When I went back to work after having my first baby, I was working days while my husband worked nights. He'd hang out with our baby during the day, then take her in to the office at the start of his shift. My shift ended when his started, and he'd hand her off to me and I'd take her back home for what I called my Second Shift with the kids (my first baby was also our fourth child).
I often said that the thing that made returning to work after my first maternity leave most manageable, for me, was the knowledge that my baby was spending the day with her dad. But, according to a recent survey by Parenting magazine, 46 percent of moms said that they get angry at their spouses at least once per week -- and the majority of them are getting mad about parenting issues, not bills or chores or who has the remote. In fact, a full 40 percent of respondents said they were furious because "their husbands seem clueless about the best way to take care of kids."
We've all heard the jokes about dads who diaper the wrong end of the baby, dress them in eye-aching combinations of stripes and polka dots, let them eat chocolate cake for breakfast (it has eggs, milk, and wheat, right Bill Cosby?), etc. We've all heard stories of fatherly incompetence from our friends from time to time, and horror stories about neglectful parents, male and female.
And, goodness knows, there have been times when my husband has wholeheartedly given the kids permission to do something that I definitely would have vetoed (like playing "Rock Band" until 1 a.m. or watching Predator on cable). But, during the year and a half that our now-preschooler was home with my husband during the day, it never, ever occurred to me to micromanage his parenting.
Maybe it was because my husband was already a parent when we met -- since heíd done the baby thing three times already, why would I have to tell him what to do with his fourth child? Maybe it was because I assumed that a nearly 6-month-old baby who loved to nap (three hours at a stretch! I miss those days) would be a piece of cake. Or maybe I was so worried about earning enough money to support our expanded family that it was a relief not to have to worry about who was taking care of her while I was at the office -- even if it meant my husband and I were like ships passing in the dead of night for a while.
But the thing that I wonder most about is this: How can moms complain that dads aren't involved enough or nurturing enough if they don't trust their husbands to be good parents without supervision?
Moms, do you feel the need to micromanage when your child is alone with his or her father? Dads, have you ever felt like you were being asked to babysit instead of parent?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at email@example.com.