S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Welcome to mom and Dad or Fighting Place Parenting podcast for Thursday, February 20th. The Trampled on the Playground.
S3: I’m a writer contributor to Slate. Parents Feeding Parenting Column. A Cultural Critic. And Moms Nyima. And we reside in Los Angeles, California. But I’m coming to you from the Slate offices in Brooklyn, New York.
S4: Welcome back to My Heart. I’m Dan Course. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. I’ve been out of wira, who’s 14, and Harper, who’s 12. And we live in Arlington, Virginia.
S5: I’m Elizabeth New. Can’t I write the Homeschool and Family Travel Blog? Dutch Dutch goos. I’m a mom to three boys, Henry 7, Oliver 5 and Teddy, 3. My husband’s in the Air Force, so we’re currently calling Navar, Florida home. Thank you for joining us again, Elizabeth.
S2: I’m so excited to be back today on the show. We have not one, not two, but three listener questions. The first from a mom who’s fed up with playground politics. Is it okay to tell off older kids when they trample her 3 year old? And we have a question from a listener whose mother is enthused about potentially becoming a grandmother. But due to her mother’s past, this mom to be wants to keep a healthy distance without alienating her. Finally, we have a rapid fire question from a mother wondering if it’s all right to keep a generous amount of money which will help make education much more affordable. Plus, as always, we have triumphs and fields and recommendations. Dan, do you have a triumph or a fail for us this week?
S6: I have a fail. It’s very simple, very elegant. Just a perfect roast from my daughter this weekend.
S7: Harper, who’s been sick all weekend, like legitimately sick with the flu. Got the fever, got the cough, the whole thing. She at one point we were playing cards and she announced that she was going to do an impression of me. And she said, oh, daddy, this is the face you make when you know you’re supposed to be concerned about something I’m saying, but you really just want to be left alone. And then she made the exact face that I didn’t even realize I make in those exact moment. So I have Pend completely destroyed by my twelve year old.
S6: She sees through me even when I think that she can’t see through me. So that’s the hard this harsh? Yeah. It’s incredibly harsh. It’s like, wow. Harbor. She likes all. She laughed like, oh, that’s just my dad.
S8: Well, you know, it comes from a place of love.
S9: I have been a resolution based on this fail. I have resolved, of course, in the future to come up with a different face that I can make, which he’s saying some bullshit that I don’t care about, and I just wanna be left alone.
S10: Oh, did she think about you guys?
S8: Elizabeth said, we’ve had just like a completely crazy few weeks. So right after I was on the podcast with you guys a few weeks ago, I got in the car and my husband called and told me that deployment orders were coming down for a six month deployment overseas. And just like chaos followed because I sort of joke that we’re codependent, but there’s a lot of stuff that we do together that all of a sudden was just like I needed to take over. And I was trying to kind of make everything easier for him, take stuff off his plate, because a six month deployment is actually I joke more like eight months because he was scheduled to play with another branch. And so there’s like additional training and all this. So sort of like, OK, this is happening next Monday. I’m leaving. It’s like, okay. He’s so right. Just kidding. Yes. And luckily, we have so many friends here that stepped up to help. And then each training kind of would get pushed or be available here. So it came down to basically on this Friday, this last past Friday, he was supposed to leave. And on Thursday night he came home and said the deployment has been turned off. And so, yes, just like a sigh of relief. Now, my husband is like a p._h._d. Nerdy guy. He does like a academic flight test. We’ve done a few deployments. So this is definitely like military life. We’re prepared for this. But it’s just when it comes up, you know, in your turn, it’s just kind of complete upheaval. But anyway, so then we had this four day weekend, because Friday is what they call a family day. We were getting that off, but he was going to leave for training. So I hadn’t planned anything. And my amazing neighbor said, do you want to come with us to the Mardi Gras parade in Mobile, which is actually the like oldest carnival celebration in the United States. And its supposed to be really family friendly. I was like, yes, we love to travel. We love to go to do things. So she had planned this whole day. I had done nothing. I literally she texted me where to me it was like a playground and then a fish house. And we were going to this parade. So I had planned nothing. Look into nothing. We all piled three kids, Jeff, myself into the car. We go. We had like the best time. It was totally insane. Jeff. Got hit in the face by flying ramen noodles, which they threw out from these parades. There were like moon pies left and right. My 3 year old would like cry every time. What he got thrown out him was not what he wished for from this float, but the seven year old caught like an enormous stuffed teddy bear. I mean, it was just like crazy. Everyone had a great time. Since we’ve gotten home, the 3 year old has come up with a game called Mardi Gras in which he climbs onto the counter with as many things as he can and screams Happy Mardi Gras and then just throws everything. Oh, and I shall regret it later. But it feels like this wonderful, like celebration that our family is getting to be together after kind of this complete upheaval. And the idea that we could, like, go on an outing and like there were some tears. Again, a lot of people got hit in the face by things. But other than that, there were no tears about like anyone being upset about anything. Everyone had a great time. We got home.
S11: The kids were like, when can we do this again? So I’m counting kind of the whole past few weeks as just a giant win.
S12: I mean, like I said, Norma’s problem turned in to by the grace of who knows what. Like Martin create win.
S8: Yes. Yeah. I think I’m definitely you know, Carnival is like the prepping for Lent. So I’m definitely going to owe something during Lent, some major giving up of things. But overall, yeah, I mean, we are just we’re so thrilled to be together. And the nice thing about something like this is it really does make you realize, yeah, everyone gets on my nerves and every day is not perfect in our house, but we would rather all be together.
S13: Well, I’m really glad that you all got some additional time together and that your little one has discovered Mardi Gras. And yes, celebrated at will in your house.
S8: Yes, he has filled the bathtub with the thousands of Mardi Gras beads and like submissively in them, which is disgusting.
S6: But also funny how long before he’s making his brothers lift up their shirts to get those beads?
S8: Luckily, that is that is not a part of the mobile Mardi Gras. Now, we did take the kids to Mardi Gras in New Orleans last year and they did see some of that.
S14: So they’re gonna put it all together. They’re going to put it all together. Oh, my God. Elizabeth, I’m so glad Jeff did not get deployed. Thank you. I know it. I know who jameela it. How about you? Well, I actually have a triumph this week. It has been a while. Very happy about it.
S13: Last week was Valentine’s Day and I decided like for name with classy day, like a traditional. You know, you could bring like a gift candy and cards to pass out. So got cards for all the kids. Instead of just buying a bag or two of candy, I got like some pretzels and some cheese. It’s insane. Twix and like me little goody bag. So that way, if somebody didn’t bring any. Everybody would have, you know, a substantial amount of goodies. And when I was going through the class list, she signed every car.
S15: But I wrote the kids names on the front so they’d be legible. And also because we did not have all night for 24 editions of Nyima attempting to write one of her friends names.
S16: And when I got to her name, I was like, Oh, I’ll just sneak her card in here because I got her card.
S17: And the night before Valentine’s Day, I took a red eye to New York. So I drive turnaround times nuts off off with her dead. And so I ended up sneaking the card in and it was just, you know, a Valentine’s Day car. But I wrote her a super sweet, loving message. And I love you so much. You the best baby in the world. No, that’s the. And she wasn’t embarrassed by it.
S13: She was really excited and happy to see it. I felt good. That’s a great one. Yes. That’s so good. Thank you.
S6: Valentine’s Day, it’s a holiday that parents can take a lot less seriously than their kids thought they would and just really bummed them out. So I view any moment where your kid feels like, oh, my, my parents nailed Valentine’s Day is like I’m a huge weight.
S15: It’s a holiday that I naturally have been inclined to kind of ignore unless I’m in a romantic relationship, you know. But then I thought about the fact that my mother always got me a Valentine and I feel bad actually bought her one, but I didn’t put it in the mail in time. It’s in my vast card collection, like all the mother of the car, various people I’ve never seen and the anniversary car for the couple. There’s divorce now, but I’m going to make sure she gets that car next year.
S13: But my mama is that that’s that for me. So I’m happy to do it for Naima. Yay! A triumph for Jimmy. It’s been a long time. A very great triumph. I think it’s very big, you know. Thank you. All right. So before we move on, let’s handle phone business. Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about all of our parenting content, including, of course, mom and dad are fighting care and feeding and much more. It is also a personal email from Dan qua-. Every single week, all you have to do to get it is sign up at Slate that come back flat. Parenting email. Also, don’t forget to check us out on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. It’s a very fun, well moderated community that doesn’t often get out of control, and if it does, somebody will put you out. All right. So let’s get started with our first listener question for the week. And it’s being read by the one and only Sasha Leonhard.
S18: Dear mom and dad, what do you do when kids are assholes at the playground, when the weather is nice? We love taking family outings to the park. Our 11th month old typically stays in the stroller and the 3 year old runs around and plays. Lately, we have found that there are more and more big kids on the playground. I’m talking kids who are 9 to 13 years old, climbing up on the slides or on top of the slides and jumping off the play structures on the ground or into the sandboxes. Even though we stay close by our 3 year old, she inevitably gets trampled or purposefully shoved by these big kids, resulting in a lot of tears and the occasional Band-Aid. These kids will even run right into the stroller or grab at the baby, pulling her legs and or yelling in her face before running off. Most of the time, the parents are nowhere to be found. Sometimes the parent says, Oh, sorry. Or Johnny, be careful. Before going back to their phone, we have been working hard with our daughter on turn taking and sharing. So there are times where she waits patiently for her turn on the slide or for the swings, her favorite only to be pushed out of the way by another kid who is not waiting. My husband and I have spoken up to these children and let them know our daughter was waiting, but they just laugh or respond. Well, I’d say, hey, now, am I being a helicopter parent by wanting to protect my kids from these playground bullies? Is this a kids will be kids situation? We should let go and just console our crying daughter when she didn’t get a turn after waiting patiently. Do we just have to stop going to playgrounds? I’m very non-confrontational, so I tend to shy away from grabbing the kid by the shirt and dragging him around the park looking for his parent drop, kicking him out of the playground, or telling him straight up to stop being an asshole. So what do I do?
S19: Help. Thanks. pist Park Mom.
S13: Pennsburg mom. I’m pissed too because I can’t say I’ve observed too many instances of a 3 year old getting bullied by 9 to 13 year olds. This is not ok. Dan, what do you have to say?
S12: I mean, the first and maybe simplest question is, can you just go to a different playground?
S9: Like, my hunch is that three months from now, those big kids will not be your playground anymore. They’ll find something better to do, like smoking or being on the Internet, like proper teenagers. But barring that, I do agree that this is frustrating. But I would like to divide your problem into two separate complaints. Your first complaint is that the kids are too wild with their bodies and are endangering other kids, not only yours. They’re getting trampled, kicked, shoved. Kids are getting hurt. Your kid is getting hurt. Other kids probably are getting hurt, too. They’re being dicks with your baby. That is one problem. The other problem is big kids not taking turns on the side. Big kids not taking turns on the swing. Big kids not letting your child have her turn at what she wants to do.
S12: I think that those are two different problems with two very different solutions with turn taking. I think you got to just let that go.
S9: Like there’s no way that you can or should be policing every interaction that your daughter has on top of the slides or the swing. You can’t be sitting there tallying up who’s had how many turns on what. Your daughter gets upset in the moment. But in the end, it’s probably not going to be like irreparably harmed by not getting that turn on the swing. Redirect your child to a different. Paratus maybe leave the playground for a while. Maybe have a word with the kids about in general like being nicer to the little kids. But I think that that is something you just got to set aside the larger question of safety on the playground as these kids are like running wild and knocking kids over is something that you can and should deal with. And this is a case where you have to get over your sense of being non-confrontational. Yes. Maybe you are non-confrontational with adults. Maybe you’re non-confrontational in the workplace. But you are a grown up. You have a great deal of authority and this is the time to use it. It’s not your job to grab the kid by the shirt that’s actionable. But it is time for you to employ your Grown-Up voice and tell these kids over and over again if you have to, in no uncertain terms to get off a little kid playground equipment and find something better to do to control their bodies around smaller children and stop hurting kids. It’s extremely simple, and you’re allowed as a member of this playground community to just tell them that to say very clearly you are hurting smaller children and you cannot be on this equipment. If you don’t stop doing that and you must leave. Part of living in a community is being willing to be the voice of authority when it is needed and it is time for you. Yes, you pissed park mom to live up to that obligation, but what do you guys think?
S20: Okay, well, I think I’m much more hands off than you are.
S21: So I like to think of the playground as like the testing ground for kids. Like I have my kids all day and I’m teaching them all the stuff like stand in line. We say please and thank you. And we do all this like in my lovely, beautiful home school environment where I control everything. Then I take them to the playgrounds and I say, go play. See how these things that I have taught you.
S22: You know, work in the real world is the Hobbesian state of nature.
S21: Yeah, because in the real world, like adults don’t always let you wait in line. Adults don’t always control their bodies. You don’t always get to do the thing that you waited for. And I think this is a great, really low threat way to test out those things. I think it helps them figure out. Are you going to just wait for this forever? Or are you gonna go find something else? And I mean, I have watched my middle child Oliver is very quiet and very shy, and I have watched him wait an entire playground time for a piece of equipment. And when we leave, he will say, but I didn’t do anything. And I’m sort of like, well, that’s the choice that you made, because I think that we have to be empowered and empowered our children to take care of, you know, some of these things. I agree with you, Dan. There’s kind of two different issues. And I think that this playground sounds crazy. And I’m just wondering if these kids are there, like all the time. It seems to me like maybe can you go like a half hour later or a half hour earlier, better for your, you know, park playground routine, but also if this is the community that you live in. These are the kind of things your child has to learn to deal with. And I I do think, like the exception is always safety. I was at the playground with everyone, all my kids. Talking with another mom. My kids were off playing. I’m very hands off at the playground. I feel sort of like I have them all day. I keep kind of a general eye on them, but unless safety is an issue. Anyway, this other child was approaching the playground with a branch, not even a stick like a branch. And I just screamed across the playground, put down the branch, put down the branch like over and over again. And eventually several other parents joined me in the march towards this child because that branch would definitely, as he heads towards like something that twirls really fast. You know, this is going to be a bad situation. But I actually want to come to defense of the big kids on the playground, because I just think if you have big kids on the playground, I’m glad that they’re on the playground climbing things and doing stuff, because there’s just not a lot of opportunity, I think. Dan, like you said, this like goby on the Internet. Go do these things that big kids do. But I think it’s great if they’re choosing to be outside. And maybe this means that, you know, your community playground needs some larger climbing structures and need some things for for bigger kids. Those do exist. There’s those large spider web climbing things that I really just think there’s not a lot of other places for them to be. Now, if they’re screaming at your baby in a stroller. That to me is like a hard line. And you should definitely do everything you can to prevent that from happening. And certainly, like if they’re running over your 3 year old. But I I also think you just have to kind of learn to be in this situation. Now, all this being said, the base gym has a area in which you can put your toddlers and your working out right there. And I sometimes bring all three kids. And Henry was on the i-Pad doing something and Teddy and Oliver were playing. And this group of girls in there decided that somehow Oliver was the enemy. And I sort of led him on the treadmill and watching it happen. But they started pelting him with the toys from the toy steps, just like they said, this is war. And they were throwing all the other moms are in there. I just took off my headphones and I was like, ladies, we don’t throw and that it ended.
S11: I mean, not just you used your Grown-Up voice to use my Grown-Up voice, but I think the point is I didn’t use it when they told Oliver they couldn’t play and I didn’t use it when they said, you know, these are all our toys. They had this whole stash of all the toys. I let him figure that out until the point at which he was getting hurt.
S22: So it sounds like we totally agree, except for that. You think these nine to 13 year olds to the playground are getting a marvelous chance to play outside. And I think they’re definitely troublemaking punks. But other than that, like it’s all a matter of scale. Choose the level at which you’re going to intervene, but don’t consider yourself required to intervene at every level because you’re definitely not.
S23: Yeah, I think the playground is a time for them to play, not for more kind of guided. You know, my mom does this with your dad does this with you. This is the time for them to kind of go out and try these things.
S14: Jamila, what do you think? Well, I’m going to say fuck those kids.
S24: First of all, a 3 year old is a baby. B, you kick the baby stroller. Oh, couldn’t be me. Couldn’t be me. Don’t get me wrong. Yes. I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m alluding to something the day I mentioned. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility for the children around me. Right. Whether they were members of my community as in my physical community where I live or not. When I see kids and I see kids being out of order, I have a reaction to it.
S17: And I’m very invested in keeping them safe. Right. I don’t care about kids making noise on the bus or train unless they’re putting themselves in some sort of danger or that, you know, they’re really offending elders or something and using a lot of profanity. And then maybe I’ll say something. But otherwise be loud, be messy. I don’t care. But when you start putting yourselves in danger and most egregiously, putting smaller children in danger, because like Dan said, like, hey, sometimes at the park, you gotta wait for a slide. It is what it is. It’s not always fair. It’s the rules of the playground.
S16: These little people are getting themselves hurt and hurting a 3 year old.
S17: I’m sorry. Like, I’m going to be very confrontational in that moment. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be polite. But I think that you mama needs to get eye level with one of these little. There’s so many words I want to say.
S25: Well, these little agains these little ne’er do wells and just get eye level and say, do you realize that you kicked my daughter’s stroller?
S17: I think you should apologize to her. And it’s not a matter of cursing at them or yelling or doing anything, you know, inappropriate, because whatever you say to someone else’s kid, you better be prepared to say it to their parent. Right. Or to be able to justify like, why are you even talking to my kid? Well, your kid, you know, did a cartwheel over my baby stroller and kicked her in the head with a size 1, you know, Air Jordan. I don’t know. Like you need to confront these children when it happens and you do need to continue to confront their parents. I don’t care if, you know, they only offer a oh, sorry or, you know, hey, be careful before getting on the phone. Keep doing it. They need to be responsible for their kids on the playground. And when you see the other kids doing stuff that can get them hurt, you can say it doesn’t have to just be about you going and telling on them when they’re putting your child in danger. When you see, you know, two of them scuffling and somebody who’s bleeding or something that doesn’t look or feel right or something that’s dangerous. Speak up. In addition that I would just say I agree with my co-host that you should find another playground to go to, since it sounds like this is the culture of that park. And if there are parents that are sitting around cell phones watching it, that culture may not necessarily change because you’ve decided to disrupt it. But as long as you’re going to be going there, you have to be responsible for helping to affect a culture change. And it is nice that they want to be outside and all, but I’d rather they be behind a computer somewhere or an i-Pad or watching Netflix or trying to sneak and look at something that they shouldn’t then kick and three year olds in the stroller.
S8: Well, I agree that the stroller thing is so egregious to me. Like when I read this, I just thought, well, I’ve encountered a lot of things that I’ve played on. But like a child screaming or kicking something in a stroller to me just seems over the top.
S16: And I’m sorry. Want a correction? I apologize. The eleven month. Oh, yeah. And the starter. The three year old is running around.
S25: Oh, please, please. It’s. Girl, I agree.
S8: The baby thing is just like how I. I’m a little confused about how that happened. You know, even I would probably scream about that. I understand a 3 year old. So I have a 3 year old. And honestly, my 3 year old can stand up for himself at the playground better than my 5 year old.
S26: I don’t disagree with you, Elizabeth. At a playground is a kind of put lessons into practice place where kids do start to figure out, well, if there are bigger kids in a place where I want to be. Sometimes I just gotta suck it up and wait. And I love that about the playground. I’m very curious about this playground that this letter writer describes. Because it sounds absolutely unlike any American playground I’ve never seen. I just like I don’t see kids that age on playgrounds. I definitely what I do see kids that age on playgrounds, see them with younger siblings usually playing peacefully with them. And I don’t see playgrounds where parents aren’t engaged with what’s going on, where they like are on their phones, not paying any attention. What I usually see is exact opposite, the very American style playground parenting. Right. Which is parents all up and everything that their kids are doing and negotiating every single second, which is not what I think any of us are suggesting here and is definitely what Elizabeth is like trying to push back against. So I am very curious about like how did this playground halls where this is?
S8: Yeah, I go there.
S22: Right. How did it become like a circus maximus, like a gladiatorial arena for children? I’m very interested in the culture of this playground.
S23: I don’t know if you’ve observed this, but sometimes like one bad kid doing this stuff makes the other kids wilder or think that that behavior is okay. And I do find that like as a stepping in for safety. But like this kid with the stick at our playground is one of those I have, you know, yelled at him from across the playground on several things. But once you sort of, you know, nip him, then things tend to kind of settle down.
S27: One other thing I’m curious about, because I can’t think of a playground that I’ve seen and I’ve taught and worked in schools. And we certainly have a lot of playgrounds here in this beautiful place, Brooklyn, that I use live. If kids were running around like that, their parents were not present. So you’re saying that some of these parents are present for these interactions and they’re just not really taking it very seriously.
S24: But I also wonder, is this playground perhaps attached to an elementary school like maybe this is their playground and your kids are just a little bit too young to be there? I mean, again, we’ve said, you know, why not a different playground, but specifically one that is populated largely by parents or babysitters, big siblings, nannies and small children, as opposed to 9 at 13 year olds. Because that’s part of their daily go to ritual at this point. They may tighten up when they see you like there. Is there one mom who’s a bitch? Be careful, you know, because you’ve chastised them as you should. But I think your kids would be happier surrounded by children that were smaller. Yeah.
S23: Could you go there with more smaller kids? There’s power in numbers even of smaller children. If there are a bunch of smaller children on the playground, the older children are less likely to want to be there.
S7: Or at the very least, it makes it less likely that the small kid they hurt will be yours.
S14: True. To play that play the game of odds. You know, maybe it just becomes a west side story like child vs. hot or something. You know, like are lying in wait for these little kids, Swedes versus tots.
S8: I’ll bring Teddy to this playground. He’s rough. He bites. He’s you know, he can can handle his own. Yeah. He can handle it, though.
S15: Oh Nyima will definitely come in as the six almost seven year old. I guess that gap between the two groups of people and want to be down with the cool kids, but also fuss at them for touching the little people. So maybe you need to find them. They need some other kittel.
S9: I loved when big kids were on the playground. I mean, I’m sure they knocked me over and I cried some times. But big kids at the playground. I never got to play with big kids. Who’s been around big kids. I love that shit.
S15: No, I was the opposite. I was scared to be kids. I was very shy. Like Mama would have to walk up to kids my age, my like. Hi, this is Jamila. You want to play a. Yeah, I was. I can’t like I was so shy and big kids were pretty scary. And I definitely had the mom who had to get on the school bus infested the big kids for, you know, the way they treated me. So I can imagine that that happened at the playground a couple of times, too. OK.
S17: pist Park. Mom, good luck to you. Please follow up and let us know. 1 if you could just let us know. We don’t have to tell everyone the name of the parks would like. We need info like what’s up with this park? Why is it like this? Number one. And number two, we’d like to hear how things work out. And if you find another park to go to or if we can even recommend another park. Thank you for writing to us. If you fellow listeners have a question that you’d like to hear read on, mom and dad are fighting. Send us an email at mom and dad at Slate that com. OK. Time for our second question again. Read by the Fabulous.
S19: Sasha Leonhard, Dear mom and dad, my husband and I are trying for our first kid. It’s an exciting time, but no one is more excited than my mother. She is actively trying to move across town to be closer to us, saying she wants to quit her job and be very involved with our future child. Well, I appreciate her enthusiasm. There is something about her role as grandmother keeping me up at night. My mother is an alcoholic and my childhood was anything but happy. She went through what she jokingly calls her middle age crazy, which involved a lot of drunken threats, car accidents and an affair. She forced me to hide from my father. Since then, she has stabilized and remarried, and our relationship is better in small doses. I’m not sure how to maintain our positive relationship moving forward. However, after watching her with my siblings kids, she has very little patience with them. There’s a ton of yelling. Speaking through gritted teeth, spanking and general irritation, she says she loves and cherishes them. But every interaction takes me back to my childhood, much of which was spent tiptoeing around her temper, especially when she was drunk. My husband and I are not yellers or spankers and work hard to keep healthy boundaries around alcohol consumption. How can we address the concerns we have with my mother without crushing her or alienating her from future grandchildren? Thanks.
S23: I feel like this is a great opportunity to talk about boundary setting because I think boundaries and relationships are really helpful and wanted. And I think she’s searching for this boundary in which she can maintain this positive relationship and the grandmother can be a part of her child’s life, but also that she can kind of have, I think, some control over where and when and how that interaction occurs. I would just want to say yes to all of that. That is reasonable and it is the right thing to do. And I think there are ways you can do that that maintain the relationship. I think, though, you don’t really have to justify why you’re setting boundaries or how to set these boundaries. But I think she needs to sit down and decide how much involvement they want her to have in the family under what conditions. You can’t change who your mom is. You can’t change anything she’s done in the past or how she parents. You just don’t have control over that. So instead, you can only control your own behavior. And I think you have to have kind of this very clear, dedicated, positive conversation that says we’re so excited to have this baby and have you in this baby’s life. But here the boundaries we want to set and whether that’s like if you’re drinking, we will be leaving. We won’t be thinking our child. A lot of these things that she’s concerned about, luckily, I think arise like with a small baby or not as much of an issue. But that’s a good time to set those boundaries. See how things take shape. She has her sister’s kids as kind of a model of how things are going to go.
S21: But I think you can also set your mom up for success because you want to maintain this positive relationship and so you can limit your interactions to those that are more controlled. Just make sure that if the drinking is a problem, not being things in which drinking is part of that. Also, don’t leave the disciplining up to your mom if you feel like that is a potential point of conflicts. I just feel like there are a lot of ways once you’ve hammered out where those boundaries are.
S12: Elizabeth, you’re absolutely right. The boundary setting should be the tactic and the plan. But it is crazy to me that her siblings kids are getting yelled at, chastised and spanked by their grandmother. And it just seems to me very likely that whatever the parents, those parents, her siblings, you know, dreams are for those children and their relations for their grandmother. Surely it does not include that. And so my worry is, what do you do? This isn’t necessarily the case, but what do you do if. The siblings have already tried to set these boundaries, so they’ve already been crystal clear about how they don’t believe in spanking. For example. And yet they have this grandmother who just still keeps spanking the kids.
S11: But how are you in a situation where that’s happening? I haven’t been in a situation where someone wants to discipline my child and I’m like their. So if this is such a huge deal, then your children can’t be with your mother in a situation which she would need to enact any kind of discipline.
S15: I also wondered, do her siblings have a different approach to discipline than she and her husband? Because I would imagine, like if grandma is constantly spanking her grandchildren, one of two things is at hand. Either the parents involved are okay or unaware, which seems very unlikely that this person would write to us about it and hasn’t had a conversation with her siblings about it. But also it could be that maybe they feel reliance on her for child care. And so they are taking this discipline that they don’t approve. You know, style. There may not be their own. And just allowing for because it’s grandma. And we need the help or they spank their kids, too.
S11: I have an example in that Jeff and I very much believe that our children’s bodies are theirs to decide like who to give hugs to if they give kisses. Any of that. My in-laws expect that like when we are staying or when they’re saying that my children would give hugs and kisses before bed.
S28: And it just became this point of contention in that they felt that they were not getting, you know, the love from their grandchildren and the support from us, because we never said, like, go hug your grandmother. And we just had to sit down and say, sort of like our rule is that they have control of their bodies. Our rule is that we will never make them give hugs, give kisses. We do ask them if that’s something they want to do. We definitely model that we are affectionate with Jeff’s parents, but I’m not going to ask them to do that. And here’s why. Now, I do have them be polite. They have to say good night. They have, you know, all those sort of things. Initially, they were sort of like, this is not how we did things. But over time, things have evened out. They understand why we do it this way. And they have developed their own little things with the children.
S23: And honestly, then the kids get to set those boundaries or decide to give a hug or decide to give a kiss or whatever it feels. I think better for everyone because we we know the boundary that that came from. So the boundary setting is possible. It can be awkward. But I think it’s definitely possible. And you should definitely do it here.
S15: I agree with much of what both of you all have said is just you had to establish some boundaries with your mother. And I think you may want to consider speaking to a professional yourself, someone who has experience with people who I don’t know if you would describe her as being in recovery or that she just, you know, has gotten a handle on her drinking as opposed to going sober. But you don’t want to create a situation where you have upset her to the point where she backslides and nor should you feel responsible for her continued sobriety or near sobriety. But I think that there is a lot more that needs to be said in addition to, you know, we don’t spank. This is how, you know, we ask that you engage with the kids. We don’t yell. We don’t do this. I think there’s a lot of residual pain and trauma from your own childhood that I wonder. It sounds like mom is maybe kind of waved it off like all those are my crazy drunken years. But have you all begun the healing process in a really meaningful way and not just, you know, she’s doing better. So I’m trying to. You know, our relationship is better because she’s more stable. But have you all talked through it and why it creates anxiety and why you’re you’re triggered by seeing the way she interacts with her other grandchildren?
S27: I think that needs to be central to this conversation as well, not just a matter of I don’t like the disciplinary styles that I’ve seen you model with my sister and brother’s kids. I’m gonna ask that if I let my baby stay with you, that you don’t spank. I think it also needs to be this brings up some really bad memories that I’d like to leave in the past, especially as we’re working to rebuild our relationship.
S7: I think that’s really important. Just like there are things in this letter that seem like an enormous like emotional red flags to me of major problems in the way that this letter writer was raised and the echoes of that childhood that she sees in the childhood of her nieces or nephews. And that that just to me is like a claxon bell going off, making me feel very, very nervous about the situation. And I think going into it and being clear about that, going into it and trying to set her up for success, as Elizabeth says, is important. But I also think it is worth it to like steel yourself for the possibility that this won’t be navigable, that your mother is going to keep repeating these kinds of behaviors with your kid, no matter what kinds of boundaries you set up. And you’re gonna have to make a decision and you might want to prepare yourself ahead of time for what that decision is going to be about how you would respond if she’s not taking those boundaries seriously, if she’s not taking you seriously or she’s behaving towards your children in a way that continues to make you feel like you’re living your childhood all over again, because it’s not inconceivable at all to me that that happens. And I think you have to at least a little bit prepare for that possibility. Don’t assume it, you know, give your mother every chance to succeed in the ways that Elizabeth and Jamila are suggesting. But I don’t think that you can ignore that possibility. I think you have to prepare for it in some way.
S23: Dan, I totally agree. I think to me that setting those clear boundaries and that’s having a conversation with your partner about what those boundaries are and knowing what you’re going to do when they’re broken. To me, the whole point of boundaries is that, you know where that line is and you know what you’re going to do and that you’re consistent about that, because I think the only way really that you can affect change or hope to affect change in someone else’s behavior is for your response to be consistent on your boundary. And then they will have to reflect on if they like that or not like that. Right. So if if the spanking is a problem, again, don’t put the mom in a position in which she is the disciplinarian.
S11: And if that’s your boundary, like, I understand that maybe you’re going to count on her for child care. But if this is what’s happening, that maybe that’s just not an option, right? Same thing. If the drinking starts to be a problem, you can just I mean, not just say I think these are, you know, intense conversations, but if you’re drinking at an event where children is, we will leave. But then you have to leave.
S15: Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Letter writer, wishing you all the best on your journey to pregnancy and parenthood, as well as your continued journey toward peace with your mother. Please send us in that day. We are rooting for you.
S17: If you again are interested in having a letter of your own read by Shasha Leonhard and feared by the host of Mom and Dad are fighting. Please send us an email to mom and dad at Slate that com. And now let’s move on to our final question. Bonus question. Bonus question.
S19: Dear mom and dad are fighting around the time my twins turned 1. My parents let me know that they had opened a five to nine savings plan and each twins name and plan to max out the yearly taxable contribution for every year from this point until college time. Now let me stress that I am extremely grateful for this gesture and was speechless for a long time after receiving the news, but I am also very uncomfortable with taking such a generous gift. I asked my husband, Can we take this and should we take this? Two thousand per year is going to compound nicely when we’re talking about 16 years or more before those college tuition bills start to come in. Bills are current. Single income doesn’t allow us to save for. But why should that fall to my parents to support that burden? Just because they can. Whose job is it to save for college anyway? My husband’s response was at the end of the day, our children will benefit. Why does it matter where the money comes from? I’m just not sure. I think self-sufficiency is important. I want my kids to know that I want my own relationship between my grown self and my parents to reflect that as well. I wonder, is it wrong to have this fierce desire to provide for your own kids and then feel some inadequacy at the suggestion that you need the leg up?
S20: Thanks. Hey, I’m on a like cover. Are you serious?
S15: Well, let’s give it to my kid. Then I’ll gmu my info and then my daughter can have. I’m sorry. Her step mother actually thought her really great guy. I see.
S17: It’s ok to let somebody else do it because I know I’m gonna be rich one day, but right now I get it.
S10: Gonna share your routing number and bank account information, please.
S24: But but I just I don’t know. I think there’s something else here that you’re not saying. In relationship to your relationship with your parents, like. I wonder if you have a history of either being irresponsible or treated as if you were irresponsible, perhaps you are an irresponsible teenager who’s become an incredibly responsible and financially self-sufficient adult. You feel like they’re treating you like the teenager. College costs so much money. It’s OK to have more money than you need for college. This does not stop you from setting up your own college, but it doesn’t stop you from encouraging your kids to get scholarships. This will only make the journey easier.
S10: Look, the one thing that this letter doesn’t explain is what kinds of strings attached to this money. Right. Which can often be the case if there are strings. That is what should drive this decision, not some kind of like abstruse philosophical dilemma about whose job it is to provide for your kids. It’s everyone’s job. Provide for your kids, a stranger on the streets, job to provide for your kids. Certainly it is within the purview of your parents to try to help your children, their grandchildren. However, they want to do so. So, look, if taking this money well, like make the next 18 years awful because your parents will be dicks about it or they’ll feel they have the right to boss you or your kids around, then consider turning it down. But short of that, take the money.
S23: I agree. There’s so much out there that talks about how college debt graduating with that, like the weight that that puts on your future, that I think any opportunity to not give that to your kids. Like I just think you wouldn’t turn down baby clothes or a bassinet or something. Right. Or something you really needed for a baby in a lot of ways. This is that times, you know, a lot. But I think you take it and be thankful. Again, I wondered about strings attached. I know often I pay for things, given my family gives to me like in shame and guilt. But, you know, small price to pay. Right.
S15: I mean, we can do some shame and guilt for college tuition. Exactly. And I’m glad you remind me of the portion of my tuition that he paid. And that’s fine because it was paid and I needed it. I didn’t have it. So I’m glad that he did it. And let a writer you mention here that they’re able to invest more on a regular basis than you are. So are you like me or are you just like very certain that your globe is coming? You’re going to have a bunch of money before your gig comes to college? Or are you just saying that you’d rather them not have it because you feel like it’s your responsibility to do it and even though you can’t technically do it, or you may be reliant to take out a bunch of loans which can be devastating for your entire household?
S24: Right. Because there’s the loans in the kid’s name. There’s also the loans that you can put in your name if you have to take out those kinds of loans. That’s not really ideal. And I can’t imagine that you won’t look back on this moment in regret if you don’t take this money unless you know, the big caveat being if the strings attached to this are truly choking strings. Right. But if it’s simply remember when I paid your kids go to college because you couldn’t. If that’s all it is, then yes.
S28: I remember I where this is basically the plot to Gilmore Girls. Right.
S10: You’re absolutely right. This letter could have events head Lorelai Gilmore.
S17: Wish you all the best. And good luck with the money. And we hope you take the money and please take the money. All right. Before we get out of here, we’re gonna do recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you have this week?
S28: Sherak. This is inspired by. We’ve had a ton of rain here. And then, of course, the deployment scare meant we were like in the house all the time. And my friends in Colorado Springs are facing like there a snow day or something crazy. So we have at home a Swedish wall gym for the children. It actually mounts to the wall. It’s it’s rather slim, but it has like swings and rings. And they call it a nest, which is like a little place for them to climb and set and a rope ladder. And it’s made out of like stronger material than IKEA. Furniture mounts to the wall, but it’s, you know, 8 feet tall, 3 feet wide, fits in the kid’s bedroom, actually. But it is amazing when we are stuck inside for whatever reason. My kids have a lot of energy. This is a great way for them to get all their energy out. Especially when you’re thinking like, well, where do I go on a rainy day? How to. Where do I go? You know, when it’s snowing, when we’re stuck inside? You come to my house because we have this thing with kids. I’ll play on it. It’s just awesome. We really, really love it. They’re sold on Amazon. They have ones that are pressure mounted.
S23: The first one we ever saw was in an American’s home in Germany. And they had this huge pressure mounted one in their attic. We found something a little slimmer. My kids school in the Netherlands also had them just awesome. The only disadvantage is that my 3 year old likes to hide naked in the nest on the top. When it’s time for bed. Which makes me climb up there and get him but a small price to pay for them being worn out at the end of the day.
S7: So why are the big kids from the neighborhood come over and don’t let. Sure, kids ever get down and have their turn, you’re just gonna be like, well, kids, that’s just the way it goes.
S14: And Tony here. I mean, my three year old might not.
S22: All right. Today, I am recommending a comic book. It’s a long running comic book that I have loved for years. But a great collection of this comic book just came out. It’s called Street Angel. It’s by a Pittsburgh cartoonist named Jim Rug. And it is the heartwarming story of Jesse Sanchez, the deadliest girl alive, a homeless ninja on a skateboard. She fights ninjas, drugs, nepotism and pre-algebra as street angel. It is a totally insane, extremely violent. Very funny, extremely silly action comic starring a teenage girl who has broadswords and a skateboard and throwing stars.
S10: And I think it would be just great for basically any 13 year old of any stripe. It’s violent, but not horribly violent. It’s like cartoonishly violent. It’s less violent than a Roadrunner cartoon, but way funnier. I really love this comic. I also just as like an art object. It’s one of the best jauron and most creatively created comics around.
S7: I just love the way it looks and the way that it reads. So it’s also good for adults. But for a 13 year old who likes a little violence with their morning serial. The collection is Street Angel. Deadliest Girl Alive. And it’s out now.
S28: Bring copies of that to the playground.
S7: Absolutely, give it to the kids and be like, what are you doing, push around 3 year olds? You could be fighting ninjas.
S15: Hey, losers, you wanna learn how to fight ninjas instead of fighting 11 month olds? All right.
S8: I think I think we’re on to something here.
S12: Jamelia, what are you recommending?
S27: I bought a journal for Nyima and I think I mentioned before we have a journal where we share notes back and forth, like if we have things that we need to say to each other and don’t feel comfortable saying them face to face. You know that she can write it in the journal? I can write in the journal, but about a little journal for her the other day that I’m gonna keep with me when I travel because I am on the road a bit and I going to write notes to her in that journal. And I’ve also asked friends and folks that I meet on my travels that are interesting to write her notes as well. So I feel like I’ve created a new way to bring her along with me on my trips that sometimes can bum her out a bit. So yesterday I got to spend some time with a friend of our family named Julie, who’s very sweet older woman who Nyima got to know this summer, and she wrote her a little love note and I wrote her a love note.
S17: And I’m going to share it with a couple more people before I head back to California. And I’m going to do that every time I get on the road. So that is my recommendation for parents who are often separated from your children. Take a little journal, cause me for five bucks. It was cute. It had her initial on it, keep it with you and some colorful pens and write notes to your kid while you’re missing them and let other people write them notes as well.
S6: That is an adorable idea. I hope that you continue doing it and it doesn’t end up like every similar project from when we had kids your kids age where we did it for a month and then we stopped.
S10: I mean, it sounds like we find these journals around the house now and they’re like amazing time capsules of exactly two and a half months in our children’s lives.
S8: Jimmy Lamen of your county ability coach for this, because I am not a project dropper, OK? I could certainly use that because I want to be accountable to this one. I say this is awesome. I think this is so cool and such a great keepsake. And I know you can do it.
S20: Thank you. I mean, you can definitely do it. You’ll actually do a great job.
S14: I’m telling you.
S13: And you can stop being such a downer, but it’s not there’s not a lot of pages. Right. So there’s like maybe well, 50 pages on this one. So it’s 100. Okay, whatever. But like it’s wide ruled out. We can get through this.
S8: I’m like that expectation management. You know, I think that’s the key to happiness. So you have you’ve bought a journal that is appropriately sized.
S15: Yes. Thank you. I’m going to walk this late office and make the strangers who don’t always want to let me in sign it.
S14: Perhaps it’s like, who’s that lady? She’d fill it all out this week. Exactly. Here, hang him. Here’s one hundred pages. Read a hundred. Read them now. I was gone for three days. That’s right. All of these people asked about you. And that is our show, folks.
S29: Thank you for listening. If you have a question that you’d like to ask us on air, you can leave us a message at 4 2 4 2 5 5 7 8 3 3. Or shoot us an email at mom and dad at slate.com. And don’t forget to join us mostly. Dan on Facebook. Just search for Slate’s parenting.
S4: And Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s very active. Are you active?
S29: Coming back. One bad experiences. Oh, that’s great.
S30: Come back and join us. Okay, I’m coming back. Mom and dad are fighting is produced by Rose Marie Bellson for Dan Cly and Elizabeth New Camp. I’m Jamilah Lemieux.
S17: Hello, Slate Plus listeners. Today, we’re gonna be talking about the significant gender gap in time spent on domestic labor. So attitudes toward gender obviously shifted quite a bit over the last 50 years. But a new survey of heterosexual young couples show that they are just as likely as older couples to split chores unequally, at least according to an article in The New York Times parenting section, which will be linked to in our episode notes. Now, these findings don’t deviate from other research, which consistently shows that unequal balance of household chores is, quote, a leading cause of the gender gaps in pay and promotions at work. So as a single mother, I am relatively like, I don’t want to.
S25: How do I say this?
S15: It’s not that I’m like, relieved. Really? Who? Thank God I don’t have a husband holding me back or making me do all this stuff. But I have found that the way that married mothers often say to me, You poor thing. Oh, my God, you must have so much work to do. You do everything.
S16: I’m like kind of looks like you’re doing a whole lot more work than I’ve been doing because you’ve got a whole adult to raise.
S15: I’d love to hear about what gender equity looks like in you all’s homes and what sort of steps you have or haven’t taken to ensure that there’s some fairness in how household duties in child rearing are divided. Let’s start with you, Mr. Feminist Dan..
S10: This. Article is the subject of much discussion and our home for a couple of reasons. The first is that I think that the the study is very weak. Like I think the actual study that they are citing and in particular this chart that’s in this piece is like extremely misleading and does not necessarily represent any kind of shift or lack of shift in actual housework done on the part of younger fathers as opposed to older fathers, mostly just because the methodology seems totally like crack. Like the methodology was, they asked men if they are more likely to do a chore than their female partner, which a? Why are you going to believe them and be like Ed that proposes?
S22: It’s basically an all or nothing scenario. Either you do more or the partner does more. And there’s an enormous difference between a house where both partners do the dishes about the same amount, but the husband maybe does at one time more a week and a house where the husband doesn’t do the dishes at all and the female partner does the dishes all the time. Like I just don’t think that this measures anything. Quantifiably. So anyways, I was very grouchy about this column because I’m, you know, with such a good, equitable feminist spouse and I, of course, do my share. So I was like, you know what? I think that I’m very honest about the amount of work that I do at my house. I think I have a very good sense of what I actually do, less of where I fall short, where I do keep up my share. So I took the same categories that this chart and the times broke down and I sent an email to Alex, my wife, saying, hey, here’s how I think the division of labor works in our house. Please tell me if you think I’m right or if you think that I’m wrong, if I’m totally off, and if my perception of what I do is skewed presumably positively toward myself. And I went through the model interior decorating, daily care activity, planning, house cleaning, laundry, cooking, does that outdated? I added a few categories of my own, like dealing with the insurance company and yelling, both of which I excel at and our family. And it will surprise neither of you, I’m sure. Nor will it surprise anyone who has ever thought about gender in this country for more than seven seconds. That Hollier A back on was like, no, you’re right. Most of the stuff that you say you do more of, I actually do more of. And in one case where I was like, why definitely do more grocery shopping than you? She she literally came back with the receipts. She had her credit card bills for three months and saw which shopping trips were minor, which were hers and charted them out.
S12: And the answer is she does more grocery shopping than I do. So. The answer is I try, but I still fall short in many ways. That’s the answer. How about in your house, Elizabeth?
S17: Wait. Side note. Can we just acknowledge that Dan complained about how bad the article was, only to say, like essentially it was right about me?
S14: Well, I don’t know the methodology. I just have no idea.
S6: Like, well, a, I think that the fact that I can’t actually correctly estimate how much I do compared to my wife does suggests that in fact, this methodology for the study was fucked because like I’m paying attention and I still am wrong about all this shit. So like, I just think that’s the wrong question to ask. And also, I still maintain that I do, for example, way more around the house than my dad did.
S7: And so I don’t know that I believe that actually the numbers remain the same as they did 50 years ago. I just don’t think that’s probably actually true. But the.
S23: All right, well, I also had a problem with kind of the premise of the study, I guess I don’t really care if we’re doing it equally. Jeff and I a long time ago, just when we got married, I had graduated from law school. I had several law school job offers. He was in the Air Force. He was gonna go to test pilot school out in California. I had a like the job offer that I wanted in D.C. and we had a long discussion about what kind of marriage would look like and what we believed that that was. And what we decided is that, above all, we wanted to be together. And that, of course, meant that I needed to move to be with him. So turned on the job. I did work for NASA for several years out in California. We had a baby. We moved. I didn’t bring the job with me because we were moving and it just ended up with his schedule and everything. We decided that the best thing for our family was to stay home. Of course, then we moved overseas, came back. Now I have three children and we’ve decided that homeschooling is best for us in all of these decisions have been made together. And in that, we sort of said it doesn’t matter if things are equal, but we want to be equally happy in the responsibilities that we have. So. That basically means that Jeff does his share of the housework. He actually does something called rage cleaning. That’s my term. But when he sees it, the house has reached a level which he can no longer tolerate. He just goes on like a cleaning bender and he turns into something that I called Turbo Jeff where he just is like cleaning. And you can do nothing to get in between him and the cleaning. In fact, once in like this Turbo Jeff sweeping, when the broom went back, the handle popped off. And then I guess the next time I went back, it went into his leg and he was like bleeding everywhere from the edge of the. And also, you know, this is the best way to handle things.
S10: But it’s a strong argument that turbo cleaning is not necessarily actually beneficial to you.
S21: No, no. It actually made a much larger mass. I created another person for me to take care of. But I think that the general idea is that we each tried to do the things that we hate the least, like there are towards that we like there are toys that we both hate. We tried to kind of assess who does what based on that so that we are both equally handling the things that we don’t like. And I do think like for us, because I’m home, that does mean that I do more. I am in the house more. But when Jeff is home, like, I really don’t like to cook. I cook because someone needs to put food on the plates of these children. And Jeff is not always home, but when he’s home, he cooks and therefore he meal plans. And because he can grocery shop without the kids, he grocery shops.
S23: Now, if we’re out of something, of course, I go out and do it. But I don’t think like, well, you went grocery shopping this many times and I went grocery shopping this many times. Right. Same thing. Like there are just things that he takes care of, things that I take care of. I will say that then sort of what happens is that when I looked at that list stand that you’re talking about, kind of the domestic child care is what stood out, because that is kind of where we fight the most about things. ‘Cause I’m home with the kids. I have the most contact time with them, which means that I can solve any problem they have way quicker than he can. I just have all the background, all of the knowledge of how to solve this problem. So if we’re having a problem at dinner, I am always the one to get up. That leaves my meal to solve the problem. And if I ask him to do it because like, let’s say I want to finish my food, right? It’s like I’ve only created more work for myself. So I do see myself like getting in this own cycle in which I’m feeding the problem instead of just saying, you know, you need to do this is like I can just do it quicker and we can all be set back on track. So let’s say this is true. Like, what can we do about it? And I guess the big thing is that I try to make sure that the boys understand that the housework and the things that are going on is family work. And that is stuff that they have to be participating in. So like when we’re home, the kids are helping with laundry. They are helping clean the kitchen. Whatever is like my task of household for the day they are engaged in. And I don’t treat it like, oh, you’re helping mom do this work or you’re helping dad. It’s like these are family tasks and we are the people at home right in the same way that, like Jeff loves to do laundry. It’s like quiet time while folding laundry gets to watch videos on his phone or whatever he wants to do. You know, he’s not like, oh, I’m doing the laundry for your mom. He’s like, oh, I’m doing the family’s laundry.
S11: So I was just thinking about, like how to embrace that with our kids as we raise them, particularly with boys, to make them see that this is part of just like being an adult, whether you’re, you know, no matter who you end up with, a roommate, a spouse, a partner like these are the things we do to keep our house in the way that we want it to keep our family the way that we want it.
S15: One thing that’s mentioned in The Times article, Elizabeth, that your last comment speaks to that, which also is why I believe that the studies, despite how scientifically flawed it may be, that it does speak to a something that’s more common than not by even attempting to have some sort of equality or, you know, having a father take on more of the household and parenting. Labor is still somewhat radical and ways. Right. And that a lot of young men who are now fathers and husbands were not raised to do some of the same household chores that perhaps their sisters, if they had them, were raised to do or if there weren’t girls in the home. They didn’t see any children performing those types of chores. Right. And they mentioned in the article that boys are still not being taught that like this is a man’s work or woman’s work. This is adult work. Right. This is family work. This is what being a member of a household means, that you have to contribute more and tell you another reason that I feel confident, in addition to all the anecdotal evidence I have from like every wife that I’ve ever known, including, you know, the super feminist ones. Why think that the study is speaking to something very true? There is another study that came out. Last summer, it was covered for Slate by Laura bad line and open title, Merrill said as the mother’s time use, and it was from the Eunice Shriver National Child Health and Human Development Institute. And we’ll have a link to this on the show page. And they looked at over 23000 mothers married, divorced, separated, widowed unpartnered between the ages of 18 and 54 and living with children under 13. And they calculated the amount of time they spent on household child care, sleep and leisure. And they found that single mothers have more free time, spend fewer hours on housework and get more sleep than married mothers. And so for years, I thought I’m just incredibly fortunate to have that experience because I’ve got this great co-parent. Right. And so I get wrath., I get solo time because my name is oftentimes with her dad. But what the researchers are suggesting that it’s not always that that’s the case, even with mothers that don’t have the same sort of support from their child’s father than I have in this cuts across racial lines. That cuts across class lines, apparently that they found this to be consistent with single mothers. And a lot of it had to do with and I’m reading directly from the Slate article. According to the study, a major factor is this heavenly quote unquote, gendered nature of heterosexual marriage that, quote, ratchets up the demand for housework and child here performed by women, even when both husband and wife work similar hours for similar pay. Single mothers, on the other hand, have no need or even opportunity to perform gender by demonstrating absence. The centuries old conceit that good mothers prioritize everyone else but themselves, there is not much point putting on a play if there is no audience. So I wonder how much of this additional load bearing comes. Not because he won’t do it, but because I feel that I is liberated. I may be. I still have to because this is what women do. And maybe because I do work outside the home, I feel even more convinced that I have to perform traditional femininity in some way. Do you all think that may be a factor?
S26: There’s certainly an enormous difference in many, many heterosexual partner couples between the guys assumption of what a clean and well taken care of house looks like and should be. And the woman’s that’s like so common that it’s basically a trope at this point that, you know, guys don’t see dirt. Guys are like, well, what are you folding all that laundry for? We could just stuff it in the kid’s drawers or whatever. The kind way for me to think about that to myself is, oh, well, that’s because I just haven’t subscribed to all these stupid ideals of femininity that are outmoded and outdated. And instead, I’m embracing a new modern lifestyle in which we like just let the garbage sit there and we never take it out. That seems great to me.
S23: I am very like type a OCD. And so it’s tough. And again, it just seems like. He also strives for a very clean house. I mean, I’m sure this is true in some cases, right. And and I might be the exception. And Jeff’s father is incredibly active around the house. Did most of the cleaning, did a lot of the cooking. His mom is a very, very busy labor and delivery nurse. And so I, you know, worked a lot of weekends, so he took a lot of these responsibilities. So I often wonder if some of that is, you know, the result of Jeff being brought up in an environment in which his dad did a lot of stuff. So when he got married, his expectation was that he would do a lot of them. We lived separately before getting married. So he also had his own home to take care of and had to do all these things.
S26: I’m curious what you guys think about. I mean, for lack of a better term scorekeeping that, Elizabeth, you say you just generally don’t think about had which you know, is sort of manifest in my attempt to figure out what it is that I actually do with this house and then compare it with what Aleya thinks I actually do in this house. I mean, to some extent. I know that the point of marriage is not to like keep track of who does what and to constantly be thinking, well, am I doing more than my partner? But at the same time, it’s incredibly useful for me from time to time to be reminded of the things that I could be doing or the things that I think I’m doing. But actually, I’m not thinking at all about what she’s doing. And so I kind of think that at least a little bit it’s worth every once in a while sitting down and actually taking stock, maybe even with receipts of what it is that you actually do in the house and whether that reflects what you want to be doing in the house.
S11: I would say we do think about what the other person is doing. But from the standpoint of if I see that the trash cans have been emptied, I will think, oh, wow, Jeff, empty the trash cans. That’s really thoughtful. Even if that’s his job or like if I get up in the dishwasher is emptied. Not that we have this like perfect marriage, but I do feel like one of the things we do well is that. Our goal is always for the family. And sometimes that means that I am doing more if Jeff is just gone or we’re prepping for this deployment or whatever. I’m taking most of that. But there are other times where I you know, I don’t feel well all the time. I was pregnant like all of these things or sometimes honestly, I just, you know, Jeff will say, does the trash need to go out or something like that? And I will just say yes. And I don’t plan on doing like I just can’t do it. I just expect that he will do it because sometimes I just do it. So I think taking stock in terms of like being thankful and reflecting on am I doing enough and can I do more to take the burden off this other person? But in general, I just worry that the tit for tat is inviting in the negative thoughts of, wow, I do so much and I don’t like I don’t want that.
S14: You’re so nice.
S9: Every time I take the garbage out, I think, why the fuck did you take the garbage out instead of thinking, oh, here are the twenty five other things that Holly did in the time she could have been taking the garbage out that were just as useful or more useful for our family.
S6: I eventually get there. I like work myself there. Veha like self-flagellation and embarrassment, but always.
S12: I’m so petty. My first thought is always why didn’t someone else do this for me?
S15: Well, as long as you keep that to yourself, Dan..
S6: Well, luckily it’s on the plus segment so hard.
S31: I just thought I mean in the moments in particular, not like I would have been nice if you drag this 50 pound garbage bag out, I guess you still have on your heels from court, wherever you know. That’s all he had to listen to the plus segment. Yeah, exactly. Be sure to tell her that I think that competency is largely gendered and women tend to just be so much better at so many things that it is hard not to do them. And I’m being hyperbolic, but I heard from both of you. I like that sometimes it’s just a matter of who can do this the best. Right. I think that big challenge is that there are times where the woman’s not the best cook or not the best at cleaning, but because she’s the woman or she’s maybe not the most nurturing of the two, but because she’s a woman, there’s an expectation that she just figures it out and vice versa, that the dad, who’s not good at taking out the trash or fixing the VCR, hunting, gathering or whatever it is that you all do, that you just figure it out as opposed to figuring out like what do we as individuals, we have our unique skill sets and things that can be of service to our family who should do what so that we are maximizing our potential as members of this household.
S7: I’m very allergic to like who is better at this? And that person should just do it honestly because of what Elizabeth was talking about before that. Then you just end up with the person who over time has to do the thing more, then gets better at it, and then it’s just fucking easier to just take care of it. But that just increases the work that that person has to do, the kind of thing that I feel like always falls on women.
S11: But I will say, like Jeff can couch that by just like one. I think you have to have a relationship in which I can say I’m not getting up from the table today. Like this is just I’ve had it all day. And two, when he says, like, thanks so much for taking care of that. That really does. I know it sounds like such a small thing, but it really does just make me feel like, oh, OK, great. I did do this for the family, I think.
S15: And I want to be clear, I’m not saying simply, let’s just make a list of things that have to be done and just assign, you know, the best suited person to do them, because like I said, women tend to be more competent. So there’s going to be more stuff that we can do, particularly around a household more often than not.
S31: But I think that we have to affirm what are the things that mom is really best at doing and where the things that I can take off her plate so that she can do them right. Like if she’s a phenomenal cook, she shouldn’t be cleaning just because she’s the woman in the house. Right. This is a person who should be cooking our meal. She’s really good at it. She enjoys it. We can all eat well. That means someone else has to step up and make sure that those dishes and pans are wash and that the kitchen is clean and that the refrigerator is clean.
S23: I want to say there’s a lot of these things that your kids can do. It is, you know, never to my standard, but I often think, well, it’s done.
S10: Kids definitely always do it worse than either do it. True.
S24: As quick as I am to say I believe it. I totally believe it. You know, when it comes to this study, in this article, it does buy me out as somebody who is foolhardy enough to still wish to be married.
S17: Right. Looking back at the Slate article, it ends with the here’s to putting a new face on single motherhood. I think of it like a dry vodka martini. I wouldn’t have picked it, but found it unexpectedly delicious, which is exactly how I think of single motherhood. But the writer goes on to say, When people ask me if I plan to get married again or even live with someone else, my response is very direct.
S24: Hell no, I don’t like. I still really want to do this and I want another baby. And I don’t know, maybe my best opportune. And that would be finding somebody who’s already been housebroken. You know, so I’m marriage number two. So he’s like already learned how to not do it because he messed up the first time.
S15: If someone could tell you something before you all were married about how to ensure that there is a division of labor in your household that everyone can live with, not necessarily an equal one, but one that is good for everyone. What would it be like? What do you wish you knew before?
S7: I just wish that we had thought to talk about it like very clearly and explicitly. Like, I think we made a bunch of assumptions based on what we knew and loved about the other person. Aliya definitely made a bunch of assumptions based on what she knew and loved about me. And I think that those assumptions mostly turned out correct in that I do chip in and want to chip in and try to pull my load. But I also think we both underestimated or maybe you didn’t even consider the extent to which our blind spots would allow certain inequities to perpetuate and because we didn’t talk about them ahead of time. I think that that started, you know, as soon as we had kids and continues even to this day. And I think that we now talk about it in a way that is fruitful and useful. But I wish we had just had those conversations like 20 years ago. Mm hmm.
S23: Lizabeth, Jeff and I dated for like five years, starting end of college and through kind of our first like jobs and places we lived. And so I felt like by the time we were engaged and got married, I had a good sense of kind of who he was as a person in his own home, like he had owned a house and took care of the house and kept it clean. And Jeff will often, like, joke with me and say, like, you’re so lucky, you know, that you found me when he’s helping out with things, which is kind of an asshole thing to say. But I always say to him, no, I’m not lucky.
S11: These are the things I looked for like I chose. Right. So I do feel like those little nudges that you get when you think like, oh, I can change this, like you probably can’t change that. The things that, you know, annoyed me then still annoy me. But they are less than kind of our combined partnership toward this. And I also think at the end of the day, kind of their willingness to want to make you happy is important.
S7: I mean, yes. I mean, the easiest answer is making that a criterion for what you’re looking for in a possible future. Spouses like that should be as important to you as all the other things are.
S15: Absolutely. And if nothing else, if he has a whole lot of money, then we can buy our way out of some of these things, like. So everything’s clean, right?
S8: Yeah. Who does that? You can hire people to do all those things.
S17: If only. If only. Well, thank you both for another great slate plus. Thank you. Slate plus listeners for your support. And we will talk to you next week.