Monday, January 12, 2009

Valentines Day. . . a new approach. . .

It's no secret that men usually marry women like their mothers. Not necessarily in every respect, of course. That would be just creepy. But they choose similarities that are in some way important to them: cooking skills, physical similarities, career choices, personalities, habits, beliefs and attitudes, or even just their CQ-- "comforting quotient."

It's also no secret that after a number of years of marriage (and a number of kids) men start to see their wives more as "mom" than as "wife" or "lover." They begin to call their wives "mom" and not just when the kids are around! And women-- responding to the nurturing gene and the repetitive nature of their roles as mother figures and domestic goddesses-- begin to treat their husbands like one of the kids.

Have you caught yourself straightening your man's clothes to make him more presentable or re-combing his hair or scolding him for repeatedly leaving clothes or shoes on the floor or dishes all over the family room? When you go out to dinner or shopping, do you automatically pay because you have the credit card or the checkbook (or the cash because YOU were the one who remembered to go to the bank)? Do you make up the list of Saturday chores by yourself and hand out assignments to hubby and the kids at the same time? Do you monitor his TV viewing and/or computer use and make comments about the content. . . expecting him to respond to your wishes? Do you monitor his wardrobe and decide when he needs new underwear and socks and when his shirts or trousers need replacing?

In short, are you in danger of becoming, or have you already become, your man's MOM?

I read an article on this recently and I was a little disturbed. . . because, see, I do some of the stuff they mentioned. Not necessarily because I want to or planned things to happen this way. Some habits in a relationship you just fall into. Like that "underwear and socks" thing. I'm a shopper, see, and he doesn't like to shop, so it's just easier for me to pick these things up.


There are probably hundreds other things that women do to and for husbands/mates that qualify as "Mommy" duties. Grocery shopping, cooking, housework, vacation planning, kinship duties like planning family events and keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries. . . reminding them of obligations and schedules. . . deciding when they need a new wallet and making eye and dental appointments. . . handing them tissues when we see hands headed for noses. (Oh, come on, most men do it. And most women hand out the tissues.)

Sometimes it's by agreement that we act as a stand-in mom. Sometimes it's not. And when it's not, it can be embarrassing for them and for us. When they're sick or dealing with things they don't consider important to their egos, they're happy to have us take over. But when they're healthy and focused on taking on the world, it can be demeaning and downright infuriating to have us yank them back into childhood with a scolding.

Not only that. . . but as the quotient of "mommy" behavior goes up, the frequency of passion goes down. It stands to reason that if you quit seeing your guy as a virile and capable man who can take care of himself, you won't be as eager to think of him as a lover. And the flip side is that the more he sees you as his "MOM" the less he'll see you as a vibrant, beautiful, sexy woman who should be appreciated and loved. Here is where the romance dies.

So, how do you keep from turning into his MOM? How do you make certain you can still be lovers as well as partners and parents and friends and mortgage co-signers?

The article suggested that when we do things for our guy that his MOM would ordinarily do, we do it in a way that his MOM wouldn't. With a kiss, a wayward caress, a naughty glint or suggestive laugh. It proposed that we hand them a list of their wardrobe needs and send them out with the checkbook. . . that if we do accompany them it is just to spend time with them and have lunch or dinner out. We have to make sure that they're the ones who do the shopping and deciding. . . that we offer support and loving, appreciative smiles. If they complain (It's easier to let MOM do things than to do them for yourself!), we should tell them in no uncertain terms that we think we're turning into their MOMs and we'd much rather be their lovers and wives.

If your guy doesn't get the promise in that statement, then he's been "mommied" waaaaay too long and may need a more emphatic dose of "wife" and "lover" to remind him of the benefits.

The benefit to women is that. . . we get to be wives and lovers again. . . instead of simply mothers 24/7. We get to remember our femininity and behave like the fun, sexy, passionate women we truly are. We deserve a little fun and romance in our busy and oh-so-responsible lives. And who knows, we may find ourselves rekindling the romance and rediscovering the kind of blossoming love between two equals that Valentine's Day was meant to celebrate.

So, with Valentine's Day coming up, we have time to do a little remedial "un-mommying." We have time to remind ourselves and our significant others that we're a great deal more than just "Mom."

What do you think? Is this expanding "MOM" role a problem for you? Ever feel like the MOM of the world? What do you do about it?

Do you think this approach would free women up and make our lives better, or is it too much like that chauvinistic old song "Wives Should Always Be Lovers, Too"? Too much work? Just one more expectation women have to meet?


AuthorM said...

Betina, I'll confess, this article made my stomach hurt. I am NOT my husband's mother. Ever. I don't pack his lunch, buy his socks (unless he asks me nicely to pick some up while I'm out, but I don't make the determination of when he needs new ones.) I don't pick out his clothes, tell him it's time to get his hair cut or give him chores. I do demand he pick up after himself, the same way I expect my kids to clean up their stuff, because while I am a mother, I'm not a maid.

I do all the laundry, bill paying and housecleaning, most of the grocery shopping and most of the kid transportation, but that's my share of our household duties, since he goes out to work and I stay home.

I guess this post hit a nerve with me! I'm all for taking care of your spouse if it brings you pleasure to do it, absolutely, but the thought of "mommying" my husband is appalling to me!


I guess I don't want to be any man's mom except my own son. And even then, I'll expect him to learn how to do his own laundry, pay his bills and buy his own underwear and not expect his wife to do it!


Betina Krahn said...

Ouch. Didn't mean to make your stomach hurt, M! Seems like you have a healthy attitude toward partnership. I guess that was the point of the article I read. . . that over time things can creep up on us and we need to look at our relationships and keep them on track.

AuthorM said...

LOL, Betina, not your fault. I think it was hurting anyway.

But yes, I think it is important to keep track of relationships -- even parent/child relationships. As your kids grow, too, even though you're still MOM you can step back and let them become adults, you know? So maybe they don't expect their spouses to be their parents, too...LOL!


Kylie said...

Nope, not me, LOL. And I think my husband would be the first to point out that I'm nothing like his mom, who he always compares to Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond.

Maybe with five kids (and a dozen more on any given day because our house was *the* house where everybody gathered) I just didn't have enough of a nurturing gene left to offer to him too.

I did the cooking, although he filled in whenever needed and now that the kids are gone he makes his own dinner because I sort of...stopped, LOL. He's always been the type to like to shop, so he buys his clothes, helps with grocery shopping (we often went together because it took at least two carts). As a matter of fact, since I hate shopping he often buys clothes for me when he's out.

He has a fetish about the laundry in that he *can't leave it alone* which was helpful when we had two in diapers but became a problem when he turned much of my daughter's wardrobe into Barbie clothes. As much as we begged him, he just can't stay away from it.

I do pay the bills, but rarely have cash so he's still the one to pay for things when we're out. But he's just the type of guy who has always pitched in so our division of labor thing works pretty well.

I can see the point of the article, but I think it has more to do with the woman's personality and I guess I'm just not that woman, LOL!

AuthorM brings up a good point about stepping back when your kids grow up. Two of my sons recently got married and I was informed at Thanksgiving by the spouses that it was creepy that I was buying underwear and socks for them for their Christmas stockings. That was a shocker for me, because hey I'm the mom! I always bought their underwear.

Then it occurred to me that if my mother in law bought underwear for my dh I'd be creeped out too, LOL. So the new rule is no new underwear for sons once they get married.

Their wives have to buy it!

AuthorM said...

Kylie -- I am so with you on the underwear and socks thing.

In fact, once my son is old enough, he's going to learn to go to the store and buy his own underwear and socks, just the way his dad had to learn!


Debra Dixon said...

We've always had a "divide and conquer" plan around here. He babies me much more than I baby him.

I do pay the bills, but only because 2 years of letting him do it drove me up a wall.

I am his "mentor" for health issues. I mostly advise him that if he doesn't make the doctor's appointment I'm going to kill him.

But I don't cook, clean, laundry or shop for him.

I'm from the South. My mother despairs of me.

Anonymous said...

My husband was raised by a martyr and while he does buy his own clothes, make his own haircut and doctor appointments, pay the bills and handle the yardwork, he still leaves socks on the floor, walks away from a mess in the bathroom every day and expects a hot meal on the table three times every day. In fairness, I don't work outside the home, so I don't think it's unreasonable for me to do the grocery shopping, do the laundry and ironing and cook, but he only gets a hot meal in the evening. When I worked, all the household chores were divided between us and the kids, but part of the deal when I quit was I took back most of them. I still feel like his mother though. Yesterday he dyed his beard and ruined a towel. It isn't the first time and I so want to ground him for the rest of his life. LOL! I play the mother role but I don't have the mother privileges. And after three decades of married life and finally having the kids grown and out, I definitely don't feel much like the lover anymore. Heck, I sleep in the guest room most nights because his snoring keeps me awake. I guess "Mama" could make him an appointment with a ENT specialist, and while I'm at it, I could make one with a hearing specialist to address the fact he has to turn the TV too loud so he can hear it.

Interestingly, I always did less for my boys than I did for my husband because I didn't want them to grow up like him.

Interesting blog.

Cindy Gerard said...

Betina you always come up with such fascinating topics and they always make me think
We share the duties around here and it's great. i do some of his shopping but for the most part he does his own. I get the bulk of the groceries but he makes all the little runs to the store for the milk and bread and things. He pretty much takes care of everything outside (I think it has something to do with the time I drove the riding mower into the corner of the house) and I take care of the inside, however, he's been known to run the vacuum, fold clothes and cook.
It guess I'd call it more of a partnership than a mommy/daddy role.

Michele Hauf said...

I love this post, Betina. Just last night the hubby and I ate out, and when the bill came he slid it toward me. I said "You have a credit card." He's like, "Yeah, but you always pay." So I made him mine for that crusty old card because sometimes I need to feel like it's a date and not a duty. :-)

I don't mother him too much. I wash his clothes, but if he wants the dried, folded clothes, he has to go and get the pile himself, and put his own clothes away. (Usually happens when he runs out of underwear.)

I've trained him to rinse his own dishes after we eat and put them in the dishwasher. He even does mine sometimes.

He knows I don't touch the garbage, that's his job to do, even if it's spilling over.

BUt I do buy clothes for him once in a while, because it's something I'd like to see him in (or it's on clearance and I must grab it then!). I also will once in a while make his lunch for him to take to work (rarely) because I want to know I do love him and he does need to be taken care of. He's my guy, he deserves it.

Helen Brenna said...

This is interesting, Betina, and I could write my own blog on the topic. While I totally get that a "mom" role can take the romance out of a relationship, honestly, what the article is describing feels like one more expectation women have to meet.

I think you're lucky in a marriage if you've come to either an unconscious or much discussed agreement about who's going to do what. So if it ain't broken don't fix it!

I wish guys spent as much time and energy thinking about and wanting to improve our relationships as women!!

Anonymous said...

I'll just ditto Deb Dixon's reply. My hubs does as much for me as I do for him.

Unless he's sick, then all bets are off

Betina Krahn said...

Kylie, yours sounds like a match made in Heaven! A pretty grown-up distribution of roles and responsibilities.

Deb, I am "catered to" these days, when I'm on deadline. I feel guilty about that once in a while. But then he gets sick and the roles are majorly reversed and the guilt evaporates.

Anonymous, my sympathies. My sister's mother-in-law was a martyr deluxe. She's had to deal with the spoiled son for 40+ years. I think I took lessons from that. My DH and sig. other have been quite the opposite.

Michele, I so relate to the credit card thing. And you're right-- when they pay without you having to think about it, you feel treated. . . like you're on a date.

And Helen, I included that bit at the bottom just because I saw the potential for the weight of just one more expectation being laid on women. Still, there's no getting around the fact that women are usually the ones who pay attention to the flow of relationships and sometimes have to apply the brakes and reposition things to get back on course.

GunDiva said...

OMG! I'm becoming my honey's Mom and we're not even married yet! Just this morning I picked his dirty boxers up off the bathroom floor because he just left them there and I knew it would gross out the kids. I've been doing his laundry when I do mine for the last couple of months and - eek - even mentioned to him that he needed a haircut. Yikes! Thanks for the eye opener...I do do more for him than I do for my kids (they've been doing their own laundry since the were eight). I don't mind it, but I really don't want to become his Mommy either. Especially since his Mommy did literally everything for him, and continues to do it for his siblings (he's got a 32 yo brother living at home, not working, not doing anything, because Mommy still does it ALL).

Wow. While I still intend to do his laundry, I'll definitely be more aware of everything else. I want to be his WIFE, not his MOM!

Thanks, Betina!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Thanks a lot, Betina. Ever since I read MY MOTHER, MYSELF and OH LORD, I SOUND JUST LIKE MAMA I've had the sinking feeling that I would never successfully complete the separation DEEMED NECESSARY BY THE FORMER and eventually the latter would become absolute reality.

With this morning's post comes worse anxiety. If Mama mommied Daddy, then I become hot only his daughter, but also his granddaughter. So...wait, I have to make a chart here...Does this make me my own aunt?

Now I'm really depressed.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oops. I didn't mean to shout the "deemed necessary" part. Was that a Freudian slip?

Betina Krahn said...

GunDiva, you're most welcome! Jeez, I didn't meant to stir up trouble. ::wink,wink::

Or did I?

:) Betina

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, I LOVE you! You're such fun! Yes, I think that makes you your own aunt. . . once removed or something. You'll have me chuckling all day!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Back at'cha, Betina. I love you too.

I never met Clyde's mom. She died when he was about 17 after giving birth to 13 babies. Like most Indian kids in those days, Clyde spent a lot of time in boarding schools. He's pretty self-sufficient. He won't let me add his laundry to mine because I've let one too many red socks ruin the whites. He lets me help clean the house as long as I don't clutter his space with my stuff. I generally cook, but if he cooks, I clean. Managing money has always been our bugaboo. Neither of us is good at it. We've yet to put a good system in place, even though we both know what it would be. Divide and conquer, as Deb says. But we've never come up with a lasting division in that area, so we've never conquered, much to our detriment.

Deb, my mother was a Southerner, too. I'll never forget the first time she visited, observed for a couple of days, say my husband change diapers and do dishes and finally told me that she just wouldn't be comfortable with such an arrangement. "I still believe a man's home is is castle," she said.

The TV series "Man Men" is a great companion piece to this topic. Start with Season 1 on dvd if you haven't given it a try yet. I'm serious. If for no reason other than Jon Hamm.

Keri Ford said...

Duties are pretty well split at our house. I'll buy the socks and underwear, but I've been instructed on what brand and so forth. I don't mind since he works and I don't.

Laundry duties are shared. I wash and dry, for the most part. After that, he takes the hangers, and I do the folders.

He bathes the kid, I bathe the dishes. I think we're square. :O)

flip said...

I am so not like my mother in law. I love her. She is the quintessential 50s housewife. Due to circumstances, she started working when my husband was in his teens. Despite the fact that she is working at 80 years, she cleans the houses, cooks delicious meals, and does the laundry. Her job is private babysitter for wealthy couples. She is the most nurturing woman in the world.

I loathe housework. I do it, because I am an adult. My husband and I share housework and cooking chores. (he is the better cook.) I am loving and supportive parent. However, part of my job as a parent is to teach my children to be self reliant adults. So as they become older, I am less of a mommy and more of a mom to my own children. I am definitely not mommying my husband.

Betina Krahn said...

Keri, I hear you. Hey, do you think that the fact that you're--ahem--a bit younger than some of us means you have a different take on this>

Flip, your MIL sounds like quite a lady. And I'm with you on the housework thing-- I'm an adult, so I do it. Interestingly, as I get older I get neater. And it was really important that my boys learn to do their own laundry and dishes and learn to cook a few basic things. Now one of my sons does all the laundry and most of the cooking in his household and the other son matches his wife load for load and meal for meal. I think I may have gotten something right. Honestly, I agree with other comments here-- it may be easier to get it right with sons than it is with husbands.

Keri Ford said...

Hm. Good question, Betina. But no, I don't think it has anything to do with my unsaid age :O) and everything to do with my husband.

I love the idea of the 50s housewife and would love to be her. I just don't have the energy. And the hubby is easy to feed. He doesn't have a wide food vartiey, so big lavish meals aren't required (though with the kid, the dinner options are expanding)

Also, hubby is particular about his clothes. Everytime I tell him I bought him jeans, he cringes (he knows they're in the style *I* like and not the ones he likes).

He washes his own hunting clothes because he knows I won't do them on purpose. :O)

When we first got married, I worked hard early-morning hours. We found a system that worked. After the baby, I stayed at home and picked up more of the household duties. Then my medical problems started multipling on me and we dropped back into a system of where the housework is back to being split.

2 weeks more to go and I get to start some new medicine and we are praying I'll 'bounce' back. Him probably praying more than me so I'll do things like dust and pick up :O)

Betina Krahn said...

Okay everybody-- Keri nees some love and good wishes sent her direction! Keri, consider yourself awash in concern and support for the next two weeks!

Keri Ford said...

LOL, thanks, Betina. By the time I get normal, I think I would be qualified (and have the material!) to write one of those motivational/inspirational book thingy's. Would that be a memoir? :O)keri

flchen1 said...

Interesting... I confess to a huge lack in the domestic skills department, so I guess I'm not much of a mom in that sense. So far my husband and I have avoided calling each other mom and dad except when referring to each other when talking to the kids--I know some people call each other "Mom" and "Dad" all the time! Ack! I don't think my husband expects me to mother him, thankfully, but we can all use a little unmommying come Valentine's!

catslady said...

Guilty, guilty, guilty (sigh). I married an only child and my father was an only child so... What part I hate the most though is my husband does things or trys to get away with things just like a little kid tries to hide the truth from his his mom. After 40 years of marriage I've given up trying to change anything.

Anonymous said...

The whole concept of everyone in a house doing their own laundry sort of leaves me a bit stunned! As an Australian all I can think of is "how much water are they using?". We've had water problems here for years and we'd never think of doing our own little loads of washing, everything is combined to ensure the biggest load possible (using as little water as possible).