How Can I Get My Husband to Help Around the House?

How can a stay-at-home mom ask her partner to lend a domestic hand?

Q. Before we had kids, my husband and I both worked full time and shared the chores. Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, my husband leaves everything to me. I do all of the errands, cleaning, and laundry, often on weekends or before my two kids, ages 2 and 6 months, are awake. When I ask my husband to help, he says he's too tired or that he will, but he never does. What should I do?

A. When my husband blackened a broiling pan and then left it in the sink for two days, I said, "Either Brillo the thing or I'm throwing it out. I'm not cleaning it." The next morning it sat gleaming in the cupboard. Sometimes being more direct is better than passive pleas or expecting them to read our mind.

Now, my approach may be too direct for some guys, but there are other ways to get them to pitch in. Begin with a reminder that because you're busy all day caring for your kids, household chores don't automatically get done just because you're home.

Then, decide what you want him to do and be very specific with your requests. Saying "I need more help around the house," is too general and doesn't even give your husband a starting point. Choose quick tasks he can do in the morning before work, such as unloading the dishwasher, and evening chores that factor in postwork fatigue -- folding laundry in front of the TV can even be relaxing.

On weekends, he can take one of your kids to the supermarket or supervise toy cleanup. None of these tasks are a huge time drain; hopefully, he'll be willing to sacrifice 10 minutes here and an hour there to make life easier on you.

But once you've laid this groundwork, you need to step back and let him do things his way. If he's not doing chores or childcare the exact way you do, let it go and don't bail him out. Otherwise he'll either get defensive or think, Why bother, she'll eventually do it. And then, my dear, you're back to square one!

Julie Mazer is a mother of three who lives in Short Hills, New Jersey.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2005.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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