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Helpful Dads Hurt Mom's Ego

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Want a husband who "does it all?" Are you sure?

father changing diaper

A husband who cooks, cleans and raises the kids right alongside you may sound like every woman's dream, but be careful what you wish for.

Turns out, super helpful dads can be an ego-crusher to working moms, according to a study published in the journal Personal Relationships.

Women are now dominating the work force for the first time in history, due to the recession killing more male-oriented jobs. And to compensate, dads are jumping in to help out with child-rearing and other household duties. But since most moms pride themselves on being a mom, having Superdad swoop in can take a toll on their egos.

"While mothers are encouraged to join the workforce, socially constructed ideals of motherhood require mothers to be primary caregivers," says study author Takayuki Sasaki of the Osaka University of Commerce in Japan. "Thus, employed mothers may feel pressured to do more caregiving to ensure the survival of their feelings of self-competence, even though they may wish for fathers' increased participation to lessen their burden."

The dads just can't win. To add insult to injury, while the dads in the study applauded their wives' parenting skills, the moms came down hard on their husbands.

"Many wives would say caregiving by their husbands is helpful, but at the same time wives give their husbands negative feedback because their husbands' caregiving style is different from their own," says Sasaki. "For example, a wife appreciates when her husband feeds their baby but also tells her husband that after all it makes more work because the way the husband feeds is messy." (Uh, raise your hand if you've ever re-stacked the dishwasher because he was doing it "wrong.")

But maybe there's another reason these wives aren't enthused about their husbands pitching in.

"Husbands are often told by their wives that they are good parents when they are involved in caregiving that their wives normally do, such as feeding, changing diapers and soothing," Sasaki says. "In contrast, husbands do not tell their wives that they are good parents even when their wives exhibit such behavior, probably because it is taken for granted."

The silver lining is that although women tend to feel like crappier moms the more involved their husbands are, these women also tend to be happier wives.

Tell us: Do you resent your man for helping out around the house and with the kids? Or is that just crazy talk?


next: Payback: Students Grade Their Teachers
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Cheryl March 22, 2010, 8:50 AM

This is silly. I have repacked the dishwasher because I want all the dirty dishes to fit in there, not to assuage my damaged mommy ego. I am always happy to let my husand be a more active participant in parenting our children.

Being Honest March 22, 2010, 10:01 AM

I am totally guilty of this. I know it’s wrong and selfish so I try my hardest not to say anything, but when my husband helps out, instead of being grateful I take it as an (irrational) insult.

Daddy Brad March 22, 2010, 10:43 AM

It is certainly common for Dads’ to be excessively complimented for participating in care giving activities especially when they are the more traditional and historically female dominated tasks like changing, soothing and feeding. This is insulting both to Moms and Dads. Can we not get to the place where we both pull our own weight, share equally in the overall parenting workload, and understand that it’s ok to be very different in the way we accomplish parenting tasks as long it’s for the benefit of the kid.

Black Iris March 22, 2010, 2:16 PM

I love it when my husband does his share with the kids, but I admit I am sometimes guilty of trying to make him do things my way.

I wonder if part of the problem is that many mothers would rather be doing the child care than having to earn money?

deaddrift March 25, 2010, 11:11 AM

Ha, I restack the dishwasher because my wife can’t get it right!


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