I consider myself lucky. My husband is an enthusiastic partner in most aspects of our life, including raising our two elementary school-aged kids together. On the weekends, we try to spend quality family time together, just the four of us. But my husband and I both value our own personal time as well, so we make sure that each of us has alone time to exercise or run errands, too. That solo parenting time is where the problem begins.
See, every time my husband is alone with the kids he’ll say something to the effect of, “Whoa, the kids are so much easier when you’re not around.” Or my personal favorite, “It’s just so much easier when I can be with the kids alone. We get so much more done and they’re much less temperamental when you’re not around.”
Because here’s the thing: The kids aren’t easier when one parent is away for a short period of time. It’s just that, for two parent homes, parenting can be easier when one can do it alone and without observation, commentary, or criticism. Your partner isn’t there to notice that you forgot to feed the kids veggies with their lunch, or to remind you that the kids are tired and about 10 minutes away from a meltdown. So it seems easier. It’s not. Ask a single parent. They’ll probably tell you that being a single parent is rewarding, but it’s also hard as hell.
My job is very flexible, so I’m able to spend every weekday afternoons and evenings alone with my kids. My husband is sometimes home from work by bedtime. More often than not, however, he gets home when the kids are going to bed or afterward. When he comes home earlier, things go awry. The schedule gets thrown out the window. Homework may not happen. And he will decide that he’s going to be Mr. Loud Fun Guy right before bedtime. Cue the inevitable meltdowns.
But, I never comment on how much easier everything was before he got home. I never tell him that I manage to get homework done, dinner made and cleaned up, and the kids bathed and in bed with relative ease, when he’s not around. I never tell him because I value his presence and I value his partnership, even if it is louder, messier, and rarely on time.
I’m the person who makes every aspect of our family’s life work on a day-to-day basis, so of course I’m insulted when I’m told that life, and my children, are so much easier when I’m not around. Whenever I hear him say this I can’t help but think, “Great, then you manage the homework. You fold the laundry. You hire the swim teacher.” If it’s all so much better without me, do it by yourself.
So, dear husband, thanks for taking care of your own kids. Thanks for being a role model dad who is happily raising his own kids. Just don’t tell me how much easier those kids are without me. Those same kids are easier without you, too. I’m just too polite to tell you.