Until recent years, the most common broken-record complaint heard from mothers was that husbands didn’t help out enough. And no matter how many diapers he changed and aprons he donned, helpful husbands never scored enough points to hold up against the ocean of chores and both mentally and physically challenging tasks that fell under mom’s role. The collective mother body had pretty much raised its broom in conclusion that no man can do a job quite as quick, thorough or gladly as a woman.
Over the last few decades, however, the dish-washing gloves have switched hands. With droves of women entering the workforce and leaving their children behind, the roles of husband and wife, father and mother are being redefined. And with the shifting responsibilities producing a more equalized involvement in childcare and household chores, women’s notion that men just aren’t good enough is being put to the test. New research from the University of Texas finds that moms with super helpful hubbies experience a sense of incompetence. Close to 80 dual-earner couples, all parents of toddlers, were interviewed about self-esteem as it relates to their so called “parenting proficiency.” When asked about their perception of their spouse’s involvement, the result on the side of moms was surprising. After toiling to solicit daddy’s help, and now finally conquering his involvement like no other generation, today’s working moms are reporting a low self esteem that they admit is directly related to watching their husbands fit into the maternal role with ease and confidence. Study results showed that the more time husbands spend with the children, the lower their wife’s sense of self-worth.
After all this time being convinced we had the special touch, it turns out that daddy is much better than second-best. And it hurts.
Amazingly enough, our increasingly egalitarian world has not washed away women’s deep self-expectation to be the starring role in parenting. When our spouse goes above and beyond to help – and is good at it – it’s somewhat of a smack in the face.
Has our motherly ego gotten the best of us? Has all our knowledge about “mother’s intuition” and the mother-child bond inflated our sense of worth as it pertains to our role as parents? Can we still believe in the uniqueness of what we offer our families without being threatened…by our own husbands?
As it turns out, our swollen sense of self has left us feeling small. We built up our proficiency so far as to believe that no one else – not even our children’s father – can take our place in any way. When he does, we crumble. Meanwhile, this whole time, we thought it was only the men in our lives who needed some ego-deflating.
It seems the overly-proud mother has a lesson to learn from Passover. The unleavened bread that is the holiday highlight warns us not to bloat our sense of self. To be truly free, we must get rid of all the self pride that is weighing us down. Feeling threatened by our husbands’ proficiency at childrearing and homemaking reveals something very un-motherly – jealousy. And, anyways, if we’re so good at what we do, why does a helpful husband make us feel useless?
No one can truly take a mothers place, and both parents have something unique to offer. But we ladies need to realize that, even with all our motherly prowess, we are somewhat indispensable. That is, with a wonderful husband of course. So let’s accept our spouse’s help. Let’s let him thrive in the role we thought we owned. If it damages our self-esteem, that might not be such a bad thing after all.