The first time I heard the word "mansplain" I immediately pictured myself in my first job, with one of my bosses telling me the very specific way that I should go about ordering him lunch. Over the years many men have tried to unnecessarily mansplain things to me. One area I certainly can handle without a man's input, and that I think other women can agree, is in my role as a mom. While there are many aspects of parenting that absolutely should be shared, there are some things a dad should never, ever, mansplain to a mom.
This is not to say that parenting is something moms need to do completely on their own and without any help or input from their partner (though plenty of them do, and are more than capable). For those that chose to parent with a partner, it is important to welcome input from that parenting teammate in matters that concern them. This is not a call to silence the dads on every opinion when it comes to the mothers of their children. Instead, it's a plea to dads (or any parenting partner, regardless of their gender or their relationship to a mom's children) to be sensitive when they are saying things about a woman's body, her choices, her feelings, and even things like her everyday routines.
For some guidance, a dad should consider not mansplaining things like:
When Her Breasts Look Like They Are Due For A Feeding Or Pumping Session
Yeah, if you can't breastfeed or pump, and certainly never have, then your suggestions aren't necessarily helpful. Believe me when I say the following: breastfeeding moms know when they need to feed their kid or pump out some milk. That rock-hard feeling underneath our heavy nursing bra with straps that could harness a horse? Yeah, we can't ignore that.
A mom does not need to have it pointed out to her when her breasts need to be released of their "liquid gold." The screaming baby, or the wet stains on her blouse, usually do a great job all on their own.
The Correct Way To Wash Her Breast Pads
On the topic of breasts, some dads seem to enjoy being very helpful in all areas of the areola. I have a friend whose husband informed her that throwing her reusable breast pads in the wash probably wasn't a great idea, because the instructions on the box had said "hand wash only" (and also, those things get be expensive, especially the organic cotton ones). This, coming from a man whose partner does all of his laundry for him. If he was so concerned, why didn't he volunteer to do the breast pad laundering?
How Much Sleep She Needs In Order To Function As A Human Being
Sleep, especially in the days before you have a baby who is sleeping through the night, is a huge point of contention between all parents. For me and my partner, it was nearly a relationship ender on more than one occasion. Our first born was the kid that was up all night long screaming, peeing in our faces, and pooping up the back of his onesie, with the occasional 20 minute nap thrown in as we didn't put him down in his bassinet. Neither of us slept all that well, but since I was breastfeeding, I got the especially short end of the stick. My husband let me sleep in on weekends, but it was not without major resentment. After a certain point, he let me know that he expected me to be awake and dressed by a certain hour despite the fact that I had pulled an all-nighter for five days in a row.
Admittedly this was a very low point for us (and I also fault myself for not communicating well, but that's another essay). However, the point is: no mom needs her own internal clock mansplained to her. I knew what my body needed to function (as a chronic migraine sufferer to boot) and it was, at the very least, four consecutive hours of sleep.
What Routines In Her Life Could Use Some Adjusting
Throughout motherhood, you might find that whatever was working in your routine has stopped working, or what you thought was working actually wasn't working so well. It happens. You fix it, and then you move on.
What isn't so helpful, however, is when your kid's dad calls you from work to mansplain some thoughts he's had about how you've been consistently late to preschool drop off these last few weeks. Listen, you're not perfect. You had a house to clean, a kid who asked for three different breakfasts, a dog to walk and, oops, you forgot the tutu for ballet right after school and had to go back. Plus, it is preschool. He's not going to miss algebra.
Chores She May Want To Consider Adding To Her List
Do not, ever, for the love of all that is holy, suggest to the mom in your life that adding a new domestic chore to her list could be "a fun new hobby." If you're thinking of casually suggesting that she start taking up, for example, cooking, because it would be great for the whole family and "interesting for her" just stop. She's doing just fine heating up whatever she bought at Trader Joe's and calling it a day so she can do the things that she actually finds interesting, thank you very much.
How She Could Better Manage Her Time
If a dad observes that a mom seems to be frazzled, tired, and overworked it is not necessarily because she has really inferior time management skills that could be better mansplained by him. She is frazzled, tired, and overworked because she is killing it in all areas of life. She's taking care of the household, the kids, her job, and occasionally, herself. So, thanks but no thanks for those "time-saving tips," dude.
That Her Feelings Aren't Real Because They Are Just From All The "Hormones"
Sometimes a mom will just all out lose it and have herself a nice, healthy mental breakdown. I've been there more than a few times, with the full throttle heaving and sobbing about life where it gets so bad I can barely breathe. Thank God my husband knows me well enough to never suggest my reaction is "just my hormones" at work.
Still, I know that this is a thing that happens among dads and their partners and this bugs the you-know-what out of me, because dammit these feelings are so real. Maybe hormones are fueling the ugly cries, sure, but that doesn't make them any less awful and painful.
That She May Want To Talk To Her Doctor About Her Low Libido
Honestly, it's probably normal to wonder what the hell is up with your partner when they suddenly lack interest in the sex department. What isn't normal, however, is putting on your imaginary stethoscope and saying something like, "I've read in [insert whatever magazine they found in a doctor's office waiting room here] that a low sex drive can happen to a woman after she's given birth. Maybe you should talk to your doctor about what you could do about that?" Then, before you know it, you've decided your partner is dealing with "just another lady problem."
Um. No. It takes two to tango, and there is a lot that can be done about helping the mother of your child get her groove back besides suggesting she call her OB-GYN. For example, you could get more creative. Ask her what's turning her on these days. Maybe her fantasies have changed since having a baby. Also, here's a helpful hint: buy the good lube.