I am the stay-at-home-mom of a great little 12-week-old boy. Not going back to work has been quite an adjustment, but my husband and I always agreed that I would leave my job until our kids go off to kindergarten. I have missed my colleagues and spending time on big projects, but I know that the “project” I’m currently managing is about as big as it gets.
It’s my dear husband who doesn’t seem to get it. Nearly every day, he comes home from work and asks, “So, what did you accomplish today?” Now that I am at home with our son, my husband suddenly expects me to become a domestic goddess. He wants me to make dinner every night, cancelled our maid service, and even thinks I should mow the lawn. None of this was consistently part of my responsibility before the baby came. We hired out for the jobs we didn’t like doing (housework, lawn care), and split the rest (cooking, shopping) between us. Today, his list of to-dos is so long he can’t keep up with it all, and the truth is, I don’t want to keep up with all of that. I thought we chose this new lifestyle so I could be a parent, I didn’t think I was signing on to be a servant. How do I explain myself without sounding like a whiny brat?
— Overworked on O
Hmm, part of me wants you to just follow this script: “What did I accomplish today? I kept your son alive.”
While that’s probably not the most productive response, it felt pretty good to type.
It sounds to me like both you and Husband are still adjusting to becoming parents! Now that Baby is on the scene, you may need a reminder or clarification conversation about your household game plan. Have you had a conversation about your own expectations during this stay-at-home time? Does he know how you feel? Does he know how it sounds to you when he asks what you’ve “accomplished”?
When you say you don’t want to come across like a “whiny brat,” it suggests that some part of you is feeling bad about not taking on all the household duties. That sounds like the modern Superwoman complex gone awry. Presumably you and Husband made the joint decision to have a child and the joint decision to parent with you at home. A calm, honest conversation about your own feelings and expectations is the only way to ensure that he actually hears what you’re thinking.
And who knows, you might learn that he isn’t feeling so great about not being on-site with your son. Men have their own Superman complexes — is he allowed to name his feelings about the situation? Perhaps his questions are only masking his own disappointment about the way things are going. Again, an honest conversation is the only way to find out.
Meanwhile, I’d also recommend that you to seek out old friends who are newly minted stay-at-home-moms (or meet some new ones) to find a support circle during this transition time. You haven’t chosen the “easy” route here, and just because you’re already walking it doesn’t mean you don’t need some encouragement from others on the same road.
I have been married for 11 years to the love of my life. We have two children together, a nine-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl. My husband is everything I have always wanted. We have always been very compatible and I feel so lucky to have him as my partner.
Lately though, I have started working closely with a male colleague, I will call him “Bob.” We’re on a big project, which has included some travel together. The more time I spend with Bob, the easier and more fun it becomes. On the last trip, when we went to dinner I felt like we were “on a date.” I felt a lot of attraction for him, and I think he felt the same for me. We didn’t talk about it, and neither of us did anything to make a move.
My question is whether I should tell my husband. We have always been completely honest with each other, and I would want him to tell me if he felt as much attraction for a woman as I feel for Bob. But I asked my best friend and she thought I was crazy to potentially damage my marriage when I have no intention of acting on the feelings. I don’t know what to do — should I keep it a secret? Bob and I will be working closely together for at least another six months.
— Attracted in Arlington
Let’s run through the scenarios. What exactly would telling him do? I agree with Best Friend that it is likely to damage your relationship with Husband, but what other purpose would it serve? Do you want to tell him so that you are semi-publicly shamed into not acting on the feelings? Or perhaps a part of you wants Husband to lose it, giving you permission to seek solace in Bob’s open arms? Or maybe you come from a tradition where lusting in your heart is such a burden, you just want to confess to someone? If that’s the latter’s the case, my advice is simple: find someone else to talk to. If you’re still unsure of the purpose, let’s turn the conversation away from Husband and back to you.
What is this really about? You make such a strong case for your great marriage, I wonder if you are allowed to admit that things might not be as wonderful as they “should be.” Yes, marriage is about partnership, family, and unconditional love — but those things don’t always add up to something sexy and intriguing day after day. Do you need more romance, excitement, spontaneity? That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and the good news is you can get it at home, with a little work and creativity.
When we’ve been with our partner as long as you have, we sometimes forget that we have to use actual words to convey what’s going on in our brains. The two of you may have honed your connection over the last 11 years so much that he’s a mind-reader when it comes to co-parenting or picking out your favorite ice cream at the store. Still, he might need a little more guidance on this one, since family routines are notorious for soothing even the best of us into relational apathy. You don’t have to own up to the attraction to get what you want, you may just have to make surprise vacation plans, or just flirt with him a little more in public. Give it a shot before setting off a bomb in your happy home.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of D.C. in Georgetown. Her Web site is www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.