Dear Carolyn: Any tips for when your spouse reasonably informs you he is afraid you’re spending all your emotional and organization energy on the kids?
My husband just told me this. And it’s true I often feel “touched out” by the end of the day and most of my mental capacity is spent in juggling job/kids/household organization.
The only solutions I can come up with are regular date nights, which we can’t afford but should in the future, and asking him to do more, which usually results in me spending more mental energy in organizing tasks he can/should do.
Too Much of a Mom
Really? He can’t see dirty dishes and wash them?
The only solution I can come up with is to have none of this.
If he wants more of a buddy, then you need more of a co-adult. You don’t have to say it with the level of exasperation I just did (and you probably shouldn’t: discuss), but holy crusty rug Cheerios. Your defaulting to the role of family manager and his defaulting to being managed serves neither of you individually nor does it serve your marriage, nor does it help your kids much, since they’re being default-taught the very household roles that are making their parents unhappy.
So while the idea of your husband complaining about how deprived he is under a system where someone else does most of the work for him is a siren’s song from my keyboard to my forehead, I’m going to columnist up and say, you know what, it’s a really good thing he spoke up. Because the way your household (dys)functions now, it needed a whistleblower, and he’ll do.
Tell him he’s right. You are spending all your emotional and organizational energy on the kids. And he’s right that your marriage needs more attention than it’s getting.
Then suggest the best way out of this rut for both of you is to split the family responsibilities more equitably, so you have more energy for him and he has less to spend worrying about what he isn’t getting. OK that last part is a joke. Ish.
Say you’ve been wrong to appoint yourself to the role of chief organizer and nurturer, because you were. “You’re a capable person – I could and should have treated you as one since the beginning.”
Yes? Most of us could use a hard look at roles assumed, assigned, seized in a vacuum and harrumphed through, since those lines can get pretty blurred.
Plus, you’re not just giving him chores, because he’s not an employee. You’re inviting him to join you in replacing unhealthy defaults with a conscious, pragmatic plan for shared ownership of your household, child care, and each other’s well-being. He may well think you’re overdoing some of what you do for the family, and wish you’d punt on (whatever chore) and just go for a walk with him, but fear being eye-rolled if he ever said this out loud.
You both decide how you live, you both decide and do your shares. And you both support this system by not corner-cutting and not martyring yourself on the other’s share the instant it goes undone. Changing a pattern takes time and trust.
And, date nights. Swap babysitting with friends if you must.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.