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Housewife Blues

By Mink Stole | Posted 2/25/2004

My husband and I have been married for four years. His job requires him to work a lot of overtime, and I stay home with our twin 2-year-old sons. He says he's willing to work these long hours to provide for me and the kids, and I appreciate it, but at home he won't do a damn thing. The minute he walks in the door he starts complaining if dinner isn't ready or the house is messy or the kids are noisy. He's never changed a diaper, washed a dish, or taken out the trash. He won't even throw his own dirty clothes in the hamper. He just comes home and demands that I wait on him. He says that since he earns the money he deserves not to have to do chores. How can I make him understand that, although I love him and the kids, my job is 24 hours a day and I don't get coffee breaks or a lunch hour, I get just as tired as he does, maybe even more, and I could really use some support.

Helpmeet in Hell

Dear HIH:
This is just one more argument in favor of living together before marriage. I know it's after the fact, but did you never discuss household arrangements before getting married? Or before you had kids? Or did you think being a housewife--excuse me, homemaker--and mother was such a snap you could do it all in high heels and pearls? This is the 21st century; even mothers on television can't keep the house neat all the time and occasionally resort to carry-out dinners.

You could make out a time sheet of everything you do, including all the cleaning, child care, shopping, laundry, cooking, etc., and add up what it would cost him to pay to have these things done for him. Twenty-four hours a day at the $5.15 an hour minimum wage, which is less than he would have to pay someone else, comes to $865 a week. Not to mention what he would have to shell out for sex. You could also try telling him that being his wife does not make you his mother or his servant and that his 1950s attitude is selfish and unrealistic. If these things don't work, and you want to stay married to this guy, the next best thing is to get your kids into preschool as soon as you can, or find other mothers who will do a kid-care share thing with you, so you can either get a part-time job and some financial independence or, at the very least, get some time for yourself.

A friend of mine's ex-boyfriend is very ill with diabetes. I would feel more sorry for Craig, but for years he's been drinking since breakfast, smoking like a chimney, and eating as much crap as he could shovel down his throat until he was fat as a baby elephant. So it's almost like he brought it on himself. I know I sound horribly judgmental, but he's putting my friend "Terry" through hell. He's in the hospital now, but a few months before he went in he broke up with Terry, which just about broke his heart. Now that Craig is in the hospital, and may need major surgery, he's acting like he wants Terry back. Terry still cares about him, and feels terribly sorry for him, so he goes to see him as often as he can. But after each visit he's even more depressed. Instead of being thankful for Terry's loyalty, Craig is taking out all his anger on him. The worst of it is that Craig never once called or came to see Terry when his appendix ruptured a couple of weeks after they broke up. I've told Terry he should stop visiting if Craig is going to treat him so badly, but he says he can't abandon him while he's down. What can I do to make him see that Craig is just taking advantage of his kind heart?

Feel for Him

Dear FFH:
I'm sure you mean well, but this isn't about you; this is about Terry, the way he feels about Craig, and the way he feels about himself. Some people would rather accept that they're suckers than feel like shits, and if Terry doesn't want to live with the way it would make him feel to turn his back on Craig, it's not your job to tell him he's wrong. Your job is to understand that Terry is doing what he needs to do and to stop pressuring him.

If, on the other hand, Terry is just being a big masochistic martyr and is using you as a dumping ground for all the misery he feels after these hospital visits, you do have the right to put a stop to that. Tell him, as nicely as you can, that even though you love him and respect what he's doing, you just don't feel the same generosity of sprit toward Craig, and that it upsets you to hear how unhappy these visits make him, so you'd rather he didn't tell you about them. That leaves Terry free to do what he wants without your criticism, and you free from hearing him whine about it.

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