Dear 100 Hour Board,
I need a reality check. Do you think it’s normal to occasionally forget to feed or change your toddler or baby for hours at a time? Like, 14 hours because they slept 12 hours at night and then you forget in the morning?
My husband is a very high-functioning person. He has a graduate degree in a competitive field, works as a healthcare professional, and we are able to live off of his income while I am a stay-at-home mom. When our first child was born, I could not leave him alone with her because I felt that he did not take care of her adequately. He would forget to feed her, fix her a bottle, change her diaper, and/or give her a nap for hours. I would come home from hanging out with friends or relief society meetings to find a soiled, hungry, sobbing baby about 20% of the time. He loves playing with her, but he would forget to take care of her basic needs. Because of this, I stopped going out of the house or doing things that would require the two of them to be left alone together.
Eventually, I learned that if I had to go to the doctor or something, I could text him reminders to feed, change, and put the baby down for a nap. As long as I also texted follow-up reminders until he confirmed the task was done, I could leave the house. My daughter also learned to talk and was potty trained, which helped with some of the issues.
I thought we had solved the problem, so we got pregnant with our second child. But there was an incident about a month ago that showed me that I still can’t leave him alone with our daughter and assume her basic needs will be met.
I tried discussing this with my husband, and he shrugged it off. He said everyone forgets things sometimes, and it’s not a big deal. He thinks that I’m taking things too seriously, because I come from a really uptight, Type A family. I think that this is neglect. I will not leave him alone with our daughter, because it breaks my heart when she isn’t fed, given a sippy cup, or put to bed. I hate coming home to find her sobbing because she’s hungry or tired, while he plays on his phone. It is overwhelming to me to be 100% responsible for the childcare of one child, and the thought of doing this with two children is even more overwhelming.
Am I being too uptight? How can we go about solving this problem?
Taking your point of view at face value, then I would strongly recommend going to counseling. I think it's okay to let the baby cry for some time, but the time you are talking about (along with dirty diapers, not feeding, etc.) is too much. I also think going to a counselor (and hopefully bringing him too) will show your husband that this isn't just something you're casually worried about, this is serious business to you.
Anyways, I hope you and your husband can work this out.
-Sunday Night Banter
This situation sounds abusive. Taking care of your baby is not an unreasonable expectation. Especially if she's sobbing and clearly upset--that's a pretty obvious indicator that something is wrong that your husband should be checking out. If it happened once or twice that MIGHT be understandable if he had been completely exhausted and just fell asleep for a long time or something, but the fact that this happens so often is extremely concerning. It's also a red flag that he's telling you it's not a big deal and that you're just too uptight--it's not uptight to take care of your children, and the fact that he's trying to make it seem like you're in the wrong here is a problem. I think his behavior towards your children is negligent and abusive, and it's also abusive towards you--not allowing you to do anything outside of the house for fear of your children's needs not being met, and gaslighting you by saying it's not a big deal, is abusive. It's actually a very common isolation tactic that abusers use--using their children as weapons to keep their victims at home. Also the fact that you started this question with, "I need a reality check." Your husband should not be undermining your sense of reality and normalcy to the point that you're wondering if you're the crazy one for thinking your children shouldn't be neglected for 14 hours at a time. I'm not saying this to ruin your marriage or your family, but I watched my sister go through an abusive marriage and didn't say anything about all her husband's red flags (like never taking care of their children's basic needs) because I didn't think it was my place, and I have a lot of regrets about that. Obviously it's your choice what you decide to do in this situation, but I hope you know that you're not being crazy or unreasonable just for expecting that your husband takes care of the extremely basic needs of his children.
If you need some resources for figuring things out, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a good place to start, and they can help connect you with local resources, as well (1-800-799-7233, or thehotline.org). If you have some way to read books without your husband seeing (like if you can access an ebook on your phone or something), Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft comes highly recommended. My sister also recommends finding a family member or friend who you can safely and confidentially discuss things with--being able to get reality checks in real time can be really helpful. And group therapy could also be a great option and help you connect with other people in similar situations. My sister also said that if you need someone to talk to who has been through a very similar situation to what you're describing, she's available. You can email me at email@example.com and I can put you in touch with her.
Best of luck with this situation, friend. It does not sound easy, and I hope you're able to find peace and hope.
Like Alta said, this sounds abusive. It's not at all normal, and it's not okay for your husband to neglect your children like that.
As a side note, for finding a counselor (which you should definitely do), make sure that it's a good counselor. Unfortunately, there are bad counselors out there who don't believe victims of abuse, or completely downplay/minimize real problems. Like Alta mentioned, our sister was abused in her marriage, and she's had the misfortune to run into some of these absolutely despicable dregs of human beings (I have strong feelings about counselors like this). If there's a little voice inside you saying, "this is not right", listen to that voice.
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this, and I hope it gets better. If you ever want to chat to another person for reality checks, please reach out with a question on here, or my personal email (with the email option, I'm pretty good at getting back to readers within 24 hours).
Sending you love,
I have written three answers for this and I haven't felt comfortable with any of them. I think that means your question is beyond me. But I believe the bottom line, the most important thing to do persistently and robustly, is to trust yourself. You have a feeling about the needs of your baby. Defend it and defend your own rights. Get a babysitter, a counselor, a lawyer if it comes to that. Hopefully, as you insist on your needs your husband will come to understand how serious you are. He should respect your desires for your kids whether it's "A-type" or not. I am seriously so curious about his upbringing. Did he have a similarly chaotic childhood? If not, how would he think this is normal?
I don't feel comfortable labeling anyone as an abuser. But if you feel that he is abusing and manipulating you, listen to that feeling. But you are also allowed to stay and talk and take what you need. It doesn't make you weak to keep trying. It doesn't make you weak to ask for help from friends or couples counseling. It isn't weak to leave.
I found a helpful chart about child neglect severity. This has more to do with enrichment and mental/social engagement, but as noted in the more severe levels, physical neglect is often related to emotional neglect and they can be co-indicators.
This chart may be helpful, but it is no substitute for your personal standards of care and your gut feeling about the child's needs.
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this! I really believe you have the strength and intuition to get through it. It's a pain and it will take a while, and you shouldn't have to do it alone. God bless!
Source for the chart: Harvard - The Science of Neglect