Disparate parenting relationshipsNo one ever asked me to be the primary parent when my husband started traveling. It was a fair and obvious assumption since I was the one still at home and he was the one away for long periods of time. I'm a work-at-home mom (WAHM) whose contributions are necessary to our overall household income, but I'm home, nonetheless.

However, I don't think it's fair and obvious to assume that I remain the primary parent when my husband is home.

And yet, after three or so years of this lifestyle, that's very much the case.

As much as I try to integrate my husband back into our existence, if he doesn't participate, then there's not much that I can do.

Now, it's not as if he sits around and does nothing all day long. Compared to some husbands and dads, he's extremely active.

But there seems to be this understanding on his part that certain aspects of his participation are somehow optional -- a gift or an extra benefit. And oftentimes, they are on his terms and not necessarily mine.

Take the morning routine when he's home, for example, which generally involves me getting up with the kids, making them breakfast, and settling them in before attempting to do a bit of work before the day starts. He'll come down 30 minutes to an hour later, make his coffee, and then sit or play with the kids for awhile.

He assumes that because I get up with them every day, that the days when he is home shouldn't be any different.

There are other times later on in the day when the same sort of thing happens. He'll go off to mow the lawn or wash the car, quite often at a time when it's lunch or naptime, or some sort of point where managing all three kids gets to be a bit challenging and I could use the extra hands.

On one hand, it's hard to complain when he's actually doing something constructive; on the other, I'd much rather have him help me with naptime than drive around in a freshly washed car.

No matter how many times I ask or remind him, the disparity in our parenting roles is obvious. He'll kick in to help more, but it's still like he's doing something extra -- you know, working overtime as opposed to it being part of his regular job description.

I often wonder what it's like to be him -- to always having someone around to help him. And I wonder if he knows what it's like to be me -- to always be the captain of the ship.

Don't get me wrong, I love sailing. But even the smell of the sea and the wind in your hair can get old, especially when you're always the one driving the ship.

 

Image via Flickr/Rachaelvoorhees