Dads Are Stressed, But Are Wives to Blame?

Dad doing housework
How's he doing? No, srsly!
There’s lots of buzz about this New York Times article about dads starting to feel the same stress that moms do. Here’s the short version: Dads used to be remote figures in their kids’ lives, but as their roles in the home grow, they start to understand what we’ve been bitching about this whole time. Housework, daycare drop-offs, negotiating sick-kid days -- it’s no easy feat to juggle it all.

All very interesting. But I was struck by a statement from an expert in the story. One aspect of this whole dynamic is that husbands always say they do more than their wives report. The popular response has been to say, “Oh, the men are overestimating their precious selves.” But expert Stephani Coontz raises the possibility that “women consistently underestimate how much their husbands do.”

Hmm. Intriguing.


Women are considered to be more “psychologically responsible” for the home, planning meals and keeping the kids’ schedules and acting as the gatekeeper for the fam’s social life. It’s more stressful, sure, but are we always willing to give up that role? I have a friend who was completely exasperated with her husband after the birth of their daughter, and it got so bad, they ended up in couples' counseling. Whereupon the counselor questioned whether my friend wasn’t purposely taking on more than she could handle because this was the one thing she was the boss of.

She had to take a step back. So did her hubs. He was kinda controlling about a lot of stuff. So she was being controlling back. And telling him he couldn’t do what she did. Which is only, like, the oldest trap in the book, and one that we’ve been setting for ourselves since the first prehistoric sock got dropped on the cave-floor.

I know I’m guilty of this. Try as I might to give him credit for the incredible amount of hands-on parenting he does in our double-freelancer household, I still get an odd satisfaction when I hear him struggling for 45 minutes to get P down for a nap, and then I walk in, close the blinds, and do the magic bottle-yoga breathing trick and she’s out like a light. “So there,” I tease him, as I saunter back to my desk, and to his credit, he snickers. Funny, but horrible!

What do you think? Is it hard for you to give your guy credit, or is he really a bit of a Raymond about things? Tell us in the comments!

Image via dhgoodman/Flickr

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