December 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm , by Lauren Piro
Here’s a couple with a head-scratching dilemma: Glenn, 47, has never wanted anything more than to be a stay-at-home dad. And when his wife, Sheila, 45, had twins three years ago, he got his wish. Glenn quit his job to raise his kids, and Sheila spends her days as a business executive, but still dedicates time to cooking wonderful gourmet meals for her family. And Glenn is quite ticked off about that. Huh? Read on; it’s more complicated than it seems. And pick up our December/January issue for the full story, on newsstands now.
Sheila’s turn: All Sheila wants to do after a long day at the office is come home, hug her kids and cook her family a healthy and tasty meal. She wishes that Glenn would appreciate her efforts, but no. He complains that they’re spending too much money on food; Sheila thinks they’d be eating PB&J’s for dinner if it were up to her husband. When they got married, Glenn was intelligent, rugged and ambitious, but now he just whines all the time. Sheila isn’t sure he realized how overwhelming parenting would be, and it shows. The house is a pigsty, he makes lame excuses to avoid doing things he once loved (like mountain biking), and he’s constantly negative. Maybe he’s jealous that Sheila gets to be out doing fulfilling work everyday? Whatever it is, the tension is at an all-time high, and Sheila is losing her patience.
Glenn’s turn: Glenn really hates Sheila’s gourmet cooking habit, but not because he dislikes good food (duh). He’d rather she come home to chat and unwind with him, not spend two hours over the stove while he’s stuck parenting alone. He has long days too—kids aren’t a cakewalk!—and also knows they need to curb their spending on non-essential fancy meals and hobbies like his mountain biking. Now he just avoids his wife to avoid a fight, so Sheila thinks he’s always off sulking somewhere alone. Glenn’s glad Sheila’s given him the opportunity to watch his kids grow up, and is actually happy with his new job as dad, but still feels short-changed. He’s constantly making sure everyone’s needs are met, but Sheila only blows up at him when he mentions what’s bothering him.
The counselor’s turn: Both Sheila and Glenn think they’re making the bigger sacrifice for their family (Sheila’s balancing bread-winning and her family; Glenn’s choosing the children over, well, everything), so neither feel like they’re getting the appreciation and recognition they crave from each other. The counselor did call Sheila on one thing—those gourmet meals were clearly her way of taking time to herself, not gifts to her family, though she hoped the food would earn her some brownie points in their eyes. Glenn obviously disagreed with Sheila, but his strategy as the family martyr wasn’t working either. The counselor helped them see that their tactics weren’t making either of them happy, and gave them some new rules. Sheila would save her fancy recipes for the weekend to spend more time on family during the week, Glenn would buy a new bike and start enjoying much-deserved time to himself, and both would work on communicating their feelings more clearly. Now, the couple says, they’re a team again.
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