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Expectations of a stay-at-home dad...

sunshinex's picture

Before I go into too much detail, I've been hesitant to post because my DH is a really good husband in many ways. He's understanding about the dynamics of steplife, he's always there for support, and he helps when I ask him to. But I'm having difficulty with the way he's handling being a stay-at-home dad to our 15-month-old son. Here's the thing... I've done it before. I was on maternity leave for 11 months and I know what it's like.

Some days, not much gets done but cuddles and reading books to the little one. I know that. BUT most days, I managed to have dinner on the table at 5, the house always had groceries, and it was well-kept to a degree. Laundry and dishes especially were kept up on. My son was always doing activities like going to the zoo, reading books, playing at the park, etc. 

My husband doesn't drive, so I get that some activities and grocery shopping are off the table. He has major test anxiety and fails his G2 everytime, but that's not the point. I work from home upstairs in my office, and literally every single time I go downstairs, my son is playing and dad is watching TV. If my son isn't playing alone (which he's very good at - he'll play alone for 30 - 45 minutes at a time than come for cuddles/attention and go back to playing), my DH is playing with him, which is great. 

But NOTHING ELSE gets done. I am still handling paying the bills, budgeting, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, and most of the household chores as I can. Since he started staying home 4 months ago, he hasn't folded laundry, vacuumed and mopped, cleaned up, anything during the day. He'll do it on weekends while I clean, but then we're doing it together and all my time off is spent on chores. 

I'm frustrated. My son naps in our arms, always has, but he's down to one 2 hour nap per day... so that still leaves TONS of time to get things done. I've tried subtly showing him that it can be done. I'll go downstairs while he's watching TV and babe is playing, and I'll manage to do all the dishes and change the laundry and cat litter in 20 minutes. He just says "don't worry about that, go back to work!"

I've tried talking to him, but it seems like it always turns into a fight of me putting expectations on him. He says things like "You're not my boss just because I'm home" and "I didn't do this to you when you were home" but he didn't NEED to, that's the thing. I always had everything under control as much as possible when I was home. 

How can I deal with this gently, without fighting, so it gets across to him? Also, it's not an option for me to stay home and him to go back to work. I make significantly more money, and I'm not quite ready for BS to be in daycare yet, so he really needs to make this stay-at-home dad thing work! 



beebeel's picture

As a SAHM myself, that would piss me off! It sounds ridiculous, but have you tried giving him a few things to do every day? Maybe a "hey, babe, could you please do a few loads of laundry today? Thanks, love ya!" The next day, ask him to vacuum, etc. Treat him like a teenager or ask his mother if she needs to finish her job of raising him. Wink

STaround's picture


Sit down with, agree on how to divide stuff.   Put it in wrtiing. 

sunshinex's picture

I will try giving him jobs... Just gotta hope it doesn't insult him when I do. It drives me nuts because I absolutely LOVED staying home and it breaks my heart that I couldn't continue. I took a lot of pride in our home and teaching our son. I have always and still do the night wakeups HOURLY and I rarely took time to relax or nap, I did my "job" and kept up the house. I was a zombie, but I did my part! 

justmakingthebest's picture

I was a SAHM for almost 4 years when my babies were little. I took it very seriously. Since I wasn't contributing financially I felt compelled to contribute in every other way. House was always clean, dinner always made, breakfast for my exH was hot and ready to walk out the door with him at 6:30am when he left along with a packed lunch most days. I was involved in play groups and spouses groups (military). I was also big on saving $. I couponed and would hit up 2-3 different grocery stores to save $. I had a family of 4 and could feed us (plus meds, paper products, diapers, cleaning products) on close to $100 week. I was good at it. I had to justify staying at home in my own mind.

However, it seems your DH doesn't care. That isn't something you can fix. Honsetly, staying home might not be an option if you want things done. He needs to go to work and you hire a nanny to get it done. 

Jcksjj's picture

Current stay at home mom...he needs to be doing as much as he can but I wouldn't expect it all to be done always no matter what. While he needs to be doing more, is there anything you can do to make things easier for both of you? Do you have a grocery store near you that you can order online and have them delivered? Paper plates and cups so less dishes etc? The time between when they start walking and when they get old enough to be more independent playing is probably the hardest age to be staying home IMO. He should still have time to do at least some of it but if hes not maybe theres ways to take some of that off you too? 

sunshinex's picture

I don't expect him to do everything, but I certainly don't think it's reasonable for him to do nothing but watch TV/play either. Like I said, I've been a stay at home mom. I know my son has especially needy days where he doesn't like being put down and he has days where he destroys everything you just picked up right away. I get that! BUT there should be SOME days where the floors are clean, dishes are done, and toys are put away when I'm done work. So I at LEAST don't have to get off work, do dishes, run to the grocery store to pick up things we need for dinner, cook dinner, etc. and get no time at all with my son. 

Jcksjj's picture

I agree with you. It's not fair to you at all. That's why I'm wondering if there are any other options that will make it easier for you at least in the short term if hes not getting it done. Not saying it's fair or a long term solution but so you can at least have some things off your plate right now.

futurobrillante99's picture

The problem is that he consistently NOT getting much of anything done. I am sure if he was consistently able to function, some crazy days or weeks would be no problem and you wouldn't feel resentful.

I wasn't the best SAHM. But I think I did some good things with my kids. Still, my first husband was VERY disatisfied with my performance. He wondered what I did all day. I will confess that I was depressed a lot when the kids were young and I felt overwhelmed. I was diagnosed with ADD at 35, so in hindsight, I was either either hyperfocused and productive or spectacularly unproductive. Post ADD meds, I was much more productive and focused. But, the damage was done. We'd been married 14 years at that point and there was a lot of resentment built up with him about what a disappointment I was. :/

I think he needs to get a job - no more BS about the driver's license. It's time for him to get back to work and you can hire someone to come in and tend to BS15 mo.

sunshinex's picture

Wow. Interesting. He does have ADD that isn't treated right now. I knew it was rough for him to deal with, but I never thought about how it impacts his ability to get things done at home. Thanks for this. It's really eye-opening. 

futurobrillante99's picture

Omg, really? 

It was brutal for me. I had a lot of stress because I felt like a failure. I rarely finished anything I started and all the other tasked just seemed so big, so I shut down and avoided it altogether. I’d be so depressed I’d nap during the day then stay up to late trying to organize my “lists.”

When I was finally diagnosed and put on concerta, my life changed. 

I became a mover and a shaker. I started back to college at 41, earned my undergrad at 45 and my masters degree at 49.

I take that stuff every day. And I no longer struggle with depression.

Willow2010's picture

YOU: DH, when I stayed home, I kept up with all of the washing, cooking cleaning ect so you did not have to worry about it after working all day. 

DH: Don’t tell me what to do!

YOU:  I am not telling you what to do, but I can’t keep up anymore with working and still doing everything I did as a SAHM.  I will need you to go back to work so that I can be a SAHM again.  That is the only way I can keep up with the responsibility of the household. 

DH: But you make so much more money than I do that you can’t stay home. 

YOU: I thought of that.  We will have to downsize big time and maybe get rid of the internet and TV.  It is the only way I can keep up with everything. 


But honestly, if it were me, I would tell DH the following…

As a stay at home parent you are responsible for the following…this, this this and this.  Stop being a lazy ass and get it done.  I did it, so I have faith that you can too. 

And if he continues to be lazy, you may NEED to put baby in daycare and make DH go back to work. 

oatsnhoney's picture

He may not just care about mess and quality dinners like you. I clean mostly because I can’t stand mess, DH doesn’t see it. Also, once he said write me a list! Be direct. Meaning don’t huff to try guilt me into realizing what’s bothering you. Just ask.. can you clean the bathroom today. That seems to work better for us.

maybe a talk about what your must haves for the home are? Make lists. See what matters to each other and if your list is longer. Try agree on what essentials are. Then you drop one, and he adds one.. and so on.

i think it’s important to come to terms with how we are different from our spouse, what you can accept, and what you need changed in order to be happy or less stressed.

SonOfABrisketMaker's picture

I hate that excuse. That one and "I just don't see the mess like you do." To me, the level of cleanliness in a home isn't a personal preference, it's a necessity. I don't want mold, mildew, illnesses or insects in my home. The cleaner a home is, the less hospitable it is for gross things. I used to spend all day cleaning the house when I was a SAHM. DH would come in, ignore the sparkling windows and lemon fresh scent then find something to nitpick. The dishes, the trash, the basement floor had (his dogs') fur still. Not all at once, just one thing would be wrong and he'd find it. But if I was in charge and delegated to everyone the same chores I did when they were out, suddenly I'm a perfectionist who wants the house to look like an IKEA ad. These days he doesn't dare open his mouth about anything because I've seen how he keeps a house clean when I am not around. He had 2 years in his own home and it was NASTY. Dog fur, dust and dirty dishes everywhere. I've been here amonth and I'm still bleaching everything I clean during the day just cause I'm still so grossed out by how it was.

OP, tell your DH you keep the house to a certain standard and expect him, as your life partner to help keep it to that standard. Just as he depends on you to put food on the table, you expect him to make you feel happy and welcome in your home.

oatsnhoney's picture

Its not an excuse. Your reply proves it. He had 2 months to live his way and it was vastly different than yours. How come only your preference counts? I think people can serve their own needs by communicating in a way that will be received well by the other. If you want your message to be received, consider the method of delivery. 

You jumped to extremes. OP did not say there was mold. Of course if there is something dangerous like mold, broken glass, fire... it needs to be addressed. She was talking about tidying up the kitchen, folding laundry. Basically all the stuff most people don't like to do. So how do you convice someone you love, and respect... to do something they don't want to do? Not easily by demand. The best way to break through, is speak honestly from the heart, what upsets you and makes you live in stress. Instead of pointint out what hes not doing, point out how you feel overwhelmed, how you're hitting your breaking point because you are more at peace when the home is in a certain state, and you can not have a good work day, or enjoyable evening.. if things are not done. The hope is.. if your partner loves you, he will want to help you. If he doesn't care what you feel, and pushes you away.. then the issue is bigger than dishes.

sunshinex's picture

Thank you. I don't want to make demands, that's for sure. I know it's a hard issue because he's already feeling emasculated and crappy about being a stay-at-home dad instead of providing for his family, so I don't want to make him feel any worse. I just want him to understand where I'm coming from and take pride in a job he truly doesn't feel much pride in. 

SonOfABrisketMaker's picture

If you read my post, you will see that my DH has no  problem seeing things that are undone when I am the one doing the work. When it's his responsibility to keep up the house, suddenly it's not important or too much effort. Also, it's not my opinion that an unclean home attracts bugs. Unwashed dishes, floor dirty with crumbs and spilled food, dirty laundry .. all of these things breed disease and attract bugs. It's not a personal preference to live disease free, it's a privilege.

As for "demanding", it's merely an unspoken expectation. Just like OP is expected to earn the money to care for everyone without it being a spoken thing, so is the unemployed partner expected to care for the home front. OPs husband says "don't tell me what to do" when she asks for certain chores to be done and everyone defends him, but if OP told him "don't tell me what to do" when her DH wants to buy something then folks would be lighting their torches and sharpening pitchforks. But honestly, just because the currency is different (cash money vs a clean house) doesn't make the need for responsibility any different.


SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

I agree about the lists. I think men thrive on having to-do lists. Crossing each task off makes them feel good somehow.

Steppedonnomore's picture

Since you mentioned untreated ADD, a list may be the best way to approach this.  But I wouldn't just make a list and hand it to him. Suggest that the two of you sit down together and make a list of all the things that need to be done to maintain a house.  Then check off those that you are willing to continue (bill paying, groceries, whatever) and those that you are willing to defer and do together on weekends. By that time, his daily list may feel more manageable to him. Sort the list into the order that the chores should be done.  Keep the list where he can see it and suggest that he even check off chores as he does them.  Some people with ADD have a hard time with chores because they can't determine where to start; it just overwhelms them.

fourbrats's picture

and our kids are teens plus grandkids (we have them two to four days a week) are little. I make a list of what needs to be done during the week. Now, DH also has a brain injury from military service and needs lists and such to function normally so that makes sense for us. I still maintain the bills, budget, and schedules and I do my part in terms of household chores as do the kids. 

We have also found that a deep cleaning schedule that everyone helps with works for us so once every two weeks we all pitch in a deep clean. Our teens are super busy during the week so as long as the dishes are done, their laundry is done and they pick up after themselves I don't stress too much. 

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

I’m a SAHM and I bust my ass most days. I was sweeping earlier and my DD said “Why are you doing that, Mommy???” I replied “It’s my job.” 

simifan's picture

Your expectations are vastly different. This doesn't make him wrong. Men think differently. They are single focused. He's home to watch the baby. This is his job and this is what he does. Men just don't think or multi-task like most women do. I love Alison Armstrong and her take on this. Talk to him about what your expectations and your definition of what a SAHD is and does.


Being Single Focused, it is easy for you to completely concentrate on one thing – as long as you can find one thing worth your concentration. Boredom is what you call being unable to find anything worth your total attention.

Once you have committed yourself to a result, almost nothing can deter you from pursuing it. Anything that gets in the way will cause a great deal of frustration and will likely get trampled upon. This is an important result of your instincts. The survival of you and Eve depends upon your relentless pursuit of food and shelter, until you have enough.

While it’s natural for you, Adam, to focus on one thing at a time, for Eve, paying attention to just one thing would present an enormous challenge. Her Diffuse Awareness keeps her in tune with many different aspects of her environment and it’s almost impossible to block any of them out.

Her awareness is so keen that it will seem to her as if the things in her environment are speaking to her. They’ll say “pick me,” and “clean me” or “make me pretty.” Especially if an item is out of place, then it’ll seem as if it’s yelling at her. For example, if you leave your hunting implements near her food preparation area or your clothing near her rest area, she won’t be able to concentrate or rest until those things are out of sight.

This is why you two will feel peaceful for completely different reasons. Adam, you’ll be able to truly relax only when the result you’ve been focused on is produced. Eve, you’ll be able to relax when your environment seems “quiet” because everything is done and everything is in its place. Sometimes you’ll need to get away to a new environment that doesn’t need anything from you, in order to relax.


still learning's picture

For a while I worked days and exH worked swing so we could have 2 incomes and still have child care coverage when the kids were preschool age. I got burnt out after a few months because I would come home to him sitting with his feet up on the couch, dishes piled in the sink, nothing done or cleaned. Kids had been watching movies all day and weren't even fed proper meals just bowl after bowl of cereal.  I had to come home from working all day to clean up the enormous mess they left from being home all day. It was exhausting and did not work for us. I couldn't sustain it at that point in my life.  ***Warning: Potentially offensive and sexist but true comment, Many men were just not brought up to clean house or care for kids so often these kinds of arrangements fail.  

My advice would be to put your kid in some sort of childcare and have hubby work extra to pay for it!  

shamds's picture

that he’ll likely sulk, complain and not do it to the stabdard you do it but it takes time.

my husband is a sole income earner but i still expect he not turn a blind eye to chores. We started with dishes,?emptying trash and kitty litter/biscuits/water and hang laundry or start load of laundry. Most of the time laundry has been done but i only get to hang it in the evening or late afternoon.

he may complain why are you so hormonal and why i have to do these chores etc but explain that you see him sitting watching tv all day and not doing constructive activities with the kids, they are dumped with toys and tv

at not even 1 yrs old my daughter in walker would come and grab clean laundry out of laundry basket to me to hang on the clothes lines. Kids can be trained from very young to be considerate of others and help out. For most they think its a game they’re playing

Powerfamily's picture

There is always an excuse as to why men can't be bothered to do the SAHP properly. They have ADHD, ADD or depression it's funny how women who also have these manage to cope.

I wouldn't panda to him I would tell him he either takes being a SAHP as he would any other job or he gets a job.

And like when you were doing it you expect him to look after  DS, taking him to hisclubs, zoo and park there is no reason he can't just because he can't drive I assume you have some public transport they can use or walk to. And do most of the housework, washing and cooking or you will look at getting better childcare and he can get a job.

At the moment he not a SAHD he's a parent who sits watching TV all day.

Rags's picture

Due to the historical division of responsibilities model in our society (US), this remains a major issue in the dynamic of many marriages.

Mine included. 

We both detest housework.  As it is in my profession, I outsource as much domestic burden as possible.  Laundry (work clothes), yard work, basic cleaning, etc....  I commited to my wife when we first married that I had no intention of  her being the only one saddled with housework. 

Then reality set in and I failed in that commitment.  She was a SAHM and full time college student (Night School).  I was working 15 hour days.  So, we refloated the division of household duties along an availability model.   Since work time was fixed we agreed that work time was from the time I left for work in the AM until I returned  home in the PM.  During that time the house work and the kid were her work. 

It was not my turn to care for the kid and home when I got home. That was joint responsibiliity time. We both did it during non work hours.  We both work 45+ hours per week and have for the past 20 years.  Over the years the division of duties has ironed out to be that she pays the bills, we each do our own non outsourced laundry.  We both cook (her more than me), and I clean the kitchen.   We both vacuum and dust periodically. 

We enjoy spending time together and work on things together these days far better than we ever have. Though she still does the bigger half of the house stuff.

We finished putting away Christmas over this weekend.  She packed all of the ornaments and decorations, I took town the lights (inside and out) and the tree.   While she worked on the packing Christmas and setting up two more Elfa storage units in her 85% of the closet I also unpacked new furniture, collapsed boxes, set up the furniture, installed the surround sound system (mostly, I still have the rear channel speakers to install), consolidated the recycling and put it on the curb, and researched cruises for our upcoming 25th anniversary.  

Her effort on the home is far more consistent than mine but the dynamic has changed regularly over the years.