Well I’m very excited for my first “Dear Jenn” type letter and the huge response I’ve received already! Keep those letters coming in, I can’t wait to tackle some more.
So our first question is a lengthy one but a situation that I’m sure could use not only my advice but the advice from all my fantastic readers out there. I also asked my husband to weigh-in on this one – maybe I’ll make this an “ask Jenn & Mike” column??? hmmmmm…. Anyway, enjoy!!
I am a mother of two girls aged 5 and almost 4. I have been married to my husband for 8 years now, together for almost 12. He is an excellent father who loves his girls very much. He plays with them, lets them put clips in his long hair, reads them stories at bedtime and all the other great things a father does. I love him with all my heart. Here is where the BUT comes in. He is highly unmotivated which is causing a huge strain in our relationship. About a year before the birth of our oldest he lost his job. At the time we were TTC and felt the job situation would be temporary so we kept at it and finally became pregnant a few months later. Shortly after the birth of our first we surprisingly became pregnant with our second. For the few years it made sense for him to stay home with our children so I could return to work so I never pushed the issue. I have a good job so renting our 3 bedroom apartment and paying our bills has never been a problem on my salary. For the most part, him staying home was good for the girls but not great for our relationship. When I get home he can’t hand the girls off to me fast enough. He then locks himself in our bedroom and spends the entire evening playing video games or watching movies. I am expected to do all the chores around the house, walk the dog, grocery shop and prepare for the next day. I am exhausted but have never complained as I know taking care of our girls some days can be tough.
Where my situation became overly strenuous is over the past few months. I started bringing up the topic of him finding work once our youngest starts school and his days will be free. We are splitting at the seams in our apartment. I want to buy a house but on our current income that is just not a reality. My husband acts like he knows how important it is that he needs to find work but the effort has been less than great. He complains that by the time we pay for before/after school daycare, he will only be making a portion of his wage. My feeling is that any money is better than no money.
To top it off, I have had to treat him like a child, making his resume and filling out his applications for him. He has had some interviews without getting the job and I secretly believe he bombed the interview on purpose. A relative even offered him a really good job working in construction, what a break! It was good money too. His first day of work he came up with a really bad excuse and never showed up. Needless to say he was not invited back the following day. I believe that was my breaking point and I became very upset. He blames everything and everyone else except himself. I am frustrated and embarrassed. How he can be such a great dad but lack any motivation to further our lives is beyond me. Jenn, I admire your stories about your husband and I must know how you would handle this if in my situation.
Signed: Mrs. Lack of Motivation
ADVICE FROM HER:
Dear Mrs. Lack of Motivation,
This is a situation that I can somewhat relate to, not on the same scale as you but I get where it started. My husband used to be the opposite – obsessed with his work and our future but leaving little time for family or our relationship. Men can easily fall on one side of the scale or the other and I think finding that balance can be very difficult for them. He was able to eventually find a balance that made him and us very happy. It’s easy as women to want to take charge in a relationship, especially nowadays. It is apparent that you “wear the pants” in this relationship, however saying that, it really sounds as if your husband has become so comfortable in his ways that he’s either given up on his own dreams or he is simply taking advantage because he knows you will allow it.
Either way I’m definitely with you things need to change. I think it’s great that he was a stay at home dad for all those years, I have a couple friends whose husbands also stayed home for a portion of their children’s youth until school started and it was great for them. But you’re right, now that the kids are both going to be in school, he needs to shape up. Think role reversal. If it was you at home, you’d still be expected to do all the chores and most likely, you’d still be handling the kids once hubby gets home from work so already this seems a little unfair to you. In addition, once the kids go to school, you would be expected to get a job nowadays, just like you are expecting of him – it’s not the 1950’s anymore and even something part-time is helping out. Part-time might even be better for you as it offers more flexibility and would cut down on any daycare costs, although I agree with you that even a portion of his wage would be better than no wage at all.
I think the fact that you seem to already be putting your foot down is good. However, men have this tendency to be stubborn and want to do the opposite of what you ask them to do, but they will listen to others. Have you ever worked with a financial planner? We work with a great one who is fantastic at getting our attention. I will tell my husband something we should change 10 times and until it comes out of her mouth, he won’t do it! I can just imagine what she would say to your husband. Maybe hearing he needs to get a job from someone else could be the motivation he needs? Also, I would suggest maybe some couples counselling. It sounds like he might have some issues he needs to work through and maybe going together could show him that you are there to support him.
ADVICE FROM HIM:
Dear Mrs. Lack of Motivation,
I’m going to be blunt. Jenn is being too nice and thinking the best of your husband I’m sure. As a man, I say he needs to shape up or ship out. A man should want to provide for his family, no matter what his wife does. It’s in our blood and anything less just appears lazy. I am willing to bet money that he doesn’t have many male friends who have families of their own? Don’t tell my wife this but when you ladies compare us to primitive man, you are somewhat right. We are in a constant battle to be the best male out there and seeing other men do more than us only motivates us to do better. When Jenn talks about how I used to obsess about work, she is right. I was so concerned about providing for my family that I forgot that I need to also be there with them. Then we began spending time with other couples who have kids and I was seeing all the things that those men were doing with their children, while still having a successful career. That’s about when it hit me and I decided to cut back on my work hours and spend more time with my wife and son, while still providing for them and feeling like I’m doing everything I can for my family.
Without knowing anymore information than what you’ve provided in your letter, I strongly believe that he doing it simply because he can. It sounds like he’s in a rutt and is riding this wave for as long as he can. I won’t deny that obviously something got this guy down. Maybe it was the embarrassment of losing his job, that can be a huge blow to a man’s ego. But he’s had several years to get over it and like Jenn said, even a part time job is a start.
My advice, spend some time with other couples who have kids. When he sees the other men, providing for their family while still being the ultimate family man, that will be more motivating than anything any one of us could possible say. Men hanging out together is often just a big, forgive my language, pissing contest. He’s not going to want to be the loser of the group so if you force him into situations where he has to socialize with other dads, it’s going to open his eyes wide.
Best of luck!
Well thanks for reading folks! What do you think this mom should do? Go ahead and add your advice below!!
This was tougher than I thought but I’m definitely looking forward to answering more of your questions. I will add the disclaimer that I’m not an expert and this advice is simply my opinion for entertainment purposes only and not expert advice so basically take it with a grain of salt. Same with the advice of any of my readers who may comment on this. 🙂