Gatekeeping your child’s relationships

I’ve been thinking about the topic of gatekeeping parent-child relationships and how it feels like a loving thing to do but actually creates a cascade of problems that last for decades, so I thought I’d break down how it happens and what the stakes are and how to stop.

Warning: This whole post is going to be really heteronormative, assuming that we’re talking about a male-female partnership. That’s because this most often happens in male-female relationships precisely because of our cultural dynamics. So single parents and parents in same-sex partnerships, you can go get a glass of water for this one if you want, but if you read through it might help you understand your friends and how culture can screw things up for people.

Gatekeeping, as I’m using it today, is when the mother protects the father and the child from each other. The mother takes on the Parent-in-Charge role and the father and child only interact in ways approved by and dictated by the mother.

This happens all the time, and it happens because women think that’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re the baby’s mother, and often we’re the one feeding the baby. The father has to go back to work right away, so we’re the ones spending the most time with the baby. So we develop our systems and our coping techniques, and then in our minds (and in the fathers’ minds) we’re the ones who know what to do, and the fathers don’t. We know how to soothe the baby, and the father doesn’t do it the same way. If the baby keeps crying, we know the father doesn’t know how to soothe the baby “the right way.” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But this ignores the fact that our expertise is merely circumstantial. At the second we meet our children, mothers and fathers have the same potential for caring for the child. (One or the other may have read more about baby care already, but the other could easily catch up.) It’s only the way our society is structured to channel men into paid work and women into child care that causes this unequal distribution of time that causes unequal distribution of expertise. We do not have to go along with this, and indeed, we shouldn’t.

Gatekeeping also assumes the men inherently don’t know how to care for children. Yes, it can be scary to be with a baby when you don’t feel like you know what to do. Dealing with toddlers is excruciating. Preschoolers can be super-frustrating. But when a mother takes over most of those duties to “protect” her partner from having to deal with them, she implies that he’s too weak/stupid/incompetent to go through a normal learning curve. And she implies that there’s something wrong with the child, that the child is something the father shouldn’t be forced to deal with.

We know what happens then: The mother takes over child care and the emotional relationship with the child. The father becomes the breadwinner (even when the mother is fully employed, too) and feels like he doesn’t have much to contribute to the child’s emotional life. The father and the child never establish a true, honest emotional relationship. The parents resent each other for unequal distribution of work and emotional connection. Everyone’s siloed.

(It looks like the relationships in Mad Men.)

Men are smart. They are strong and resilient and resourceful. They have clear voices to sing lullabies and speak discipline, strong hands to change diaper blow-outs and braid hair, fast feet to run to latch a baby gate and play chase with a toddler. They have broad shoulders that children ride on. They are tough and tender and smart enough to know when to listen and when to help. They are the best fathers for their children, from birth through adulthood.

Fathers do things differently than mothers do, and that’s ok.

If you are a mother who wants to give your child a gift and give your child’s father a gift, the best gift you can give them is to leave them alone together, for extended periods of time, so they can work out their own relationship. And work on the assumption that your child’s father is an equal parent who can and should be able to care for your child seamlessly (even if it’s not the same way you’d do things). This is also the best gift you can give yourself, because then you don’t have to be the only expert on everyone.

You’re worth it. Your child is worth it. Your child’s father is worth it. And you’re worth it as a family.

37 thoughts on “Gatekeeping your child’s relationships”

  1. Amen! Mothers not only feel like they should gatekeep, they also gain cultural capital and family capital from enacting that role – that is, they get to be the center of their child’s existence, which we’re taught is the role we’re supposed to have. It’s seductive, even to those of us committed to equal parenting. When you give up the role of gatekeeper, you lose something. I’m mentioning this because I think it’s worth keeping in mind. Of course, you gain something incredibly precious in return (and so does your partner and so do your kids). My husband had never held a baby before our son was born, whereas I had a lot of experience and comfort with them. But even though I stayed home with baby, and even though I breastfed, the second my husband got home from work, he had the baby. He did all the diaper changes and night duty. He swaddled and soothed and changed clothes that had poop and spit up on them. It’s much easier to start from the beginning – to make a conscious choice before the baby’s born to relinquish the role of gatekeeper. My babies never sobbed when I left; they never clung to my legs. I know part of that is their personality, but part too is their relationship with their father. It made me sad not to have children clinging to my legs (I know that sounds weird!); I thought I should be the center of their world. I doubted when I wasn’t. But I pushed through, and it is a huge relief not to be their gatekeeper.

    1. Erin, that is SUCH a good point about gaining cultural capital. Yes–part of being Supermom is being the only expert and gatekeeping. And you don’t realize how much of a toll it takes until your kid is off to college and you have nothing left and no idea who you are as a person, because you were living as Supermom for so long. Deliberately stopping the gatekeeping lets you be you again, instead of some kind of Pinterest-approved chimera.

      1. Pinterest-approved chimera! I love that! I’m feeling pretty lonely right now because I have a lot of chimeras around me and I don’t fit the bill. But this made me laugh amid a hard time.

    2. Ha, I went back to work after two months and my husband stayed home for a year with our oldest kid and he still clings to my legs! But then his younger brother, with whom I stayed home the first year clearly prefers his dad.
      Generally though, this is a great post I should send this to a lot of people.

  2. This is All True in my experience. And I know it sounds weird, but this is why divorcing the father of my children was the best thing for all of us. We have 50-50% joint custody, and now we both care for our kids in our own ways and it feels like everybody wins. I’m not going to say this has always felt like an easy adjustment for me. But I believe that it is healthier for all involved, even if we’re living in different households now. Thanks for posting.

  3. This is so perfect. I’m emailing it, posting the link on FB and pinning it. So many of my friends need to read this. The best decision we ever made was to not overlap maternity/paternity leaves but to have my husband take his when I went back to work so that 1. I could go back and focus knowing our son was in the best hands possible and 2. they could bond and work out their relationship and my husband could and would (and does to this day) feel just as confident and capable as a dad as I do as a mom.

  4. I completely agree!!! Since my sons were born (in 2010 and 2012), I’ve often left them with dadโ€”for an afternoon, a weekend, a weekโ€”with only the bare minimum recommendations/schedule of what I do. I figure it’s a gift for all of us: he gets to be the Man In Charge; they see that dads can make meals and do baths and laundry as well or better than moms; I get much needed relief. The other upshot is that when I return, my husband always has a deeper appreciation for the amount of work that goes into child rearing. I think it is critical to teach kids there is more than one way to do anything, and that’s the beauty of growing up in a 2-parent household. I feel SUPER strongly about this…perhaps it is because I grew up with a single mom and didn’t have a dad present. Who knows…

  5. I’m a mom, but not the primary caregiver because my husband stays home full time. I feel like the gatekept one and it sucks.

  6. I agree. It is So ingrained into our culture. When people see me without my kids they’ll ask if my husband is "babysitting." I am quick to correct them that, no, he is simply being a dad and if he’s just a babysitter then I am just a nanny. I think people have an idea that men can’t be an actual parent (without mom around to swoop in and save the day). I’m so insulted on behalf of my husband (and family!) when I hear such comments.
    The nurse who did our prenatal classes was really good about stating clearly to the mothers that dads will do things differently but it’s not bad and if it bugs you, leave the house so you don’t have to see it and you’ll come back to find everyone is fine even though he was doing it "wrong." ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. It’s true that culture leads moms to this, but so does biology. My husband and I both wanted to parent 50-50, but didn’t really get there until our daughter quit breastfeeding. It’s just a fact of biology that I’m the one with the magic make-everything-better b@@bies and he’s not. She was never much of a bottle/binkie kid, those just didn’t soothe her. There were many times where nursing her was just the best/easiest/only way to comfort her, and in those cases I got her – too bad, dad.

    But once she was fully weaned… go daddy, go!

  8. This is so hard with the breastfeeding and having more than one child–I have 3 (7 yo, 4.5 yo, and 2yo) children. Because it’s almost impossible to deal with all of them at the same time (eg: bath, story, bedtime), my husband and I divide and conquer. But because youngest didn’t wean until a few months ago, he’s still more attached to me, so he clings to my leg if I do drop-off at daycare and my presence during sleep disturbances will soothe him much more quickly and efficiently than my husband’s. And therefore, I don’t do drop-off unless I need to and if I’m in the house for these sleep disturbances, I’m the one who goes up, otherwise it may be an hour of crying and plaintive, "Mommy come?". But it’s my husband’s duty to get the other two ready for bed (one is independent, if pokey and the other needs some help AND is pokey), stories read, homework done, sleep disturbances seen to. I sometimes miss the other two, since youngest is so needy, but I know they have a great relationship with their father and I take solace in that.

  9. I echo the commenter above that the best thing that my husband and I did was schedule his paternity leave for after my maternity leave ended. In many ways, it would have been nice to have him at home helping me with our preemie home from the NICU, especially because I had to pump for every feeding for 8 weeks, but he would have been in a "helper" role that whole time. Once I went back to work, he was full time parent all the way, and I had to let go of all of my controlling tendencies (ugh, at least had to TRY to let go of them!) to let him be the dad he was going to be.

    Amazingly, I came home to a happy baby, a clean house, and a dinner every night. My husband was SO good at paternity leave (SO much better than me at it, though to his credit he acknowledges that with nursing and pumping, I had far less time than he did to clean and cook), and the two of them bonded incredibly closely together during that time. I was incredibly jealous and bereft to be at work while they were home together, especially because my son started smiling socially just before I went back to work, so I felt like I slogged through 10 weeks of unrelenting caregiving with no rewards, where my husband was rewarded with smiles all day from Day 1. But the smiles really helped him adjust, and I think he couldn’t have been as successful without the immediate rewards, so I’m glad he got that advantage.

    The two of them are still SO closely bonded even though we’ve both been back to work for 6 months. And there is no sense that the baby is my job and DH is just "helping". We’re both primary caregivers.

  10. Yes to all (the one thing that I did right as a mom from the beginning was to fight the powerful urge to gatekeep, and my husband and I’ve been reaping the rewards ever since, even as we work on all of our other problems.) I wanted to add, though, that I don’t think that the problem is remotely restricted to heterosexual parents! Cultural dynamics or no, every couple has to deal with power balance and imbalance, and every new set of parents usually has one return to work while one stays home with the baby for a while. I’ve seen exactly what you describe with F-F and M-M parents I know (and as one of the commenters said, the M-F gatekeeping can be "reversed" as well.) Its a pattern in modern parenting that affects the relationship, not specific sexes and genders.

  11. Yes! My husband works for a church so he has Mondays off. For the first year of each child’s life, we kept them home from daycare with him on Mondays, and that was huge in terms of him figuring out his own parenting style. An added bonus is that our kids figured out early on that mom and dad don’t do things the same way, and that’s okay! I think that makes it easier on babysitters since the kids know that bedtime isn’t always exactly the same. One issue that someone else brought up re: the divide & conquer strategy. I would say our Dad bonding worked better with our older child, because when my son was born, those Mondays were pretty much the only time he had with Daddy. And guess what? My daughter prefers her father to this day, while my son is SUPER attached to me at 3.5. I’m a little afraid of what will happen when baby #3 is born in a couple months…

  12. Wow, this is fantastic. It’s like you took my whole parenting philosophy and put into words what I wasn’t able to! For me, the best thing we did was take advantage of some advice that our nurse gave us in our first pre-natal class with our first baby 8 1/2 years ago. She said that as soon as the baby’s umbilical falls off and they are ready for their first real bath, have them shower with dad. It totally set the tone for how my kid’s relationship has been with my husband. They love him and in some case, especially our boys, the definitely prefer him over me. Not because he’s the total ‘Disneyland Dad’ either, but because they have all bonded with him so well. He puts them to bed, he helps cook dinner, he folds their laundry, he disciplines them, he takes them to the doctor, etc. Not that I don’t do those things as well, and just as often I might add, but he jumps at the chance and I have no problem seeing him in the nurturing role. One of my favorite parts of my evening is when I stand outside one of the bedroom doors, peak in the room and see him laying on the bed singing a lullaby.

    I’d also like to add something that I see in society as a huge problem. In spite of the stupid ‘Mommy Wars’ going on right now, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with a little girl saying that she wants to grow up to be a mommy. It’s fantastic that we live in a time where girls are brought up to believe that that’s a choice that doesn’t come with a huge stigma. But what about boys who say they want to grow up to be a daddy? They are given all kinds of crap for it, but why not have that be their ultimate dream? It was for my husband and even though his family gave him flack for it and they still don’t understand it (5 children later, I might add), it never stopped him from being an amazing, engaged, involved dad. That could possibly be why he’s the only the husband/father in his family who’s kids actually like him and want to spend time with him.

  13. I did all those right things…my husband changed diapers, did late night bottle feedings, bathed them, put them to bed, was left alone with my boys, during the day, the night, sometimes for weekends. He can cook for them, clean their messes, take them to hockey or pottery. He was asked and given the opportunity to be an equal partner in every aspect of their little lives, including the emotional one. He had every opportunity to build an real honest emotional bond with them. I so deeply wanted that and believe men are just as capable as women of all the parenting tasks, practical and emotional. Men are strong and capable and amazing, not the bumbling useless beer drinking fools popular culture paints them as . I love men! However, my kids Dad never did create an honest real emotional bond with them. He remained emotionally absent and fundamentally disrespectful of them as individuals with separate needs from his own. We are now divorced. But he loves them in his way and them him….but what to do when that bond isn’t made, and my poor children have that need unmet. He is possibly a little sociopathic in his inability to connect on anything but a surface level. I fear my kids having this as an example of fatherhood and manhood, as they enter adolescence. How do I help them be men who can be truly good men, when the example they live with is so undeveloped?

  14. With one exception, I have not seen this dynamic play out among our friends with kids. As soon as another couple announces a pregnancy, we spread the word that it’s all hands on deck for both parents. I had a rough c-section experience, so my husband did nearly all the diapering and getting the baby to sleep. I did hours of breast-feeding. For the first few months, my husband was really better than I was at soothing the baby, as he didn’t have the magical cure-all on his chest that I did.

    Is this phenomenon still so common? What spurred the post about it?

    1. SarahB, three or four conversations in the past few days in which moms were indicating to me that they felt guilty about asking their husbands to spend time with their kids while they took a break, feeling that the kids were really their responsibility and that they needed to protect fathers from their kids.

      I think you’re really lucky that this isn’t playing out in your friends group. And that your group is rare.

  15. It wasn’t explored to this depth, but I know you’ve mentioned this before. I remember because it contributed to our conscious decision not to parent this way. Before our daughter (now 2) was born, I decided I wasn’t going to comment on how my husband parented unless for some reason I thought her safety was in danger. (No fear of that, thank goodness. I don’t spend my time worrying he’s going to let her wander out into traffic.) That’s not to say we don’t talk about parenting and discuss decisions together – we very much do – but I don’t make things that aren’t my business my business. We do a lot together as a family but we also make sure to spell each other – I’ll run errands with her so he can have a quiet house in which to read and I get time alone or with girlfriends pretty regularly. We have each other’s backs. Besides, no one likes the smell of burning martyr. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. I should clarify my second sentence – that we consciously decided not to parent this way. I don’t mean it’s something we were considering. I mean it was good we had an awareness that this can become a pattern of behavior and we both specifically wanted to avoid managing the other’s relationship with our kid(s).

  16. It’s not that I don’t agree. Gatekeeping isn’t good. But sometimes it happens for a reason. I think gatekeeping often reflects an underlying difference between the parties about what constitutes acceptable parenting, or a problem in the marriage that needs to be addressed directly. The popular parenting press about this issue tends cast moms as the uptight, no-fun, nagging shrews and dads as blameless victims, but it’s a two-way street, and to not acknowledge that people gatekeep for real and legitimate reasons is silencing and dismissive of women.

    For example, my husband and I will never agree about the importance of nutrition. He would feed them Papa John’s every night for 18 years if it were up to him. We’ve talked and talked and fought and fought and ultimately, I choose to gatekeep dinner rather than fight yet again or compromise my children’s heath. I wish we could resolve the underlying disagreement, but until then, gatekeeping dinner is the best option for me. Sure, dads can be great parents, and I know that you’re just trying to help with all this positive talk. But let’s call a spade a spade– sometimes dads (and moms) are not great parents, and that those choices contribute to the other parent’s gatekeeping.

    There’s a fine line between "different" parenting and lazy, irresponsible, undermining, selfish, or dangerous parenting choices. And that’s when gatekeeping is a lot harder to resist, because something important, like a child’s safety, is jeopardized. My son once broke his arm on the playground with his dad, while doing something that they both knew I wouldn’t have allowed. That incident (and the resulting 6 weeks of 3 AM "my cast itches" wakeups) took a real toll on our marriage, way worse than gatekeeping.

  17. Yes. And No.

    The construct you’ve outlined is important. What is also important to note is the other person’s ability to parent. My husband has great intentions and loves being with his kids, but has very little practical sense in how to do it. It does not come naturally to him, and he really gets it wrong. (And not wrong by my standards, but wrong objectively.)
    I’ve had to learn how to guide / coach / gently direct his good intentions and actually teach him how to do stuff. For example, hey honey. Can you see that facial expression the baby has and how her hands are outstretched with fingers spread wide. That’s a sign of stress. What do you think’s causing it? (Wait for him to realise that playing super loud games with toddler right next to baby might be causing stress). Or another typical one: honey, remember we talked about the predictable pattern that kids often need before bedtime? What’s your plan for that tonight?
    It’s hard. I really try and only step in when I really, really have to. But I can’t sacrifice my kids’ needs for sleep, nutrition and safety on the ideal of letting him do it his way. To his credit, he is getting really good at it, and he seems to like being given concrete direction. I try and check in with him to make sure I’m not overstepping. But, his family never taught him how to do this stuff, so someone has to. Not everyone has the same insight as others.

  18. Interesting. I don’t think I’m a gatekeeper, but I don’t feel right about going out and leaving my child with my husband — I never do it. I’m the one who wanted this child. I’m not a victim. I’m not in a bad marriage. My husband loves, loves, loves our child. But she’s my responsibility. She’s almost seven, and it’s always been this way. He did keep her several hours a day for the first 4 years of her life, because I made a lot more money so it made sense for him to work part-time, if that is relevant. I don’t know if my unwillingness to ask him to keep her more is crazy-thinking. If it is, let me know. ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s probably much more to this story …

    1. Yeah, this feels really weird. It sounds like you’re saying he’s not her father. Or like he doesn’t have the right to be responsible for her somehow. Did he not want her originally?

      1. No, he didn’t. He has chronic depression and never thought he was up to the task of being a dad. But I was 38 and I made my choice. Life’s been tough at times, but all is good and I am thankful for what I have! I may regret not having close female relationships someday (it’s probably why I come to your wonderful space so often), but maybe that’s a future project.

  19. Oh, yes. My husband probably tends to be more on the rigid side, and I probably tend to be a bit over-flexible (hoping I’m not veering into giving-into-tantrum territory, eek), and we’re in an ‘anchor parent’ stage (21 months, prefers me to him most of the time if we are both around), so I feel SO GUILTY taking an evening or two (or, GASP, even three!) per week to have time, dinner, drinks with friends, despite knowing it’s good for both of them as well as good for me – so I do it, but I also sort of feel like I should apologize for it (to whom, I’m not sure – not my husband, thankfully). Recently my husband traded a day with his coworker so now he’s off on Wednesdays, giving them a Daddy Day every week (and my mom a day off, since she watches him while we both work M, T, Th, F). I just can’t help feel like I spend a lot less time with my toddler than most other moms of kids the same age – especially SAH or WAH moms. Useless to make comparisons, I know. Yet…they’re made in my mind before I can question their purpose.

    1. If you are working five days a week with a commute, like I do, you do spend a lot less time with your toddler than SAH or WAH moms. I’m not sure what there is to question there.

      And this is my own personal peeve, but "Daddy Day" and "Daddy Date" – both used by a highly gatekeeping, BabyWise-practicing neighbor of mine, are really insulting to both moms and dads. It’s very subtle. My husband just stopped going to the park with the gatekept neighbor dad (who doesn’t seem to mind being gatekept) because he was so put off by being told he was on Daddy Date. He just wanted to take his kids to the park to play with their friends.

      1. I guess I wasn’t questioning the fact of it, more whether it’s a detrimental one or not. I tend to think not, but perhaps that’s just wanting to make myself feel better about it. I like to think that I’d feel better about S/WAH or working part time, but I don’t aspire to…chimerism.

        I don’t entirely disagree about the terminology. It came into use for us because our son’s not even two yet, so what else should we call it? Eventually nothing, I assume, but when he’s still learning that the days of the week have different names, I don’t see the harm in associating Wednesdays with staying home with Daddy rather than going to Grandma’s. We’re not calling the diapers he changes Daddy diapers. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I may still be missing the subtlety.

  20. Because I work from home and need my husband to take childcare and housekeeping duties at nights and on the weekends, this hasn’t been much of an issue in our house in the general sense. And I don’t see much of this from families I know either. Even at our cooperative preschool, while it’s mostly (but not entirely) moms who volunteer in the classroom, I see plenty of dads doing pick up/drop off (in the middle of the day), attending field trips, and engaging in most night and weekend activities, sometimes with moms there too, but sometimes not.

    Where I see it in my own home is on a micro level. I’m not afraid to give care and feeding of children to my husband for any length of time (assuming they’re not breastfeeding), but I wouldn’t send him shopping for kids’ clothes, have him plan meals for them (because he can’t grasp that our daughter isn’t going to eat what he wants her to eat, just because he wants her to eat it, no matter how many meal battles we have), or put him in charge of making well baby appointments, etc. And in areas such as discipline, where I have read extensively and am actively working to craft an approach that goes beyond yelling, nagging, and punishing (even though I struggle with those areas myself), I don’t feel like it’s unfair of me to expect that he work toward the same aims rather than just interact with them in what ever way "works best" for him. And on the flip side, I expect him to call me on anything he thinks is inappropriate – he has stricter safety standards than I do in some cases, and I try to respect that when he’s not being wholly unreasonable. We sort of gate-keep each other in this sense.

    But I was struck the other day thinking that if my husband, died, I’d be devastated, but I’d manage mostly as I already do, adding in a babysitter for some nights and weekends, whereas if I died, he’d also manage, but he’d have a much bigger learning curve, plus he’d have to figure out a fulltime childcare plan. He already has being present with the kids and involved in their daily lives down, but he does very little of the mental work it takes to keep things running and anticipate their needs over the long term. Things like "registering your kid for kindergarten 6 months in advance" really wouldn’t occur to him. Whether it counts as gate-keeping to take charge of those things myself just because it’s easier, I don’t know.

    I will say that I feel like we’re doing it right when my 9-month old gets so excited to see her dad when he comes home that she cries if he doesn’t come pick her up right away. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. If doing the "mental work" equals gatekeeping, I am gatekeeping my husband from himself! Because of our personalities and skills, we have a divided-labor household, where he is the wage-earner and the kid-player, while I do the daytime childrearing and run the household. Old school, yes, but it works for us. We try to parent "equitably", not "equally". My husband can (and does) take care of himself and our daughter if I need to be away (and they have a great time), but he would not be able to run the household at our current standard for any length of time without help. Nor would I be able to go to work for him!

  21. I did do some early gatekeeping. Nursing, stayed home for a year without a choice, no money to go out, depression, all I had was the fact I was the MOM. But my husband threw himself into parenting as much as possible. He came home every day at 4:30, he never worked nights or weekend, he stopped playing in a band. He was home 99% of the time he wasn’t working. By the time our oldest weaned at 17 months, my husband was parenting equally with me and the gatekeeping fell away. My husband and I worked in different towns and our oldest attended a daycare that was convenient to my husband’s work from 2 3/4 to 5. Because he was there for all pick ups and drop offs and special events and not me, the staff decided we were divorced. Comments were made when my son came to school with finger nail polish on that it must have been mommy’s weekend. I felt kind of crummy at first, but later I felt pretty proud of my husband for being so involved.

  22. I’m largely with @Z on this: my DH in many ways has primary "parenting" responsibility, as I WOH and he SAH. I love this setup (I like to be in the paid workforce, DH does not), and having someone who is there to deal with missed school days due to sickness or — hello, snow — is pretty much priceless. And I absolutely do not schedule DH’s and DS’s time together and if DH calls because he cannot [fill in the blank re: some incidental DS need], I tell him to figure it out. But DH is far more blase about things like regular schedules (bedtime!), good nutrition, and limits on things that DS needs to have limits on (screentime) than am I, and this isn’t just a "different" approach: my standards (on those issues) are WAY better suited to DS’s needs. So I do end up doing a lot of gatekeeping, and being the "meanie." Conveniently, it turns out I am willing to embrace being mean, so I’ve got that going for me. But @Z is exactly right, "… not [to] acknowledge that … [I] … gatekeep for real and legitimate reasons is silencing and dismissive." I am not the problem in this realm: DH is. Don’t worry, I am the problem in other areas; I won’t vacuum, so we have workable compromises based on a division of labor, but they involve gatekeeping, all the same.

    At the same time, @Rayne of Terror makes a good point. My work is (moderately) distant from or home. 2/3 of the daycares/preschools we used were (and 100% of the public schools DS attends are) close to our home, making it easily possible to share responsibility for dropoff/pickup (etc.), and/or for DH to take on the lion’s share of this. And I pay attention to this, too, when I (I!) am choosing summer camps for DS, though unfortunately the very favorite one we have found so far, is 45 minutes from our home (and 15 minutes past my work). So I mostly handle that one, but in balance, I limit how often DS gets to attend it. When I became a mom and we started needing daycare, I realized that daycare in the workplace ("…so that mom can take the kids in with her.") may not be such an inherently feminist setup after all.

  23. Whoa. This hit me head on. We have twins that were in the NICU. My husband had a 3 month paternity leave and he was a rock star. Now it’s been a year since he went back to his pre-baby schedule. He works 12 hour days and is at sea a lot (Navy). I am a SAHM and have certainly developed these tendencies. In fact, I get annoyed when my husband doesn’t "get it" and swoop to the rescue if I don’t believe he is handling it the right (my) way. Time to stop. Thank you for the eye opener.

  24. I so wish I’d read this before my baby was born. A year later, we’re making deliberate efforts to basically undue all the gatekeeping I did in the first 8 or so months of my daughter’s life. My husband had so little experience with babies/kids and he, unsurprisingly, found a high-needs (generally happy, but a very challenging sleeper) baby stressful. His stress stressed me out. Rather than let him figure it out like I should have, I just did everything. As Moxie said, it wasn’t good for me, him, the baby, or our marriage. Things are gradually improving, but it takes more effort than I think it would have if I’d been aware of this from the beginning.

  25. When my first baby was little, I asked my husband if he would get the baby dressed in the morning (before or after I nursed her). He said "If I have time." I said "You have time to take a shower, you have time to get dressed, you have time to brush your teeth, you will have time to get her dressed." In other words, this is a "must do" and not an optional thing. I wanted him to have some time with her in the mornings. He found he did have time.

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