Tuesday, February 28, 2012

She's Your Wife... Not Your Maid!

I might be going on a bit of rant here, but there’s something I need to address with a few husbands out there. Recently my wife recounted a conversation with a friend, this friend shared that her husband seldom helps around the house. He tends to sleep in on Saturdays while she gets up and begins cooking and cleaning. Her husband doesn’t understand on Saturday night when he wants to go out but she’s wiped out and ready for bed. This friend of my wife’s is also pregnant (as is my wife).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this guy is a bad guy or that their marriage is in trouble. I don’t even know him (or her) personally. I hear these kinds of stories from my wife and others from time to time and I have to say it bothers me. So let’s begin with some background on why it bothers me.
When I was a kid my mother who is a nurse would often have to work weekends. This left at least three if not four or five kids at the house with dad many times. Dad often enlisted us to help with age appropriate chores, but regardless of how we helped the chores got done, they weren’t left for my mother to do when she got home after being at work all day. Dad worked hard too, he put a lot of hours in at his job as well, but my parents viewed taking care of the kids and the house as tasks that they must address equally.
I can recall on many occasions as a kid helping fold laundry with my siblings, running the vacuum, mowing the yard, pulling weeds, helping make dinner or helping my dad with various maintenance or improvements to the house or the yard. As a teenager I’m sure that I displayed the typical teenage laziness and occasional laze fare attitude of many teenagers, by then my mom seldom had to do any weekend shifts, still I had to do chores or whatever task was asked of me or face the consequences. I can recall many weekends when I had stayed up too late, only to be awakened bright and early usually by my dad alerting me to get my tail out of bed and ready to do some work.
Fast forward to today. I’m married now. I’ve found that throughout my life I find joy in doing things that make others happy. I’ve also found that when you’re married sometimes even the smallest things can mean the most to your wife. I don’t do it to score points or earn my allowance as I might have as a child. I do it because I love my wife and because I view our marriage as one of equals, especially in terms of the roles we play in taking care of our home. We both work full time jobs, we both must deal with family issues and we both have other things on many occasions we’d rather be doing than cleaning, cooking and laundry. However these things must get done and if we share the workload they get done faster. Since we enjoy doing many of the same things together it only makes sense that if we help one another out we both get what we want faster.
So husbands I have to ask, if you’re not helping your wife out, why not? Are you lazy? Do you not know what to do? Are you worried you might miss the big game this weekend? Never mind that the big game is probably on for several hours at a time, there’ll be a big recap in the half hour to hour long postgame show that follows with all the important highlights you missed and again that night online and on sportscenter. None of these are an acceptable excuse. You can turn on the TV and run it in the background while you clean if there’s a game on that you want to watch. The vacuum cleaner won’t suck the life out of you while it’s sucking the dirt out of the carpet. Laundry is easy, (what did you do when you were single anyway?). Cleaning the bathroom can be disgusting but as a husband are you not supposed to want to protect your wife? So protect her from the germs and filth in the bathroom and get in there and scrub, it just takes a few minutes anyway. If you have questions about where a certain cleaner is, what to use or what should go in what cycle in the laundry, just ask her. Better yet figure it out yourself! (just don’t’ experiment with laundry cycles and her clothes).  The dishwasher is also another device that was made to be convenient, not frightening, I promise that loading and unloading it will not break your back, and running it is a task of pouring out some soap, flipping a knob or just pushing a few buttons. We’re men, we pride ourselves on being able to do complicated manly tasks, why can’t we do the seemingly complicated buy terribly simple household ones as well.
Then there’s cooking. I go back to, what did you do when you were single? You didn’t live off carry out and going out all the time, or at least I hope not. You don’t have to cook every night, or even every week but once in a while it would be nice for you to contribute to that too. While we’re talking about dinner let’s talk about what’s for dinner. My wife and I decided long ago that since we both work full time jobs that cooking something different and new every night is not always feasible. So what happens most weeks is that we fix something to last the whole week. We might fix a large pot of soup or chili, a big batch of barbecue. Lasagna, spaghetti, there are lots of things you can fix that will last all week. This makes getting a healthy meal by a reasonable time easy to do and neither of us feel as though we waited the whole evening to eat dinner.  I promise this won’t kill you, it won’t upset your stomach or send your taste buds into some kind of funk. You can even make two things and alternate them between different nights. We usually make dinner on Saturday or Sunday afternoon and it’s ready for the week. I will admit that my wife cooks more often than I do, but many times while she’s in the kitchen I’m tending to something else.
So I’ll close this entry out by saying husbands if you really want to show your wife how much you care it’s not always about buying flowers or taking her out to dinner (though that doesn’t hurt either). Sometimes just pitching in and doing your share of the housework is enough to let her know how much you really love her, and I promise she will really appreciate it. After all she’s your wife not your maid.


  1. My housekeeping skills have diminished over the last several years thanks to Crohn's. I do what I can, when I can. I would say this to the women out there: When your husband/boyfriend/fiance/whomever does show initiative and do these kinds of things, acknowledge his efforts. There's nothing quite as deflating as having a clean room to show for your work and barely a comment from your significant other. Yes, he should do it because it needs to be done. That's no reason not to smile and say, "Hey! You washed the dishes! You rock!"

    1. I whole heartedly agree. If something gets done that I didn't have to do, a thank you is in order. Not a big production, but a simple, Thank you. I appreciate what you did. That is all it takes to make someone feel valued.

    2. Do you typically thank your wife for everything she does? I think there's a pretty big double standard in that when husbands do anything - even just making an effort - they need praise and acknowledgement and when wives do almost everything, it usually goes pretty unnoticed. Sure, if Mom does a SPECTACULAR job for something, she'll probably get a thank you but if Dad does something as simple as picking the kids up from school, he's pretty much nominated for Best Father of the Year. Maybe I am reading a lot more into your comment that you intended so if this seems way off base for your personal relationship, don't worry about anything I've said. Even if it doesn't apply to you, this does seem to be a common grievance amongst my (female) friends.

      i would say the only thing more deflating as having a clean room to show for your work and not getting a comment for your work is being the one who regularly cleans the other 9 rooms without thanks and then having to put a smile on your face and tell your spouse how awesome he is for doing a task.

      I'm in agreement with a lot of the article and it sounds like the author and his wife have established a good partnership. Bravo to you both!

  2. Well said Travis, a medical condition though is an acceptable exception to this rant, and to the wives a pat on the bac or a "good boy" is always encouraging.

  3. I have recently been having a huge problem with household dutys and my significant other. Yes, he works full time I understand that makes it harder. But I am a full time nursing student and I wait tables on the weekend, and I feel like he doesnt understand that I have alot of mental and physical stress also. I guess I understand showing more appreciation when he does something. But I usually dont do more than say "thanks babe" because majority of the time what he actually does do is either make the bed or switch the laundry over. Its so frustrating because he will stay up till 4 am, wake up at noon, sit on his tush watching TV and playing computer games until he goes to work at 4pm. I cant do it anymore. I cant be the only one who does the laundry, takes out the trash every week, gets the mail and the newspaper everday, clean up the dog poop, feed the dogs, wash the dogs, clean up the trash he leaves everywhere, throw out the food that goes bad in the fridge ( because he wont even notice!) and so much more household duties ALONG with working all weekend lifting,carrying, hurting my back...putting a smile on for guests, while being yelled at my managers....going to school and trying to stay awake to learn very important disease and disorder processes and medication administration, waking up at 5 am for 8 hour clinical rotations, doing homework, studying studying studying, writing papers...... I dont even have time for myself anymore. I dont get to take care of myself anymore. I cant even keep up with my own personal hygiene some weeks.

    1. Becca Ann
      It sounds like you and your husband need to have a talk. I'm not a counselor but communication is key in any relationship. You're under a ton of stress, Nursing school alone is like working 2 full time jobs, let alone actually working a job as well. I know this because I have several family members who are RN's.
      My suggestion would be to first outline what you need help with, I realize this can broadly be described as "everything" but make a list when you have a free minute (I know there's not many of those right now). When you are both in a good mood sit down face to face and discuss this, don't let it turn into a fight and try to set a ground rule to not say anything that's not constructive. You need help and he needs to help. Staying up 'til 4am is no excuse, he has responsibilities to his home and you as much as he does to work and his friends he's probably gaming with late into the night. I'm not trying to villify him just making a point here.
      For dramatic effect you might layout your textbooks, notes and class schedule prior to this discussion and give him an idea of what kinds of stress you're enduring in addition to your job and working on the house. Make sure he knows you do love him and appreciate that he does work a full time job as well but be firm that both sides need to contribute to caring for your home.
      Working an odd shift as he apparently does can be tough on anyone and sometimes it's hard to unwind, however he does still have plenty of hours after he gets up to do some work around the home, this is where the line gets drawn between being a child and being an adult and quite frankly a lot of us guys struggle with this line. One side wants to keep "playing" while the adult side should be bound to "adult" duties like caring for the home. Many young guys in my opinion haven't crossed this line yet and set the right priorites while our wives may have crossed it long ago.
      If this doesn't work you may want to have someone he respects talk with him about it, his dad, a close friend or relative. Or ultimately to keep your sanity and maintain a healthy marriage you may need to seek some marriage counseling together and work this issue and others out. Good luck