The Specifics

So I was formulating a response to one of the comments yesterday, and I realized I had too much to say in that space. The reality is there is no one reason that our relationship has ended up in this place, but instead there are multiple mitigating factors that have resulted in our specific, and historically gender divided, dynamic. I want to write about them today, with the hope that those who have achieved what I have not, might have more specific advice for ways we can move forward, given our specific circumstances.

Transportation. We have one car, and I take it to work. That means that if something has to happen in the middle of the day, I can do it a lot more quickly and easily than my husband can, even though I work a lot farther away. It took me 30 minutes to drive up and pick up my daughter for vision therapy on Tuesday, but it would’ve taken longer for my husband to take a train and two buses to get to her. And then he would’ve had to walk a mile to the appointment, and then get a bus back home. It’s just a lot easier for the one with the car to run these kinds of errands, and I always have the car. This makes it really hard for my husband to take the kids to things during the weekdays.

Jobs. My job has a schedule that makes it easier for me to pick up the kids, because I am technically allowed to leave work much earlier than my husband. The reality is is that I would rather pick up my kids at 4 or 4:30, and have them spend less time in aftercare, then have my husband pick them up at six. It doesn’t really make sense to me to make their lives harder, and saddle them with longer days, just to make our marriage more equal.

Also, my husband takes our son to day care a little later, so that our 2-year-old won’t have such a long day there, which means he gets to work later, which means he needs to leave later.

Another complicating factor is that we both work in the public sector, which means that taking time is especially difficult for both of us. While it is easier for my husband to leave work, in that he doesn’t have to arrange coverage and make sub plans, he does have to request those hours days or even a week in advance. So something as simple as taking our daughter to vision therapy requires a week of planning. And then of course he has to get her and arrive at the appointment without a car, which means he would have to ask for a lot of time off.

Dispositions. Another thing driving our particular dynamic is that my husband is an introvert who would much rather stay at home, while I am at extrovert who would much rather go out and do something or see someone. The idea of taking our daughter to a birthday party is painful to him, while I kind of enjoy chatting with other parents. This would be the case whether our children were involved or not. My husband hates small talk at parties, especially when he doesn’t know the people he is talking with, whereas I don’t mind it, and sometimes even enjoy it. And my husband would always rather stay home with the kids and play with them in that space, while I would always choose to take them somewhere because I feel the hours move faster when I’m out.

Also, my husband is just really bad at getting things done. He admits this. He frequently talks of his proclivity to sit on the couch and wait for someone else to fix his problems, while it is my proclivity to research and fix them myself. He has shown this through his own inability to manage self-care and his failure to do other things that are important to him. He didn’t get his teeth cleaned for eight years. By the time he went in he had to get them cleaned in quadrants, and each quadrant had to be done twice. He has quite literally never seen a doctor since we have been together, with the exception of his vasectomy (which I had to initiate even though he wanted to do it more than I wanted him to, by speaking with my gynecologist about it.) If he cannot do things for himself, even when he believes they are important, it is hard to think he will be able to do them for our family. And while I understand that I can give him more responsibilities, and let him learn from his mistakes, I’ve watched him not learn from mistakes that only affect him enough times to be wary of that course of action. Let’s just say that I truly believe that if I didn’t file our taxes, they wouldn’t get filed (or would be filed with expensive errors).

{I am so much better at getting things done that the one area we have avoided gender norms is in home maintenance–I am the one who does all the repairs in our family. My father-in-law has given me power tools on a number of occasions, but has never given his son anything of the sort. I am always the one to build furniture, fix something that is broken, install or hang things. If it needs to get done around the house, I am the one to do it.}

And while I do know that not all marriages look like this, I stand by my belief that women are raised to think and behave in certain ways, and men are raised to do think and behave in others, and those thought patterns help reinforce historical gender norms. It is true that some couples have completely turned these gender norms on their head, but the fact is we hear about these couples because they are the exception not the rule. Even in a situation where a mom does more because she works from home a couple of days a week, gender norms are at play: Women have traditionally sought out more flexible hours and schedules to accommodate their families, because gender norms dictate that they should be the parent to do that. Whereas most men have not felt compelled to ask for that time and space to raise their kid because it hasn’t been expected of them. Heck, I have a schedule that better accommodates my family because I’m a teacher–historically a woman-dominated field–so I am positioned by gender norms to do more simply by the job I chose. I’m not saying that every couple let’s gender norms dictate the division of labor in their marriage, but I think it does end up having some effect.

{Seriously, read this and then tell me what you think about the messages women receive in our culture today.}

Having said that, it is defeatist to hide behind gender norms and use them as an excuse not to make changes in my own relationship. Which is why I am publishing this post, and asking for those who have managed to avoid the gender norms trap, to help me make pragmatic changes in my own relationship.

I know I play a part in this dynamic myself. The reality is, the only marriage I have intimate knowledge of, the one I grew up in, played out in exactly the ways mine is now. My husband has a similar relationship as a model, as well as a mom who continues to enable his “I’ll just sit around until someone fixes it for me” mentality. And while I see other couples doing it differently, I don’t know how to emulate what they are doing.

I use the word “never” when I write post like yesterday’s, because my husband and I have been together for 10 years, and this has been a continuing issue. I still remember, quite bitterly, our first foray into couples therapy, where we took painstaking efforts to more equally divide labor. This was before we had kids. And every week we would we would return to our $200/hour therapist, and nothing would have changed, and she would tell me that I just needed to keep trying. And I got so frustrated that nothing changed and she kept saying the same things and it kept having the same effect (none) and we finally just stopped going because it was getting us nowhere. My point is that we have a long and storied history of me wanting hime to do more and him not doing more.

Having said that, I will concede that when I look back, I see that we are moving in the right direction, it’s just that we move at a glacial pace. I do want to keep trying, because I do believe we can change, but sometimes it feels like I am swimming against a strong, swift current, and it’s exhausting to be providing all the forward movement only to make such meager gains. It’s so much easier to be swept away with the current, and just do what I need to do to get shit done.

So that is a REALLY long post (sorry!) better explaining our specific circumstances. If you have any suggestions for how I can help us divide things more equally, I’m all ears.

38 Comments

  1. “when I look back, I see that we are moving in the right direction, it’s just that we move at a glacial pace.”
    – same for us!! When I look back at the man I met 14 years ago, he’s come such a long way. But I feel like the starting place was less than ideal.

    I’ve also come to see that often, K doesn’t do things because he honestly doesn’t care whether they get done. Like the doctor’s appointments or the teeth cleaning. He once told me that if it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t set mouse traps and would just live with mice! So I try not to take so much of the inequality as a sign that he thinks it’s okay for me to do everything. It’s still tiring, though, whatever’s behind it.

    1. “I’ve also come to see that often, K doesn’t do things because he honestly doesn’t care whether they get done.” <-- Yes. This is a big factor with my husband too, I think. And then I figure, well if he doesn't care, and I do, then I should do it, because if it were reversed and he cared, and I didn't, I would expect him to do it. So....

  2. I agree with Deborah- I feel like R has come so far (specifically in the 5 years we’ve become parents- after G was born there was a long period where I absolutely hated him and our marriage) but it’s been a painfully slow, frustrating process. He accuses me all the time of nagging him, but when I don’t, the stuff doesn’t get done- I have to specifically ask him every single time to clean the counters after he loads the dishwasher- I just don’t get why it can’t just be part of the task. I have no advice but definitely empathize with your frustration.

    1. Isn’t it frustrating when they don’t do these things and then we’re called nags!? Drives me crazy. One of our problems (my problem, actually) is that I’m HORRIBLE at talking about this stuff, which is why so much of it hasn’t been solved. I’m going to write more tomorrow about the part I play in all of this.

  3. Well, I dunno. I certainly agree that gender, society, and upbringing play a major role here. But some of this is just your husband’s behavior. It seems like a lot of the problem is that your husband is lazy, passive, whiny, and a poor project manager. (There’s just no way to talk about this without sounding really mean and harsh, I guess… sorry). Those traits may be social norms for the men in his family or culture of origin, but in general I’ve always thought the traditional male gender role prizes stoicism and hard work, not whininess and passivity. Even in marriages where the allocation of specific tasks is heavily gendered and the people’s views on gender are old-fashioned and essentialist, the men often get a lot done on their “side”– working long hours for pay, car and home/yard maintenance, various community things like coaching sports, church obligations, financial planning, etc. Having a gendered division of labor is different from having the woman work harder than the man. Your logistical reasons make sense, but why can’t he do something else of value in the time you’re spending on those things?

    The problem with talking about gender and society is, as you acknowledge, other men have managed to overcome this, so why not your DH? It seems like there are two reasons.

    1) Maybe because he doesn’t want to, as simple as that. Therapy only works if the person wants to change. Like, maybe having a messy house works for him because he never has to clean and he likes that you can’t have people over. I see you trying to feel more positively about it with the whole “he’s doing his best” thing, but I think the bottom line is that he likes things the way they are and your profound dissatisfaction, exhaustion, and distress is not a big enough problem to motivate him to change. And I really don’t know what to say about that, other than that I’m very sorry you’re in this situation.

    2) Seems like your managerial ability is far superior to his, as well as your overall stamina. I still have no answer here other than that he should suck it up and make an effort, at least. Being an introvert (and I am one) is not an excuse for laziness. It’s a reason to stay home alone and clean the kitchen very quietly. I also have to ask, could it be that he has SPD? The teeth thing is extreme. Or is he depressed?

    My own marriage is pretty great on this stuff. In some ways we are gendered (he does the car and I do laundry), in other ways we’re not (he does all the cooking and deals with daycare stuff, I do the yard). But I’m fine with it because we are both working hard, working as a team, and the mental load is relatively evenly divided. I’m the introvert, and if anything, I’m the person with lower stamina recently, although we’ll see how it ends up being when I’m done with pregnancies and nursing– I definitely need more sleep and more down time, and sometimes I feel bad about that because it cuts into fun things or tasks he wants to do. But it has to be someone and I think overall I pull my weight, all things considered.

    As for how I got into this sort of marriage, I did it by taking a hard line from the very first date or even before. I was willing to overlook some bachelor messiness, but if the fundamental life skills were not in place, I just wasn’t interested. I knew that operating a household with children requires certain practical and managerial abilities, and a man who couldn’t even manage a household of one adult was unappealing to me. When we first moved in together we had some fights about cleaning, and I gave absolutely no quarter. I was very explicit about my expectation that he would pull his weight and follow through on commitments WITHOUT being reminded, and any pseudo-explanations about his upbringing were pointedly ignored or outright mocked. (We all do things differently than our upbringing all the time, when we want to, right?) Any deviation from what I considered acceptable was called out and discussed almost immediately. The key point is that I was willing to break up over this stuff. After you’re married with kids, I don’t know what to do– that’s a totally different situation. Obviously your husband has many fine qualities or you wouldn’t have married him. None of this is your fault and I really don’t mean to be blaming you. I just don’t have any real answers. Hoping someone else does.

    1. You’re right that he doesn’t want to, and that I’m better at it and have more stamina. Those are all factors. You’re also right that I made part of my bed when I picked someone who I knew was like this before. I assumed he could step it up, but I was also so scared of ending up alone, I was very good at seeing past problems. Also, my husband is the only person I’ve ever been in a relationship with, so I have no context to judge our dynamic against. That complicates things as well. So yeah, I made this choice, and now I have to live with it. I think about that a lot.

      1. Well, sure you made the choice, but I don’t agree that you have to live with it forever and ever. People can change, a lot– if they want to. Maybe he will never be as good as you on these matters, but he can certainly improve over his current baseline. As you said, he has been improving a little, right? There has to be a way, I just don’t know what it is.

      2. I have/have had similar feelings about whether my fear of being alone is what caused me to be in my own, difficult marital situation It’s a very upsetting train of thought for me. I take comfort in knowing you sometimes feel this way too.

  4. I figured that you picked them up because you have a teacher’s schedule (and a car).

    At times I am like your husband in that I don’t get things done when I should. I’m a bit behind with the dentist (though not 8 years). But I do always get things done for my son. I wouldn’t be surprised if your husband would be more inclined to handle stuff with the kids than with himself, if you let him.

    I can also tolerate a lot of mess (except for in the kitchen).

    I think of all things you talked about in your post yesterday, the one that would enrage me the most is that he doesn’t check with you well in advance if he makes plans after work. I would just tell him that clearing plans is a family rule. And if the plans inconvenience you, tell him no. And let him pout.

    I would also start by asking him to do bedtime more. You mentioned he never does it. Why is that? Would he do it if you left the house?

    1. I think I misrepresented the after-work engagements aspect of things. My husband doesn’t just go to things after work all the time without talking to me more about it. It’s more like he just announces he is going to do something with the assumption that I’ll be around to take care of the kids. Sometimes he’ll stay later for something he didn’t know about previously, but that is the exception, not the rule. Mostly he just “loses track of the time” at work and comes home an hour later than I am expecting. That is the biggest infraction.

      1. Does he have poor time management skills generally, or is it just this? If time management is a global problem for him, no wonder he’s overwhelmed and not pulling his weight.

  5. Oh, I do think there is a gendered element. I’ve noticed that in many upper middle class families sons are treated almost like princes and are very much doted on so they don’t develop stoicism. e s

    Not sure if this applies to your husband.

    And I’m sure he works hard at work. If his mom didn’t work and his dad was the sole breadwinner, he may think that’s enough. But it isn’t enough. Because you work. And you need the money. This difference between his life growing up and today maybe hasn’t really clicked for him.

    1. I think there may be something here. I get that it can be very disappointing that our lives aren’t as easy we had naively hoped, or as our parents’ lives were (or as we perceive them to have been, anyway). It is a relentless grind raising and supporting children in a high cost of living area, I totally feel that way myself. Maybe he’s having trouble coping with that and rebelling against it. Still, I see no solution other than for him to suck it up and change his behavior.

    2. My husband’s mom worked when they were older, but not at a very demanding job. He was definitely the “favorite” child (my MIL has admitted this! Out loud!) and I think he was fairly coddled. He still is. Which can be nice for us, but can backfire a lot too.

  6. I really don’t have advice. I don’t think I “did” anything to get my husband to step up to the plate. He really does have a sense of duty for household chores that is at times stronger than mine, and stamina (as mentioned above) that is always more than mine (solely because I need more sleep). In terms of the mental load/organization stuff, though, I’ve tried and failed to change him for the better in this realm & am resigned to the fact that he doesn’t know how to make a list/keep a calendar/plan in advance and I need to take that on. In exchange, I’ve stopped feeling guilty that he does more of the “heavy lifting” like pick up/drop off, taking the kids to swim lessons.
    Changing mindsets/worldviews that are deeply ingrained are HARD. And he needs to WANT to change. Its clear that its in his best interest to keep things the status quo. Why would he want to do more? I think very slow steady change is all you can expect.
    And I get the logistical issues. Actually that is why my husband did/does all the daycare drop off/pick up—because its literally 2 blocks from his work, but 30-40 minutes away (by bus or subway) from mine.
    But a couple of things you mentioned seem unacceptable: 1) spontaneous plans after work. NO. He needs to check with you. 2) never bathed the kids? Seriously? That needs to change this weekend.
    Oh, and NO this is not in any way your fault. Not even one iota.

    1. The spontaneous plans after work was overblown. It’s more than he just comes home a lot later than he expected because he loses track of time. He does make plans after work but usually he tells me about them in advance. It think what bothers me is that he just announces he’s going to do something with the expectation that I will be at home with the kids, instead of asking if he can do something. That is what is frustrating. He just has a lot more things going on after work, even if he does tell me ahead of time.

      And the bath thing is ridiculous. For a long time he didn’t do it because it was HORRIBLE and my daughter was a screaming banshee the whole time and he just couldn’t manage it. Plus, she would be worse with him, because she wanted me to do it. Now it’s just out of habit. But I do need to make him step up on it. I really do.

      1. You have to announce you are doing something and assume he’s available to take care of the kids. I’ve started to do that. It’s really liberating. Obviously tell him in advance so he can plan for it, but don’t ask or apologize — just do it.

        1. I started this way, with the announcement a week or two in advance with a reminder email a week before and the day before. I planned them the days my spouse announced at 4pm that arrival would be an hour or two late because “somethings came up” and announced a day or two later. It set the expectation that non-work time could be and should be occasionally child-free for both of us (taking turns).

  7. Ok the car thing explains a lot logistically. But doesn’t explain your husband. And it seems that you and him are young enough (younger than me) that the whole “girls and boys are raised to be this way” thing can’t be blamed. I’m 47 and my DH is older than me and he isn’t like this. Yes he wasn’t coddled, like your DH was. In my family, both parents worked (as with my DH). My dad came from a country/culture/generation where men WERE waited on hand and foot by women etc. but my parents’ marriage wasn’t like that nor was I raised to think that was expected/ok/etc. so I’m kind of at a loss how someone born in the 80s(?) can blame it on their upbringing.

    As to advice, gah. I totally see where you are literally afraid to let hm be responsible and then fail bc that could f$ck up your lives. I agree with point 1 in z’s post above. I know it costs $ but maybe you could speak to a counselor on how to address this? Or maybe you have. But from my perspective only reading what is here it just seems really unfair to you and like he’s not trying at all. You say he’s an introvert and likes to stay home and woe is him yet he’s out at clubs or concerts or eating out enjoying himself while you struggle with two kids home alone after a long day. Something doesn’t compute.

    1. I honestly just think he’s really tired and overwhelmed and he doesn’t know how to push through that and just do what needs to get done. I do know how to push through and do what needs to be done. It’s kind of my forte. But it’s not his. So he just collapses on the couch, and I get shit done. I don’t think he does it maliciously, it just happens because he’s tired and can’t handle more, and then I step up and get what needs to get done done.

  8. A few more thoughts/practical things. 1) I deliberately chose the daycare near my husband and not me so he could do this. 2) similarly I choose activities, schedule appointments etc… that I want him to participate in based on HIS schedule. I tell him about it immediately and 3) I have to WATCH him put it into his calendar or he’ll forget & then schedule a meeting at that time and not be able to go. It happened recently and I was livid, but renewed my insistence in going over things in the evening when we are together and I can watch him enter it into his calendar. 4) I ask for my time off as soon as I can even imagine my needs. So I’ll mention on Wednesday that I need 2 hours on Saturday to go do xyz (and if its an actual event, I will put it in my google calendar and invite him & send him an email so there is a record and also put it on our kitchen calendar) of course he’ll forget, but I can say “well I told you on Wednesday” and bam! there’s the email sorry honey your thing will have to wait until tomorrow. And then I’ll happily give him time on Sunday!
    I know these things sound “manipulative” when I write them out, but these are my work arounds to his inability to remember any damn thing or even look at a calendar

    1. I don’t think it’s the slightest bit manipulative. It’s realistic and transparent. We use a similar system. If I need time to, say, do our taxes, I block out the time on our joint calendar with an explicit statement that he is responsible for childcare. I do get frustrated at times and remind him to look at the calendar and enter his stuff (“It only works if you look at it!”, I say over and over) but overall it’s pretty good and it makes life easier for both of us to have a visual aid. I insist that we review it on Sunday nights and at least one night a week. I am ruthless about holding him to it. Sorry, it was on the calendar so you should have known.

      I do think in a lot of these situations, part of the problem is that the to-do list, calendar, and various notes are hosted in the woman’s head. The burden of remembering all of that is considerable, and the man doesn’t have at-will access to the information or the ability to edit, so it’s hard for him to understand what’s going on. Getting it all out onto a shared document is really helpful. It communicates the information, cuts down on miscommunication and excuse-making, and gives everyone a realistic picture of family time commitments and things that need to get done. I color-code tasks and events to show mine, his, or joint responsibility.

      1. We both downloaded the free app Cozi and use it to schedule in everything- dr appts, classes, Bunco nights, work travel, etc. It’s a great way for both of us to see what is going on (otherwise I was solely in charge of the calendar).

    2. Definitely not manipulative. I tell him about plans ahead of time and I try to take into account his needs. For example, there was a period where he was working most weekends so I checked with him about when would be the best time for me to meet up with a friend given his work schedule. My husband is also a bit of an introvert so I try not to schedule social plans without asking him first.

      Often, when I go out with my son and leave him home, I’ll tell him a bunch of stuff I want him to do and he usually does some of them. But I have to ask him.

      You mentioned that your husband does a fair amount of the shopping — maybe you can capitalize on his willingness to buy things and have him do more errands? There are always some chores that one partner hates less than the other and it’s okay to divide it on those lines.

    3. My husband REALLY hates taking the kids places. I don’t know how I’m going to make him hate that less. Or maybe it doesn’t matter that he hates it? I guess that is the point.

      We just put up a calendar in the kitchen and that has been helping things a lot. Now I can see all the things he has to do after work and it’s not a surprise when he reminds me of something he told me about a week ago that I forgot about in the interim.

      1. What kind of places are you expecting him to take them? We often choose shopping but it’s heinous. Maybe he could take them to a park or on a long ride in the car, something that requires little policing/work once you arrive (or none if it’s just a long car ride – house safari or light display search could make it a game) so you’d have some time either out of the house having fun or at home doing at home things that need doing.

  9. I’ve been thinking about your post (and comments). While I do think plenty of men can and do a bigger share of their household/childcare duties than your DH, it’s a bit naive to think that culture doesn’t still play a HUGE part in the uneven balance. Most women are reminded daily about household/childcare matters via conversation with co-workers, magazines, websites, social media, etc.. Whereas men just are not surrounded by tips for organizing, gift giving ideas, childcare tips, recipes etc.. Most men at my work talk about sports, news and yes, their kids, too. They seem pretty involved but it’s still VERY different from the constant chatter about kids, logistics, event planning and mental load that women at work take on.

    1. Who is disputing that culture plays a role? The question is why some DHs are doing so much better despite culture, and what to do about it.

      1. People have said today and yesterday that given when and where he grew up, gender norms shouldn’t make a difference.

    2. It’s exactly these kinds of things I’m talking about. I sit with a friend who is a mom and we talk about this stuff. I’m pretty sure my husband never does, even when he is with friends who have kids. It really is different for them (or at least most of them).

  10. A lot of good thought in these comments, a lot of stuff I agree with.

    I still feel that blaming gender roles and society is letting your husband off way too easy, because this is still, between the two of you, essentially about personal responsibility, work ethic, sucking it up, working as a team, whatever. If he *really* doesn’t feel that any of these affect him or should be taken seriously by him because of what he thinks gender roles should be, I’d say he was an abject sexist. But I’m not at all sure that’s the case, it sounds like he uses those roles to his advantage (as we all likely do at times) but is just personally lacking certain motivations, drives, and characteristics. And I agree with the poster who said I got where I am in my marriage because I wouldn’t date or accept someone who I felt would ever leave me hanging or not treat me equally, or at least attempt to. Once you are beyond the dating stage that doesn’t really help you at all!

    I am the primary breadwinner, which probably makes our roles easier to reverse (which they in many ways are), but I was thinking about logistics and specifics and there has always got to be a way around that. For example, my dad was also a teacher, which is probably a large part of the reason why he learned early and kept it up that he needed to pull his weight with childcare and home-work, because he simply was able to be there in the summers, and got off earlier than my mom. But at the same time he was a football coach, so during football season he worked WAY longer hours, weekends, etc., and my mom had to step up more than usual during that season. Because it was so much harder for him to miss class, she was the one who often called in sick to stay with us, unless she absolutely couldn’t (and she was a public employee too, so I don’t quite understand why he would need a week in advance to take a sick day or whatever). It all evened out. In my marriage, my husband works many fewer hours than me, but when he does teach his classes (he is an adjunct professor), like you they are nearly impossible for him to miss. So if coverage is needed during those times, I know that despite me having the more demanding job, we each have flexibility in different ways and I need to step up to cover the ways he isn’t flexible.

    You gave us some specifics but not enough for me to think of truly workable solutions, because obviously we can’t know everything. But here are some thoughts I had:
    1) I agree with everyone here that plans must be cleared with you, that shows so much disrespect and I really don’t think either of you should think of that as no big deal. Not to say you would never say, ok, no problem, have fun tonight!
    2) Could he ever take the car and the kids? Can he never take a sick day or short or no planning? I work in the private sector where everything is pressurized, needed to be done yesterday, and I have to keep clients happy. We deal with a wide array of public agencies and I’m sorry, they are not nearly so pressurized, though they may have heavy workloads. They aren’t paid to be as pressurized! They also have very well-protected employment rights, etc.
    3) If he can’t do other things, what could he possibly do? There must be something. Baths? Laundry? Majority of cooking and kitchen cleaning? I am an introvert and find it a very tiring, chore-like thing to do on a weekend, but I do make myself take my daughter to some of the birthday parties, it can be done. There obviously have to be things that logistics are NOT preventing him from doing. But I have no real idea how you instill in him the desire to care that he act like an adult who is a valuable member of the team does and pull his weight in some way.
    4. It’s admirable that you do want to do some of these things, even though it puts extra work on you, so that your kids will not be at after care as long, etc. For THEM. I get that. But they also need a mother who doesn’t feel exhausted and hopeless, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for them to stay until 6 every now and then, and it might be worth considering giving yourself permission to relax your standards every now and then.

    I think I sound way harsh here and I feel bad for that. I am sure there is stuff he does that we are not thinking of or focusing on. I feel very bad for you, as well. I don’t have the feeling that me and my husband will ever break up, though I know life has major surprises and nothing is certain. But when I think of trying to parent and live life without his help, I honestly don’t know how I could possibly do it. That’s how much he contributes and I rely on him. That’s how much of a team we are.

    I also think that you should be thinking about the modeling of behavior in your house and how this is likely to affect both your daughter and son, and how they develop their own understanding of what gender roles are supposed to be. Upbringing is far from being unbreakable fate or pre-destiny, but we all seem to be acknowledging here that it can have an effect.

    1. Wow. I’m commenting a lot today.

      My memory was that her husband did stay home at least one day when her son (or was it daughter?) was sick for several days. Maybe your husband can drive your daughter to the weekend vision therapy appointments? I don’t think it makes sense for your husband to do it without a car (is there a way for you to get to work without a car?)

      I would also consider maybe letting your children stay later in aftercare one day a week and have your husband pick them up so that you can catch up on work/life stuff.

    2. 1) I think I misrepresented what is happening after work. He almost always does tell me about something ahead of time, but it’s more that he tells me with an expectation that I’ll be around, and then if there is a conflict the assumption is that I’ll figure it out. The most frequent surprise thing that happens after work is that he just comes home later than I expect he will because he loses track of time or just needs to work late. I basically don’t expect him until 7ish now, and if he’s home early it’s a plus. Also he takes public transport so sometimes he’s late because of a delayed train.
      2) He can totally take sick days, it’s actually harder for him to take time during a work day than to just take a day at the last minute. Unless he has a meeting that required a lot of planning or has already been rescheduled a lot, he will totally take a sick day. He’s good about that. This is probably because it requires he stay home, which he feels comfortable doing. Going to appointments is out of his comfort zone. (And I can’t really get to work without a car because I drop my daughter off first and the window of time to get to work after is VERY short, there is no way I could get there on public transport in that time, and no one from work is going then to carpool with because I have a special schedule that lets me do it).
      3) I think taking over bath times some days would be really helpful. As a first step, I’ll work on that.

  11. I am late to this discussion and read several prior posts all in one gulp. So:
    1. I got divorced. For different reasons. Then it absolutely was all on me to do it all… and my life was hugely improved as a result. Divorce was right for my situation, but I would not recommend it for ‘not sharing equally in home/child tasks’ ~ it would be cutting off one’s nose to spite your face.
    2. For the ‘Woe is me” I suggest the response of “OH yes, that is exactly how I feel too.” reaction and then ignore the rest of the ‘Woes’. That usually generates surprise on the other person’s side because they think they are the only person to have those feelings and they need the reality check. As adults and cohabiting adults we all get to do things we would prefer to not do. That is definitional to adulthood even if it is not fun.
    3. You have one car for financial reasons, so using taxis etc in place of a second car is not an option now but beginning to track the $ implications will help against the time when other options can, and do need to be, considered makes sense. And openly and routinely mentioning your tasks/time and labor demands needs to become ok and normalized. We all acknowledge job and income disparities, our labor disparities need equivalent acknowledgement.
    4. Same gendered parental units clearly demonstrates our gender roles assumptions are not really based on biology but cultural assumptions and power allocations. Men had more power and earning ability (therefore money) so they could avoid more ‘menial’ time intensive manual labor. Changing this however requires both people buy into this decision. I’d consider asking him to talk about what he would do if you were injured or otherwise incapacitated. (And vice versa. You both work in public spaces and clearly the evidence is in by now that public spaces are being invaded by violence and this nation is not yet prepared to makes public spaces safer.)
    5. Shared calendars as mentioned by others makes sense. And improves planning. Recently a parent I know realized they needed to not only write down the days school would be closed but also a week ahead include a notation to make alternate child care arrangements for that closed school day… and which parent had to do the task or take time off work.
    6. He could set an alarm on his clock/phone to remind him when he has 15 minutes left before he needs to leave work. OR to set up what he needs to finish at home after he helps with family food/cleanup/bedtime stuff. However, this assumes it is possible and legal for him to work from his home computer/office…like you do in grading papers.
    7. Glacially slow incrementally tiny steps are still steps. Change is hard and nasty and backsliding is normal. REALLY celebrating each step forward is important. Explicit verbal acknowledgment and appreciation helps reinforce change… for us as women as well as for men. Self praise is good and important and not boasting which we women are taught is shameful to do.
    Cheers for you and appreciation for your openly stating how hard this all is. We are less alone because of you. Thank you.

    1. Amen. I echo these comments. Some days I want to boot my spouse out (probably just for a weekend so I could clean) for the inability to complete a basic task, others I accept that we are now at 80% of completion more days than not so it isn’t so bad after all. I think the “go home” timer might be worthwhile or a “call because if not leaving now, you will be late” timer anyway. We have one car and we talk daily about what time everyone needs to be where so the car goes the right places and we will discuss the cost of only one car in May to see if we need another (and we have monetary, begging favors, and time cost columns on that discussion template… we have a lot of structured discussions actually).

  12. If I’m being honest, your husband sounds a lot like McRuger before he was diagnosed (and medicated) for ADD. He couldn’t keep track of time/appts/chores…and felt constantly overwhelmed with the smallest change in our “routine”. But, in going through this journey with him, I’ve learned a few things which might help you improve things. Forgive me if it’s redundant or something you’ve already tried….

    1) Give your husband concrete tasks to finish. Don’t say “clean the kitchen”, because that means something different to everyone. Tell him to do the dishes and wipe down the counters. Describe what every task is and ask him if he has questions or thinks he can’t handle that. If it helps, create a family chore chart (we have one). That way the whole family is held accountable for a few basic, yet essential, tasks. My husband does the following every day: washes and puts away bottles, puts Cadet to bed, takes Pumpkin’s late feed. On a weekly basis he: takes out the trash, breaks down recycling, and helps with grocery shopping and putting away laundry. Anything that I need which is above and beyond that list is up to him (but he usually does it without batting an eye).

    2) if he’s feeling overwhelmed, you should talk to him about it (you may already have done so). Is it a daily feeling? Weekly? What sort of things overwhelm him? What are the consequences for him feeling that way: does he feel paralyzed or tired?

    3) Get him in to see a doctor…ASAP. Get him a physical and a total blood screen. Go with him to the appointment and let the doctor know about your concerns. Seriously. A lot of what you’re describing sounds like mental/hormonal issues. He shouldn’t be f*cking about with his health when he has a family. McRuger was the same way when I met him, now he has a regular doctor and is doing so much better.

    4) my husband is an extreme introvert and I’m an extrovert. It causes issues, and it always will. However, our system is that at least once a month he take the kids to the park or some function, so I can get a break. Slowly, over time, he’s gotten a little better at it…not great, but a bit better.

    6) Explain to him that you need a partner, and right now…you don’t feel you have one. Have him come up with solutions…give him a time frame for when you’ll take about solutions.

    7) Ask him about how you can better communicate your needs to him. Seriously! I thought McRuger was crazy when he told me that I needed to talk to him more about my needs…turns out, he needed more from me.

    Marriage isn’t easy, we all know that. And movement, any movement, is a valid reason to celebrate! Let me give you an example… McRuger hasn’t purchased much jewelry for me over the years, he says he feels too much pressure for it to be “perfect”. And that’s okay, because I’m not a huge jewelry person. I joke that while I make not have jewelry…I’ll always have the latest technology. However, I’ve been wanting a ring for my right hand for a while (long story…). I told him about it months ago, we looked around on Etsy…nothing seemed right. I expressed a few times that I really wanted something by Christmas. I was starting to think he forgot,….Then today, out of the blue, he takes me to my favorite jewelry store…under the premise to get my finger sized…and then let me pick out my dream ring (within our budget, of course). He was listening, but he needed a concrete timetable and a way to do it, so he didn’t feel pressured. This would never have happened 4 years ago…. So progress! Yay!

    1. Thank you for this comment, Rain! So much of what Noemi wrote, I could’ve written myself, and I’m coming to see that it’s not assholery but some kind of executive functioning issue or maybe ADD. Clearly my husband’s mind is just not working the way mine is (and I’d say, not in a functional way at all. Like last night he tried to find a place to put DVDs and ended up rearranging everything else BUT the DVDs.). It’s encouraging to hear that McRuger has gotten help and improved in this area.

  13. I haven’t been able to closely read all the comments and I think perhaps you even dealt with this in a response I saw, but I just wanted to say… Stop expecting him home at a certain hour. I know that’s not really fair to you, you’re not a single parent, etc., but in my experience it helps IMMENSELY with the stress/anger/disappointment. I used to watch the clock, wondering how “late” my husband would be that day, I’d call him around 6:10pm and ask when he’d be leaving the office (technically he works 9-6, but he’s an executive so honestly that schedule is kind of laughable). Then one day I decided to just change my expectation. I now expect to handle dinner and baths by myself. I hope but don’t expect that my husband is home in time to help with bath. I do expect him to be home by bedtime for the little guy (8pm, this is Spain after all) as he always sings him the songs and puts him into bed while I handle our daughter. Most days I end up pleasantly surprised by how “early” he gets home, instead of mad about how “late” he is. And it’s all just a change in expectation and he’s probably getting home around the same time.

    I know that this advice is sort of shitty in that it comes back to you needing to change instead of him (a huge thing I had to come to terms with as well), but in the end if the goal is to feel content with the situation, this might at least help in that regard.

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