You say: "I do handle the housework and kids while you are making money. I'm talking about what you do when you're not commuting or at work. You wanted children and now we've got them. You can see that it's best for them when we are both involved in the morning, at night, or over the weekend. Speaking personally, it does not feel fair for me to keep on going while you watch TV or go out with your friends. How would you feel about someone at work who did that sort of thing while you kept getting things done? Would you feel resentful? Would you be eager for them to do their share?"
He says: "I make more money than you."
You say: "I appreciate all the money you bring into our family. But that does not change what is good for our children and our relationship when we are both at home in the mornings, evenings, and weekends." (And follow with the points just above.)
He says: "It's because you're working that the kids need so much and there's so much housework."
You say: "I think that's hitting below the belt. If I didn't work, our kids would still need you to help out in the evenings and weekends. We need my salary, and even if we didn't, I have as much right to work as you. Besides, we could just as well turn the point against you: The kids wouldn't need so much if you, their father, stayed home. In fairness, the hard choices between career and time with children should fall just as much on a father as a mother. We both work, we both need to parent, and we both need to do housework."
He says: "Quit telling me what to do."
You say: "I don't want to tell you what to do. Usually I try not to. And if I ever do, it's because you won't make a reasonable agreement with me about who does what—or you make one but don't stick with it. I'm the messenger of what our kids or home needs, so please don't be angry at me for just bringing the message. If you saw what needed doing in the first place, I wouldn't have to bring a message at all. Besides, why is it fair for you to tell me what to do about the car or computer or mutual fund or whatever but I can't tell you anything about what to put in a lunch box?"
He says: "Get off my back, or else."
You say: "I'd be glad to talk about this when you're calmer. But I'm going to ask: What's the "or else"? Are you really going to hit me or walk out on your kids because I'm tired of picking your socks off the floor? Because I'd appreciate it if you'd get home sooner? Your kids need you to be more involved, I need it, and our marriage does, too."
Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin.
Copyright © Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.