DEAR MR. DAD: How do I get my husband to help more with the children? I am going nuts because I can’t even run to the post office with out having to take the kids with me, while he sits on his butt watching TV. Please help. I need to do something quickly, before I decide to be a single parent.
Answer: The bad news is that you’re not alone – I get this question a lot. And unfortunately, division-of-labor issues like the one you’re describing are right up there with money in the top-10 list of things couples argue about. The good news is it’s usually curable
Have you actually asked your husband to do his share (I’m deliberately staying away from the word “help” because he should be a partner, not an assistant)? A lot of guys just assume that mom has everything under control and is OK on her own. Or they worry that they won’t know what to do or won’t be as good as mom is. Telling him – in a non-accusing, calm way – that you need some down time might be all it takes.
But if you’ve already tried that, you’ve got to take things up a notch. Start by asking him how he sees your role and his own in the family. Did he grow up in a “traditional” family where his mom did everything and his dad was working all the time? Does he think that children and chores are “women’s work”? If so, you’ll need to help him understand that what worked a few generations ago doesn’t work anymore.
Then, think a little bit about your own behavior. Many women say they want their husband to do more around the house and with the children, but they subtly send the opposite message. They might criticize the way he does things, or insist that things be done a particular way – the mom’s way). That’s often enough to make a guy back off.
The next level is to go on strike. If he still won’t do anything, let him know that he’s on his own for laundry, meals, and anything else you normally do for him.
Finally, consider some counseling. In some cases a man’s refusal to be a full partner at home has deeper roots. Seeing someone who has experience with division-of-labor-issues could really help.
Armin Brott is the author of many best-selling books on fatherhood. His new DVD, “Toolbox for New Dads,” has just been released. You can find out more about it and Armin’s other resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Try DaddyCast, his new, twice-weekly podcast (http://www.mrdad.com/daddycast.