Twitter is my go-to social media as it often allows for meaningful dialogue. But, one must thread (pun intended) with caution as there are too many bots and trolls. Recently, I came across a rather interesting thread. It has now been retweeted over 3,000 times and favourited almost 6,000 times. Its focus was a topic I had intended to write about before, so it gave me the much needed push and perspectives.
Many concluded that the writer was advocating a case of co-parenting over being marriage. She noted that unlike her co-parenting friends, planning a personal holiday alone is an uphill task as she wouldn’t leave her child with her husband. A single co-parent had the liberty of leaving the kids for a specified time and knowing that he’d be fine with them and she wouldn’t need to pick up his slacks. I conducted a poll via Instagram and almost 70% of mums couldn’t go on holiday leaving the kids with their husbands. Even mums who thought they could, had to caveat this opinion. One mum said “they’d be fine although my daughter may wear her PJs to school”.
There was understandably a backlash on the thread from a few quarters. The question was how did we get to the point of comparing co-parenting with a united family? There are reasons why one might find themselves in this situation, but it is not the ideal.
To take the one aspect of co-parenting that possibly works better (i.e. men being more hands-on) but ignoring the many other failings of co-parenting is a wrong approach. That a co-parenting mother is able to take off two weeks in a year for a solo holiday ignores the rest of the 50 weeks when she may be struggling and overwhelmed without much support. Men may be able to do more as co-parents due to some kind of legal or clear cut agreements – with possible implications for failure.
The writer clarified that her overall call was for married men to pick up the buck and pull their weight in parenting – as most marriages had the woman doing incredibly more.
i. Many married women agreed that their husbands do little
ii. Many women who currently co-parent agreed their ex-husbands now do considerably more which in turn has given them flexibility over their lives. Some admitted to being happier.
iii. Some men agreed that as co-parents, they are more active in their kids’ lives. A few admitted being sad that it took getting a divorce for this to happen.
iv. Some married men declared being ashamed that they had truly left it all to their wives; but promised to do better.
v. Some could not entirely relate to this. These included men who claimed to do as much as their wives did, and allowed their wives solo time out. Similarly, were women whose husbands were very hands on.
As a wife and new mother I admit that I somewhat fall into this last category. We’ve been together for 10 years, married for almost 4 and parents for just 12 weeks – but he has been 100% hands on, and has probably had as much sleepless nights (if not more) as I have – even when he had to drive 55 miles and be at work early the next day. He also changed our son’s first diaper and had a first go at bathing him alone.
But, I don’t deny the fact that it is not the reality of very many women. I’ve grown up around many men who simply refused to lift a finger. So I identify with that side as well.
Why aren’t many husbands more involved? Why aren’t they able to fix the kids dinner and change diapers – basically “parent” without asking a mother where the correct sock is or what should go in the child’s snack box. I recall reading the bit in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In where a man’s colleagues were shocked that his wife called him to ask what went into their kids snack box. It seemed a taboo for him to be the one to know.
I say “get them more involved” because society and nature predisposes the woman to do more. From conception, she feels responsible to nurture this child. Except a man wishes to interact with the bump, he could have no contact with the child till birth
It’s the woman that very often logs into parenting sites which often have names like Mumsnet and MadeforMoms. I think my husband jokingly mentioned one day that he’d only read Baby Centre – as dads are involved too. Likewise women get three months to one year for maternity leave while dads (if at all) get a few weeks off.
So, men can go free with doing very little – particularly if they are the sole bread winners. This is unlikely to work in today’s society because many women are co-providers and better still because parenting is a lot of work that should involve both parties.
I also read an article where the woman noted she wouldn’t use the word ‘help’ in relation to her husband attending to the kids. Her argument was he’s not “helping”, it’s equally his responsibility. I recalled it because on this thread, a woman in category 5 above noted that she’s spoiled by her husband. The writer replied that the very fact that she thinks she’s spoiled could be the problem, if he is only doing his ‘fair’ share.
Someone pointed out that “yet again it falls to the women to tell the men how to do better“. To avoid this, is for parents to teach their sons to do better. But sons are likely to learn from fathers. If they see their dads acting right, they will.
So, it’s back to the question at the moment of getting fathers more involved. And how?
Have such open and honest conversations. I said to my husband that if the only benefit of this thread is getting a few men to re-evaluate their roles and become better, it would have served a useful purpose.
It’s important for men to know that there’s a very clear expectation for them to be involved. Dating is a good period to approach these subjects and while married, the discussions continue.
I recall when my husband and I found out that our son would be arriving in October and we may be unable to travel with a 5 week old for our friends’ wedding. While he wished that we three attend, at some point it seemed to him to be a no-brainer that he’d go while I stay with our son (and my mum). I brought this up in a conversation that it was not necessarily the right approach. It wasn’t automatic that he goes. We had to discuss and agree that I’d be fine.
I recall this same writer once tweeted something about her husband asking her a baby-related question and her response was that they both check Google.
I find that to be my experience as well. Not everything comes naturally to a woman. The first time I made my son’s milk, I only put one spoon of milk into 90ml of water – rather than the correct 3 spoons. I hadn’t read the instructions and it was not something that I could magically tell just because I had given birth to a baby. Likewise, how to operate a steriliser or bath a baby are not innate skills. Even for acts as natural as breastfeeding, many women have shared their struggles about getting their babies to latch and breastfeed. Parenting is a learning curve – which the man must be willing to climb as well.
I was intentional about getting my husband involved. I shared my baby list with him and got an opinion on everything – from body suits to bouncers. After being this involved, I’d be a tad bit shocked if he still doesn’t know that the body suit must be worn before the sleep suit. Likewise we didn’t buy a mummy looking nappy bag, because we’d both be carrying it! Getting him involved is also the reason we have two baby bouncers. While I wanted a sleek looking popular one, he opted for one that “sings”. We got both; glad to say our son seems to prefer his daddy’s bouncer. Get intentional. Ask his opinions. Let him know it’s a two way street.
Many women become short fused, when their husbands fail to “do it the right way“. They dismiss the husband’s effort and do it themselves. “Oh this isn’t how to wear a diaper – don’t bother anymore, I’d do it”. By this, the man feels he’s not doing it right, and you’re fine to do it all by yourself. Let them do it their way and learn from their mistakes or better still teach them.
My husband jokes that every time he makes a meal I tell him it’s the best meal ever. Yes it is, and however he makes it, we’d eat it. Seriously though, he’s a good (ish) cook.
Women often thrive on their abilities to multi task. But you cannot pour from an empty cup. It’s okay to audibly acknowledge being tired. If possible, outsource the physically exhausting menial chores. I’d rather refrain from buying a pair of shoes or that extra lipstick if I need to, in order to pay a cleaner and put my feet up in the air for some me time.
Also cut other women some slack. We’re often our own worst enemies criticising unnecessarily “oh her child is formula fed“, “oh she left her kids and is out with the girls!”. Stop.
It surprised me when my male bosses include family affairs in their diaries – like hospital appointments or time off alone with the kids. But if couples roughly plan their year in advance, matters like solo holidays / time off can be agreed. Both parties could block the time off in his calendar; so nothing trivial overrides it. Needless to say, my husband’s calendar now includes our son’s immunisation dates.
To end this piece, there will never be a one size fits all. Each family unit would ultimately find what works for them BOTH. What ensures that both parties are happy and thriving in the marriage? For working women & mothers, this may be the man doing some chores and helping with the kids. But then if a woman is genuinely happy with doing it all or sorting it out in other ways – that’s fine as well.
I think what is crucial is that there is flexibility and fluidity in the system. That a woman does more than her husband today should not mean that if the occasion arises, he wouldn’t be able to step up. It may be 90 – 10 today and then 30 – 70 tomorrow. It would be difficult to suggest that it would always be 50 – 50. Basically, both parties should at any time be willing to give 100, if need be.
To achieve this, society has a role to play. There’s need for increased flexibility such as remote working and shared parental leave.
Finally, it’s important to share stories of positive marriages. Of men and husbands pulling their weight. These stories, contrary to what a friend thinks won’t “jinx the marriage”. Rather, it drives conversation to the tune that these hands-on fathers and husbands are not an aberration. These stories and experience sharing would indeed be much more effective if told and advocated for by the men themselves.
What are your thoughts? Do share!
pS: You can find the original twitter thread here
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Nwamaka Chidera OgbonnaJanuary 23, 2018 at 08:46
This is perhaps the most nuanced take on this issue yet, very well done Kachi! I learnt quite a lot.
AbbyFebruary 5, 2018 at 07:14
I agree! Like Kachi said, it’s so important to have open and honest conversations about these things so expectations can be clear!
MARQUIS FIFEOLUWAHANJanuary 23, 2018 at 09:58
Amazing! And I’m not even married yet. I agree with all you have said. BTW, maybe I need to download this twitter, I’m who you could call a ‘twitter illiterate’ 😂😂
MunaJanuary 23, 2018 at 09:59
Kachee! I have missed reading your posts! I saw this thread on twitter and though I’m not married, it’s not a rare situation in a “typical” Nigerian household. Getting the men more involved “intentionally” is actually key because most of them do what they have grown up to see in their household regardless of knowing if it is right or wrong. And you are absolutely right about sharing more positive news and stories about love and marriage in this generation where horrible stories about relationships/marriages surface every second. Please keep up the good work and congrats on the BBC news invite!!! You’re going places, woop!!
www.iembergavar.wordpress.comJanuary 23, 2018 at 10:27
Well written, Kachi. My favourite statement here is “there would never be a one size fits all.” I think each couple should know what works for them. Just like in a work environment you identify the different strengths of employees and leverage on that to create a balance. I think in a home that sort of balance could be created, with some compromises of course. I say compromise because the Mr should still be keep the home front when the Mrs is away and vice versa.But right after that you mention the man ”helping out with the kids.” If they are his kids as well then, maybe ‘helping out’ isn’t the term. My take anyway.Communication is so important here. A lot of men (especially in Nigeria where I live), maybe by reason of their backgrounds and how they watched their fathers act don’t even know they should be more involved with parenting beyond bringing home the money. Talk about these things when you’re dating. Talk about it when you get married. Talk about it when the kids come. Keep communicating, keep learning.Whew! My comment is longer than the blogpost.
AB x MeeMeeJanuary 23, 2018 at 13:32
Very well said, Kachi. Hoping people that couldn’t get the message in the thread can see this & digest it! It’s not rocket science, y’all. Since parenting should be about the kids, egos aside, culture aside, can anybody show how having more present daddies is not a positive thing? Tomorrow’s children will benefit from active, joint parenting.Btw, I wonder if you follow @kimmaytube? If not, you probably should 🙂
AnonymousJanuary 23, 2018 at 14:35
We are expecting our first baby, my husband comes home and kisses my belle, he talks to the baby (ok more like yell, don’t know why he feels he has to raise his voice for the baby to hear him). He recently spoke to his boss about taking time off for some parenting classes and his colleagues found it soo funny. While my husband will change diapers and feed, actually making the food may be another story. My hubby’s go to meal is indomie and since I eat a lot more healthier and intend the same for the munchkin I don’t think that will be happening. I try to involve my hubby in the picking of items but he has not been too keen. Whatever I say goes, although, he has been the one going to the store to pick up and buy what I choose. Even to the clothes, I choose them but he goes in to pick them. Like you said there is no one size fits all. Know what works for your family dynamic and run with it.
ChelseyJanuary 23, 2018 at 15:44
One of the reasons I visit this blog all so often is because of the very intelligent and mature way you articulate issues without bashing anyone about their choices. I know a lot of women who are happy to stay at home and take care of their children and just do family vacations ones in a while and all without letting their husbands do any of the work and if that’s their choice, its okay. I followed the thread on twitter and I really did appreciate some of the points made by the writer but one must understand that these engrained cultural attitudes amongst our men may take a while to go away. And like you said it would involve a lot of communication and understanding at home. My greatest worry with these twitter warriors and advisors is that you can’t make a blanket statement and think it will fit all situations. There is no one size fits all for any home. Every family must have a template that works for them. Thanks again for this well-balanced and lovely write-up.
TolaJanuary 23, 2018 at 19:49
This is such an amazing post! Very well articulated! While I don’t exactly think I have the range for this discussion aka – I’m not married/ a Mum so I don’t relate to any part but I still have some opinions about the issue, i was surprised a lot of people misunderstood the thread. I especially agree with the parts where you said women/mothers shouldn’t overly criticize and should cut themselves some slack. I think it’s important for us( read: mothers) to know they don’t have to be perfect and be able to do everything on their own so should feel comfortable letting partners do things without feeling guilty because contrary to how we girls are raised, it’s as much their responsibility ( in terms of being good and involved parents) as much as it’s ours. We should began to see these things as normal instead of terming them as ‘helping’ or ‘spoiling’I’m beginning to ramble and confuse my tenses lol but yeah, this was great and I’m just happy we are talking about the difficult stuff more and more.www.adoseoftola.wordpress.com
Madeline Wilson-OjoJanuary 23, 2018 at 22:43
What an informative and thoughtful post. Whilst I am not in the position to or think it’s fair to compare co-parenting to parenting whilst married, I do feel it has stirred up some much needed conversations.You made some great points, especially that we should not overly criticize our husbands. They often become weary and nervous about taking part when we do. I think women tend to do this even outside of parenting! Ha!Anyway, all in all a great post.Madelinehttp://www.madelinewilsonoj…
Omolayo NkemJanuary 24, 2018 at 02:11
Awesome! I agree with everything said here!! This is exactly the conversation my boyfriend and I had today (we have had versions of it around cooking, but the tweet thread encouraged me to bring up child care). First I think a lot of ppl in the mentions misunderstood the original poster. If they reread her first post, she was just saying married ppl have a lot to learn from separate but active co-parents. Advocating for happier marriages was her very first tweet. I also agree with the person you quoted that the idea of my husband”helping” me is annoying and we discussed that nuance. Same with the idea that if it comes to it, and our schedules and personal strengths (I’m more creative in the kitchen for example) dictate that I pull more weight around the house, I dont mind at all, but it also means he should be willing to do the same. He is. 🙂 and yeah, that point about women over critizing their husbands was in Lean In as well and its super important for women to keep in mind. But I definitely think as a society, we have a lot of work to do! We need to stop assuming women come with a child care manual.
Tweets OrhJanuary 24, 2018 at 05:40
This cannot be over emphasized . I guess this was the answer I was going to give you when you asked how we are able to still have fun. Many cases, it’s just the husband having fun and the wife taking care of the child. I Certainly didn’t want that as it seems that’s the norm. Another thing is women especially first time mothers are overly clingy to their kids. Please note the word overly. Even when some men want to help, it’s never enough.so they just back off.
Grace SmartJanuary 24, 2018 at 09:14
It’s very important husbands work hand-in-hand with their wives to parent a kid. If not, what’s the title for in the first place? Most times, they are often carried away with the seemingly more aggressive issue of making enough money to put food on the table and send them to school.www.liveinibadan.blogspot.com
Juliet AdaJanuary 24, 2018 at 11:14
Kacheetee’s blog has got to be one of the most educative blogs I know. I’m always excited when I get a notification on my mail. There is always something new to learn.
AishaJanuary 25, 2018 at 02:26
I haven’t read the post yet but I just thought to say I love these long comments that I see! Lol okbye. Will be back!
'DaraJanuary 26, 2018 at 00:13
I very much agree with Kachi’s points but I also understand the pain of the writer of the thread. For too long, we have allowed our patriarchal society to dictate what the role of a man and woman should be in marriage and in raising kids and hence many men believe that so long as they pay the bills, their part is done.Society is patriarchal and people justify a whole lot of things on the basis of “this is how it has always been.” Someone commented on the thread and outrightly put out that “Women are designed to rear children. Deal with it.” I believe this is why we are humans and not zombies. We should be able to think deeply and questions stereotypes.It’s no gain saying that a lot of women have gone through so much and have had to sacrifice their dreams to focus on taking care of their children (this in itself is not bad). But it would probably not have been the case if they had help or the burden was shared between the two parents.Nonetheless, I do not agree with the twitter thread writer’s vote on co-parenting just in the same way as you would not cut off your head as a result of an headache, there are other solutions to this problem. Because this is 2018 and there is no use trading blames, Kachi has done us the favor of bringing up solutions to this problem.I’m really glad women are deciding to speak more about these issues.
JumokeJanuary 29, 2018 at 08:58
Well done for this Kachi…I’m personally going to send the link to this post to my husband. Some men just can’t be bothered and it will need an extra nudge or push every now and then from their partner. Based on my most recent experience, I ordered baby items from the UK, his cousin helps to bring them to Nigeria and I’m scanning through to check I ordered the right sizes. My DH is busy about his own activities not even batting and eyelid amidst my “what do you think about these clothes?”. Let’s not forget, I had those items in my cart for some days just waiting for his input or go-ahead; and don’t even say maybe its because he’s the one paying because he’s not in this particular case. Not trying to cast my hubby in bad light but men really need to make an effort and not just dedicate all your time and energy to being your best at work.I equally have a really engaging job which I try to balance with other areas of my life but I think he doesn’t put in so much effort.To be honest my DH is supportive and lends help when that’s the only option; this year I’ve had to be away from home for weeks and each time I’ve had to find an extra help (Cousin, Aunt or Mum) managing the home front while I’m away. I’m close to cancelling another 3-weeks trip because I cannot wrap my head around who will ensure the fresh groceries are available during the weekends while I’m away unless I get my cousin to come around on those weekends to coordinate my nanny’s activities. I’ve promised to continue reminding my hubby that he needs to be more involved with parenting and that includes sharing this post with him; I hope I don’t become a nagging wife on this issue 🙂
FabmommablogJanuary 31, 2018 at 03:52
Very well written (especially as you are new parents). I definitely agree on whatever works for the couple, that there’s no one size fits all. However, women can get carried away by being the ultimate “multitasker” or the one who knows where everything is in the house, or “he will mix the colours with white” and therefore not get their spouses involved – there’s a sort of power trip we get from that (talking from experience). Before you know it, the woman becomes the only one who does everything!In some cases, it might take a breakdown, an illness or a stay in hospital to take that power away because the woman wears herself out (she still has to be a daughter, sibling, friend, colleague, entrepreneur…)
Bubu GreenFebruary 1, 2018 at 16:22
Fabmomma just voiced exact words I’d have said. For me it’s always about me knowing about the homefront and needing perfection that you don’t even need his help(even at times you’ve asked for it). It’s a power trip for me….until I break down, that’s when I remember I need help. It’s not just about the man, it extends to even nannies helping out. I’ve once signed up to have a nanny and later called her that she shouldn’t bother cos I think she doesn’t really have much to do. But hey, I won’t mind Daddy’s help at all .www.bubusboulevard.com
MmaFebruary 11, 2018 at 13:14
As a full time Physician in faraway land without family support, I am fortunate to have a 50:50 shared child responsibility with my husband (more like 60:40 in his favor if I am being honest). Yes, my mother came for an extended omugwo (5 months) and did not let my husband lift a finger (part of the problem in my opinion) but once she departed and it was just the two of us, we came up with a plan that has worked for us. Our son takes night time baths which we alternate but morning routine involves me packing our lunches and picking out clothes for the baby. My husband washes him up, dresses him and drops him off at the shared nanny’s place before heading to work (by this time I am long gone to the hospital). For pic ups: Anyone who is done on time can pick him up (still mostly ends up being my husband honestly)… and he never complains! We only have 1 child and have no plans of expanding anytime soon, if ever. Sometimes I feel like our relationship is so non conventional, but honestly, co-parenting needs to become the norm. I also thing the society you are in plays a huge roll….most of our friends here have similar set ups. We have both been out of Nigeria for >10 years and have similar mindsets that things just need to get done….and who does what does not really matter. I could go on forever about this topic but my final thoughts on this are: Your write up was intelligent, insightful and educational. You said things that needed to be said but in a non judgemental or threatening way. Kudos!