Man relaxing on sofa while woman vacuuming carpet at home

A Stay-at-Home Mom is NOT a Stay-at-Home Maid

By Amalah

I suffer from on and off depression and anxiety, and having a learning disability. My husband works. I’m aware of the fact that he works hard.

The thing is with my children, children who are under 6 years old I’m having a hard time keeping up around the house. So every time I ask my husband if he could help by picking up his mess he tells me “I work” then gives me a lecture on how I should keep up around the house.

He uses it as an excuse not to help and it causes so many arguments. I always tell him “is it so much to ask to do the dishes once or twice a week or pick up your trash and stop leaving it for me to pick up because it’s just adding extra work around the house for me?”

Am I wrong by asking that of him?

You are not his mother! Or his maid!

What in this sweet world? NO, you are not wrong to ask a GROWN ASS MAN to help with the dishes! Or any household chore in general! He lives there! He eats there! You are not his mother! Or his maid! There are not enough exclamation marks in the world to express how angry I am at your husband right now!!!!

He won’t even pick up his own TRASH without lecturing you?


Taking care of children and a household is work.

I am very sorry, but this man does not respect you, or the very real and important work that YOU do. Staying home with multiple small children — keeping them alive and fed and PRESUMABLY raising them to be decent humans who know how to pick up their own toys and clean up their own messes — is work. Taking care of a household is work. And if you were not the one doing this work for your family, you know what would happen?

Your family would pay other people to do this work. 

And you know what would happen if your husband treated a nanny or housecleaning service the way he’s treating you? They’d probably quit! Or at the very least, demand a raise in exchange for putting up with such a lazy, mansplaining man-child.

Your partner is respectful at his job, correct?

I’m also guessing that whenever he’s at whatever his Very Hard Important Job is, that he doesn’t leave trash all over the place or refuse to rinse his own coffee mug out.  So he’s treating his coworkers and workspace with more respect than he’s treating his own wife and home! Dude.

Your labor at home has a direct impact on his ability to do his Very Hard Important Job in the first place. Imagine if he had to use his precious paid time off to stay home with a sick child (assuming he even HAS paid time off, because ugh, this country). Imagine if he regularly had to ask his boss for permission to leave work in the middle of a shift because daycare called because Junior is running a fever. Imagine his life and career if he could never work overtime or go on a business trip because OH RIGHT, he doesn’t have the built-in, round-the-clock childcare that he is currently taking for granted!

EVERYBODY falls behind on housework

Your very first sentence mentions that you live with multiple chronic mental illnesses, which just makes his behavior even crappier. Does he think you’re using that as some kind of “excuse” for falling behind on housework? Because that’s bullshit. EVERYBODY falls behind on housework. I’m behind on housework right now! But I’m not going to let a hamper (or two) of unfolded laundry stop me from yelling some more on the internet.

This ongoing argument of “I work and you don’t” needs to be completely reframed. You DO work. Your children are obviously your priority during the day. They are giant sucking vortexes of need at this stage, with competing routines and nap schedules and they require daily stimulation, enrichment, correction, discipline, and ALSO your near-constant attention to get through the day without a trip to the emergency room. Sometimes this means that the breakfast dishes get left in the sink and the laundry is lucky if it makes it to the dryer before it mildews in the washer. And just like your husband likely relies on his coworkers to help him get everything done, you need to be able to rely on your husband to help out around the house.

(HIS OWN HOUSE! That he lives in! Even rats take pride in tidying up their trash holes! Wash some dishes, man!)

Recommended fair division of household labor

A perfectly fair division of household labor — even between a “working” spouse and a stay-at-home parent — could look something like this:

1. One person makes dinner and the other one cleans up the kitchen and handles the dishes. (And that’s the arrangement every night. Because we eat dinner and dirty up dishes every night. He’s worked hard all day but so have you. You will cook OR you will clean, but you will no longer do both by default, every single night.) If he wants a night off from doing the dishes, he can cook dinner or make other arrangements to get food on the table.

2. You will take care of getting laundry to the washer and into the dryer during the day. He is responsible for putting his own clothes away. This is an expectation I want you to start holding your children to as well, depending on their exact ages. Even preschoolers can sort out their own socks and underwear and put things in drawers. (And learning to fold basic laundry is totally Montessori, so you can call it your educational activity for the day.) And SORRY, if a preschooler can be expected to handle a household task, SO CAN YOUR HUSBAND.

3. Actually, go ahead and make that a rule of thumb. If you’re trying to teach your kids some specific level of household responsibility — like clearing their own dishes, cleaning up their toys, PUTTING TRASH IN THE GD TRASH CAN — your husband cannot be undermining that effort by not modeling that same behavior for them. (Mom is not their maid! Nor are you his!)

4. If there’s a specific household chore that you weren’t able to tackle during the day (because, you know, you were busy keeping his offspring alive), he is not allowed to “lecture” you or otherwise shame you. He can either 1) do it himself, or 2) offer to take the kids out/get them dinner/handle the bedtime routine so you can get stuff done in peace.

Marriages need compromise and respect

Marriages can only survive when both partners are willing to compromise, and when there’s a deep mutual respect for one another and a general view that you are both equal partners in your family and household. Your letter was short but alarming, because it’s starkly clear that your marriage lacks…all of those things. Financial contributions are not the only contributions that matter. Raising children and housework are not, by default, “women’s work” or any less vital to your family’s success and survival than your husband’s Very Hard Important Job.

I know your husband doesn’t believe that, right now. And I sense that YOU probably don’t really believe it either. Depression and anxiety are awful lying sonofabitches that do a number on your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. I hope that some of what I’ve written here today can replace some of that negative self-talk going on in your brain. But this situation might require a little more work on yourself before you can work on your marriage, so you can stand up for yourself and stand firm in your conviction that what you do IS important, that it IS enough, and that OMFG, you are being perfectly reasonable to demand that your husband step up and help around the house.

More on Division of Household Labor and Chores:

1. Housework & the Stay-at-Home Parent
2. The Unhappy Housewife-to-Be
3. Chores & Young Children: When (& How) to Start

Photo source: Depositphotos/ diego_cervo

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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