Dear Amy: I am a married mother of a 2-year-old, and a 5-month-old baby. My husband and I are both professionals, and I am currently on parental leave. My husband’s is the “primary” career in the house, and he earns a lot more than I do.
I am happy taking care of my little ones, but I am still getting up three or four times a night with the baby and getting progressively more tired. Lately I have started snapping and lashing out at my husband. I feel terrible about it later.
I have always done everything in the relationship – shopping, washing, cooking, cleaning, financials, social activities, etc. – and continue to do so. He isn’t great at taking care of himself. He also often wakes up the children when he gets home late from work, which greatly upsets me.
I feel as though this is my “job” (as he is the breadwinner), and that I should be able to handle it. If he could even just tidy up after himself, it would make my life easier.
He promises to do more, but then doesn’t. If I get angry, he immediately checks out or acts as though I have behaved badly. I have no perspective on whether I am asking too much.
Dear Tired: It is a measure of your extreme fatigue that you don’t seem to have a perspective on your own feelings or reactions to this extreme challenge. It is not your “job” to exhaust yourself taking care of two children, as well as another able-bodied adult.
Parenting is a partnership, no matter who is the primary breadwinner. With two young children, your husband needs to up his game. His behavior and reaction to you is not kind, loving or helpful.
If he can’t be more helpful and supportive (because of his professional work hours) or won’t participate (because of his bullheadedness), this will be a lonely and very challenging time for you. Yes, he should at the very least tidy up after himself and act like an adult, versus your third child.
He is going to have to dial in to your family in practical ways, so that your family can start to thrive.
You need practical help and emotional support. Turn over jobs he can do (bill paying and laundry, for instance). If hired household help would ease things for you, then please – get it.
He has the opportunity to be a hero. He is refusing this opportunity, and is punishing you for your very reasonable expectation.
For a scholarly and eye-opening perspective on the challenge you are facing, you and your husband should read “The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home,” by Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung (2012, Penguin).
Dear Amy: I work half time, and share a job with my co-worker, “Terry.”
We both have the same position.
I came to work one day and my supervisor said that since Terry and I were half-timers, we would have to share one desk. My previous desk had been turned into a work area with boxes and other mailing materials.
One day when I was scheduled, Terry was already there, saying she came in by mistake!
It was agreed that Terry would work until noon and I would come back into work then and work the rest of the day.
A couple of hours later the supervisor called and said not to come in as planned.
When the supervisor occasionally wants us to both be there, even though it is really my scheduled day, I am relegated to my old cramped cubicle.
This has been very inequitable, discouraging and upsetting.
I am considering asking for a transfer to another department or leaving. What are your thoughts?
Dear Frustrated: Before transferring, you should practice being more proactive and assertive concerning your schedule and work environment. It is completely reasonable for you to want clarity. You should schedule a meeting with your supervisor and review concerns you have regarding confusion over your schedule. There are various online tools and apps that can assist in workplace scheduling.
You and your co-worker should mutually agree that the person officially on the schedule gets the desk. Your co-worker has no incentive to do this without you taking the initiative.
Dear Readers: Sometimes people who dispense advice run out of answers. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind my advice, read my new book, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home” (2017, Hachette).
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.