Moms are always, always tired. We just have levels of tired: carry pa, sungit mode, and OMG I need a glass of wine.
I used to think it was my fault. Maybe I just needed to manage my time better or drink one of those power breakfast smoothies that I’d saved on Pinterest but never had the energy to make. Maybe I just needed to speak up and ask my husband to help.
So I did all three, and guess what? Managing my time helped, and the smoothies were delicious but didn’t turn me into Wonder Woman. As for asking hubby to help, well, the results were mixed, and I think it's why many modern moms are running on empty -- we need to, well, manage our expectations.
Dads think moms are the home managers.
Men will help out with parenting and the house, but that’s all they will do: help. You still need to tell them exactly what you need. It’s like you’re running a company, and you have an intern who’s only giving you two hours of work each day, and maybe five hours on weekends.
Hubbies think that the home is our domain. They won’t interfere or volunteer. So moms aren’t just doing housework or child-rearing -- we’re planning, troubleshooting, and making big decisions that impact the family’s daily routine. We’re constantly thinking of the Big Picture. Moms are the House CEO. And it changes a lot about how we deal with tasks.
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Dad posts picture of him cuddling the baby: 500 likes, and comments like “Wow, you’re such a sweet dad!”
Meanwhile, 99 percent of mom life is never posted on social media: the midnight feedings, toddler tantrums, projectile vomits and tedious arguments just to get them to brush their teeth. Kids are hard work, and maybe there’s tiny window of cuteness when they’re not screaming, hungry or making a mess.
Guess what they’re doing then? You guessed it: taking a picture with Dad.
“Why do you take so long at the supermarket?” my husband complains.
The few times I send my hubby to the grocery, he’ll come back feeling smug and special: “See, it only took me half an hour.” Oh, young Padawan, you have so much to learn.
Supermarket shopping is a science and art for budget-strapped moms. You follow a list. We make that list -- and it’s based on a hundred things. Meal plans that accommodate the preferences of picky eaters and your cholesterol and sugar levels. Brand prices vs. benefits (plus we read the label). On-the-spot changes whenever we see a sale.
Plus, the supermarket is our shopping therapy, and you should be glad we’re spending time and money on food and not mahjong.
Dad cooks one meal, and everyone thinks he’s freakin’ Gordon Ramsey.
And that may be true because he thinks there’s an entire support staff to prep and clean up after him. The trail of pots and pans, open jars, and vegetable peelings take more time to clean up than actually making a chicken tinola yourself and calling it a day. But you need to make your man feel that he’s “helping out in the kitchen.”
In a way, getting husband to cook is like agreeing to bake with the kids. You agree to make them feel good and maybe get a nice photo op, but you’re secretly relieved that they don’t do this every day.
Definition of hands-on dad: Drops off kids, attends PTC meetings, joins Family Fun Run.
Definition of hands-on mom: Monitors school performance daily, coordinates with the teacher, volunteers for the PTC, buys school supplies/baon/costumes, listens patiently to all the after-school stories (or tries to extract them if your child doesn’t say anything). And despite all this, is still silently judged if the child doesn’t get the A or play well with friends.
In the great Parenting Report Card, dads will get an A for minimal effort, and moms will never be able to do enough.
It is true for working moms who contribute equal or greater to the family income. Dads are excused for “providing for the family” (being involved with the kids is extra credit!). Moms who spend a whole day at the office still have to find time for daily school work, or they “don’t have the right priorities.”
Ever feel that you study harder with your kids than you ever did when you were a student? I think schools assume that there’s a parent who’ll help with the homework, and that usually means Mom. Raise your hand if you’ve ever printed a reviewer, made a diorama, or Googled how to make a costume/recycled art project/props from cardboard and plastic jugs. See, this is why moms cry at Moving Up ceremonies. We feel like we’re graduating too!
Dads will do one job, and just that job, and go back to watching Netflix. Moms will go around like a factory supervisor, troubleshooting what’s left behind.
For about two years, we had no regular yaya or household help because we couldn’t find anyone who stayed longer for a month. Hubby was forced to help out, and to be fair, he was good at laundry and cleaning the bathrooms. In a pinch, men will do their share – if they’re told what to do exactly.
While we tried to divide the major tasks equally, anyone who’s run a home and raised kids knows there’s a lot of small but time-consuming details -- changing toilet paper, washing the basahan and floormats, disinfecting the kids’ toys. The list goes on. We don’t bother assigning it because it’s easier to take care of it on the spot. “The sofa feels sticky. I’ll wipe it down now… and since I’ve already got the disinfectant out, I might as well clean the garbage cans and hose down the garage.”
Dads will feel like a superhero after taking out the garbage, but Moms can’t sleep at night thinking about how long it’s been since we’ve defrosted the fridge.
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For every other holiday, moms actually work harder.
Every Mother’s Day the world makes a big deal about treating mom and giving her a day off – because literally, that’s the only vacation she’s allowed to get. Our weekends are full of errands or “family bonding activities” that actually leave us drained and overwhelmed. Our Christmas and New Years are full of parties and expectations to cook feasts and interactive with relatives that we (honestly) don’t really like.
Family trips? (Crazy laughter.) Every vacation I return feeling like I need another vacation just to recover from the planning and being stuck in a car and hotel room with overexcited kids.
Someone once asked why I go to sleep at 1 a.m., and I reply that I squeeze my entire adult life in those hours after my kids go to bed and I pass out from exhaustion.
Dads, on the other hand, have moms to buffer when they’re tired from work. We train our kids to be quiet when he’s stressed, and arrange for him to come home to warm food and a neat bedroom. He can take out his iPad and watch Netflix until he falls asleep, while we can’t even go to the bathroom without the kids knocking on the door.
All of the above is why moms feel so tired and yet go to bed thinking we haven’t done enough. We review, we plan, we solve problems and anticipate them, and everything on our to-do list involves a lot of details that we don’t even bother to write down.
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In the corporate world, we’d be paid six figures salaries for what we contribute to Family, Inc.
In a company, moms would probably have staff and the chance to tell bosses that, “I need more time and resources to accomplish what you want me to do.” But our family doesn’t work like corporate structures, and unfortunately, we can’t get a raise for how much we contribute to our home.
What we can do: acknowledge -- to ourselves, if not to society -- how big and important our role is. And cut ourselves some slack if we can’t do it all (especially not in one day).
This isn’t a story about Dad vs. Moms. This is a story about Our Expectations vs. Our Limits. Perhaps the biggest difference between men and women is that men are actually happy with what they’re able to do. Maybe it’s time we take on the same attitude. (And anyone who has a problem with that is welcome to take over our lives for a day.)