Relationship PSA: Don't Be the Parent Who Fakes Incompetence to Avoid Doing The Work

When a Redditor asked her husband to take the kids for the day so she could get a break, she was met with confusion, radio silence, and fake incompetence.

An image of a man with his kids.
Photo: Getty Images.

It's no surprise that in the midst of a pandemic, when stress has been exacerbated to the nth degree, the already heated discussion around the mental load has reached a fever pitch. But despite growing awareness of the concept, which involves carrying the lion's share of the physical and emotional labor of parenthood, inequality still reigns supreme in some households. Take, for example, a mom on Reddit, writing under the handle r/bitchinfromthekitchn, who shared what happened when she asked her husband for a break.

In a post in the Beyond the Bump subreddit, the original poster (OP) explained that at 9 a.m., her husband asked her what was on her agenda for the day. She said she needed a break from their two kids. He replied, "Okay, so where do you want to go?" Her reply: "Nowhere. I don't want to do anything. I want you to take them somewhere for a while so I can get some deep cleaning done." He responded, "I can take one, but not both." And she countered, "I take both places all the time." Silence ensued.

At 11 a.m., shortly before the kids took their nap, the OP's husband said, "I'll take the kids to the store after their nap so you can get some rest. Don't clean, just play a game or something."

But by 3 p.m., after the kids had been awake for an hour, the Redditor's husband asked her, "Did you decide if you're going somewhere or can I start a game?" To that, the OP replied, "You know what? Forget it. You better figure out a way to get me Indian food if you want to sleep in the bed tonight..."

She then turned it over to her fellow Redditors, concluding, "Why are dudes like this? Why is 'I forgot' even a remotely suitable excuse for their behavior sometimes?"

Some commenters were quick to bring up weaponized incompetence, a manipulation tactic that TikTok has been buzzing about recently. Psychotherapist Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS described it to Bustle as an instance in which someone pretends they do not know how to do something when they do know how to do it. "In a relationship, it could be one person saying something like, 'I don't know how to do that. So, I'll let you take care of it.' This can be seen as a manipulation tactic," noted Mendez.

In response to the OP's story, r/graylinelady wrote, "Ladies, this is weaponized incompetence. They do this because it works for them and because we let them. And we try to explain and make excuses for them and then, we complain to our friends and online and, 'Oh wow, don't husbands just suck?'"

Although some commenters argued that the OP could have been more explicit and assertive about what she needed, others thought it was obvious that the husband failed to pull his weight.

r/throwawayladystuff noted, "Between 'I want you to take them somewhere for a while so I can get some deep cleaning done' and 'I'll take the kids to store after their nap so you can get some rest. Don't clean, just play a game or something,' there was a CLEAR request and a plan. She said what she needed, he told her what he was going to do. It sounds more like he then thought it would be too much work and so he either thought he could get away with not doing it (correct!) or procrastinating long enough for it to be meaningless (also correct)."

The Redditor continued, "I know we all forget things, and we procrastinate, and we overpromise, but a dad saying he can't take both kids at the same time and then conveniently 'forgetting' ... then it's not about his schedule or not knowing."

And in response to the OP wondering, "Why are dudes like this?" r/my_keto_one wrote, "'Dudes' are not like this. There are so many involved fathers who are actually partners. These are couples therapy-worthy issues."

Ultimately, the general consensus was that not only might the couple want to work out a new game plan for communication and scheduling, but the OP's husband—and any partner who thinks this is acceptable behavior—needs to step it up.

r/calebs_dad illustrated exactly what that might look like: "My wife and I have an understanding that if either of us says 'I need help!' the other will take over, no questions asked. It's a pretty fundamental aspect of co-parenting, in my opinion."

The bottom line: Communication is key, but no one should need play-by-play instructions and multiple, nagging reminders to be a present partner and parent. Here's hoping this Redditor's experience is an eye-opener for anyone who thinks playing dumb is an acceptable way to avoid showing up for their family.

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