Relationship Q&A: I Get No Help From My Husband
Q. I stay at home with my 5-month-old son, but I plan to go back to my job when my son is a year old. The trouble is, I feel like I have two babies at home. My husband has no clue how hard it is to take care of an infant, and he does nothing to help. He never thinks to put the dishes in the dishwasher; he asks me to get him the remote control for the TV; and he never hears the baby crying in the middle of the night. He was raised by a Superwoman, who still caters to the every whim of her husband and children. I've suggested that we go for counseling, or at least to a marriage seminar I've heard about, but he insists he knows how to have a good marriage from watching his parents. Who is he kidding? I'm exhausted, stressed out, and feel like a maid.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a Denver psychologist, answers:
A. It sounds like you're living with a man who may mean well and may, in some strange way, actually think he's being a good husband -- but he needs someone to show him how. Since Mom didn't, that person is going to be you. I'd go with the sports metaphor: Tell him that you and he are teammates. But forget about the idea of getting him to help you. Instead, re-clarify who is going to be in charge of which tasks in the house. One strategy for deciding on the division of labor is make a list of all that you do -- everything from changing diapers and buying baby food to making dinner and taking out the garbage. Type up this list so it looks official. Then sit down with your husband and ask him to pick what he wants to do on the list. Then you pick something, and take turns until you have covered every task on your must-do list. What if there are tasks, like baby care, that your husband doesn't know how to do but might like to choose for his list? Tell him you'll write up instructions, or give him private tutoring if necessary. Be sure all tutoring sessions end with a hug and lots of encouragement for his efforts.
Whatever happens next, be sure you don't fret or criticize your husband if he does things his way, not your way. Yes, you can probably do it all better and faster. But an exhausted, stressed out mom needs to count her blessings and you'll be happier in the long run -- and so will he -- if he can feel in charge of his domain. Appreciate all he does, ignore what he doesn't, and just be sure that you don't gradually start to pick up or re-do those things on his list.