I thought we were equal partners, but my husband sees caring for our kids as babysitting. It’s starting to affect our relationship.

Hi Evie. I’m writing to you because I’m completely frustrated by my husband’s behavior. Before having kids, we were both very hands-on around the house (we both work too) and it never felt like I was unfairly tasked with more things than him. But since our daughter (3) and son (1) were born, it feels like he’s checked out. I’m with the kids all the time, and if I ask him to watch them for an evening so I can do something for myself, he sees it as “babysitting”. Even though he’ll agree to do it if I moan enough, his whole attitude makes me wonder why he’s even in the picture if he’s not taking on the role of an active parent. I know deep down I love him, but honestly, his behavior right now makes me think life would be easier as a single mom instead of a parent to two children and a man-child! Help me before I reach rock bottom and make a decision I might regret in the future, please. – Mel, UK. 

Dear Mel, my thoughts (and those of every mom out there reading this) are with you! 

Your frustration is 100% justified, so let’s get that clear to begin with. Of course you’d feel this way – your husband isn’t a babysitter, he’s a parent, and the sooner he realizes that the better it’ll be for everyone. 

Although it would be unfair to paint all men with the same brush (there are some truly wonderful fathers out there), I’ve seen numerous situations like yours. The mom is expected to do it all – feeds, changes, laundry – while the dad swans in for the fun stuff. Quite often, this behavior comes from childhood, it may be that your husband’s parents had a similar set up and he’s mimicking what he saw growing up. 

But either way, it’s clearly not a sustainable situation to stay in. 

You need to sit down and set some very strong boundaries with your husband. Not only for your sake, but for his future relationship with his kids. Start by communicating how his attitude towards parenting makes you feel, and remember to use “I” statements to keep him from getting defensive. 

Next up, you need to create a plan – together. 

Divy up the responsibilities and make it clear so you both know what your jobs are in regards to the children. If a schedule on the fridge is what it takes, so be it. And now for the final part:

Step back. 

I know you’ve done the majority of parenting, and you know what works best with the kids. But if you hover over your husband’s every move, you’ll damage his confidence in parenting his children. It’s so crucial to let him figure things out and realize that he can do it if he puts the time and effort into it. This will also give him a sense of reward and achievement, which should encourage him to keep embracing this new role. 

Take it step by step, don’t expect miracles overnight, but do make this change a priority in your life. Your marriage, by the sounds of it, depends on this, so make that crystal clear to your husband. 

Wishing you luck,

Evie

Do you have a question for Evie? If you would like advice from Evie, fill out the form here or send your problem to askevie@ideapod.com.

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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