Beyond “Mom:” How Parenting Defines Us

By Demetria Gallegos

Everett Collection
Parents fall into roles within the household. How hard is it to change them?

When my daughters ask what’s for dinner, I have the extreme pleasure of saying, “I don’t know.”  Because I rarely do. Their dad makes almost every meal, usually from scratch, and in his hands, it’s tasty, economical and healthful.

John’s reign as Meal Parent began almost 16 years ago, shortly after our oldest was born.  When Jamie was ready for solids, she got home-made baby food, which made other mothers in our playgroup feel a little insecure.  I don’t remember ever asking him to be in charge of meals, but he was good at it, and – as the parent at home – he felt it was his responsibility.

At the time, with just one little baby, I never would have imagined who I have become.  Turns out, I’m in charge of Homework, Housekeeping, Photos and Tech Support.

I never understood how unrelenting the chores of parenthood would be, and how we would naturally fall into these roles.  It’s beautiful when it works (did I mention he’s also Laundry, Shopping and Dishes Parent? – I know, I hit the jackpot).

But sometimes you have to take on jobs that no one wants.  Midnight Parent, to help the child with the bad stomach. Sewage Clean-Up Custodian, after a basement shower drain kept exploding. Bug Killer. Shoveling the Driveway for Three Days After a Blizzard to Extricate the Cars Parent.  You step up when duty calls.  Every time these roles are invoked, I reflect anew with deep humility on how single parents do it.

I wrote this week about how John has been Pet Parent all these years, and how I considered challenging his primacy when one of the girls set her heart on adopting a cat.   In the end, I chose not to, in part because of my respect for the thoughtful process he has gone through with the girls to evaluate different potential pets and our ability to care for them well.  It’s always been his turf.

But things are changing and roles are shifting as our daughters get older, and we all become more mindful of how entrenched these patterns have become.

Propelling the four of them through homework can still be onerous, but increasingly, they track their own responsibilities and progress.

The girls and I have finally begun to feel guilty about leaving dishes in the sink, and realize how much John has been spoiling us.

One of our girls is very interested in cooking, and has begun trying recipes on us – to our delight.  We need more of that to happen.  And, in truth, I should probably make more than the occasional grilled cheese.

Jugglers, which parent are you? What do you think of the division of labor?  Would you set up things differently if you were starting over again?

Ron Asks: “How do you divide the parenting roles in your household?”

Fathers Have More Fun

Are parents happier than their childless peers?

For the last five years or so, I’ve answered that question with a resounding “no.” Statistics (not to mention anecdotal evidence) led me to believe that parents tend to be more stressed and less happy.

In some ways, this seems understandable, even obvious. Folks without kids can go to yoga or hang out with friends without having to find a babysitter (or negotiate with a spouse). Childless people don’t panic over stranding their kids at school when a meeting runs late, or lay awake at night worrying about how to keep the kids’ health insurance, or feel overwhelmed by mountains of laundry and plastic toys and permission slips.

But now three new studies throw a wrench in the previous research. The studies, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, find that parents report higher levels of happiness and positive emotion and have more “thoughts about meaning in life.”

Some parents, that is.

Young parents and single parents don’t fare as well: Unmarried parents are unhappier than people without kids, as are parents under 26 years old. (Parents over age 63 don’t differ from their childless peers.)

Then there’s the gender gap. While it’s true that parents on average report greater happiness and satisfaction with their lives than their childless peers, this is actually because fathers are driving the averages up. Mothers don’t show a big uptick in happiness by having kids. It’s really the dads that are happier.

Parenthood, it turns out, is only associated with greater life satisfaction and happiness among fathers.

As a feminist mother, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tad resentful about this.

Anyone who has looked at the statistics on household division of labor knows that moms typically bear the brunt of the unfun housework that comes with child-rearing, not to mention the logistical backflips of the highly-scheduled childhood.

I’m not saying that men don’t do housework, because they do. And, on average, they are doing more than they have in past generations. But every day, mothers are doing housework and caring for family members for nearly four hours, compared to dads’ three hours.

What’s more, housework in the U.S. is still very gendered: Women do more laundry and dishes and cleaning; men do more yardwork. I know I find gardening on the weekends more fun than battling the dishes in my sink morning, noon and night. So perhaps that extra hour of work, and the different type of work, makes moms less happy than dads.

But my resentment will buy me nothing in the happiness department. Focusing on happiness as a zero-sum game gets us nowhere in our fight for equality.

Here’s why. First, we all presumably have the same goals; namely, to raise happy and healthy kids, and to find happiness ourselves. And a happy father is, generally speaking, a good father. We know that positive emotions make us better parents – when we are feeling good, we are more likely to be better listeners, warmer caregivers and to be more consistent in our discipline.

Second, it is better for our own well-being and the well-being of our children if we are cultivating (and modeling) what Buddhists call mudita rather than cultivating and modeling resentment. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg describes mudita as “vicarious joy,” or “the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it.” Experiencing another person’s happiness vicariously really can bring us great happiness; happiness is very contagious. In fact, happiness generally spreads three degrees, affecting not just our friends, but our friend’s friend’s friend’s.

For example, my own dad is about the happiest father imaginable. He takes my daughters to the dentist, volunteers at their swim meets and takes them out for ice cream once a week. The pride, pleasure and great meaning that he gets from his fathering activities is obvious, contagious and moving. When I watch him with my children, I feel a deep contentment that is hard to come by in other ways.

I’m not suggesting that structural and cultural changes aren’t in order to correct the happiness gender gap among parents, or that it is okay if dads’ happiness comes at the expense of moms’. I am suggesting that this Father’s Day, we should celebrate the fact that fathers tend to be happier than their childless peers, as this bodes well for everyone, not the least of whom are mothers and children.

Maybe your happiness on Father’s Day will come from a moment of reflection, as a dad, about the ways parenting is satisfying. Or, maybe your happiness on Sunday will come vicariously, through the fathers in your life. Either way, Happy Father’s Day.

Fathers: What is it about being a dad brings you the most happiness and life satisfaction?
Mothers and others: How do you derive vicarious joy from watching the happy dads in your life?

© 2012 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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Father’s Day Quotes: Best Sayings About Fatherhood

Father’s Day is coming up quickly, but you still have time to craft a perfect card for the dads in your life to cherish (er, stash in a drawer somewhere…) forever. If words aren’t your strong suit, never fear: here are some of the best quotes about fatherhood that are sure to make even the most stoic of fathers crack a smile or shed a tear. Print them, pin them, frame them, or stash notes around the house – whatever you choose, just make sure to let dad know how much you care.

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  • “Having a staring contest with a newborn is one of the weirdest things you will ever do. And it is highly recommended.” -Ross McCammon

  • “Above all, children need our unconditional love, whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.” -President Obama

  • “Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!” -Lydia M. Child

  • “You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. She looks up to you. You’re her oracle. You’re her hero.” -Stanley T. Banks, Father of the Bride

  • “Do I want to be a hero to my son? No. I would like to be a very real human being. That’s hard enough.” -Robert Downey Jr.

  • “A new father quickly learns that his child invariably comes to the bathroom at precisely the times when he’s in there, as if he needed company.” – Bill Cosby

  • “I thought I would be more inspired to have all these new feelings to talk about, but I really just want to hang out with my daughter.” Jay-Z

  • “The reward of child rearing is spending the rest of your life proudly knowing this person you helped guide. Let him be himself.” -Mike Sager

  • “I want my son to wear a helmet 24 hours a day.” -Will Arnett

  • “This is my most important role. If I fail at this, I fail at everything.” -Mark Wahlberg

  • “It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping.”-John Sinor

  • “It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” -Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son: Reflections on Becoming a Man

  • “Lately all my friends are worried that they’re turning into their fathers. I’m worried that I’m not.” -Dan Zevin

  • “By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.” -Charles Wadsworth

  • “Few sons are like their fathers – many are worse, few better.” -Homer, The Odyssey

  • “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived. ”-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

  • “Father! – To God himself we cannot give a holier name.” -William Wordsworth


Father’s Day Quotes


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Some teens aren’t liking Facebook as much as older users

Is Facebook losing its likability among teens?

Teens who belong to the first truly mobile generation — their most common form of communication is text messaging — are increasingly gravitating to services made for their smartphones and tablets like mobile social network Path. Photo-sharing apps are also very popular, especially Instagram. Above, Mary Lee, 13, of suburban Cleveland says she spends more time on the computer now than in the past.
(Tony Dejak, Associated Press / July 14, 2008)

Ron Huxley Reacts: The main reason I got on FB was to keep up with what my children are doing? Answer this question: What social network is your child hanging out online? Should mom and dad’s follow them to find out what they are posting? Where do you, the parent, like to hand out socially?

10 habits for a well-run home

1. Wake up early. I know this one stinks, but it is the best way to get a jump on your day. Otherwise, the day seems to be in control rather than you controlling the day.

2. Waking up early starts with going to bed earlier. I know that you like the time after the kids have gone to bed for yourself, or for working on projects, or even for trying to catch up on housework. The fact is, shutting down and turning in earlier will make for a better morning and you will likely be more productive. This may not be accurate for the true night owls out there, but I urge you to give it a try.

3. Evening preparations. Make sure everything that is needed to leave the house in the morning is prepped and where it should be. Teach your children this habit as soon as you possibly can, it can make your life easier.

4. Institute meal-planning. Whether you have every meal for the week planned out, or you have 6 dinners to pick from each day, find a way to make meal planning work for you. I love Pinterest for ideas for meals! Look at your meal plan the evening before and see if you need to do any prep like take something out of the freezer, or prepare the crock pot.

5. Do one complete load of laundry a day. From start to finish. Build a habit of grabbing everyone’s clothes after bathtime and tossing in wash. and then toss in dryer before bed. Or in the morning when you get up. Take 5-10 minutes to fold and put away that load (or have your kids do it!) One load a day may or may not be enough for your family, but doing at least one load every day will help you stay on top of the pile.

6. Do your best to get your dishes done in the evening before going to bed. I know this can be hard sometimes, but think how much better it feels in the morning to come down to a clean sink. Build this habit and you will appreciate it. Again, if your kids are old enough to do the dishes or at least help, then let them! See: My strategy for getting the dishes done

7. Take 5 minutes and buzz through the bathrooms with a damp cloth. Straighten, wipe, and keep a toilet brush handy for swishing the toilet. Take any dirty towels and clothes to laundry room. Some days use a paper towel with windex to shine things up, including the mirror.

8. A place for everything and everything in its place. We have heard this our whole lives and it is true, it makes life a lot easier. One problem is that we have accumulated too much stuff so that we have a difficult time keeping things in their places. Work on clearing clutter and designating homes for regularly used items. And teach your children this as well. I know well how discouraging it can be to walk into a room and multiple things are sitting out. On the reverse, think how calming it is to walk into a room where everything is tidy and orderly. (notice I didn’t say spotless) See: How to magically make your house cleaner

9. Have a bedtime routine that includes putting away toys, books, dishes, trash, etc and picking out clothes for tomorrow. Having this routine in place will help your kids learn responsibility and know what is expected of them. We are their mom, not their maid.

10. Do not say YES immediately to new requests. Come up with a response, such as “Let me check my calendar and get back with you.” Or if you know you need to say NO, get it over with. And don’t feel like you have to explain why. A simple, “Due to other obligations, I won’t be able to ________”.  See: You know you say YES too much if…

Okay, before you go feeling like a total failure, and wondering how will I ever be able to do all these things, listen to me.

Baby steps.

Pick 1 or 2 things to start working on today.

Do them consistently and teach your family to do the same. Once they become habit, add 2 more things. Keep at it slowly and you will be surprised at how doing these little things will help relieve some of your stress, and lighten that burden that moms always seem to be carrying on their shoulders.

Ron Huxley: I am not a clean freak but I love these simple tips for keeping ahead of the chaos. The trick is that you have to do this everyday or it will overtake you.

Real-world Stress Saving Tips

This blogger, from Huffingtonpost, has some very sane, sanity saving tips:

“I did search for what experts say when it comes to "timesaving tips for busy parents”, but I found their advice to be unreasonable and cumbersome. One site advised to “never come home angry.” Well sure, that is a fine goal, but if we can’t come home angry, some of us would never come home at all.

My tips, on the other hand, are practical suggestions to save twenty seconds here, a minute there, and a massive headache later. These are the hidden methods to my madness:

Wear day/night clothing. It may be time to ditch the cute pajama pants and matching tank and invest in a wardrobe that meets your daytime and bedtime needs. A flattering pair of black yoga pants can easily transition from the bedroom to the playground. Not only will this save time crucial time in the morning, but it can cut down the laundry loads quite a bit.

Utilize those babywipes for more than your tot’s tush! Instead of washing my face in the morning, I use baby wipes to clean the sleep from my eyes. Don’t be so appalled, I do buy the chlorine free ones.

Never prepare an unnecessary meal. When my husband has one of his many dinner meetings, instead of making my own evening meal, I eat the leftovers on my daughters’ plates. Yum… carrot sticks and uninspired chicken on Disney Princess plates.

Make Sprout your new BFF. I know, I know, admitting that I let my children watch the occasional television program may likely send Children’s Protective Services to my home, but it’s true, we do. The girls love Dora, Max and Ruby, Olivia, and a good half-dozen other annoying cartoon characters. Do you know how many task I can get done during one 30-minute cartoon? Clean the dishes, put away the laundry, have a quickie in the bedroom with my husband…

Cut your daughter’s hair. On principle I keep the hair on my two young daughters’ heads well trimmed. I have yet to meet the parent of a girl that doesn’t suffer from the tiresome tangle battles. Neither of my girls readily allow me to brush their hair, nor do they have the ability to do this themselves. So, in my effort to avoid chasing them around the house, wrestling them to the ground and holding them in place with my thighs while I attempt to detangle the rat nests cultivating on their domes, I simply keep their hair no longer than chin length.

Pretend you don’t notice. Some days my husband will arrive home from work shocked at the state of a room. “What happened?” he exclaims, the anxiety spilling from his ears. “Gee, I just took out the garbage and when I came back…” I answer, where in reality I have carefully stayed clear of the two girls who were ever so diligently painting the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste. Sure, the clean up will be bothersome, but it took them a solid 25 minutes of cooperative play to make this mess!

Pajama Day! Is it really so horrible for your preschooler to show up to school in last night’s pajamas? I’m sure his teachers have seen it before. With my 2-year-old, the morning tasks are some of the hardest to get accomplished, so I often bring an outfit for her to change into at school if she so desires. Again, this also saves time with the laundry.

Socks? What socks? Fortunately we live in the moderate Bay Area climate, where the temperature rarely drops below 48 degrees. Because of this, and Crocs made for toddlers, my girls almost never wear socks. They each own less than ten pairs and only wear them when we visit my parents in Oregon, during the winter … if it snows. By foregoing this extra layer of footwear, I save approximately thirty seconds each morning, in addition to a good ten minutes each Sunday desperately attempting to match pairs of tiny toddler socks.

Skip the extra-extracurricular activities. My children are allowed one, two at most, lessons a week. In my opinion, their swimming classes are mandatory, but if we don’t make it out of the house for their 9 AM Saturday morning ballet lesson, we all kind of benefit.

Stop picking up the toys. Whenever the clutter in children’s bedrooms begins to trigger my panic attacks, I close their doors and remember the mantra of the iconic Phyllis Diller: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”

Now that I’ve shared mine, tell us, what are your time saving secrets for an easier day?“

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Dads Who Do Diapers

Although many fathers today spend more time with children than was the case in the past, physical care of young children remains primarily mothers’ work. Yet some fathers claim that they do work traditionally seen as the “mother’s job” every day. Using subsample data from the male respondent file of the National Survey of Family Growth 2002 (n = 613), this study examines factors associated with married or cohabiting fathers’ daily involvement in physical care of children under age 5 years. Logistic regression results show that daily involvement is more likely if fathers were raised by their biological fathers, received more education, have employed wives or partners, have a young male child, or receive public assistance; it is less likely if they have school-age children. This study suggests that paternal involvement in physical care of young children is shaped by multiple factors including childhood experiences, education, economic conditions, and current family context.

Ron Huxley Remembers: I was one of those very involved fathers who attended the child birth classes, got up for the bottle feedings at 2 a.m. and changed diapers. Many dad’s don’t, even in modern society. It still seems to remain largely the mothers role to take care of new babies. Dad’s who do diapers depend on several factors, according to this research, including how they were raised, their temperament, and their economic status.

How involved was your father or the father of your children in the care taking of your children? Click reply below or post on our Facebook page your response:


Working Mothers Multitask More Than Fathers, And Don’t Like It

“American mothers are multitasking for 48.3 hours each week, compared to 38.9 hours working fathers put in, researchers from Michigan State University reported in American Sociological Review. They add that women find multitasking a negative experience, compared to fathers who say that for them the experience is a positive one.”

Ron Huxley’s Reaction: A recent journal article reported that mom’s multitask more than dad’s and they find the entire experience more negative than do fathers. This could be because they do most of the work around the home, as the article implies, than do dad’s. I wouldn’t like it either if I was the one doing all the work either! The article gives some very simple advice: Dad’s need to help out more. Unfortunately, like most simple advice there is more complexity behind it, like social rewards or more flexible work hours. In our home it was do whatever you could whenever you could and this way, no one got resentful that the other parent wasn’t doing their part.

How do you divide the parenting/household responsibilities? Are dad’s really just slackers when it comes to parenting duties? Share your thoughts by clicking the reply button.

Common Reactions to Being a Stay and Home Dad and How to Deal with Them

In one study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly in 2005, researchers from Yale University looked at the attitudes of our culture at large towards traditional and non-traditional families. The researchers defined traditional as a family with a working father and stay-at-home mother, and non-traditional families as families with a working mother and a stay-at-home father. The results of these studies were quite interesting, and they just go to show what some of the common reactions to stay-at-home dads are.

The researchers in this study found that people liked traditional families more, and that they expressed negative attitudes – usually very openly! – towards non-traditional families. Stay-at-home dads were somehow viewed as less-than by other people, and working mothers were not well-respected or well-liked unless they were working because of financial necessity rather than for personal fulfillment.

If you’re already a stay-at-home dad or have talked with people about the possibility of becoming one, this all probably seems like a no-brainer to you! It’s not at all uncommon for people to have a distinctly negative, know-it-all attitude towards stay-at-home dads. But then, of course, there’s the opposite extreme of those who paint you to be a hero just because you stay home with your kids. What’s a guy to do? Here are a few of the most common reactions to being a stay-at-home dad and what you can do about them:

The Hateful Reaction
When it comes to parenting, you simply can’t please everyone, nor should you try to. While every parenting decision from whether or not to breastfeed a child to whether or not to spank a child can come with hateful reactions from certain quarters, nothing seems to draw so many of these reactions as being a stay-at-home dad. (At least, that’s how you probably feel when you tell people that this is what you do!) Some people just don’t get it and never will agree with your decision.

The best way to react to this one is to ignore it! You don’t owe anyone else (not even your own mother-in-law!) a justification about why you’ve decided to stay home with your kids. If you’re getting a hateful reaction from someone you don’t even know, just walk away. In touchier situations – like when you’re dealing with family members – perhaps you can come up with a one-liner such as, “It just works better for us this way,” that you can throw in before you pointedly change the direction of the conversation.

The Effusive Reaction
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those very liberal people who think that being a stay-at-home dad makes you a hero. While it can be nice to be praised rather than vilified for your current career choice, it can also be quite annoying because you know you’re just doing what’s best for your family and yourself at this particular moment in your history.

Dealing with those who think you’re a total hero for taking care of your kids can be tricky. Of course, you don’t want to offend them purposefully, but you might also want to just change the subject yet again. Again, having just a little something to say about your role as a stay-at-home dad and then changing the subject can be helpful.

The Advice-Giving Reaction
Part of the problem with our world’s perception of the roles of men and women is that people assume dads don’t understand how to take care of children by virtue of the fact that they are male. This is, of course, no true. Some men are just as much “naturals” at caring for kids as some women are, and every parent has at least a little bit of learning curve, no matter what their gender!

Just because men can’t give birth or breastfeed certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t competent enough to care for a child.
With that said, as a stay-at-home dad, be prepared for more than your fair share of parenting advice. It will come from moms at the playground, your family members, people you know a little, and complete strangers in the grocery store. There are a myriad of ways to handle the advice-giving reaction to your role as a dad, and the option you choose depends on your personality, how well you know the advice giver, and your mood on that particular day.

You could, for instance, just let the advice roll off your back with a polite, “Thanks for the advice” and, of course, a quick change of subject if you’re stuck in an actual conversation with the advice-giver. You could also become a little sarcastic, which is especially fun when you’re dealing with those who have much less parenting experience than you (or, in many cases, who aren’t parents at all and just happen to be of the female gender). Of course, if the person you’re speaking with has a similar parenting style to your own and is genuinely trying to help, it can be helpful to listen and learn! It might eat at your pride a little to take unasked-for advice, but sometimes you really will learn something helpful!

Reactions to being a stay-at-home dad can be difficult to get used to and to deal with at first, and if your career had previously been a big part of your identity, things can be even more difficult. However, learning to deal with these common reactions in a way that is helpful for you and for the people involved otherwise is a good way to make your time as a stay-at-home dad more successful.

By Daniela Baker

Daniela blogs at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison site. She blogs about family finance and as a mother of two, she firmly believes in the idea of having a bit of an emergency fund saved up just in case.

Ron Huxley’s Reaction: I love this post by DIY as it addresses some very common reactions to stay at home dads. I have known several families where the wife makes more money and has a more stable dad and this was the logical conclusion for their family. It seemed to work for them. I think it would drive me crazy.

Fathers guide to knowing child custody rights…

A new handbook is out that helps dad’s know about their rights when dealing with child support and custody. As a therapist with 20 years experience, this is probably the most confusing area for parents and one of the most painful experiences for the whole family. Outcomes on fatherhood studies show that when children have engaged dad’s, their mental health is better than children without dad’s in their lives. 

Get more info here: