takes out the garbage, feeds all the pets and will cook dinner tonight. All with a full time job. The only thing he won’t do around the house is clean the bird cages. That he leaves for me. So there is a man out there crazy enough to do almost everything for his wife. And don’t worry, Alex has a big social life as well. He’s just that awesome.

  46. Any comment that includes the phrase “pee painting” and the word “choreplay” is worth bookmarking.

    Stephanie, are you a secret sister wife of MikeInWeHo?

  47. Scott B. says:

    Gretch (45),
    Sadly, I’m going to have to pull rank on you since I know you’ve only been married for a short time. Come back and see me in 6 years. Also, pet =/= whiny 4-year old child.

  48. I absolutely love my husband because after 18 years of marriage he DOES do better. He knows me better and does a better job of loving me now. I think he’s used his 18 years wisely and become a better husband.

  49. I am certain that there will be a new division of labour as soon as children come along. (Currently, the only definite statement is that I will be changing most of the messy diapers due to a weak gag reflex.)

    Also, I feel like I should point out that I have worked as both a professional cook and a professional cleaner, and I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. These, combined with the fact that I wake up early, are all contributing factors to my doing so much around the home.

  50. I truly don’t want to stir up trouble and I mention this mostly because I find it very interesting, not because I’m judging (honestly, there is no hint of sarcasm or hidden resentment here), but I find it fascinating that, in the other thread, when we talked about all the things the wife/mother did there was a collective jump on the lazy husband, but when the wife talks about all the things the husband is doing, it’s all, “Congrats for snagging such a great man and (jokingly) keep your address secret because he might be stolen,” with no sign of indignation for the wife that is allowing her husband to do so much while she does comparatively less.

    Again, I’m not condemning because I am that kind of man and I find great joy in helping in all the little things for my partner (though I admittedly have some issues with one or two big things that I am aware of and trying to work on diligently), so I think it’s great that there are other men out there like that. But I find the difference in tone when it is the man doing the large majority of the menial chores interesting, that there is nothing remotely even close to the outrage. Fascinating! :o)

    Kudos, both to Scott and B, for approaching a continuing 8+ year-long issue with such charity and grace.

  51. Thanks, Scott, for the gentle answer. Good luck on the follow through.

    For those with boys: try putting a target in the bottom of the bowl. Boys love target practice…

  52. “with no sign of indignation for the wife that is allowing her husband to do so much while she does comparatively less.”

    Kevin, maybe that’s because the post didn’t present a wife who was doing “comparatively less” and “allowing her husband to do so much”.

  53. Stephanie says:

    Ditto to Ray

  54. mellifera says:

    Kevin– There’s not a married woman alive who’s not aware of the irony. Trust me. What you’re seeing in the responses is called “positive reinforcement.”


    My mom would drop Cheerios in the toilet and tell my brothers they had to sink ’em.

  55. Scott B. says:

    All this talk of peeing and aiming reminds me of the recent Zeitcast about peeing on downed power lines.

  56. mellifera says:

    Sorry, I could clarify more too about our division of labor too. I’m not a stay-at-home mom– my husband and I are both in grad school full-time, and I also have a part-time job heading up a research project. While we’re both technically “full time,” I have a class schedule plus the job that keeps me up on campus for a full day most of the week; whereas all he has to do is write his dissertation– no TA or RA responsibilities, no coursework, and since he’s doing history, his dissertation lends itself pretty well to writing part-time at home. Our income is 50/50 but he has to do a LOT less work for his fellowship. So that’s a big part of why he does the “large majority of the menial [time-consuming] chores,” and there is no outrage.

    That changes depending on our life situation. Just after the little one was born, he was still taking classes, and so was I but they were all online so I could watch lectures while nursing; and I wasn’t working. Thus I did the majority of the childcare and housework those semesters. However, right now he’s out of country doing archival research, so I’m in school overtime plus that job, in addition to being sole parent right now, so for the time being I’m doing everything. (The ladies at her preschool are angels. Angels!)

    That could explain the sleepiness and pneumonia.

    I gotta do laundry.

  57. mellifera says:

    Ok, one last thing– re the income disparity (we earn 50/50 but I have to do a lot more work for it)– this is definitely not a “women get paid less for the same work” thing, in case anybody was wondering….

    He has to work a lot less for his 50% of the income because he’s doing humanities and I’m doing science, and you can get more work out of science majors for less money because they know they can make a living after they graduate. With humanities majors, let’s be honest– graduate assistantships ARE a lot of the job market. They have to give out a lot of free support to grad students in the humanities (compared to what you’d find in the sciences) or nobody would graduate, either because they couldn’t study thanks to all the TA work, or the opportunity cost of dropping out would actually be negative. Basically his degree is worth less in monetary terms, so he doesn’t have to pay as much for the privilege of having it. (Sincerest regrets, humanities majors, I’m just sayin’. Y’all already know this. And I still married one of you.)

    Seriously gotta go do laundry.

  58. Ray (#52): I wasn’t referring to the OP, but to some of the comments after it. But admit it, that’s how it happens: if a wife is “lucky enough” to have a husband that does most of the menial tasks, that isn’t taken to be an indication of the wife’s laziness and she is praised for her luck (and the person posting it is said to be posting p0rn for women), whereas if the opposite is the case, the husband is a lazy lowlife. Not saying it happens all the time (because it doesn’t), but that seems to be the trend. I just find that fascinating.

    I should also clarify, just to be safe, that I’m not saying any of this in condemnation of anyone whose posted here: I obviously don’t know enough about your situation to make a judgment, and even if I did, whatever judgment I’d make would probably be wrong, so I try not to. I’m just making an interesting observation of a phenomenon I’m observing in relation to the two threads.

    And, again, kudos to Scott and his wife!

  59. Starfoxy says:

    But admit it, that’s how it happens: if a wife is “lucky enough” to have a husband that does most of the menial tasks,
    Statistically speaking very few women have husbands who do most of the menial housekeeping tasks. There is an underlying assumption on this thread and throughout society that a husband who does “more” around the house isn’t doing more than his wife, but is doing more than other men.

    And it isn’t like women who don’t do housework are let off the hook. Whenever a house is a mess, or children unsupervised, etc. blame goes to the nearest woman first. In other words individual men don’t have to censure their lazy wives, society does it for them.

  60. Stephanie says:

    Okay, Kevin Winters, are you talking about me and my comments?

    but when the wife talks about all the things the husband is doing, it’s all, “Congrats for snagging such a great man and (jokingly) keep your address secret because he might be stolen,” with no sign of indignation for the wife that is allowing her husband to do so much while she does comparatively less.

    ‘Cuz my husband is the one in danger of being stolen here. I am failing to see how him getting up early to go and clean a house (for service) that I am about to go clean (for service) and then leading kids through chores while I go clean that house is so “comparatively less” or “laziness” on my part. Are you counting tit for tat? Shall I mention that I breastfed the baby at 5:30 in the morning? Would that make me appear any less lazy?

    I get the point of your overall comment, but I think that using my comments as an example of the phenomenon is a bad one. What DH did went above and beyond – not just taking over “menial tasks” while I sat on my bum.

  61. Stephanie,

    No, I’m not referring to you or to anyone else as being “lazy”. I’m not making a judgment of anyone in particular. I’m just pointing to a phenomenon: in “the other thread” any sign of potential laziness was pounced on as laziness for the man. I’m not the only one pointing that out as others made the same point on a few occasions. Here, when there is any sign of the potential of a husband doing more than the wife that is pounced on as a sign of the great luck of the wife and even as being pr0n0graphic. Yes, as Starfoxy says, this phenomenon is rarer, but the reactive nature of the response is just as potent, which I find fascinating. I also understand that there are strong cultural reasons behind these responses, which are also fascinating (and, yes, often enough heartbreaking).

    Again, I don’t know enough about your or anyone else’s situation to make a judgment, and I’m not making one (I think this is the third time I’ve said this, right?). I’m just commenting on the general form of the responses, which are interesting. I’m a student of human nature, so I take particular notice of these kinds of things. No judgment, just noting how things unfold.

    So, in short (and just to be thorough), I’m not judging you as being lazy in any way, shape, or form.

  62. re. potty messes: When potty training, teach your little boys to sit down. Makes it much less messy. At least until they grow up a little and decide they want to pee standing up like daddy does. So really it only delays the mess, but most of my 4 boys still prefer to sit down when they can.

  63. And Kevin, I think one problem is that the Unreasonable expectations post had more to do with a woman’s looks, which she may or may not be able to do much about, whereas this post has to do with doing household chores, which both spouses (spice?) are capable of helping out with. If the last post had been about a guy raving about how cool his wife was for spackling windows, then maybe we could compare the commenters’ reactions more equally.

  64. jes,

    But you will also recall the multiple times that the frustrated women in the thread talked about how the lazy husband needs to help more with the menial chores and such so that the women would actually have time to go to the gym, etc.

    I guess I should also say that my observation wasn’t solely from just these two threads, but also from other experiences in my life. These two threads were just the catalyst for helping me see it a little more clearly. Again, no judgment, just an interesting observation.

  65. I see the issue that Kevin brings up as one in which there has simply not been enough information shared. The conversation was started by a husband saying, “You know what? I really could help out more around the house.” To which some responded, “Yeah, so could I!” or “Yeah, I wish my husband would be more helpful!” Then a couple of folks said, “Dang, I’m glad that my husband does help out so much around the house!” and others were like, “Whoa, how’d you pull that off?!”

    But what wasn’t shared is what the lucky wife does do. And therefore the conclusion may be drawn that if the husband does so many of these tasks, then the wife must not be doing them. Which is usually not the case. My wife and I run a business from our home. There are also only two of us. So the menial chores really don’t take that much time. And since I tend to wake up really early, I take care of the chores before she’s even awake. Then we spend most of the day taking care of our business affairs.

    Kevin, I don’t think you were being judgmental, but I would be interested to know: Do you ever ask people what the other spouse does when conversations like this come up?

  66. As Starfoxy says, it doesn’t come up that often. But, yes, I would be interested in knowing more information, but at the moment I’m more interested in the habitual reactions that come up when things like this happen. Put a different way, I’m interested in the unspoken assumptions and biases behind the reactions rather than the veracity or appropriateness of the reaction. That is why I can say quite confidently that I’m not doing any judging here: the veracity or rightness of the reaction isn’t what I’m focusing on at the moment.

    With that in mind, it does seem to be the case, given a very small sampling, that there are two very strong biases going on that are diametrically opposed: in one case, the husband is immediately considered lazy, thus a focus on the faults of the male; the the other, the wife is immediately considered fortunate, thus a focus on the good fortune of the female. It’s just interesting.

    And, again, this phenomenon does come up within a particular historical and cultural context that in part describes why these habitual patterns are present and have such a strong force. That is also interesting because these, as another poster commented, count as reinforcement for the particular pattern/response.

    Let me end again by repeating that some (probably even most) of the background foundations for these responses are unfortunate and heartbreaking. I’m not missing the tragedy inherent in the situation and I feel for those on both sides who are suffering because of it. But it is still interesting, nonetheless.

  67. My sincerest apologies if I’ve been unclear on my motives for posting what I did. Particularly with Stephanie, if I’ve caused you any grief in what I posted, I’m terribly sorry…

  68. Stephanie says:

    Oh, no, Kevin. You didn’t cause me grief. I just get the impression that you might not be married with 5 kids under 9. Am I right?

  69. Scott B. says:

    stephanie ftw.

  70. No, I’m not, but I do certainly appreciate the time-consuming nature of being in that situation and the resultant stresses and difficulties, especially if the spouse is not helping wherever possible. Again, I don’t see myself as insensitive at all and personally do everything I can to be completely available for my significant other (using that term loosely), when I have one (currently in between them, as it were). I thoroughly enjoyed playing with my ex-gfs adorable little girl so that she could have some time for herself, either to get things done or take a nap or something or other. I gave her frequent foot (and occasionally back) massages, helped with the dishes (even when she protested), helped in the cooking and tried to surprise her a few times on that front, etc. In the least I’m not naive about what all is probably entailed in being in that kind of situation. I just found the phenomenon I was seeing, at least in part, interesting.

    Forgive me, but why do I feel like your question has a little edge to it? ;o)

  71. Scott,

    I wasn’t aware that this was a competition…

  72. Stephanie says:

    Is ftw a Mormon way of saying wtf?

    Kevin, I understand your point about the phenomenon, and I fully agree. A few things that you’ve said just gave me the impression that you didn’t have experience with the stresses that come with having a lot of little kids. (Believe me, I didn’t either before experiencing this myself)

    That doesn’t really distract or take away from your point, which is valid and an excellent observation of our culture. Again, I just think that these specific examples on these two threads aren’t the best examples to make that point.

    Anyways, I’ll leave you alone now. :)

  73. Well, I am the youngest in a family of 8 and all of my siblings are married with at least 5 kids each. While it is true that I can’t know the full gamut of what having lots of kids is like, I can also see quite easily that it wouldn’t be easy and that there would be a rather huge number of responsibilities and daily tasks associated with it. In the least, I do my best to have compassion for any kind of suffering that I see, whether its related to raising a family or snubbing one’s toe. I have a lot of respect for those who can handle the kind of stress related to having a large family to take care of.

    It is true that these two threads aren’t the best examples of the phenomenon, but they both (along with a few other past experiences) made me think of it…so I could develop a basic idea and now, as time goes on, try to refine it (or discard it) as more experience comes my way. Just interesting.


  74. Stephanie says:

    Kevin, when you get it all fleshed out with examples, I would be very interested in reading it. In fact, it would be the kind of thing I’d love to see posted on, so if you are ever interested, please hop on over there and submit it to us as a guest post.

  75. mellifera says:


    Again, I think a lot of what you are seeing is a teaching tool known as positive reinforcement. ; )

    People are getting out of it, but there was a time when a man’s wife was basically a caretaking Mom figure that he could have sex with. It’s a long road from that to equal partner. So, men who come from families where the wife-as-husband’s-mom-plus-sex-toy model still prevails sometimes believe that having changed a diaper the other day makes them the best. dad. ever, not realizing how much else there is to parenting/running a household.

    And even if one’s own husband is light-years beyond that, most women still know of many men who are still in the first mindset and whose wives are not happy about it, so those of us whose husbands r doin it rite like to call attention to this fact so as to provide role models of good fatherly parenting.

    In essence, women are left with two options when confronted publicly with a man who knows how to be an equal partner (their own husband’s, or someone else’s).

    1) “Well it’s about bloody time. You ARE an adult, you know. Thanks for acting like one. Finally.”


    2) “OMG squee! That was hot. Can you do it again?”

    Psychologists have found #2, positive reinforcement, to be a lot more effective in encouraging the desired behavior– both in the individual that is spoken to, and also I imagine in bystanders who see the interchange.

    Other posters, do you think I’m onto something with this scenario or blowing smoke?

  76. Stephanie says:

    I think you’re onto something.

  77. mellifera says:

    (Sorry, depending on how you read it that response #2 sounds like something straight out of Fascinating Womanhood. Let it be know that I was going for nerdy fangirl LEETspeak, not 14-year-old on Myspace. My bad.)

  78. I certainly don’t have enough to work with to do any more than speculate in comments, which means just enough to be dangerous. ;o) I’m just drawn to habitual patterns, practically pre-ordained, knee-jerk reactions to things people say. They are practically what we live by, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse (and sometimes for neutral). They stand in between the libertarian freedom most think they have (i.e. the ability to do A or ~A, or B, or etc.) and the determinism that is one of the dominant views of the late 20th, early 21st century; strangely flexible, but not strictly causal either; between being chosen and not chosen; individual but also culturally developed.

    Just fascinating!

  79. Yeah, it feels like you’re headed in the right direction. Part of it also comes, I think, from the apparent lack of value that society, particularly capitalism, puts on being a mother: it is one of the hardest jobs in the world with longer hours, etc., but it is not valued or respected. Part of this comes from some forms of feminism where female worth is transposed into male terms of earning power, so that the mother might have an inner conflict between these two notions: they know what they are doing has value, but it also doesn’t have value when seen within two disparate spheres. Lastly, I think this competition between two value spheres then plays out in the interplay between husband and wife: yes, the former is “bringing home the bacon” but doesn’t help in the other value sphere by cooking it and cleaning up the grease afterwards (so to speak). Or at least that is one way it can play out.

    More conjecture and speculation from me. :o)

  80. mellifera says:

    *Disclaimer: I think I’m running a fever right now. Is this a fugue state? Read on….?

    I think the amount of affirmation society places on “public” vs “private” spheres (a BS dichotomy, btw) plays into the sensation of unfairness in the traditional gender division of labor quite a bit, but I don’t think it’s the whole story.

    Here’s what I think it comes down to:

    When you have a dad who usually worked but winds up taking the stay-at-home parent role for a while (due to unemployment, wife traveling or being sick, or even just a reversal of who’s usually sitting in the pew with the kids vs sitting on the stand), he expresses dumbfoundment and exhaustion over how much his wife does. There’s usually some serious shock-and-awe going on. And this is coming from guys with tough demanding jobs with long hours… not middle management desk jockeys. (Didn’t Elder Nelson have a GC talk like this a while ago? Cardiac surgeons aren’t bumps on a log.)

    Whereas, every SAHM I know who’d worked before staying home with children says “Man, I miss my job.” And those who work part-time or full-time while raising children regard their time at work as a break from the rest of their life.


    It’s not just an issue of which “sphere” (again, a BS dichotomy) that society affirms: the feeling of “this is an unfair division of labor” also an issue of which one is objectively more of a pain in the butt. And people promoting the traditional public/private gender dynamic have composed all kinds of words about the glory and nobility of that more-difficult “sphere;” but for all their words, how often did you see the men actually stepping up to take care of kids and claim a piece of that goodness? Things are different now for many families; but that history, and the fact that it remains the case for the many families that do the traditional gender roles, tells me that it’s about more than than just convenience of being able to divide up the to-do list.


    And keep in mind, “spheres” of home vs outside-home didn’t really exist for anyone except the very top tier of society until maybe 150 years ago. It’s a recent invention; Adam didn’t go off to a fig-leaf factory all day, folks! The Amish don’t insist on farming because of their religion per se; they insist on farming because it keeps both parents at home, which is part of their religion. (Those who can’t/don’t farm have home businesses making things.) They don’t ask “Is it ok for the mom to work outside of the home?” They ask “Is it ok for the dad to work outside the home?”

    So I think our insistence on cutting reality up into “spheres,” regardless of which gender is “assigned” to which one, itself is a big sign that our relationship with that reality is sort of dysfunctional. And now I’m off on a damage-done-to-families-by-industrialization rant, so that’s enough for today….

  81. esodhiambo says:

    As has been mentioned by others, when someone lists what their husband does to help out, even if it is the “hardest” or “most menial” jobs in the household, his contribution is generally quantifiable. You can list the things he does. Most of the time, however, a woman’s contribution to her household is not quantifiable; there is no way she could make out a list of all that she does from wiping kids’ butts to finding Suzy a posterboard to pairing all the orphaned socks to sticking around the house all afternoon so the meter reader could come to making and keeping everyone’s doctor and dentist appointments to refinishing the floors to changing the oil to canning the entire garden to counseling Johnny who had a run-in with a bully, etc etc.

    So when someone points out that their husband is very helpful with A, B, and C, we are all glad for that but realize that the woman takes care of EVERYTHING ELSE.

  82. ClaudiaHen says:

    80, 81, I completely agree.

    My husband is a very involved father and spouse. He does most of the child care when he’s home, he often gets breakfast for the children, he almost always makes dinner (usually something very simple), he does a lot of the cleaning, he’ll often grocery shop for us on the way home from work, etc. He also takes care of the maintenance of the cars and our home, which is a fairly big job too.

    However, I am still in charge of running the household. I do it gladly, but it is still me who keeps track of when the last diaper was changed, still me who knows when the last dentist/doctor appointments were, still me who keeps track of all their school and extracurricular activities and makes them practice their piano and fill out their homework sheets, still me who has helped my children learn to read before then entered Kindergarten and done it in a fun way, still me who keeps track of who has bathed when, still me who knows when the last dose of medicine was taken when the kids are sick, still me who plans the birthday parties, still me who writes the grocery lists and knows when we are getting low on toilet paper, etc and so forth.

    That is a lot to keep up with. It can be exhausting, because so much of my mental energy is taken up with knowing all of those things, and make sure they are all done. My husband is great and I appreciate all he does, but it’s barely a dent in the mental and organizational tasks involved in running a household. Thankfully, he is aware of this and open to helping with a lot of it.

  83. esodhiambo,

    That’s true; I’ve never tried to put any doubt on that fact. Your points do help to further elucidate the etiology of the situation, though. It’s interesting, isn’t it? :o)

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