Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Cunninghams we ain't... Wait. Maybe we are.

I came home from work last night to some disturbing news.

Mr. C - "Um, honey?"

Me (Having just walked through the door, totally distracted and coming off of my "teaching high") - "Yeah?"

Mr. C - "Um, I need you to see something."

Me (exasperated) - "What?"

Mr. C - "I cut Chicky Baby's hair tonight and I want you to see pictures of what I did so you won't freak out when you see her in the morning."

Huh? Whaa..? He did what?!

Yes, my friends, my husband went ahead and cut our child's hair without checking with me first. He did not consult with me. We did not come to an agreement together that one of us would be cutting the child's hair. He just went ahead and did it and he did a poor job. Why? Because he didn't know what he was doing and he didn't think it out before he started snipping away.

"Um, I forgot that hair shrinks when it dries, so it's pretty short in the front."

Yes it does and yes it is. Sorry there's no pictures to share, but the pain is too fresh to post a picture of the debacle. If you want a visual think little Dutch boy meets Jim Carrey's character from Dumb and Dumber.

It sounds like a bad sitcom, one titled "Return of the Mullet". The bumbling husband does something silly but harmless while the wife is out and they spend the next 30 minutes (22 without the commercials) hashing it out. Merriment ensues. But in the end the husband and wife make up, and in the last scene the two of them embrace while the child walks around with a paper bag over her head. The husband and wife give each other a funny look and then they smile and hug again.

Roll credits.

Unfortunately, I am not living in a sitcom.

After being faced with this news I seethed. I stomped around. I fumed. I tried the silent treatment and then, when that didn't work, I started yelling. I was, in a word or three, royally pissed off. I was so angry that I wanted to yell, scream, and throw things. I was channeling my inner toddler, and if I could have bit him I would have. I didn't know what to do with my anger.

Because this really wasn't just about a bad haircut. It was the culmination of my frustration over my husband's inability or unwillingness to share parenting duties, except the ones that he felt suited him or his idea of fun fatherhood. Cutting our daughter's hair wasn't a task, it was a whim, a lark. I'm sure he thought it would be, if not fun exactly, at least entertaining.

Ever since the day that Chicky Baby was born, and subsequently became colicky and needed to nurse every hour as an infant, I became solely responsible for her care and feeding. There were a few times that out of total frustration and desperation I would shove the screaming newborn at my husband and say "Here, you deal with her." But for the most part if the baby needed something it fell on my shoulders to provide it. She wants you, he'd say, she doesn't want me.

Guess where that got us?

As much as the division of responsibilities in regards to our home bugs me, it's the division of responsibility for Chicky Baby that bothers me more. If you ask Mr. C what his biggest contribution to his child's life so far has been (besides being there at her conception) he'll probably tell you "I've taught her to kick a soccer ball".

That and three bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks but it doesn't make you a candidate for father of the year.

Like a lot of women I took on my new role as mom thinking I would have a partner who would help without asking and share responsibilities equally. Okay, maybe not 50-50, but maybe 60-40. Co-parenting is the term, I believe. And like a good percentage of those women I am finding out that, so far, co-parenting is an unrealized dream. So far our division of parenting responsibilities has gone like this: Me - care, feed, clothe, clean, diaper, teach, soothe, comfort, and discipline. Him - play fun games, teach bad habits, pitch in when I am otherwise physically unavailable. That last part he does very well, but like I said he pitches in when I am physically not there. Or when I just refuse to do something or guilt him into tasks. I guess now we can add to that "make poor decisions about Chicky's appearance".

Now that I've had a day to think about this and I've cooled down a little bit I am willing to admit that my husband is not completely to blame for his lack of natural parenting ability. During the months that followed Chicky's colicky stage she and I fell into a rhythm. It was just easier for me to do things than to train her to start trusting her father to do things for her. And I didn't force myself to leave the house more often and and her in the care of her dad. Today all three of us need to re-think how we're doing things. We need to find what's working and what's not. I have not completely given up on the idea of co-parenting. I still have hope that we'll find our rhythm and our parenting groove and start sharing more responsibilities, but if the last 17 months is any indication of what the next 17 months are going to be like I might have to go on strike to make my husband realize that I need more help from him.

Ooh, a strike. Now that would be a great idea for a TV episode. If he touches my kid's hair again I think more than a strike would be in order but I don't know what. I wonder what Mrs. Cunningham would do?


New stuff at Dog Gone Blog, a post where I compare dogs to vases. I know, it's a stretch, but you have to read it yourself to find out why.

Also, over at The Salad Days Chronicles Alisyn writes about the passing of her beloved dog. Go over and give her some love.


MrsFortune said...

Wow, I so could have written this post, except for the fact that hubz has yet to put scissors to head, but the rest of it? Dead on. A woman on "a baby story" last week said she didn't want to be "a single mom with a husband" which is what I feel like a lot of the time, but we keep trying. And like you, I'm willing to own up to the fact that it was just "easier" for me to do things but that leads to resentment on my part and unfamiliarity on his part and ... oh blah blah, you said it better.

Creative-Type Dad said...

Can't wait to see the picture!

I don't know, I would go easy on the guy. He probably got fustrated and cut it, maybe started with a few hairs and then tried to even it out, etc.

Just take a few pictures, throw it in an album, and then laugh about it at her wedding.

Anonymous said...

Ooh! I agree with tony! Then you would have an awkwardly hilarious picture to rival your awkwardly hilarious junior high pictures! (You know which one I'm talking about.) And then at Julia's wedding, you two can bond over a nice bottle of Brunello that you have stashed in the basement.

kittenpie said...

Perhaps a strike with a frying pan... (sorry Mr. C, couldn't resist!)

I am lucky in that I work not only in the day,but two nights a week and every other saturday, so Misterpie is fully conversant in all routines around bedtime, lunch, napping, etc. But there are certainly other areas he leaves to me completely. She would have spent the last 2.5 years naked if it weren't for me knowing to buy her clothes!

Waya said...

Did you say a strike or strike him? Because I think that would have been my first impulse to do.

My Dad cut my hair when I was young and my Mom was horrified. It was like Jim Carey's photo that you posted. Just like that. I think he had to wash cloth diapers for the next year or so after that.

Waya said...

BTW, I'm sure Chicky Baby looks cute in any do, even shaved head.

Ashley said...

oh my gosh! the vein in my head would've popped and blood would've gushed out of my ears. i mean literally. and i thought it was bad when my child got chocolate teddy grahams for breakfast the other day (not my by husband thankfully but by the crazy nursery morons at church--that sounded very churchlike, huh? sorry!)

metro mama said...

Oh, ouch! I would be pissed about this too.

There was some discussion about the division of labour over at my place yesterday. It sounds like you're not alone!

ms blue said...

Cross off hairdresser as alternative career choice for Mr. C. Good excuse to splurge on some cute hats!

Men sure do know how to get us riled up. I hope you find a co-parenting percentage that works for you.

Will said...

Poor Mr. Chicky...he meant well. Get her a hat and ban him from sharp objects for a year. It'll be ok. And even funny...someday. :)

Major Bedhead said...

Hah. Uh huh. I know exactly what you're talking about - co-parenting isn't happening in this house either. Drives me crazy.

Cristina said...

I hear you. I soooo hear you. I've tried to work on the whole co-parenting thing, but what's happened to us is that I feel like I'm always telling my husband what to do. "warm up the bottle", "put on his PJs", "don't forget to brush his teeth". I always have to be the one to remember and instigate these things. It's tiring. I wish he would take more initiative.

Radioactive Tori said...

After four kids, my husband finally gets our schedule and does things without me having to remind him it's time for bath, bed, whatever. I still think it is somewhat unequal because when they are hurt, up in the night, or whatever, they want me, not him. I am happy though, because if they only wanted him, I would be sad and that is what I try to remember when I am irritated that I am changing a diaper again while he sits and just plays. He's a great fun dad, and my kids are lucky to have him even if he doesn't do things just how I would.

Bea said...

Just wait til Chicky Baby gets old enough to play hairdresser with her friends! (I never did that, but my sister did and the results were terrifying.)

Very savvy to realize what you're really angry about. The haircut thing was a minor goof, but the longer-term issue of division of parenting labour is a biggie.

From what you've written it seems like the issue is lack of expertise on Mr. C's part and not lack of willingness. I've always been a bit skeptical of the argument that it's really the mother's fault when the dad becomes an absentee father - because she wouldn't "let" him step in. I tend to think that the not-pulling-his-weight phenomenon has more to do with selfishness and laziness.

It really doesn't sound like that's the issue with your husband, though, and if he's willing to step up to the plate, I'd say it's time for a crash course in Chicky Baby 101 (which means lots of spa days and shopping trips for you while he gets the bedtime, mealtime, and playtime routines down pat).

Velma said...

We go through this, too. I've found that delegating specific child-care tasks to my husband works for us - yes, I do most of it, but there are certain things I stand firm on. If he doesn't do it, I don't sweep in and do it for him. For example, for a long time, he was in charge of our son't bedtime ritual, including bathtime. And for a long time, our son was mostly clean...

CPA Mom said...

OH.HELL.NO. I can't believe you didn't bite him. I would have.

Reading your post, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world since my husband does help out. Not 50-50 but 60-40 maybe.

Girlplustwo said...

ugh...i wrote about this a post or two back's a hard balance..and so infuriating sometimes. i know my control issues come out full force sometimes, and other times, well, they need to get their shit together, for the love of god. ugh.

Anonymous said...

I know the cure for co-parent different shifts. When baby M was 3 months old I went back to work on 2nd shift, hubby worked 1st shift so he was home alone and had no choice but do diapers, feeding and bedtime on his own. Now baby M is 3 and we have switched shifts (I'm on days, hubby has nights). Hubby does the morning routine and I get the nightime routine. Although sometimes it feels like we're both single parents, it has also helped us equally share the duties and I'm totally confident in his abilities to do everything for baby M.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sister friend, you capture the frustration of so many moms I know

"And like a good percentage of those women I am finding out that, so far, co-parenting is an unrealized dream"

Not sure if you're my age or not, but my group, the Gen X girls, were raised to believe we could have it all AND the helpful "partner". When it doesn't pan out, the resentment can kill love and a relationship in one fell swoop.

Love & support to you. Don't give up on your hubs... he just needs to be "reeducated" I think we should start a camp for wayward fathers "Dad Reeducation Camps"

I think you should take a little weekend off and leave him in charge. Come hell or high water, he'll figure things out. And you'll get some deserved time off.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...this sounds familiar, "Me - care, feed, clothe, clean, diaper, teach, soothe, comfort, and discipline. Him - play fun games, teach bad habits, pitch in when I am otherwise physically unavailable." You're not alone. It can be frustrating. It's almost two-fold. I complain when he doesn't help enough, and when he tries, I complain because he's not doing it right. Poor guy can't win either way! I've also had the haircut battle...but not to the same extreme as you. My husband wants to take our little guy to his barber (the kind of barber that uses clippers). I'm totally afraid Monkey will come home bald! And then I'll have to kill my husband...or at least seriously hurt the man. Ha-ha!

Kristin said...

I think you hit on something that so many of us can relate to.

Fresh Mommy said...

Oh, no, he di-in't!

The only thing that would upset me more than cutting my daughter's hair without my consent (and presence, hello!) would be to pierce her ears. If *anyone* pierces her ears without my okay (and presence, hello!), it's going to fisticuffs. Heads will roll.

Heather Bea said...

That was us with our first (minus the hair cutting). You know what fixed the situation, having another kid. He was forced to take on some of the load when I was 8 months pregnant and ordered to take it easy. He is now a stay at home dad, and we actually share the load much better. Maybe a small strike would work?

Christina said...

Yeah, I'd have been pissed off, too.

I'm lucky that my husband does help out, although generally I do have to force him into some tasks. He will change diapers, but if both of us are in the room, I generally have to remind him that I changed the last few diapers and its his turn. His weak point is feeding Cordy. All he will do for food is make her a PB&J or run out to McD's.

Kelly Wolfe said...

Oh wow, I laugh and cry for you about the haircut. At least he took initiative and was trying to help, right? Ugh.

I think until men feel the same level of guilt/heartache over every little decision related to the child that we moms seem to... it will never truly be equal.


motherbumper said...

I heard every word you said and what I did (just recently in fact) was explode and order him to start taking her for walks on the weekends. By himself. He didn't realize how much that would mean to me until I had to shout it at him. But I also realized that he needs to be trusted by me to do things with her without maiming her (kidding... sort of). So far it's been working well and I think we might be at 30/70 now which makes it a whole lot less painful. I just gotta remember to let him do it his way and relax. Best wishes and I hope you feel better.

SUEB0B said...

I think part of the problem is the rut, and the other part is that we expect them to think like women. I martyr away, thinking "Why doesn't he notice? If someone I loved was exhausted and overworked, I would SO notice?" and meanwhile he is thinking (I guess) "If she needed something, surely she would tell me."

I solved my lack of help problem by moving out. Now my laundry issues are all my own.

Sandra said...

Sometimes I do wish I lived in a sitcom and everything could have a neat, witty resolution. But alas I too am the single mom with a husband as Mrs. Fortune so aptly put it.

But a strike .. now I like the idea of a might be really on to something.

Scribbit said...

The only thing that keeps me cutting my boys hair is the money I'm saving. What a pain. I love your post, a good chuckle.

Anonymous said...

What are men thinking? I mean, come on! My husband and I own a coffee shop and a dad with his just turned two year old daughter stopped in for a hot chocolate. My friend and I commented on how cute she was and he said that she had just had her very first hair cut. He then said he hadn't told his wife and was hoping she wouldn't be too upset. My friend and I winced...very first haircut...hmmm. Did you save some of the hair we asked? He looked at us with a look of confusion and said "No." We winced again and suggested that he buy a dozen roses before he got home.

Anonymous said...

Why does Blogger keep eating my comments?
I had a nice witty comment, too.
All I can remember is something snarky along the lines of Mr. C should be happy he woke up not dead, with the offending scissors still stuck in his body.
Then I hate some nice stuff, too. But I can't recall ...

Mama en Fuego said...

Just wait until the day she cuts her own hair right before your best friend/sister's wedding.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it all sounds familiar, except the hair cut. Your husband cares what you think and prepared the whole photo thing at least. Very cute. I am separated for a year now and it is not much more work now than before. At least now he has the kids two days a week and I'm not there to step in so I really do get a break. The only difficult times are like last night when I realized I was out of cat food, the cats let me know, but the kids were asleep so the cats are still hungry this morning. On my way to the store now. Keep blogging, love it!

Anonymous said...


DH LOVED to say "she doesn't want me, you take her" during bouts of colic. he even went so far as to blame the nursing for her colic "if you didn't nurse her all the time, she wouldn't be that way." ok, whatever.

To this day, even though the colic is gone and him and her have a better relationship, he stills shoves her at me when he can't get her to calm down in 2 minutes.

I SOOOOOO FEEEL YOU. You have no idea. Just thinking about it makes my blood boil.

Monkey Butt's Mom said...

I don't want to make a sweeping generalization here (but that's exactly what I'm going to do)... I think a lot of dads don't really know what to do when it comes to parenting an infant.

My husband has come a very long way since our monkey butt's birth. Sure, I think he's still got a long way to go - but, like you, some of it is my fault. It's easier for me to just do it than to explain how it's done.

The other day hubby put monkey in the car as we went out to run errands. We got to the store and hubby asked if I brought a pacifier. I looked at him, took a deep breath and said, "I think the more appropraite question is did *you* bring one." I think it finally sunk in, if just for a moment.

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