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'My Husband Won't Help Around The House'

by Joshua Coleman, Ph.D.

Dr. Coleman:
I am the mother of two young girls. My husband and I both have full time jobs but he can pretty much dictate his schedule both during the day and especially his side jobs. I, on the other hand, have to work 8:30-5:00. I'm tired. I take the girls to my mom's before work. I go to work all day and then I pick them up to go home. I usually have to feed, diaper, etc the girls in the evening. In other words, I never really get much of a break to sit and unwind.

Now if I ask their dad, he'll help for a little while and feed the girls. He WILL usually make dinner ( that's a plus). But he doesn't help enough with the girls.

'Some days I'm soo tired I could cry'

Then on top of everything, when he is feeding them, he's usually watching TV so intensely that I don't really want to leave them alone ( mind you I have left the girls with their dad on some occasions and they've been ok. It's just that he seems so lax when he's with them, it worries me... I still don't really rest or I'm rushing to get back home.)

He'll help if I ask but not unless I ask. Some days I'm soo tired I could cry. What do you suggest. I'm getting tired of being tired, you know??


Dear Reader:
Since your husband will only help if asked, my advice in the short-term is to ask.

Many husbands have not caught up to this century where women in most homes are employed, yet they are still doing most of the childcare and running of the house. These husbands have memories of their fathers coming home and propping up their feet while their mothers scurried around doing everything.

The happiest marriages are those where husbands participate equally in the childrearing and household tasks. John Gottman's research at the University of Washington showed that husbands who help more with household tasks have a better sex life with their wives. Perhaps that statistic will motivate him.

Barring that, pick a calm time to tell him that you'd like to discuss the division of labor in the household. Emphasize that you appreciate all of the things that he does and the many ways that he contributes as a father and husband.

Tell him that you're feeling too overwhelmed by the amount of work that you're under and would like his help brainstorming solutions. Suggest that you both come up with a chore list and split the chores. Post the list where you both can see it. Get an agreement to revisit this every two weeks to evaluate how it's going.

Mothers often feel their husbands will do a poor job if left to their own devices

It's very common for mothers to feel like their husbands will do a poor job if left to their own devices or that the children will be or feel neglected in some way. He will need to have his own relationship with them and your relationship with him will suffer as will his with the girls if you monitor it too closely.

Dads and moms are very different in parenting styles. Fathers are more oriented to play and adventure than mothers, in general. In addition, fathers intervene more slowly than do mothers when children are faced with challenges.

I saw an example of this when I went to visit my friends who, like my wife and I, are psychologists and parents of twins.

As Bruce and I sat together in the kitchen, their mother, Jody was lacing up her shoes getting ready for a run. Their twin girls could be heard fighting in the other room. Bruce and I continued to talk and drink coffee and catch up with each other's not-that- exciting personal lives while the girls continued to yell in the background.

'They haven't killed each other yet...They probably won't today'

Exasperated, Jody finally said to her husband, "Bruce! Aren't you going to do anything about that?" referring to the girls, to which he responded, "They haven't killed each other yet. They probably won't today."

My wife and I have had many versions of this same debate. She is amazed when she comes home after a night out with her friends, if the children are asleep and there's not an ambulance or a firetruck in the driveway. However, she still can't get to sleep until she's reassured that the evening really was ok.

"How were they?" she'll ask me, expecting to hear a long litany of parenting horrors.
"Did you give them their vitamins?"
"Um, I think I forgot."
"Josh. What'd they have for dinner?"
"I don't know, something brown."
"What did you feed them?"
"Food. The digestible type. Maximum nutrition and minimum metal parts."

She doesn't share my witty sense of humor which is really kind of sad.

In summary, you're right to want and expect your husband to pull more of his fair share in the household. However, you'll have to let him do it his own way, which may mean accepting a different standard of cleanliness and parental involvement.

If you have to leave the house so you don't feel too annoyed or start criticizing his parenting, like when the girls are fighting and he's not intervening, then you should leave the house or go into another room.

Call a friend. Go for a run. It's not like they're going to kill each other.

Copyright 2000-2006 Joshua Coleman.

Dr. Joshua Coleman is an internationally known expert in parenting, couples, families, and relationships. He has appeared on ABC 20/20, Good Morning America, The Today Show (Australia), the BBC, and numerous news programs. His advice has been featured in numerous publications around the world. Dr Coleman serves on the training faculty of the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony and The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework. For more information about his services, visit Dr. Coleman's website.

Some Related Articles:

The Chore War: Five Steps to a Happier Household
Cell Mates Or Soul Mates? Five Steps to Get the Love Back
When Your Husband Becomes Your Father
Getting Your Man to Talk


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