Ranging from a roll-with-it attitude to acquiring a knack for sleeping through explosions, here’s a tongue-in-cheek look at how women can benefit from their mates’ parenting styles.
It’s hard to find a woman who has not—at one time or another—felt frustrated by her mate’s parenting style. New moms often exchange more war stories about their husband’s approach than the number of diapers they changed in the last 24 hours or how much sleep they are (not) getting. Nonetheless, while men are often more aware of who’s about to score a touchdown than who’s crying, more interested in how to edge their lawns than how to match pint-size pants with shirts, there are areas in which their styles can prove quite valuable as new parents make the transition from a couple to a family.
Mothers worry. It comes with the job. However, women often approach parenting as though “Perfectionism Required” is the first item listed in the job description, and that increases the worrying and anxiety tenfold. I will admit there was a day when I became so tense over the chaos in my home that I actually paged my husband with a 9-1-1 simply because I felt I needed to contact him immediately to let him know that it was unacceptable not to replace the toilet paper after he used the last of it. His response: “I don’t understand what the big deal is. It’s in the linen closet.” Sure, but the linen closet is upstairs and I’m already on the toilet! If you can believe it (and I’m sure you can), he then matter-of-factly suggested I store the toilet paper somewhere different in the future—as if its storage location is the problem.
The “roll with it” attitude that men often maintain frustrates the other half from time to time. A woman’s more anxious, emotional approach can make her mate a bit crazy as well. In our defense however, someone has to maintain a nervous system that is able to execute the escape plan with calm hysteria and a strategically stored whistle if the house is on fire. Nancy Drew said it best: “If worry were an effective weight-loss program, women would be invisible.”
As much as it pains me to admit it, there is merit in the male approach as it appears to allow one to maintain an emotional state with peaks and valleys far less dramatic than those of the newest roller coaster at Six Flags. So, as long as there are at least two diapers in the house and the collection agencies aren’t calling, I personally am trying to let more things than usual slide off my back in the high strung department.
Men seem to have cornered the market on strategies for appeasing every would-be visitor of a new baby. They are able to coordinate the endless stream of well-wishers while keeping smiles on their faces and proud swings in their steps.
A woman, however, often sits on the couch worrying about who will show up next (and when), if she’ll still be in her pajamas, if she’ll have a breast hanging out when visitors arrive, if they’ll be dumb enough to ring the doorbell and awaken the baby she just got to sleep, or if they’ll notice the path of dirty laundry from the steps to the laundry room.
One of the biggest benefits of a man’s laid back attitude is that he’s not likely to argue with your needs, especially when he knows your hormones are raging and so he barely recognizes you anyway. (Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with telling your husband that your hormones are raging for one reason or another every day for the rest of your life.)
Inform your other half early on of your ground rules with regard to visitors. If you would prefer that no one come over before 11:00AM, or if Saturday and Sunday are the only days on which you are willing to accept visitors at any point in time, communicate that. If you feel that you need an hour’s or a day’s notice, mention that as well. Let him worry about the details of who’s coming when (and what delicious dinner item they are bringing).
Remember, if at any point visitors are expected and you suddenly feel you cannot entertain them, you have the perfect excuse to stay in bed. They need not know you’ve got a great magazine and a newly rented movie in there with you!
If, especially during the period of teaching our children to sleep by themselves (for more than twenty minutes), women could learn to sleep as soundly as men—in other words, would not hear a bomb going off outside the bedroom door—they would not have to single-handedly bear the burden of hearing their babies cry themselves to sleep as they sat outside their rooms convincing themselves through muffled sobs, “She has to learn to sleep. This is for her own good.”
If women could sleep as soundly as men, not worrying about the fact that the baby might wake in two minutes (or two hours), they would reduce the exhaustion-induced puffiness under their eyes by at least 76 percent.
If women could fall asleep in front of the television as easily—and as often—as men, we would definitely log more hours dreaming than wondering when we’ll get to the grocery store.
Men care about their children—and they still sleep well. My husband says it’s because he has a clear conscience. I cannot conjure up a single response to that. I’m too tired. Women get into bed and think…and worry…and think…and worry…and plan…and doze a bit…and wonder why the baby hasn’t made a noise in 27 seconds.
During those times when you’re feeling really exhausted, it’s important to make sleep a priority. It may mean turning off the TV before the late-night reruns of Seinfeld that you usually look forward to, or dozing off for thirty minutes instead of checking your e-mail, but in the long run, it’s a trade-off worth making. And it will save you a fortune in under-eye concealer!