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He doesn't help

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 2, 2013 08:32 AM

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Q: My husband and I are recently married. While kids aren't happening yet (maybe within the next 2 years), I often wonder if they're even possible. I have no idea where life will take us when we do decide to have kids, but I'd like to feel confident about kids before going into it.

I know a lot of people have this issue, but my husband works a demanding job and commutes an hour each way to and from work. He leaves early in the morning and doesn't get home until 8 at night. On weekends, since he works so many hours during the week, he sits around and watches TV or plays video games all the time. Because of this, he rarely helps me out around the house, even small things like vacuuming and doing dishes. I have to ask him a million times to do something. For example, I wound up putting up all our Christmas lights because there was never a good time he felt like helping me out.

It makes me wonder: How much of a father will he be to our kids? Am I going to be out there seven months pregnant shoveling two feet of snow in the winter because he doesn't feel like getting up to help? Who's going to take the kid to day care, to school, to practice? He'll never be around to be a part of their lives, and I'm not sure I'm up to the task to essentially be a single mom. (I already take care of the dog by myself, and even that's taking a toll on me.)

I did briefly mention this to him once before, and he got very defensive about it. It almost sounded like "I work long hours and make three times your salary to support our lifestyle. Because you make less and work less hours, you have the time to do things like clean and take care of kids." He never came out and said that specifically, but that's the point he got across.

I will not ask him to quit his job or find a job closer to home. That feels selfish. He likes his job and it's a stable paycheck. He also has no intention of finding a new job to be closer to home, and unless we sell our house we can't move either. Is there a way to approach this situation without making him feel discriminated against or that I'm saying he'll be an awful father? Or do I just need to accept the fact he'll never be home to see our kids and help me out?

– Married mom-to-be, Woburn


A: I'm not concerned about your unborn kids at the moment, MMTB. I'm just thinking about your marriage.

Household division of labor is bound to be a bit lopsided if one person is home more than the other. That said, you shouldn't be doing everything. Perhaps it's worth spending some money on a professional cleaning service. Tell your husband that you don't want to fight about why he doesn't help more -- you just want a solution.

You also need to talk about the weekends. Spending a few hours on sports and video games is harmless, but an entire weekend in front of the TV? That seems pretty lonely. What did you guys do for quality time before you got married? What can you do to preserve your friendship so that you don't forget how to enjoy each other when you have time? What sounds fun?

It's probably not helpful to critique his fictional parenting skills, but it is worth having a conversation about how the relationship is working (or not working) right now. You don't want to be his roommate. You got married because you wanted a companion and partner.

Something tells me that if you come up with an easy solution to the cleaning issue and figure out how to enjoy your time together, you'll stop worrying about what will happen with kids. Don't focus on the hypothetical when there are real problems to deal with now.

Readers? Should he be helping out more? Would he sit around with video games if he had kids? How can she approach him about these problems without nagging? Help.


– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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