Women everywhere share a common complaint, that as soon as she gets married and has children, she is utterly overwhelmed with things to do and never has time for herself. It’s true that children take up most of our time, and life in general can be demanding, but if you’re married you expect your partner to help you through it. Instead, many women feel that a husband is just another child she has to take care of.
Does this sound familiar?
The real problem may not be that he does too little, but that you do too much.
Learn to say no
Women tend to want to please people, and are perpetually concerned with whether they are liked and come across as “nice”… to their parents, siblings, other moms at school, etc. There is nothing wrong with being kind and helping others out, but when it gets to a point you feel frazzled and overwhelmed, and angry with your husband for not picking up the slack or helping out more while you overextend yourself, then your desire to please others outside your home is hurting your marriage and your family.
I realized this one day while thinking those same “I do EVERYTHING around here” thoughts that run through the minds of so many women. My husband hasn’t changed. He doesn’t do less than he did when we first got married. He’s still the same man I fell in love with, and he actually does a lot more. In addition to regular chores and working every weekday to pay bills, he now helps me maintain a home, helps care for our children and sometimes puts them to sleep, and took on my social life, which filled up most of our free time (he’d probably rather stay home and watch tv).
Instead of appreciating what he did, I was jealous that he had no problem saying no to things he didn’t want to do. I mean, he helped out people all the time, volunteers, and is generous, but never because he’s worried about what people will think of him. He does it because his heart wants to, and he knows he is able to, and never with any other motive. Secretly, I wished I was more like him.
Why does it feel like he does so little?
Probably because after we got married and had children, I took on a lot more work. I didn’t have clarity about what was important and prioritize. Family and friends and things that were first when I was single had to take a backseat to the needs of my husband and children (but didn’t), so now I had a home and a family, plus all those people I was still catering to. My family deserves my best time and my best efforts…not my boss, or my mom, or a needy friend who wants to call at 1 am every night to vent.
When I am at work, I work, but I can’t stay late at work every time my boss takes on extra clients and asks me to help out as a favor. Parents are used to being the most important people to their children, even their adult children, but once we start our own families, a major shift happens that is often hard for them. Some don’t let go so easily, even interfering in the lives of their children after they marry (there is a reason the stereotype about the intrusive mother-in-law is still going strong). Some ask for things they shouldn’t be asking for, like too much of your time and attention, or even money. Those things belong to your family first, and you should never take time or resources from your family to give to others who can easily do for themselves.
Before you assume that your husband just isn’t pulling his weight, ask yourself if the problem really is that he isn’t helping out…or is it that you are taking on too much and unfairly expect him to take on too much also.
It’s a good idea to plan with your husband what your priorities together are, and depending on how much free time you have, decide where else you can put some of your time and efforts, based on their hierarchy outside your immediate family. Parents, friends, your boss, neighbors, etc, may be used to you being readily available and may strongly resist the change (and even blame your husband or cut you off because they can’t expect you to be free 24/7 anymore), and this is when things start aligning in your life in a new way. People who don’t really respect you disappear, people who love you navigate your new schedule and understand there is less of you available now, and those who have been taken advantage of you find other ways to fulfill their needs elsewhere.
Protect your family, and your time with them. Learn to say no a lot and don’t focus more on whether you come across as rude to others than whether you are giving your own family your best and protecting your sacred time and energy that is meant for them. And don’t agree to do things for others that require more of your husband unless he also agrees to it… show him the respect of asking him whether it’s something he wants you both to dedicate your time and efforts to. And if he doesn’t, well… just enjoy your family time together instead, because it sounds like he wants to.
When you really do all the work
There is the other time when you think you are doing all the work…and you’re right. If over time you took on things that were your husband’s responsibility- to please him, make his life easier, let him relax more, etc (ie mother him)- then you created an unhealthy balance in your marriage. You became a doormat who basically said his comfort and happiness are more important, and no one appreciates a doormat/martyr type…so stop it!
He’s a man, he can handle what is his to do. Show him the respect of believing in his ability to handle his own work like a man, and hand back to him what is his, and give your best to what is yours. Your family deserves a focused, calm, and happy wife and mother, so give them what they deserve.
And when it comes to your kids? Teach them to help out. Give them chores, let them clean their own rooms, and teach them to cook and do laundry from a relatively young age. It gives them confidence and a good work ethic when they are part of helping a home to run smoothly (and start young, because they think it’s fun at that age). A family works together like a team (and mom deserves a break too… and often).