The Unhappy Housewife-to-Be
It seems like several times a week my fiancé and I are having the same fight.
I stay at home with our 6 month old daughter and he works 12+ hours a day. I breastfeed and she’s just started on solid foods. She’s now teething and I’m finding house work even harder to accomplish. Our house isn’t exuberantly messy but laundry isn’t always put away, there’s usually some dishes and I dont know how to keep all surfaces completely dusted or wiped down all while breastfeeding, calming an upset teething baby, diapers, play time…she gets bored so easily then screams because she’s bored. I cook dinner maybe once a week but according to him I’ve never cooked dinner at all.
So the argument ends up being – “I could do your job of cleaning the house in 30 minutes, cooking is EASY, and that I’m essentially inadequate at being a house wife in general.”
I feel like it stems from him having his mom on this pedestal. She raised 4 boys, always had dinner ready, house was always spotless and according to him she did it without the help of anyone. The fact that I’m often compared to her and never measure up has made me start to resent her and refuse to ask how she did it. She also didn’t breastfeed so chalk that up to extra time she must have had.
At the end of the day I know I’m a fantastic mom. My girl is so loved and so well taken care of and aside from teething she’s a very happy baby.
My question is…how do I do it all? I love my fiancé. For the most part he’s one of the sweetest kindest men and a great father. However we’re not a team. He doesn’t clean; he will not clean and when he’s home the baby is still primarily all my responsibility. His mother picked up after him before me and now the job is mine. Which I don’t mind he works so ridiculously hard to provide for us. I just don’t know how to do it all or how anyone could without running themselves ragged.
How do I keep my house to his standards, make sure bills are sent out, cook dinner, and make sure my baby girl isn’t screaming to the point of madness while I attempt to get things done?
So disagreements between out-of-the-home-working/stay-at-home parents over household division of responsibilities is a very, very common problem. But it has the potential to become a very serious one, especially considering the details you’ve included here. Imma jump to the end conclusion, which is that you guys need couples counseling.
I personally don’t like your fiancé’s outdated 1950s-like expectations of you and his job vs. EVERYTHING ELSE approach to dividing up household responsibilities. I get the long work hours but when he’s home, it’s still HIS home and HIS baby. It’s disrespectful that he not only won’t pitch in to clean, it sounds like he actively creates messes/clutter with the full expectation that you’ll pick up after him — even while he’s ALSO actively criticizing the way you do it. Meanwhile, he won’t help with your daughter so great! You’re basically living with two babies. A job and a paycheck do not automatically a full-fledged grown-up make, unfortunately.
If this were a roommate-type living situation, that B.S. would not fly, 12+ hours of work or otherwise. He’d be expected to contribute to the shared household maintenance/gruntwork just like everybody else. Again, entirely disrespectful that because you’re his fiancé (or more likely, a woman), he can completely check out from cleaning up dinner dishes or doing a load of laundry every once in awhile. I mean, damn, if he can “clean the house in 30 minutes”…well, go right ahead, Guy Who Doesn’t Ever Clean Yet Is Some Kind Of Cleaning Wizard! I’ll set the stopwatch. See how that works out.
And no, I don’t believe for a SECOND that his memories of his mother are completely accurate, or even applicable to your situation right now. But you’re going to need some help from a neutral third party on that one. For some reason I have a sneaking suspicion that he was later in the four-kid birth order, has no real memory of what things were like when there was a newborn or very young baby around. He has NO idea what it’s actually like to care for a baby full-time. (And you’re right, breastfeeding anchors you in one place, to your baby, and is very time-consuming. As is modern-day parenting where we don’t just keep the baby in a swing or playpen for hours at a time.) But as you’ve discovered, you can have this exact argument over and over again, and you will lose every time. Mommy was ALWAYS perfect, and you ALWAYS fail to live up to his impossibly unrealistic standards.
Make no mistake, that sort of thinking is TOXIC to a relationship, with or without a child involved. Do not marry this man unless he agrees to couples counseling.
As for your final sentence/question: You’re in the trenches right now, and you’re stuck with an incredibly unsupportive partner. Most of us need a year or even more to really find our footing and balance between caring for our child and…all that other stuff. Most of us these days DO have some kind of help during the first year — be it family members close by, a cleaning service every once in awhile, paid childcare, getting groceries delivered, relying on at least one of the 9745692034 bajillion apps out there to make our lives a little easier. And there’s nothing WRONG with needing (or just plain wanting) help. His mother doesn’t “win” anything because she didn’t.
(See: progress, feminism, evolving gender roles, and the fact that spotless houses do not automatically equal happy, well-adjusted childhoods. And obviously his mother missed a couple important parenting tasks along the way, like raising a grown man who doesn’t need or expect someone else to “pick up after him.” Guess she was too busy doing housework.)
At a bare minimum, most of us get help with all this stuff…from our partner. Or at least we get some understanding from our partner that it really, really isn’t the end of the world if the laundry sits unfolded for a couple days.
When your daughter is older, it does get easier. You tackle the laundry on Monday, pay the bills on Friday, make dinner while she watches Sesame Street, etc. Partner helps with the dishes because he helped make them dirty, helps with bath/bedtime because that’s part of being a good father, you both refrain from criticizing and nitpicking because you’re a family and a team. And because he respects the hard work YOU do. But it sounds like you guys are going to need more than just the passage of time to get to that state. Get some counseling and break this argument cycle ASAP.