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.
~ ~ ~
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.
Oh this is SO good! I am sort of in this situation.
Before we had children, I did EVERYTHING including folding underwear and lunch. OK he took out the trash, with much complaining, and that was his only job for us aside from his real job. Someone told me I was setting myself up for being overwhelmed in the future, but she was a very selfish wife, and so I didn’t listen to anything she said. Ha ha! :)
He really thinks that his responsibility is his real job and thus providing for us financially is his HUGE and sole responsibility. It is a big responsibility, but sigh, I need more.
Baby #1 came, and I still mostly did everything. Baby #2 came involving a long hospital stay and I could no longer keep up.
For me the not folding underwear and not making lunch doesn’t work. It only makes him frustrated with me.
Actually, when I stopped making lunch, he started eating out. If I make lunch he will eat it. Otherwise, to this day he eats out.
He does help with cleaning around the house and resents me when he does it. :(
I have set an appointment to talk to him about this, even with a timer so he got equal time, and he hates that so much. I asked for 10 minutes.
The thing is, life has changed so much since having children, and he just wants me to go back to the woman I was before. So I am asking God to help get me back there, but I also want and need him to just LOVE me and show it and be willing to help even if it does go on for until the children grow up.
I remind him we are in a season with 2 tiny children, but he just hates how things have inconvenienced him.
I feel like no matter how I try I cannot succeed.
He is an amazing man just very very selfish in this area. Perhaps a big key is this was the example he was given by his parents. His mom is exhausted and angry and disrespected because she does everything. I do not want to be her.
This all sounds horrible, but I know God can show me how to proceed. Thanks for a great post!
Yes I remember you– and I applaud your discretion.
I’m glad it encouraged you somehow to read this, even though you seem to have tried all this already without much success.
I am praying about a thorough response to your comment and hope you’ll stop back.
Hi, I will be back. :) I don’t read blogs as often, but I will be back and look forward to your response!
I felt guilty about what I wrote, kind of like your post about how we sometimes do something stupid. :) I don’t ever want to speak badly about my husband especially when it it so one-sided without showing all the things he does do wonderfully for us.
He is following his own dad’s footsteps in those negative ways I mentioned. I have enabled it by doing too much from the start, but it was not too much for me back then. I loved it because it made him happy.
I think that is what I need to remember when I want it to change. I need to not want to change him, and as I try not to enable by mothering habits, I have to remember to do the things that mean the most to him from me. Maybe then, when I am not perfect or keeping the house as clean as I used to, he will also overlook those imperfections in me.
P.S. I am so happy when I hear what your husband does and how well you work together. Good examples are few and I love seeing it!
There’s several different tacks my mind has been taking, and maybe that’s why it’s taken so long to get this written down (you’ve been often in my thoughts and prayers).
The first is the one I got from the “older women” I sought for counsel, and the other is from my own tendency to say, ‘Yeah, I agree and that’s great, but what do I do?”
This latter attitude may be ungodly. Maybe I’m still too immature to “just let go” and focus only on God. Either way, I’ll present both angles (in separate comments because they’re so different) as food for thought, and trust you to apply your own discernment.
I was so struck by the tone of this response I wanted to present it in its (almost) entirety as food for thought.
The writer is a dear lady in my church who came to Christ when her children were toddlers (they are my age now). Her husband is still an unbeliever.
This lady had no background in the church growing up, and as a result has all through her Christian walk had a strong appetite for the Word and bringing life to meet it.
I felt very humbled, personally, by her boisterous joy in this truth.
Whenever I am mired in the heaviness of the every-day, I find this amazing sister challenges me to remember the big picture.
I even considered whether my bit ought even to be put in, but in an effort to look at this from as many sides as I have perspective, I’ll also add my own thoughts.
First of all, I appreciate your attitude of honoring your husband in the midst of this. That indicates you are already headed in a proper, God-honoring direction.
As you read this you have to understand that what I’m talking about here is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t lived it, and I can only approach it from an intellectual standpoint.
The first advice that crossed my mind while reviewing your situation is to do your level best to avoid adding another child (or pet or activity or anything) to your home until this issue has worked out– to whatever end.
As the mother of three small children, I know how sheer the Overwhelming can feel even *with* my husband’s heavy involvement, and I don’t want that for you.
As a beginning I would suggest you prepare a brief example or two, and plainly tell him what you told me– that you feel he’s making his love conditional and performance based, and there’s no way to improve or thrive in a spirit-crushing environment like that.
If you can’t speak to him that plainly, I’m beginning to think some healthy marital counseling might be in order.
By healthy I mean the type that understands you really want to stay together and aren’t looking for “approval” or “permission” to divorce. Isn’t it sad those are out there too?
If you have talked with him before like this, and need a different way to present yourself, see if your library has The Language of Love. It’s a fabulous book that emphasizes (and shows how to) put your messages in a framework that will add significance for the listener. In a word– Story.
Another idea: Can you approach this from a child-training angle? Can you ask him if he values his mother? Likes the way his father treated/treats her? Does he want his sons feeling about you the way he feels about his mother? Can you urge him to teach your sons to honor you by his own example?
The book I link there describes honor (in part) as going the extra mile for someone because of how much you value them. Service is a way to display value.
It’s also the primary way some people receive love. (An interesting starting place if you want to talk about love languages is this quiz that counts how much you choose one expression of love over another. Naturally it’s not scientific, but if you’re wondering it may add clarity.)
You say he will help but “resents me when he does it.” This is consistent with the adolescent tendency to treat external ideas as impositions.
Perhaps you could treat his attitude toward housework as you would a teenager’s.
I don’t know what this means to you, but for me that would mean taking the help because I need it, and cheerfully ignoring (pretending I don’t see) the attitude because it’s expected from that type of a worker.
If you both can begin to separate his “loving” of you from your level of “performance,” it may help you be able to accept help (or even his “resentment”) as part of the natural process of moving into maturity.
You can see what his mother became, and understandably don’t want to become like her, but as the definition goes: “To repeat the same action in the same way and expect a different result, this is insanity.”
You are resisting bitterness, so perhaps you already are doing something differently, but you need to ask yourself Am I expecting a different product from the same raw materials?
Dobson’s book Love Must be Tough offers a thought-provoking perspective that involves quietly setting standards and holding the line.
You may have to ask God for the strength (and perhaps for confirmation it’s the right path) to endure some emotional turmoil while you wait for the earth to re-settle underfoot, but I think the fruit of that endurance could be all you’re praying for.
Love and prayers!
This post has been getting more hits than anything else in my archives.
I hope you ladies are finding some useful things to try, but I also hope you understand that you cannot change your husband.
God is the only one with the power to do that. He may use you directly as an instrument of that change, but he may not. The best, most useful thing you can do is pray.
Yielded, “Thy will be done” prayer, not “Here’s how to fix him” orders.
One resource that’s been recommended by others (I haven’t read it myself, so I can’t speak from my own experience) is The Power of a Praying Wife.
Look for it at your local library.
hello Amy Jane….
I’m a young engaged woman and ‘ve been wandering about the web for a few days looking for sound advice on preparing for one’s wedding nite…despite the fact that i am a “reclaimed virgin” i have found myself a bit anxious and nervous over this particular nite. i really loved your advice there and it was there that i noticed this popular post and decided to read it as well….
this is definitely practical advice that i must store in my memory bank for the future. I must admit that some of my anxiety related to starting a family is becoming like my mother or my FI mother and that is being terribly overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, lonely, ect……
i must pray that God reveals this advice over this matter…..
Thank you for your honestly here……i will definitely continue to check your archives at my leisure….