The other area where women create time for their children is by giving up time with their husbands. A recent poll showed that couples now spend far fewer hours together than they did just twenty years ago. Some parents allow their children to sleep with them from infancy onward, in part, because they feel so deprived of time with them during the day. While there may be good reasons for a "family bed," it's not always a decision that benefits a marriage. This is because a mother's anxiety about her child can override her concern about her husband's needs to also have her attention. There's a saying that goes, "A man gains a child and loses a wife." Many men feel hurt and rejected by the central focus that a child gains in his wife's life. Men who feel displaced, hurt, rejected, or devalued by the arrival of a child are more likely to retreat from doing housework or parenting. Their "laziness" is a protest for feeling displaced and unimportant. Bill: Since Hank was born last year we don't do anything together without him, including sleep. I'm crazy about the little guy, but I feel like I've fallen off the map in terms of Debby's interest. It's not just sex, it's like he's become everything and the marriage isn't that big of a priority to her.
Today's mothers are also compromised by messages that parenting should be a source of ongoing fulfillment. The reality is that parenting can be boring, frustrating, anxiety provoking, and infuriating. Researchers Linda Thompson and Alexis Walker18 found that while around one-third of mothers find parenting fun and meaningful, another third don't find it that meaningful or enjoyable, and the remaining third have pretty mixed feelings about it.
Messages that mothering should be a source of endless fulfillment creates guilt, anxiety, and shame for women who don't feel particularly thrilled by their role. Men, on the other hand, understand parental boredom and frustration all too clearly. They also experience relatively little lack of conflict over those realities. Their ability to prioritize and pursue activities that they enjoyed prior to becoming parents may be one of the reasons that their stress levels out much sooner than mothers after the birth of a child. Because fathering doesn't play such a central role in a man's identity, few feel as many pangs of conscience when they're bored, annoyed, or unfulfilled by being dads. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see this as a personal flaw in them as women. Clarissa: I hate talking to my sister about parenting because she makes me feel so inadequate. She always talks about how wonderful it is being a mother and how fulfilling it is, and I just don't feel that way. Maybe someday I'll get into this whole maternal-bliss thing, but right now I just feel stressed out and exhausted. I sometimes wonder if something is wrong with me that I don't feel more excited about being a mom.