After four days of single-parenting, which included two birthday parties, a soccer match, a band festival, a dash to the chemist and a sleepover where the little minxes chattered till 11, the youngest makes an announcement as we walk to school on Monday morning.

And right on cue for a story like this, the obligatory Mrs Doubtfire pic

“Mum – not to hurt your feelings or anything – but I like Dad better than you.”

My smile twists jam-jar tight; eyes prickle. You ungrateful brat, I think, filing it into the mental envelope of Things You’re Not Allowed To Say To Your Kids. “Yeah, he’s tops,” I say with Shire-worthy sincerity. “Why is he such a great dad?”

“He doesn’t tell me off as much, he doesn’t boss me around and he laughs more.”

Of course he laughs more! I’d laugh more, too, if I weren’t helping with your speech on ‘Hidden Heroes’ (oh, the irony) and removing kidney beans from your chilli. Yes, he takes you to dance practice, but does he know your shoes are size 13, you need new tights and your concert is on November 18? I bet he doesn’t know the name of your dance teacher.

Well, he might; she’s a bit of a fox.

Except I don’t say any of that. I give her a hug and try to win her affection with forced jollity: “Let’s have burgers tonight, shall we?”

Walking home, I all but trip over my bottom lip. I consider ringing my husband at work in Darwin to congratulate him on his superior parenting, but he’s probably stuck in the Qantas lounge, eating club sandwiches and reading week-old copies of Time.

So I text my mate. “Children are remarkably stupid or brave, considering their relative size,” she texts back.

Truth is, I wasn’t hired as the Chief Operating Officer of my family – it’s a role I’ve adopted. When, to paraphrase JM Barrie, the first man asked for the first time, “Have we got sunscreen?” I didn’t say, “No, how about you grab that?” Instead, I said, “Yep, got it covered,” and that competency broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of martyrdom.

Much has been written about ‘learned uselessness’, and the housework divide and the burden of ‘fadmin’ – my term for ‘family administration’. But 12 years in – and, clearly, the lesser parent in my children’s eyes – I realise it’s my own damn fault.

My husband, you see, is perfectly able. But I think I’m better. Better at cooking, better at organising, better at managing the minutiae of our lives. And, in so doing, I’ve become the Sheryl Sandberg to his Mark Zuckerberg.

While I’m spreadsheeting extracurricular activities and calculating the profit and loss on school jumpers, he’s free to be the fun-loving visionary – the one reading Harry Potter in silly voices and making fish-finger sandwiches to eat in front of Frozen Planet.

Irritatingly, they respect him more. While my nagging is largely ignored, one sharp bark from him means teeth are brushed and the cat fed. He also refuses to rescue. Forgotten your homework? Too bad – the teacher’s ire means you’ll remember next time.

As a parent, the worst thing you can lose isn’t your temper or your authority, it’s your sense of humour. They won’t remember you for the uniforms you ironed or the broccoli you steamed. But they love it when you laugh. So, my love, you like your dad better than me? Great, because I like him better than you, too. Ha, ha, ha.

Catch Angela Mollard every Monday at 9.30am on Mornings, on the Nine Network.
Email angelamollard@sundaymagazine.com.au.
Twitter: @angelamollard

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23 comments

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    • Hank says:

      07:39am | 26/08/12

      You (so you claim) do all the organising for your children which is fantastic.  I’m sure your ex-husband would be shocked if he realised that his kids whole world would fall apart if it wasnt for your organisational and parenting superiority.  The thing is kids are brutally honest and I emphasize the word “honest”.  They call it as they see it so instead of having a dig at your ex (and that tongue in cheek one with nasty under tones at the end about your kids) stop being such a nagging control freak b*&#! and chill.  Make at least some of the time you spend with your kids enjoyable by not just organising fun stuff for them to do but doing it with them as well AND enjoying it.  None of us like critcism (especically from our kids) but this is a wake up call for you and if you want a healthy relatinoship with them when you are old and alone adjust your behaviour as your ex needs to adjust his if what you say is true.

    • Maus says:

      10:06am | 26/08/12

      I think they’re still married, you misogynist a*hole. WTF is wrong with people like you??? She’s not having a ‘dig’ at her ‘ex-husband’. Take some responsibility for your own relationship/family court dramas and stop projecting them on to others.

      Great article Angela. Totally get what you mean.

    • Bec says:

      11:31am | 26/08/12

      Um, I don’t think he’s an ex, you may be projecting a little. I think it’s you who needs to chill.

    • Bec says:

      11:31am | 26/08/12

      Um, I don’t think he’s an ex, you may be projecting a little. I think it’s you who needs to chill.

    • Skye says:

      12:40pm | 26/08/12

      @Maus perfectly said!  @Hank its seriously time to wake up, not once did she say ‘ex husband’, in fact it was very clear they are still together - I agree with @Maus, take responsibility for your own dramas and maybe you won’t be the one who is old and alone.
      Awesome article Angela, and I’m sure most parents can relate!

    • acotrel says:

      07:55am | 26/08/12

      I like it when the ingrates grow up, and stay at home to save money for a holiday or a shack.  I don’t mind paying for their education, and their basic necessities when they are babies,but opportunism is something else.

    • aco jnr says:

      01:27pm | 26/08/12

      That’s a bit cold innit? Rather they move out early and start renting therefore saving maybe a measly 2-3 g a year for a deposit?

    • Heidim says:

      08:10am | 26/08/12

      As a 50/50 single mum, I can SOOO understand where you are coming from.  Up until this year, I copped the same - Dad is more fun etc.  To bad that I made sure that their hair was cut, they were clothed properly, school on time, art projects done etc
      HOWEVER, my son blew me away recently, by telling me that he notices that I do more of the normal ‘stuff’ with them (as above), and that Dad can’t be bothered.  So, in the end, kids do notice these things ....... it just takes what feels like an eternity!!

    • Mike says:

      08:47am | 26/08/12

      Club sandwiches ?  Which QC lounge have YOU been in recently ?!  None of the ones I go in offer anything anywhere near as good as that….maybe in the old days, or in the Chairman’s lounges !

    • Shep says:

      09:25am | 26/08/12

      God I feel your pain.  All kids ... Almost with no exceptions, like their Dads better.  And it’s not just because they are often not responsible for the tough love aspects of parenting, but also because they are much closer to the kids in terms of maturity!!!

      The whole thing starts to break down irrevocably when neither parent is mature enough to do the hard bits.  As the administrator you are, therefore, the glue that holds society together.  It’s a compliment and a badge of honor, though a tough and thankless gig nonetheless.

    • Inky says:

      12:20pm | 26/08/12

      “but also because they are much closer to the kids in terms of maturity!!!”

      Needless dig much? i’m just going off my own experience with my own parents, but try not to mistake a sense of humour for immaturity, there’s a time and a place for a serious attitude and a more fun one. As long as this is properly observed, there’s no problem with having fun.

    • Shep says:

      06:10pm | 26/08/12

      @Inky. Perhaps you should take your own advice and not jump to presumptions about a comment.

      It’s OK though, you’ll grow up and not take yourself so seriously when you actually have some experience at parenting.  No parent, and I mean NO parent survives the process without an ability to laugh.

    • Muggles says:

      09:54am | 26/08/12

      “Except I don’t say any of that. I give her a hug and try to win her affection with forced jollity: “Let’s have burgers tonight, shall we?”

      Oh oh.  Parenting Errors 101.

      The correct response to such button-pushing is:

      “Well then, you had best ask your dad about dinner tonight.  And your pocket money.  And how you’re going to get to sports practice.”

      Or…

      “That’s OK, I like your brothers and sisters better than you. No offence.”

      Or…

      “No problem. You’re adopted anyway.  Now, do the dishes.”

      Sure it’s petty and childish, but remember the target audience?

    • Sharon says:

      11:56am | 26/08/12

      I like that last one the best, do I have your permission to use it?

    • Yak says:

      01:00pm | 26/08/12

      @Muggles.

      Hahahahahaha. Great post. I needed that after getting stuck in Mr. Penbo’s article.

    • Gregg says:

      11:19am | 26/08/12

      Fish finger sandwiches could be popular this week eh Angela and make sure to use a bit of curry powder to get a good laugh.
      And then what about the Kids Chef theory?

      And don’t those kids have computer skills for you to delegate the spread sheeting with an added column ” its walkable ” for more laughter.
      Any chance that you put teeth brushing into a competitive sport category, and hell yes have it on the spread sheet too, other columns for points awarded, progressive tally and who is leading the medal tally etc.

      And you’ll be laughing all the way to having time to sit back with a mud pack on and that ought to get some laughs too.

      Just remember that your home life does not need to be all about being better at this and that but making time for those laughs too - out of the mouth of your very own angel!

    • TrueOz says:

      06:58pm | 26/08/12

      Ahhhhh fish finger sangas! My children are all adults now, and still insist that my fish finger sandwiches taste better than anything they know how to make (or is that concoct) themselves. I still have to make them on almost every occasion that they are all together with me, as well as for my grandchildren too. Great article Angela, but you need to face up to reality - Mum’s just don’t know how to make a decent fish finger sandwich. grin

    • bec says:

      01:42pm | 26/08/12

      Yep. This is why women in my generation are turning away from being housewives. We’re through with the bait-and-switch.

      No amount of fluttery-eyed concern-trolling “wouldn’t it be wonderful for you to see them grow up” is going to make up for the fact that doing so will see us not only tired and strung out but without a cent of financial security or superannuation if the worst were to happen.

      Might sound mercenary, but money talks. I’m happy to get a good job, pay someone else to do the dirty work, and get to take credit for being the happy parent.

    • Is Mum the House Slave? says:

      06:27pm | 26/08/12

      Yeah, gotta say being a ‘Hidden Hero’ is over-rated, GENUINELY thankless and it is interesting to see women waking up from that fact.
      We are told we can ‘do anything’ at high school / uni and then BAM the kitchen sink.

      We build our partners’ careers and atrophy our own brains for what exactly? For the ‘pleasure’ that comes with sparing others the repetitive, brain-shrinking jobs that ‘must be done’ each and every day.

      Interesting to see how ‘unfun’ my husband gets after one bath-dinner-homework -bed- clean up kitchen - pack school lunches and tomorrow’s activities routine flying solo.

      One busy day my eldest child asked for a drink to be delivered to the couch. ‘I’m not your slave,’ I replied. ‘If you’re not my slave, why do you do all the boring stuff, all the school runs, the cooking and all the cleaning?’ she asked.

      The big question is…where do we go to from here?

      House cleaners in Australia won’t work for less than $25 an hour….

    • IMay says:

      03:37pm | 26/08/12

      I lost my husband when my sons were 6 and 8. They loved him dearly - he was the one who played with them and so on. 2 months after his death, in my oldest son ‘s class, a girl lost her mother in a car accident. A few days later he said thoughtfully to me “It must be worse to lose a mother”.

      Kids do not recognise all the “basic and boring” things mothers do it is just a part of the background noise, however if they are confronted with the possibility of it being gone they suddenly appreciate it a lot more.

      Oh - and it is such a wonderful black mail / button pushing comment.

    • Philosopher says:

      04:30pm | 26/08/12

      From my younger son: Mum smacked us more often but yours were more memorable.

      When I did my extended family tree no one in my family in UK or Ireland had ever been divorced no matter how long the genealogy. We got to the 20th century and a divorce appears. In the 21st century it has become common in most families to divorce and in some families to never marry. Fortunately my family marries and legitimises the children if nothing else. We rarely divorce.  To date we have had four in history in all branches. The 21st century is the lowest point of social development probably in human history.It is a disgace to our society.

    • Louisa Simmonds says:

      06:05pm | 26/08/12

      Love your honesty and feel exactly the same way although I probably would have been brutal and told the kids too. There’s no easy way around this as someone has to be the taskmaster but I’m kind of glad that when they grow up they work out how the dynamics and see for themselves that you both showed your love in your different ways - it’s a balancing act.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      06:27pm | 26/08/12

      Good article for so few comments…........I had one that was a Mummies Girl(still is) and one that was a Daddies girl (still is smile ), but it all equals out in the end. smile Plus a stepdaughter from age 20 (her not me) You love them all the same each with their own personalitys….......

 

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