The Dreaded Gray Area- What's your "job", what's DH's... Needing help and not knowing how to ask for it - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 10-05-2013, 10:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know this is a common issue of SAHMs, and unfortunately this is my second go-round (I was a SAHM with my two babies for the first 2 years in a previous relationship- it was a very unbalanced, difficult time), and now again with a toddler and 3 school aged children. This time, DH is a wonderful person and we get along all the time, and he works hard to support all of us. He is my best friend and an amazing father and step parent to my older children. 

 

However, it's happened again. The longer I've been at home, the larger the "gray area" of what is my "job" has become. To the point that everything at home/ regarding the household/ children (that isn't fun/recreational stuff) falls in my domain only. A few years ago after we first combined our families I confronted him about not helping much in the house- at this point I was working, going to school, etc... His excuse was that it wasn't his mess. You know, the dishes from dinner, laundry, sweeping vaccuuming, anything. We had a long discussion about that.

 

Fast forward: He works a pretty standard 8 hour day, typically m-f and sometimes does side work (all computer-based stuff, so sitting at a desk or on the couch with his laptop). His job is fairly high stress mentally, but not physically. I handle all the meals, cleaning, laundry, transportation, household projects, managing the kids. I get up early with them and try to keep them quiet so he can keep sleeping. I also work 10 hours a week (I know it's not much), do etsy sales here and there, and get some child support for my older children- so I do bring in some "income". Actually about as much as I would make working full time and paying for child care sadly! So I am busy feeding, bathing, clothing, playing with, caring for, trasporting, and cleaning up after a family of SIX (one of whom has autism). I do not get everything done. And because I never finish the little things, I never get to the bigger things. I almost never have any money to send on myself because things are tight and I put my children's needs first. 

 

Over time DH has stopped helping with anything other than actual interaction with the children. He used to do his own & his first child's laundry, and I discovered that was my job only after he kept getting mad their laundry wasn't done. When i met him he helped with meals, doing dishes. Now after a meal everyone gets up and leaves- including him- without even clearing his own spot! He's sitting ten feet away browsing his smart phone as I clean up after him. On weekends now unless I come up with a plan like going on a nature hike, he will veg out and only interact with the kids to snap at them about something. We only have our older children during the week and every other weekend- and he acts like the kid weekends are almost intolerable. The kids are great! They're kids, they get obnoxious and loud sometimes!

 

Slowly it's just eating away at me. I will set garbage out for him to take to the curb and he'll just leave it- passing by it ten times and then i take it. He gits almost no exercise and he pays a kid to mow the lawn when it gets bad and then doesn't follow up with any weedwacking, weeding, etc. I try to do it, but I have so much on my plate it's hard. I always try to problem solve on my own before getting confrontational, asking myself "how can i better manage my time? What can I stop doing so I have more time to do this?" instead of seeing that it's getting really imbalanced. I'm at a point where I have no more wiggle room. I need help. And when i tried to bring it up two weeks ago he got really upset and I just gave up before even getting into it. Now it's time to bring it up again- We have a comfortable relationship, and we both avoid confrontation and are pretty easy going people, but I feel like it makes him indignant when I DO have something to talk about. 

 

 

A huge issue is technology. 90% of the time he is not helping or not interacting with the kids he is on his smartphone, laptop, or watching tv or playing a video game. I've tried to drop hints about phone use and family time (articles, videos, etc) and it just doesn't have an impact whatsoever. So this is the combined issue of DH leaving all non-job related work to me, spending excessive amounts of time with technology, and also Just worrying about his health and wellbeing- his stress levels are high, he is grumpy about the kids a lot, he get's zero exercise and sits at a desk all day. i worry he is depressed or just needs to get more active and his mood will improve- but I worry bringing it up will make him feel like I'm trying to 'change him' or something :(

 

 

 

 

So I just need support. Or advice. Or encouragement. Or someone to comiserate with. thank you for listening!

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#2 of 21 Old 10-05-2013, 12:57 PM
 
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Its almost the same way in my house too but my husband has very long hours in the warmer months and few hours in the colder months because he is a landscaper and painter. It does bother me at times (especially when he asks me for help with his jobs) but I have simply accepted it and figured that nobody is going to benefit from me complaining or being upset about a situation that will never get better and has only gotten worse. I have my boundaries though. He used to cook all the time and now its a rare event for him to help in the kitchen. I have no advice except to try and think positive. Embrace your job. Point out things to your husband that he missed out on because he was too into his computer to pay attention. When my husband is being distant I'll just plop our baby on his lap and tell him his son needs his attention now and its worked thus far and (dare I say because of me) they have a strong connection that 2 out of 3 of my other kids (not including baby) didn't get the opportunity for because I didn't want to be a pain in the butt but I don't care anymore. Now I'll tell my 3 older kids to go jump on Papi and give them a bunch of questions to ask him to get him away from the TV, phone, or computer. 


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#3 of 21 Old 10-05-2013, 03:19 PM
 
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I think there's going to be a gap between what he is willing to do, and how much help you need but there are a few areas that changes might make a bigger difference than others. It sounds like interacting with the kids is a strong point for him, so that is probably a good area to maximize.

 

Do you usually have supper at the table together? If that's not already a habit, make it one and have it be that no one uses electronics at the table. If he's not distracted in his phone, he will notice when someone needs help cutting up their food or whatever. This is a point of respect in our family... I put in a lot of effort trying to make good food for us, and the best way that people can show their appreciation is by being mentally present during the meal. The best way for kids to learn manners is through example. 

 

The school aged kids are old enough to help out, what do they do? Would your husband take part in delegating chores to the kids, or would that just be even more work for you? I think that seeing some of the household work as everyone's responsibility would help... he says it's not his mess but he IS a parent and part of that is to teach the kids to clean up after themselves. I'd think up a very specific way in which he can help and suggest that... for  example, immediately after supper the kids need to spend 15 minutes on tidying up and it's his job to get them moving. Maybe you could do a tin of popsicle sticks with jobs on it for him to get them to pick at random, or it could be specific things like one kid loads the dishwasher, another picks up the living room and the third does sweeping. Whatever you think would help you the most.

 

Another thing, if he is annoyed or overwhelmed by the kids it might make sense to point out that a good bedtime routine will get him to quiet time quicker. We are both usually ready for some zone-out one on one time by 9PM at this house! My husband is pretty good at keeping an eye on the clock and telling the kids it's time to brush teeth, get into jams, etc.That he will go in and tuck them in, give them hugs is a big help. I sometimes say good night on my way into the shower and leave it to him to get everyone settled. My 11 year old hears about youtube videos at school and they both like music so sometimes my husband will spend a few minutes geeking on his phone with them while he's tucking them in, maybe that would appeal to your husband?

 

I'd emphasize that it's not about the work, it's about respect. My husband doesn't do a ton around here but one thing he does do is have the kids clear their plates. They bring their plate back to him and he stacks them up and leaves them on the counter on his way to the TV. He always says thanks for making supper. If I tell him the kids need to pick up after themselves, he backs me up. Being lazy about housework is different from not following through as a parent, so he might be more inclined to help if he can see things that way. My husband takes no offence at all, and I don't think he even realizes he's being tasked on to something if I say "The baby needs a diaper and theres laundry to go in the dryer, any preference which you do?"

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#4 of 21 Old 10-05-2013, 03:49 PM
 
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I understand completely. I'm at home with a three year old and a five month old, but unfortunately I'm not a sahm by choice, we can't afford day care. This adds an unpleasant element to it. I know I'm lucky to have these years with my babies, but I'm not a skilled homemaker and Im putting a career I love on hold.

DH works four days a week with a five hour total commute daily, so needless to say during the week it's all on me. The other 3 days though bother me a lot. We have a large 3.5 bedroom house. He does the kitchen and bathroom deep cleans. The living room, dining room, entryway, back mud room, basement, our room, nursery, 3 year olds room, upstairs hall, office/baby's future room, deck, backyard, and attic/playroom are mine to handle on my own with a baby strapped to my back. He puts the three year old to bed at night and will get up to get her a glass of water or a hug or whatever, but has never once woken up with the baby, not even the first night in the hospital. I do all washing and folding of diapers and all of mine and the kids laundry. I'm spent!

I have no idea how to correct something like this without constant nagging. I'm stumped. It seems more peaceful to suck it up, but then I constantly hear about all the things I've missed taking care of during the week. Ugh.

I'll definitely follow this thread for suggestions.
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#5 of 21 Old 10-05-2013, 06:17 PM
 
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I really do not know what to do either.  There is so much to do, and it never ends.  Childcare and housework is not something that you can clock out of.  So it is obvious to me that dividing the family tasks as 'wage earner' and 'everything else' is absurd.  But it does tend to drift that direction.  

I have tried making lists of everything that goes into a day and having dh choose which he would like to do on his days on and off.  It never sticks.  I hate reminding and he hates being reminded.  

I have tried saying nothing to him about anything, the house, yard, kids, finances, health.  I left things undone that I felt I could not do without resentment.  It worked a little bit for a little while, and then things got worse.  

I think men at this stage in life often get into a funk, a giving up.  They are overwhelmed with so much needing to be done so they just check out.  And the fact is we do pick up his slack.  Because these are basic life tasks and must be done.  It's maddening.  

I agree that technology is contributing to the feeling that there is not enough time and is a comfortable place to escape to.  Agreeing on some rules, like not using (it's really like a drug) until the kids are asleep in the evenings would really help over here.  

For me I feel like what would make me feel balanced is a simple 20 minutes of help with housework on work evenings and an hour on non-work days.  And turning off the phone and computer more to be present with the kids more often.  It's not much.  I just don't know how to make another person, even one who loves you and created a family with you, to care enough to make those small changes.

I've been married a long time.  I wish I had a better answer! 

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#6 of 21 Old 10-07-2013, 01:16 PM
 
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Wow this is exactly how I've been feeling lately. And any time I try and bring it up it just comes back on me. 

Mine does a lot when he can, he actually did a TON this weekend. But it's the daily stuff I need help with. All I ask is that he A) put things away where he found them or in the garbage/dishwasher OR B) not step over stuff that needs to be put away. I don't think that's so hard. The kids and him leave so much residual mess from not doing these two things that I start to break down because I don't know where to start and don't feel like I'm doing enough when I do start.

We're working on that here. But those two (little) things would make my life so much easier!!!!

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#7 of 21 Old 10-08-2013, 10:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thank you all so much for feedback, it was the little push I needed to stand up for myself and talk it out with DH. It was rough the first day but things have improved :) WHile he hasn't picked a ton of slack with the household stuff yet (He did do a few things to help out like prepping the yard for winter) I noticed an incredible decrease in smartphone/laptop use! Granted, it's only been a few days, but I think that piece of it really got to the heart. He spent the weekend way more engaged- and happy!- with the kids. I think he spends so much time in distracting/ escapist behaviors (phone etc) that it was dissolving a lot of depth and enjoyment out of life. I think another breakthrough discussion- and I found it as an argument in many scenarios like mine- Was I asked him why he felt like "everything else" was my job as a SAHM, when he worked 9-5, especially when I know in his previous relationship they both contributed to household stuff (however, his ex worked at the time). He gave me the usual answer- "well that was different, we BOTH worked all day". And my reply? "I work all day too! Don't you see that? I am busy every moment you are at work. I don't get paid. I have more work to do because I AM home- there would be less cleaning, cooking, child care, etc to do if I were at a 9-5 job. On top of that, I get up at 6 am to start my 'work' while you sleep, drink coffee, watch the news, shower and leave. When you get home I keep working until long after the children are in bed. I work all weekend. I work at night to nurse the baby back to sleep. You need to treat me like I am also working a 9-5 job, just like you, just like your ex when you were "both working". And when you are home, you need to help just like you would if I were working a regular job."

 

It really is such simple logic, but so many- not even myself as a SAHM often-  realize how straightforward it is. I think it opened his eyes, too.

 

@ delightedbutterfly- exactly! So much of what really started eating at me was the basic courtesy pick-up-after-yourself behaviors that were absent. Especially because even DH stresses to the kids to pick up after themselves but doesn't do the same as a good example. I enjoy doing all the cooking and taking the kids to appointments and doing the shopping, but the little day to day stuff- and basic things like look, the trash if full take it out- look, the kids are begging for attention, play with them instead of acting irritated! It would help SO. MUCH.

 

@ bellyfruit- another good insight (the 20 minutes to help pick up in the evening). Think about how little time that truly is- not even a full tv program's worth, or time easily wasted browsing the internet. When first confronted I could feel yet again DH was having one of those "But I work so hard at my job, am totally overwhelmed, and have NO TIME." But he does, he spends so much time with technology when he isn't at work. He loaded the dishwasher the dinner after I talked with him, and I could just see him being disgruntled and indignant about it. Like it RUINED HIS MOOD. To do something I do several times a day, every day. It probably took 10 or 15 minutes, but the residual bad vibe was much longer. That's why I avoid it- and I addressed it in our discussion- it can't be like that. being responsible and helping out shouldn't punish me with negative energy. That's ridiculous. However, I let it slide because he was already down after our talk. the past few days he has been much better.

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#8 of 21 Old 10-08-2013, 04:22 PM
 
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Glad you have made some progress.  None of us should get run into the ground by the tasks of everyday life!

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#9 of 21 Old 10-11-2013, 04:01 PM
 
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Hmmm...this is a hard one because you both are bringing in money. In my house my husband brings in the money and I do all the cleaning, cooking, caretaking, etc. I feel like that is a healthy balance. If you are bringing in money he should be helping with chores/cooking/kids. Communication goes a long way. My husbands one and only job at home is taking out the trash every day and putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. How this is too hard....one can only guess. I could literally set the trash in the middle of the living room, and it would stay there until I ask him to take it out. Try asking gently but firmly, "the trash needs to go out, please." When I am feeling run down and under appreciated it really helps if I tell him how I am feeling and ask for reassurance. Sounds weird but it really helps! I can't really relate to the technology problem though...that would really tick me off. Have you tried asking him not to be so preoccupied while at home? There's a time and a place for that!! Hope it gets better hun <3


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#10 of 21 Old 10-12-2013, 08:35 AM
 
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I think every family and every situation is different. And it's really really hard to find a balance that works. But it *is* about finding a balance that works for your family. It's not about who pulls in the money, it's about putting all the tasks that need doing on the table (including bringing in money) and dividing them such that everyone can cope, or even better, thrive. Because some kids are extra hard. Some jobs are extra hard. Taking care of the house can range from keeping a studio apartment with in-apartment laundry to caring for a big house and garden. If you're struggling, you're struggling, and you need a way to ask for help. (that piece? That piece is hard hard hard, especially once you've got a pattern in place)

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#11 of 21 Old 10-12-2013, 12:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all again for the feedback- I've been a little frustrated this last week after talking with him because I communbicated my needs very clearly last week, and we discussed how he could help. He did dishes ONCE, has been clearing HIS spot at dinner (what's funny if it is just him and I at dinner, he will still only clear just his spot- not that I specifically asked him to clear the whole table, but I pick up after everyone else so much, you think taking it a step further here and there would compute), and putting dirty laundry in his hamper most of the time. His technology use went down some, and he is trying harder with the kids. Except. Since the work week started, 4 out of 5 days he stayed at work until way past dinner!! So not only am I doing all the childcare and dinner prep, but normally he's there to help keep the kids out of my hair while I'm cooking and engage them while we're eating- my child with ASD can be difficult at family meal times, and the baby needs a lot of tending to. Then he comes home,  in a good mood mind you, eats, clears his spot... Then doesn't help do the dinner dishes that he said he's start doing but only did once! :( It's weird, because his attitude did a flip- when I first told him I need help and so on, he got really emo, but then he got really upbeat- and all week- staying late at work (He stays late if he chooses to, it's not a job demand)- he's talking about ways he's going to be making more money. Which when money issues are looking up, he's always in a better mood. And that's great! Except I feel like he's redirecting his focus to work and 'making more money for us' as a way to get out of the very things I begged for his help with. I don't think he's "avoiding" me and work at home directly, because his upbeat attitude tells me he's feeling accomplished- that by working even more at his job he's helping solve the problem i presented to him- when in fact it is the exact opposite. He is home less and I have to do/ manage more, and the kids see him less. Argh! I'm going to give it some time, and I can't complain about more income because things are tight, but my issue wasn't money to begin with. I am going to see if this trend continues before bringing it up again. Oh, and I've been taking out the trash and stuff all week too. setti ng it out again. WHY! lol

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#12 of 21 Old 10-14-2013, 09:36 PM
 
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This has been a constant struggle between my husband and I for the past couple of years, I have even less off a tolerance than you do for him avoiding his fair share of the work. One huge thing I waited forever to say but seemed to make a big impact on him was when I explained how much less work I would have to do if we got a divorce. Like ok buddy I understand you make more money than I do, but you're not paying me the salary of a live in nanny and maid. If I moved out I would only be reasonable for our kiddo half of the week, and I would have SOOOO much less housework to do. I don't want to get a divorce because our relationship is good otherwise, but he needed it to be made very clear that I think he benefits more from it than I do. It is very bad news for him if I decide that it is to my advantage to move out. 

 

Recently we made a big change to how we do chores and it has made such a huge difference. HE is responsible for making a chore list. He can delegate chores however he things is fair, and schedules them as frequently as he thinks necessary. But the key is that chores have become something for him to think about, instead of me always having to be "the mom". Also, we have started rotating big chores. One week he will be responsible for 100% of the dishes while I am responsible for 100% of the laundry, and the next week we swap. Those are the big chores that we both hate that we are always behind on, and arranging it like this means that they are done way more frequently and there are no excuses. No asking, reminding, or nagging him to do the dishes because this week it is HIS chore. 

See if you can make him take full responsibility for at least a couple of chores, so that you are relieved of the psychological burden of dealing with them. 

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#13 of 21 Old 10-15-2013, 07:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Oread- good food for thought- I think that's one thing our working husbands/partners don't process sometimes after being ing in a long term relationship. if they were a single parent, they would STILL work but have no help with their child, housework, laundry, cooking, bill management, appointments, etc. With my ex many years ago (that was not a pleasant experience), What was expected of me was immense- Right now if something doesn't get done DH doesn't react, is understanding, or at the most slightly irritated but rarely. My ex however would rage about the counters not being clean enough (if he could see smudges on the granite), the lint trap in the dryer not being emptied, every little detail. EVERY DAY. Things like if he found a dead bug in the cupboard, he would pull every single thing out of the cupboards while raging at me then expect me to clean them all and put the stuff back. (Ha, so DH is a saint in comparison- he really is. I love him. That's part of why bringing up any issues id hard because I always think, it's been much worse). Watching my ex since I lest was like getting to see your comment (about divorce) in action- its been years and my ex still can't keep on top of anything. He buys the kids fast food for almost every meal so he doesn't have to cook or clean (I had to cook every meal for him and it couldn't be something easy- it always had to be elaborate). My kids constantly come home in clothes that are too small or dirty because he never does laundry, they moved months ago but a ton of their stuff is still in boxes, at their last house he never mowed the lawn so when they moved out the grass was probably 3 feet tall! It just makes me think back on the unrealistic level of perfection he held me to and how he completely and utterly fails to hold himself to the same (as a single working/student parent I still managed to keep things up fairly well). 

 

Back to DH- Still hasn't helped other than paying a kid to mow AND weedwack- so the yard looks much better- but he still paid someone else to do it! Ah well. He's just been really nice to me lately- which helps. It just makes me wonder how all the stuff I said just cot set aside already :( He only really dealt with the non-housework parts- we've been talking about money, budgets, working on buying a house. He cut down on smartphone use around the kids. He's friendlier. Oh, and he has taking me out on a "date" dinner without the baby once a week for the last two weeks. I kind of feel like he decided to 'make me happy' by his own methods- You know, instead of doing dishes, getting up earlier to help with kids, or helping with other housework, he's working longer hours (more money), taking me out on dinner dates without a baby or kids, being sweet, and engaging more. Maybe he interpreted everything I said as me needing attention and recognition and a break. Hmm.

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#14 of 21 Old 10-15-2013, 10:04 AM
 
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I really like getting recognition... we were away at my parents cabin all weekend and it's not a baby-friendly place. I was ON all weekend with the baby, and my husband spent a ton of time with the big kids, taking them for quad rides and stuff like that. When we got back he made a point of thanking me for all the work I did to make the weekend happen. Throughout the weekend there wree other little thank-yous, like thanks for getting him the kind of beer he likes, thanks for making lasagne, etc. That is a big deal to me, for him to acknowledge that I did a lot of work.

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#15 of 21 Old 10-15-2013, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Mummoth- totally! Recognition IS huge- i think sometimes the working parent sees themselves as supporting everyone, and as a SAHM I try to constantly be thankful and give recognition of their DH's hard work. Our last trip 9this fall, all the kids) I made a point to enlist his help way more- this summer we went on vacation with just the baby to visit my sister- It started to bother me that I was by default expected to get up with the baby every morning (a big time difference so the baby would get up WAY early), and DH drank and stayed up late every night, having a good time. i tried to do the same to an extent but I always knew I'd have to get up- I would just think that maybe ONE night out of all those night's he'd think perhaps to give me a break and then get up with the baby instead, but no :) that's one of those instances I learned from and now Ask directly for help/ what i want!

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#16 of 21 Old 10-15-2013, 11:28 AM
 
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One thing neither of us thought of until we were on the way home was, we should have had my mom and the big kids watch the baby and he could have taken ME for a quad ride! He was like "You would do that?!" I am afraid of everything, but he would go slow for me, he wouldn't want his eyes clawed out. And I know some trails, so I could of shown him where to go. Oh well, next time!


~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#17 of 21 Old 10-15-2013, 03:52 PM
 
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Recognition is nice indeed. I mostly stopped cooking when DH commented that he made all of the meals just because he provided the money for food... yeah, if that's the way his mind works we can just eat out more and I'll enjoy the meal he "made" for me! :rotflmao

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#18 of 21 Old 10-17-2013, 02:43 PM
 
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Recognition is probably the biggest motivator. I know I try and give it to DH as much as possible. I know he gives it back when he can, I think my issue sometimes is not hearing the recognition or accepting it well

I would be livid and would stop making dinner as well @mamapigeon if my DH said that. I'm lucky that mine usually thanks me for dinner even if it was take out bought with "his" (OUR) money wink1.gif

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#19 of 21 Old 10-18-2013, 07:27 AM
 
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It's a no-brainer to me, but I'm totally surprised by how many husbands (of my aquaintances) don't get this. If you work from 9-5, those eight hours are hours where you need someone to look after your children. It could be a daycare, who you pay, or your wife, who you don't pay because your finances are pooled and shared. When you get home from work, and both parents are at home, housework and childcare switches immediately to being a shared responsibility.

 

My husband and I freelance, so it's easier to see this since our hours are irregular. We try to arrange some meetings or gigs so one is working while the other watches our kid. When we're both working, we have to get someone else. When neither of us is, we're both at home and watching the kids becomes both of our job.

 

Not that I don't feel your pain. I make every meal every day. My husband doesn't mean to slack off, but he doesn't cook, usually doesn't think to eat or feed the baby on his own, and really doesn't really get how much work meal planning and prep is.

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#20 of 21 Old 10-19-2013, 06:11 PM
 
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I would give up having big discussions with him and be very specific in my requests. For example, if you want him to help out cleaning the table, and he does it just for himself, I would tell him: "Thanks, dh. Would you mind cleaning the whole table while I do the dishes?" or: "Can you help the kids wash their hands while I clean the table? Thanks!"

If you need help in the morning, I would tell him: "Dh, I'll let you sleep in until 9, so you can get some rest, but at 9 we'll have breakfast / I want to take a shower / I want you to take the kids to the park, so I'll wake you up because I need your help."

My dh is a HUGE help (I don't think I could do all this parenting stuff without him), but I think sometimes men are clueless. My 4 y/o can yell: "Mom - mom - mom I want some water mom - mom -mom" for 5 minutes and he can't hear her although he sits at the same table as us, but when I ask him specifically, he helps out no problem.

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#21 of 21 Old 10-21-2013, 02:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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MichelleZB- exactly! I used to work in childcare- for the better part of 10 years- maybe that's why I have a hard time transitioning to doing essentially the same sort of work but not getting paid/recognition/help/a break as I would working with kids! I am offsetting our costs of living by staying home- so that instead of paying for all day childcare for a toddler and 3 kid's worth of school plus, I stay home and manage everything, We may be saving money, who knows! 

 

Nightwish- I did recently realize the need to be direct. It's been helpful. I never considered myself a "nag", to a fault, so I'm trying to tell myself being direct is healthy and normal, not overbearing lol.

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