In the catigory of Unsolicited Advice That May Someday Be Useful, I offer this essay I gave someone on a message board a while back.
The context (generalized somewhat) is a woman with an infant that will only accept the breast, and married to a man who is not participating in child-care or helping maintain the home.
He does have a job. He is working 9 to 5-ish. He just seems to think (if he is thinking about it) that providing for the financial needs of his wife and child fulfills his responsibility to the family unit.
The wife wishes she could change this perception, but nagging (if she’s tried it) hasn’t worked yet.
She is exhausted by her many responsibilities and seems hounded by the “advice” of the (I would hope) well-meaning women praising their own involved husbands and urging her to “stand up for herself.”
My response was long and rather different than what had come before.
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First, I have to mention a blog post called “Helping my husband help me.” It’s about setting up DH (dear husband) for success so he will be able to have a positive association with time caring for baby and you’ll be more likely to get it again.
Along this line, I strongly disagree with the previous posters who said leave a bottle and don’t come back till you’re ready.
I understand (and had my own seasons with) not getting much of a “break” because the baby simply would. not. take a bottle, but we both know that will end up ugly for your DH, which means he’ll be even less likely to help out later.
Are you a pray-er? This is a good place to apply it.
Yes, you can pray for God to change your husband, but it’s also good (and probably more effective) to pray for yourself, that God will help you where you are right now, and to resist the natural urge to be discontented.
Some men never do help, and comparing him other husbands that do will only make you more discontented and unhappy.
That said, I second the previous poster that recommended a heart-to-heart with your husband. Especially if you haven’t been clear yet about what your specific needs are.
Start with a thank you for what he does do (makes the money to support your family so you can stay home with baby as you desire) and outline as briefly and clearly as possible what you need. Maybe just start with one or two very specific things that would lighten your load.
Do you know what means the most to you, or what he would be the most willing to “own”? Start there.
I suggest involvement in housework as the natural place he could share the load if he won’t do diapers or night-walking with the baby.
If he’s still with you after the what-you-need, you can talk a bit about how you feel, but especially if he’s the type that tunes out after a while, start with your specific needs, or you’ll be just as frustrated when he’s done (because he will be done before you are) as when you began.
It also may help to call him at work before all this and ask for a 20-30 min “appointment,” both to get his undivided attention and let him know before starting that there is a defined ending to this (potentially stressful) conversation.
Think small-steps. Sure you may not get to everything in half an hour, but the setting, keeping, (and especially the ending-on-time) of the appointment should make a repeat/revisit later less threatening.
You might also consider setting some boundaries.
For example, are there any ways you might be “mothering” him? Assuming responsibilities that he could manage himself (and he alone feel the pinch if neither of you did them)?
This could be a tangible way for him to feel/see the pressure you’re under. If “something’s gotta give,” choose that something wisely.
Folding underwear is my always-example of this. If it’s something he really likes, yes, it’s a nice way to bless him. But if you’re having trouble keeping up with the dishes or are unable to nap when baby naps because of this “requirement,” drop it.
Other, potentially more applicable, examples are making his appointments and packing his lunches. He sounds like he has at least as much free-time as a bachelor, so it’s not neglectful to leave some basic self-care up to him.
If he mentions it (I am frequently amazed at how many things couples think they’re doing for each other that don’t mean nearly as much as expected), point out briefly that it was a non-essential sacrificed to more immediate needs of homekeeping or mothering.
If your DH is the type this would be significant to, you could use the image of his protecting you. He can be a part of guarding your health and honoring/accepting your natural limitations.
It could help (I suppose you’ve already tried this?) to gently use the example of how frustrated he would be if he didn’t get down-time. It might be something to bring up at your appointment.
Let him know you understand and honor that need of his (make sure you do before you say so), and that you have the same need. Suggest a compromise of both getting less than you want rather than one of you going without.
Maybe compare it to food.
One thing that my husband and I once tried was alternating nights off, and I’ve heard this works for other couples.
Once a week, right after he got home, each of us would go into the bedroom (where the computer was) to work on a project, not surfacing until the children’s bedtime.
It didn’t last long, because as much as we loved the evening of absolute free time we *really* didn’t like the night we ran the house and kids alone (I think two hours with a baby in the evening can be as much work as four hours earlier in the day– and we had two under two at the time).
Now that we’ve been parenting longer and have a better rhythms personally, it might work out, but we’ve pretty much concluded we like co-parenting best.
- Learn to be content where you are, since you don’t know how long you’ll be there.
- Speak plainly and ask for help.
- Expect to work in very-small steps. It may take longer than you want, but at least you’ll be moving– which could be more than is happening now.