Role Reversal Irritation

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-15-2013
Role Reversal Irritation
Tue, 10-15-2013 - 8:28pm

I've been with my current husband for the past eleven years, and we have a five and seven-year-old together.  I have a fiftteen year-old-son from a previous marriage, but my husband died from an illness when he was a baby.   My mother became ill about five years ago, and we decided to relocate so I could be closer to her.  My husband sold his business, and I left my job.  The plan was to take the first year off, so we could settle in,  find a home, help with my mother, and I was pregnant with our youngest, so I didn't expect anyon to want to hire me anyway.  We could afford to do this financially, so we did.  When our youngest was twelve weeks, my husband said that someone would have to return to work so we didn't deplete our savings, and that since I had the most earning potential, it should be me.  He agreed that he would try some real estate work part-time to help augment my income, but he would basically stay home and take care of the children and the house.  When the youngest started school, he said he would find a job at that point.   Well, this has been the longest five years of my life, with no end in sight.  For the past five years I have worked to support us, and feel like I've basically taken a "backseat" in my children's lives, only to come home and find him sitting in the office facebooking, playing games, watching videos, while the children entertain themselves with TV.  The house is rarely clean, homework rarely started, and the laundry he would wash and dry, but he would not put away...instead he would pile it up in various locations, so I would have to iron everything due to the I just started doing the laundry myself on weekends.  As far as the children, I'm honestly not sure how involved he's been with them for the past five years...I know he loves them, but he rarely did anything with them.  I'd suggest he find a play group, go to the park, or the library, but he never did.  When it came time to prepare them for the start of school, I suggested he work with them on ABCs, reading and so on....but he wouldn't.  He replied, "That is what school, and teachers are for."   Now keep in mind this is a college educated individual, with a degree in physics, has multiple skills, and has also been a teacher in his career history.)  I would do this with them in the evenings, and on the weekends, but I did not have the same amount of time that he did to put into this, because there were so many other things left undone that I would need to take care of .  As a result I feel like both of our youngest children started school unprepared, and have struggled to catch up with their peers.  Since our youngest started school in August, I've been asking about the job situation and how his search is going.  He says that he is putting in resumes, but that it really isn't worth his time to apply or or accept a job that pays less than 50,000 per year, because we would just end up paying for afterschool care. So, instead he applies for higher paying jobs that he has no experience doing, that generally go to people who have worked in these fields.  When I suggest he go back to teaching, he says it doesn't pay enough.  We don't really need his income, since I can cover the bills, but his income would allow us to save money for our retirment and college funds.  Too, if we had extra income, perhaps I could work part-time so I could be more invovled with the children at school and home.  I don't see this happening, ever....and I am starting to feel very resentful.  What makes this difficult, is that outside of this issue, he isn't a bad person.  He loves me and our children, and we don't argue about anything else.   Part of me though, can't help but feel like I'm being taken advantage of.  I don't know if this is just because I was raised in a home where my Dad worked whie my Mother stayed home, or what...but I'm not sure I can do this anymore.  I feel like he's making excuses and has no motivation to do anything. I need advice. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 10-15-2013 - 9:12pm

I can see why you would be unsatisfied in this situation.  In the old days when the mom/wife usually stayed home, she would be doing the majority of the cooking & cleaning & taking care of the kids.  I don't see anything wrong w/ the dad staying home but he should be doing the same chores and taking care of the kids as well.  It's sad if he just plopped them in front of the TV instead of playing with them.  And also sad that he doesn't seem to care about their education.  

The statement that he shouldn't go back to work unless he earns $50,000 because of the cost of daycare is ridiculous.  You need to figure out how much after school care will cost.  There are 36 weeks of school.  If after school care costs $100/week that's only $3600, even if it's double that it's only $7200--you also have to figure out school vacations & summers.  I think he's very unrealistic that having been out of the work force for a while that people are going to be rushing to hire him.  He might have to take a part time job or a lower paying job just to get his foot in the door.  Does he know how unhappy you are with this situation?  Unfortunately you can't force him to work and as many men have found if they want a divorce, you might end up paying him alimony.  I hope you can figure something out.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-14-2012
Wed, 10-16-2013 - 1:56pm

It sounds like he might be taking advantage of the situation or it could be his pride that makes him feel like a career paying less than $50k wouldn't be worth it.  Regardless of his reason, I would take the lead on helping him find a new position and encourage him to go back into teaching or take a lower paying position to get his foot in the door.  When you find a good opportunity, talk it up and tell him the reasons you know he would be great.  Maybe go out and purchase him a new suit or new shaver as surprise to increase his confidence. Maybe involve your kids too to make him feel special.  Would it be more meaningful if they pick something out?

Perhaps calculate the amount of additional income he could bring in even with the after school program costs.  Make it tangible and translate that into how much you could be saving each year and the key areas that might seem most meaningful to him. Is it the college fund? Is it tix to a sports game every now and then? Whatever it may be.  In the long run, once he has the job you can make the decisions on how to spend it as a family. In time, perhaps you even suggest working part-time but the key here is making it meaningful to him so he takes the need seriously.  Good luck!

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Wed, 10-16-2013 - 2:29pm

I've been the sole breadwinner for my family and my DH has been a SAHD for 18 years.  He started when our kids were 3yo & 1yo, and they are now 21, 18 & 13.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I have a LOT to say, some of which might be helpful.

Here is what DH does/has done (assume I mean ALL of each item):  plan meals; shop for food; cook every meal including holiday dinners for 20 people; clean up the kitchen on weekdays; prepare kids' lunches; volunteer in the preschool/elementary school classroom; bake cupcakes for school birthday parties; make sure kids are up & ready for school; pick them up whenever needed (including driving them to & from private school every day, and taking them to/from college); make doctor appointments; take kids to dr appts; schedule all extracurricular activities & take kids to them, including piano, cello, flute, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, karate, Scouts, religious ed, baseball, soccer, orchestras, etc.; supervise homework; sign permission slips; prepare kids for all activities, overnight trips, birthday parties; attend school board meetings; buy clothing for the boys; laundry every weekday; errands such as the library, dry cleaner, etc.; take the cars in for service; handle all household repairs, including dishwasher, laundry machines, air conditioners, bathroom fixtures, pumps (fix them himself if he can, get a professional when needed); schedule all house maintenance, including cleaning woman, chimney sweeps, septic tank, lawn mowing, sprinkler system, etc.; paint the inside of the house; computer & electronics repairs; buy everything needed for the family & house including camping gear, sports equipment, appliances, etc.; take the dogs to the vet & doggie daycare, exercise them twice a day; and probably at least as many other things that I can't think of off the top of my head.

Here's what I do:  laundry on the weekends; dishes on the weekends; folding laundry; ironing; handle all the finances; straighten up the house; buy clothes for DD; make plans for outings, entertainment & entertaining at home; deep cleaning in preparation for holidays; home decorating; guide kids with volunteering, spiritual development & college search.

Here's what we do together:  talk often and seriously about our kids and what they need; plan vacations; parental guidance; go out as a couple at least once or twice a month.

As you can probably imagine, I am *very* proud of my husband.  Once or twice over the years I've gotten the question, "But what does he DO all day?" - sometimes even from a SAHM! - and when I start rattling off the list, people will say, "OOOOOOHH - I had no idea there would be so much to do."

The differences between my situation and yours are:  (1) DH & I clearly communicate our expectations & feelings to each other; (2) DH puts family first before himself; (3) I also put family first before myself; (4) we have made adjustments every 6-12 months as needed; (5) we view ourselves as being on the same team with the same goal:  to have a happy family, including a happy marriage and happy children who love themselves and their family and can go into the world as engaged adults.

I do not mind working full-time for several reasons.  One, I tried part-time when my youngest was born, but it's in my nature to want to give it my all, so that I felt like I constantly failed at both work *and* parenting.  Two, I like the intellectual stimulation of work; before I had children, DH used to say that he might be #1 in my life, but work was "thisclose" behind.  Three, DH busts his butt just about every day and is a better SAH parent than I would have been - I would have been too demanding and inflexible and not much fun - so I know the kids are getting the best. 

It has not always been wonderful.  Before DH became a SAHD, we both worked, but he was gone for only 8 hours a day while I was gone for 13 hours and *still* was the one who did the grocery shopping, half the cooking, all the childcare at night and on the weekends, all the cleaning, all the planning, all the financial struggling, etc.  I was pregnant with #2 and really unhappy with how everything was going.  When I told him I thought we needed to see a marriage counselor, he agreed because he too was unhappy.  We discovered that he really did want to do more, but I gave the impression that I thought he didn't do it right, so I would just take over (cooking, cleaning, consoling a sobbing child) and he would let me - which reinforced the cycle wherein I kept doing more and feeling angry, and he kept doing less and resenting being made to feel incompetent.  Once we got those things out in the open, we were able to establish a relationship wherein we TALKED to each other and LISTENED to each other.  He learned to tell me to stop being so darn bossy and I learned to hold him accountable for the things he was supposed to do.  We both had to be more honest, with ourselves as individuals and with each other, and NOT hide what we felt.

It has not been easy for DH to be a SAHD.  Sure he gets kudos for good parenting which a SAHM would not get.  But in conversations with other men, he doesn't have a job to talk about.  Until your kids are grown, you really don't get validation for what you're doing.  It's only when you see your young adult offspring working hard and making good decisions without you that you realize that you did it right.  You & I, going to a job get validation all the time.  We also have conversational fodder.  A SAHD rarely does. 

I wonder if your H is feeling depressed.  Hiding on the computer and neglecting the kids is a pretty good sign of depression.  He gave up his business and moved to another town for your mother, and for five years he has gotten little to no societal approval for this choice.  He may still be holding on to the idea that mothers are the primary caregivers and feel that he doesn't have much of a role to play. You can't help him from feeling depressed, but you can insist that he do something about it.  Depression is an insidious thing, because when you're depressed you feel like whatever you can do, doesn't matter.  But he MUST do something because your children's lives are at stake - not to mention your marriage.

One thing to be very clear about:  parenting is a ROLE.  Being a SAH parent is a JOB.  You have a job, he has a job - and he is not doing his job.  You are going to have to start doing a lot of talking, because you have allowed this situation to happen.  It is not all his fault.  Every time you let a day go by when he doesn't take care of the kids, when you spend all your time outside work doing the WORK he should have done, you are enabling the situation. 

I strongly recommend marriage counseling so you two can get on the same page and start acting like the married couple you are supposed to be.  A licensed therapist can help both of you work on the issues that have brought you to this place and help you figure out how to move forward from it.  If you H is clinically depressed, a therapist can help with that too.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-13-2006
Wed, 10-23-2013 - 5:23pm

He's taking advantage of you plain and simple.If he really cared about you and the kids...he would have gotten off his butt and helped you out over 5 yrs ago!! I am such a believer is a MAN going out and working to support his family and NOT his wife doing it because what alwasys ends up happening is the resentment starts growing and growing until it all blows up. If I were in your shoes...I would not look at your husband as a real man.Not to be mean BUT you say he's very educated...he now sounds very lazy to me.You had a great point. IF he would get off his butt to get a job..then you would be able to cut some of your hours so you could get to spend some more time with your kids and also maybe save some more money.

I say that you give him an ultimatum and STICK to it.It seems like you are already doing everything in the household anyways.He's NOT pulling his weight at all.Talk to him and just put it out there before it's too late.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-2001
Sun, 11-24-2013 - 2:22am

His excuses are ridiculous; even a lower paying job would get his foot in the door and get him current experience so he can work toward something higher up.  He had his own business five years ago, why isn't he considerin that again?  It's super easy to fall into rut, get used to what you're doing and forget what you could/should be doing.  I think that's exactly what's happened here.  He doesn't want to work becuase he's gotten so used to how things are he's "forgotten" his motivation and drive. 

It seems to me that he's done a great job of training you to be a single parent.  You can handle it financially, you already do the brunt of the housework; all you'll lose is the growing resentment and frustration.  If you're not to that point yet, you'll get there if this continues.  You're teling us about these problems, have you talked to him about it?  Even if you have, I would say it's time to sit down with him and clearly tell him your concerns, your frustrations and your expectations, you have to make him clearly aware that you're unhappy and are concerned for the future of your marriage if this continues.  Understand I'm not just talking about employment, I'm talking about his performance with the housework, the kids, all of it.   It's only fair that he be aware of where you are with this so that he - and you, can take steps to correct it.  If he doesn't then you'll know you've done what you could.

~ cl-2nd_life