I recently told my husband that carrying around our 9-month-old son is messing up my back. I already have back issues, so lugging him around has made it worse, not to mention that he is going through some sort of awesome I'll-scream-bloody-murder-if-you-even-try-to-put-me-down phase.
My husband, ever the problem-solver, just looked at me confused, and said, "Why don't you use the stroller?"
After I thanked him profusely for his guidance and wisdom and then wondered out loud how I could ever survive without him, I proceeded to point out that I was not asking for his help.
Let's be honest, I was complaining. I was having a woe-is-me pity party and I just needed someone to acknowledge that having a squirmy 9-month-old must be exhausting, but I'm doing a great job. Oh, and maybe something along the lines of, "Honey, if your back hurts, let me rub it or take the kids or feed you chocolates in a bubble bath."
Is that too much to ask?
This happens time and time again in our marriage, and I'm pretty sure we're not alone. Men are problem-solvers. To my husband, I presented a dilemma and he, the great provider in our family, provided a solution. Your back hurts? Use a stroller!
But here's a few things I don't think men realize as they are knocking it out of the park with their perceived masculinity:
First, unless we specifically asked for advice or a solution, giving us one assumes we couldn't figure it out on our own.
Second, we already have a solution. Nine times out of 10, we women already know the answers to our problems because we are smart and capable and experienced in the things we do all day, every day.
Third, and this is the most important one, we are actually asking for validation, not an answer. We want you to sympathize with our struggles, not solve them. We want you to agree with us that the other mom in the pickup line needs to go back to driver's ed, or that child No. 2 clearly missed the life-skills lesson on how to flush a toilet.
What we don't want is for you to produce revolutionary ideas like "use a stroller" after we've spent a day carrying a crying baby around the house.
Now, I know there are going to be people who read this column and say I am a horrible wife for writing about my husband like this and that I'm a man-hater and all that ridiculous rigmarole. (FYI, my husband is here next to me laughing as I write this and helped me narrow this anecdote down to just the one example. That's right: There were many more).
But I don't hate men, and I don't think men do this on purpose. My husband, at least, has people coming to him all day at work for solutions to problems big and small. So when he gets home, he's in thinking mode and treats me like another employee coming to him with a dilemma. This may work well at the office, but it's a recipe for disaster at home because A, I am not his employee, and B, see A.
So I am only trying to help out you men who are well-intentioned like my husband. You know who you are if you've ever wondered why your wife is giving you the death stare when you tell her to "eat better" if she's so worried about that extra holiday weight she put on.
To those men, consider this a public service announcement: Take off your problem-solver hat once in a while and dust off your listening cap.
Sometimes the only "answer" your wife needs is an understanding partner who knows she is capable enough to solve her own problems but could use a listening ear and sympathetic word to let her know she's not alone.