I want to start out by saying my husband is a wonderful partner and father, and we’ve always been fairly equal on household responsibilities. We take turns cooking/cleaning up after meals and he takes care of the things that, quite frankly, make me happy there is someone else around to take care of – like taking out the garbage and recycling, and changing the cat litter (MY cat’s litter, he’ll always point out). I have slightly more responsibility when it comes to our daughter. She’s always been a mommy’s girl and most of the time when my husband offers to do something for or with her she will immediately respond “mommy’s turn!”
But as our daughter Hannah gets older we’ve begun to encounter a gray area of shared responsibility – Hannah’s stuff. This is outside the realm of general parenting responsibilities - I do mealtimes and bedtime; he does bath time.
This is just the general detritus of a two and half year old.
She is learning responsibility when it comes to her stuff. We sing the clean up song as we put away her toys before bedtime, and she knows that her toothbrush goes in the bathroom sink and her dishes go in the kitchen sink. But there’s only so much you can ask of a two year old. She’s just a kid and while I want her to be responsible, I want her to enjoy being a kid. I’m sure her teenage years will involve endless repetitions of me saying things like “clean your room” and “if you wanted to wear that shirt today you should have done your laundry.” But not now.
So the question is, who is responsible for the glass of milk left on the coffee table or the dirty PJs sitting on the stairs waiting to go up to her laundry basket? In my opinion, the answer should be both my husband and I. In reality, it has slowly dawned on me that in my husband’s opinion, the answer is: me.
Here are a few examples, or, if you will, the evidence:
• We’ve started using the stairs as sort of a “holding place” for things that need to go up to our rooms or our office – things like shoes, mail and Hannah’s dirty PJs from getting dressed in the living room. My husband will grab his stuff on his way up the stairs, but leave Hannah’s sitting there. Sometimes for days if I’m feeling particularly stubborn about this issue.
• Sometimes while we’re all sitting on the couch before bedtime, we’ll each have drink. Glasses of water or sometimes wine and usually a glass of milk for Hannah. I do bedtime, so she and I will head upstairs together. In the morning when I come down, my husband’s glass is gone and has been placed in the sink or dishwasher, but Hannah’s cup of milk will still be sitting there.
• My husband will, on occasion, make our bed. But he has never EVER made Hannah’s bed.
• He will fold her laundry – and then leave it in her room. For…her to put away? I’m not sure.
This has lead to endless exasperated cries from me of “Hannah’s stuff is not MY stuff!” and “Are you waiting for her to take care of this?!”
*In reading a first draft of this to my husband, he laughed the whole time and then could only offer a feeble, “I don’t know where her clothes go! I mean, I’ll do if you don’t mind things not going where they’re supposed to…” I saw this excuse coming a mile away and offered this helpful suggestion: “It’s not rocket science! Open her closet. Where you see a bunch of shirts – that’s where her shirts go. Where you see all the pants – that’s where the pants go. And where you see dresses and sweaters hanging, you’re probably safe to hang sweaters and dresses there.”
I don’t see this ending anytime soon – in fact I see it getting worse as we add to our family. So I guess the best thing to do is laugh about...and vent via blog post.