We loved Heather Havrilesky's "Mommy Problem" article in the Times this past weekend, about how "the culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time." And we're not alone, clearly: We've lost count of the number of our friends who have given it the "yep" response in their Facebook feed. Responding in Jezebel, Tracy Moore writes:
It's still strangely odd to me when someone says, "What're you up to lately, just being a mom?" Yup, JUST BEING A MOM. Just MOMMING IT UP. As if people can't reconcile that being a person is a complex interrelated set of roles that are on and off at any given moment and often overlap, and that this is true for everyone ALL THE TIME, not just women! It's almost always said to me by men, by the way, who are almost never pigeonholed in this way. They are men, and people, who happen to be dads at various moments when they are actually doing dad stuff.
We wish we could change this culture in one single blog post. We wish we could change men's attitudes in one single blog post. We wish we could fix the Mommy Problem in one single blog post. But in the absence of a Feminist Fairy Godmother to grant us all these wishes, we'd like to offer this advice instead: While we wait for the culture to change (and do everything we can to change it, of course, along the way), here are seven small ways you can fight the Mommy Problem in your own relationship and help erase the contradictory caricature of ideal mothers as "sexy but sexless," as Havrilesky writes. After all, moms are sexual creatures, too.
1. Insist on Coparenting
At least whenever possible. Nurturing, cuddling, tickling, boo-boo Band-Aiding, dinner-making, homework-helping, party-planning, cleaning -- these are all parental responsibilities that can and should be shared by fathers. (Similarly, mothers should feel free to mow the lawn.) Of course, some delineation is necessary and often enjoyable, but living as if mothers possess something in their DNA that makes uniquely -- i.e. solely -- qualified for caretaking (besides breastfeeding) is dangerous, retro, Mad Men B.S. Coparenting will help you feel less like you've given up your entire identity for your kids, while enriching your partner's experience with and connection to the kids (not to mention setting a good example for them of what gender equality is all about). Plus, a dad who can change a diaper in 20 seconds flat is HOT!
2. Don't Let Your Partner Call You "Mommy"
When you two are talking with the kids, that's totally fine. But when it's just the two of you having an adult conversation, or even when the two of you are having a one-on-one conversation in front of the kids, call each other by your names. "Let's thank Mommy for this awesome dinner" is okay. "Hey Mommy, where'd you put the car keys" is not. After all, you are a multidimensional person, and not actually the mother of your partner. (However, if you as a couple would like to use "Mommy" or "Daddy" in a kinky way in the bedroom, that's totally up to you! We won't judge.)
3. Make Dates with Your Partner
It's an oldie but a goodie. With so much on your plates as parents, it's easy to put the kids to bed and then crash on the couch together, night after night, in front of mindless TV for an hour or two to unwind. And we're not suggesting you deny yourself this simple pleasure entirely. But you have to give yourselves the opportunity -- regularly -- to remember why you had kids together in the first place, why you fell in love in the first place: because you enjoyed their company and wanted to have sex with them for the rest of your life! Going out just the two of you, reminiscing about the past, not talking about potty training and after school activities, can help you reconnect to this truth. And we're not talking about going to the same restaurant and ordering the same dish every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. -- these dates, at least occasionally, need to be new and novel for both of you, in order to help maintain the spark.
4. Get a Lock for Your Bedroom Door
You don't have to keep it locked all night, if that freaks out you, or your kids, but at least latch the door for 15 (or so) minutes while you're getting busy. It's good for your kids to know that you as parents need and deserve, not necessarily sex, but quality alone time, at least when they're old enough to be self-sufficient for the length of a quickie. Play music, or a white noise machine, to help drown out any noise from the other side of the door.
5. Have Morning Sex
Set your alarm 10 minutes early for a reason other than your offspring. It's a good way to do something for yourself before you and/or your partner pack lunches and backpacks and drive the kids to school. It's kind of like wearing really raunchy underwear and not telling anyone.
6. Play with Power Roles in the Bedroom
Be the boss in the bedroom, and then let your partner be the boss the next day. Be demanding, and then be meek. Ask for exactly what you want and need... without saying please. Say please and beg a lot. Then realize that you can shrug off these roles as easily as a pair of underwear.
7. Treat Yourself to a Decent Vibrator
We get it -- sometimes after a day of being groped by kids, the last thing you want is to roll around in bed with your partner. But there are other ways to find a grownup kind of release, remember. Take five minutes of me time with your favorite LELO pleasure object while the kids are watching a show. Because one of the best things about vibrators is that they allow you to be completely selfish for once!