The Mom Inch: Leading Dads by a Nose?


Image courtesy of HAAP Media Ltd.

I was chatting on Facebook with some of the Dads Round Table guys a few weeks ago and one of them asked me whether I felt that there was an unspoken assumption that the working mom still does the lion’s share of the housekeeping and child rearing.

My initial response was something along the lines of, “Duh. YES!”

The funny thing is that my husband and I try very hard to make things as “equal” as possible. For example, I deal with 95% of house stuff (home improvement, cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.) and he deals with 95% of car/outdoor stuff (all vehicle maintenance, yard work, trash, etc.).

When it comes to our son, we both pitch in with pretty much every aspect of everyday life – childcare drop off and pickups, doctor’s appointments, and all the rest. I’m actually incredibly lucky that I have a husband who is so very hands on, but that’s kind of the reason I married him in the first place.

So why did I have the knee-jerk reaction of, “Duh. YES!”?

Well, there is a little something that I like to call the “Mom Inch.”

While we may split up our duties foot-for-foot or mile-for-mile, there is always just a little bit that is somehow left on my plate.

Part of it is my own expectations of what should be done and HOW it should be done. I WISH I could ignore a sink full of dishes until the next day. But I can’t. It’s ME who can’t sit down and relax after putting our son to bed unless the living room has been straightened up, the laundry started, the crockpot meal prepared for the next day, and my gym bag packed.

So while it’s not necessarily my husband’s fault that there is a “Mom Inch” in our house, nevertheless it’s there.

For some reason, mom is the one who remembers when our son needs a bath. Mom is the one that realizes that the weather has gotten a bit cold and she should unearth the humidifier for the kid’s room. Mom is the one who does an emergency load of laundry because a full cup of milk was somehow spilled in the highchair seat… for the second time in one day.

The Mom Inch, that magical ability for mom to stretch just a teensy bit more to make sure stuff gets done.

I’m not going to lie, sometimes it sucks. Especially when I’ve had a crappy day at work and don’t even get a chance to change into my ‘home clothes’ before the crazy is unleashed in my house. It’s kind of what I signed up for though… moms don’t get to clock-out at the end of the day.

Tell me what you think – for any moms out there, do you have a “Mom Inch” in your house? How about the dads, is there a “Dad Inch” that I don’t know about?


The Beginning
About Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

Julie Dellinger (aka Joules from Pocketful of Joules) has been blogging since 2011 on everything from losing a job, finding a new one, selling a house, buying a house, moving twice, getting pregnant and popping out a baby 2 months early. She’s a full time working mother, a blogger, a DIYer, a writer and a gourmet marshmallow eater.

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  1. Ashley Z says:

    For sure there is a “mom inch” in my house! My Husband is great. He’s works a tough job and as soon as he walks in the door he’s on his hands and knees playing with the kids. I don’t know how he does it or where he gets the energy. We try to split our “duties” equally but with his work schedule being a 9-5 and mine being all over the place, I’m left with more flexibility. That means I’m in charge of daycare, school drop offs, doc appts, grocery shopping and the list goes on! Moms also remember everything that needs to be done! Dad’s are great, but moms are super!

    • JoulesDellinger says:

      Ashley – thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  2. I think you have a point. We have a co-parenting household where everything is split up equally, or sort of equal. I take care of the majority of the yard work and car stuff like your husband and my wife does the laundry (probably because I have turned more than one load pink). We split dishes and so forth but it always seems like she is reaching for one more thing to do. I think it may be a female thing but I won’t put the ladies on blast like that. It may just be how you are wired compared to how he is wired.

    • JoulesDellinger says:

      Justin – I agree that I am wired differently than my husband, which certainly can be part of the reason that I see things that “need” to be done. And turning a few loads of laundry pink is totally a dude trick for not having to do any more laundry…right? =)

  3. Brad the Dad says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, Joules. It brings up a great point about the expectations we have of each other with regards to our roles at home. I like to think that working dads today are shouldering more of a workload with child raising and all things associated than ever before. But, I dig my feet in the sand a little bit with the 50/50 thing. Nobody (these days) can argue women shouldn’t get a fair shake in all aspects of society (voting, workforce, political office, etc…), but I kind of feel like the 50/50 with kids part is an “oh by the way.” Obviously it makes sense when you look at the situation in a vacuum, but if I was to be completely honest with you (and this is said with the utmost respect) I would say – “Um, this is what you asked for.” WE didn’t ask for a larger role at home, YOU asked for a larger role in the workforce/society. But, we stepped up and took on a larger role, and to be honest it’s awesome and I actually feel bad for dads of yore who don’t know what it’s like to have the bond that I have with my boys (and I thank you all for this), but c’mon with the 50/50 stuff.

    We all know moms have more patience, resolve, instincts, etc… to deal with the day to day chaos you describe above. Males these days are washing dishes, doing laundry, changing diapers, picking up kids from school, and even saying home full time, so, and this next part is again said with the utmost respect — don’t start getting greedy.

    Love the article, love the perspective. Hopefully my counter-point above is seen as a healthy, respectful, and honest perspective from the male side of things and I encourage anyone else who weighs in to approach the topic with the same approach.

    • JoulesDellinger says:

      Brad – thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.

      Maybe it’s a generational thing but I fully do expect relationships to be equal — whether it be by working outside the home, chores inside the home, or child rearing. I don’t think I should have to throw a parade for a dad who washes dishes, does laundry, changes diapers etc. He should just do it because it needs to be done. Just as I do.

      And I guess that’s kind of my point. While society has moved forward to the point where we can accept and support all types of families, it is still the mom who looks greedy for expecting fairness.

      • Brad the Dad says:

        We aren’t asking for a parade, but I think there is a certain balance here that is being compromised in the name of this idea of 50/50. You mention equality indoors and outdoors in your comment but also talk about exactly that NOT being equal in the body of your article. “For example, I deal with 95% of house stuff (home improvement, cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.) and he deals with 95% of car/outdoor stuff (all vehicle maintenance, yard work, trash, etc.).”

        Can we be honest with each other and say that I don’t want to clean up pukey sheets at 2am as much as you don’t want to clean up the outdoor trash at 6am after a raccoon got into it overnight? PC police be damned, but each gender simply seems to be built better suited to handle certain things.

        And I’m not calling you greedy for expecting fairness, as much as I’m saying – dude, how come the male race has stepped up to the plate big time as compared to prior generations and it still doesn’t feel like enough? As I said, there was a flaw in society with regards to equality. You guys said – enough is enough and props 1,000 times over for doing so. Not only for your own pride and respect given to your roles in society, but also for how awesome it is for us males to be that much more involved in our kids’ lives.

        But I honestly believe there comes a point where it can be taken too far and the whole thing just stops making sense.

        Taking it step further, can we sit here today and say that today’s version of the family unit is the correct one? That a dual-income household is what’s best for kids?

        I can’t say that.

  4. I did it completely on accident, seriously. I think that my next Tuesday Tip on my site will be “how to get out of laundry” lol. Honestly men and woman are wired differently when it comes to cleaning. My wife can spot dirt a mile away and I can look at the same spot and not see anything.

    • My wife likes to test me sometimes and see how long it takes me to pick up or clean up something. I usually fail those tests, but I do my best.

  5. I think Justin is right in saying that men and women are wired differently. But more than that, I think it boils down to personality not gender. I know a lot of women that don’t don’t worry if the dishes are left over after dinner and are totally ok leaving them till the morning. And I know some guys that can spot some dirt a mile away or a picture that isn’t straight hanging on the wall. That being said, I think yes, more often than not it’s a mom thing vs a dad thing. But I’m guessing the dad’s have their own “Dad Inch” about the things they see as their domain. I mean god forbid my dad’s grass grows a half inch longer than he deems acceptable.

  6. I’m right there with you. My hubby is super helpful and really does try but he often doesn’t “see” the little needs and have to get done on the day to day. but his heart is in the right place. 🙂

  7. Happiest Daddy says:

    What a great post, Joules! I love reading the comments, too.

    My perspective on this is that my wife and I live by the “if it needs to be done, do it” approach. Basically, we TRY to share the load from all chores inside and outside to raising the children, doing laundry, etc. Sometimes one of us carries more of the load than the other and it can be challenging but I think it works best for us. Unfortunately for my wife, I tend to be a bit Type A when it comes to cleaning so I feel a strong urge to keep a straight, if not entirely clean, home.

    There might be a Dad inch on that score. But there’s certainly a Mom inch when it comes to cooking and eating. She is the primary cook and thank God for that!

    It is a function, as Brad says, of a change in social norms and lifestyle. Gone are the days of my grandfather who rarely lifted a finger to do anything around the house and in my mind, that’s a positive. As a father, I am empowered that I can not only be the primary breadwinner but also a co-partner in the raising of my children and enabling them to live in a comfortable, organized home.

    I believe it bleeds down to my boys, who will see a man not only equipped to work hard to provide for his family but one who is a willing and active participant in all aspects of their lives, even demanding that they clean their room or help out with chores. Ultimately, all four of us will be better for it.

  8. To be completely honest, my wife does more than me. Definitely. However, I would say if she were asked, she would exaggerate how much more. Maybe, it’s related to the mom inch.

  9. J Lee says:

    These type of divisions may often fall along gender lines, perhaps as much a result of cultural framework as some inbuilt desire; we often carry on doing what we saw our parents do, with some adjustment for the current social norm. But by and large, it’s is better represented as a matter of personality (in which gender and social context serve a role in shaping.) There are things in the household that I have strong opinions on. There are things in the household that my wife holds strong opinions on. We generally take charge of the things that we care about the most, find somewhere in the middle on the things we conflict on, and split the rest. That doesn’t mean one can avoid all work by simply not giving a crap; it still needs to be an equal and fair distribution overall. If any role finds themselves with an ‘inch’ left over, either work isn’t being distributed fairly, or balanced expectations aren’t being agreed upon between both people. Sure, if I decide I want to insist that something is done a certain way, and am unwilling to compromise with my wife who does not agree, then the extra work falls on me—but I’m also really in no position to complain or seek recognition for the work; it’s a result of something I insisted on in the first place.

This is what I think...