Moms are tired, but maybe they want it that way

October 10, 2013

How many times have you stared at the ceiling in the middle of the night, ticking off all the things that needed to get done — get kids haircuts, attend the PTA meeting, find the baseball glove, fix the seat on the bike — as your husband was sleeping soundly?

That, in a report released Tuesday by Pew Research Center, is why mothers are so wiped out — moreso than dads, even though many fathers are doing much more than their own fathers did.

Mothers are more tired than dads when it comes to work, housework, child care and even leisure, the report found. One of the many reasons for this, according to a very good story by Brigid Schulte, is because moms carry the “psychic burden” of their families.

That means — and this won’t come as much of a shock to many of you — moms are the ones who stay up at night making mental lists.

But here’s a question, moms. Would you allow —okay, I’ll say it: trust — your kids’ dad to take over all of that? Would you want it any other way?

We have thrown ourselves into parenting roles. Sure, a lot has changed: women have become breadwinners. Dads want paternity leave. Moms want to lean in at the office. But many things remain the same. And I think many mothers want it that way. It’s exhausting, but they want to be in charge of lunches and permission slips. And if they let go and let dad, well, would things still be “just right?”

“That’s not to say men don’t love their children as much. It’s who carries the planning on their minds,” Carol Weissbrod, associate professor in the department of psychology at American University, said. Just think about Marissa Meyer, she says. She had a nursery put in next to her office. You don’t see men in executive positions with similar office additions.

Weissbrod points to work she did where she took a look at pediatricians’ offices. Who comes in with the children? Who makes the appointments? Studying only those couples with equal employment status, she said, women are far more likely to be the parent doing the scheduling and the attending.

I get it. This summer, I scheduled my 6-year-old’s pediatrician appointment on a day I had to be at work. My husband, as equal as they get when it comes to parenting, offered to take him. The thing was, no matter how tired and stressed I was, I wanted to be the one there.

This “psychic burden” might not carry over to the next generation, Weissbrod said, just as today’s dads are far more involved than their fathers were. As roles evolve and men do more, their children will ape them. Many little boys today see their dads take time off to be with them, cook dinner, do carpools —things yesterday’s dads did not do as much. Those boys may grow into fathers who will do all of that, then take another step.

So we may call it a burden, and it is. But do we want to not think about these things?

My husband did take our son to the doctor that day in June. I was a little melancholy, but even though I wasn’t at the doctor’s office, I did know to remind my husband that we would need the immunization forms for the boys to register for school.

One form came home, the other didn’t. He says I hadn’t told him he also needed to get one for the preschooler.

And just like that: role fulfilled.

Amy Joyce is the editor and a writer for On Parenting.
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