Long-term relationships come with a ton of responsibilities. There’s the logistical stuff like keeping the lights on and staying on top of the rent. Then, there’s also keeping the romantic passion alive and the warmth of non-sexual intimacy kindled. When you have children, you compound all the logistical and emotional needs then add the burden of teaching a little one how to navigate the world. It can be quite a lot.
This tremendous weight will only feel heavier if you’re the one who has to shoulder it alone. Moms are expected to go above and beyond in managing their child’s learning and development, providing material goods and physical needs, and financially contributing to the household. And, while it may work in some families, it is completely unsustainable for others, especially when having a child is a shared decision. Here are five steps to take if your husband is a lazy parent:
1. Assess the Situation:
Before you bring your concerns to your husband’s attention or jump to any conclusions, take note of what you think it is that your husband isn’t doing. Think about how long you’ve noticed him slacking. Maybe the behaviors are better in some areas than others. Take stock of what is working and what isn’t working. Try to think of specific examples that have repeated occurrences.
You should also pay attention to how the behavior affects the whole family. If your husband’s lazy parenting makes it so that the kids prefer him, this creates an unequal power distribution in the family, which can create greater conflict over time. If lazy parenting means that your partner is largely absent from your children’s lives, this can damage their relationship. Your husband’s laziness might become a model for the children to emulate, creating a home filled with bad habits. Even if the laziness is causing you undue stress, this can have ripple effects throughout the family.
Finally, think about how your husband’s laziness is making you feel. In some cases, you might feel that your husband’s laziness is frustrating, but could improve after being highlighted or with some coaching. In other cases, it may be so severe that you’re considering divorce. Your feelings are important in this too, so be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling.
2. Talk to Him:
As naive as it sounds, your husband might not know that he is being an irresponsible or uninvolved parent. This frequently happens in cases where a husband works long hours at a demanding job or is physically distant from his children. He may not realize that his deployment overseas or seventy-two-hour tours at the firehouse exempt him from needing to be active and present in the discipline and emotional growth of his children. You should be a united front, regardless of physical presence.
When you address your husband, try to avoid blaming or shaming behaviors. Simply be honest about how you’re feeling. Talk about how your frustrations could impact the family over time. If your husband is largely physically present, point out the areas where you feel that he could better pick up the slack and contribute to the household. Give your husband the chance to explain his perspective and how he’d like to make the necessary changes.
3. Make a Game Plan:
Once you’ve had the conversation with your husband regarding his lazy parenting, make a game plan for the family. If your kids are old enough, allow them to contribute too. During this time, talk about chore distribution, transportation responsibilities, and break times. Look at each other’s schedules and be amenable to working around these schedules to make things happen. Compromise will be key as you collaborate. As you implement these changes, you may struggle with feeling a loss of control. For example, you might not love that your husband prefers using the dishwasher to washing the dishes by hand. However, you must be willing to surrender some of your control to relinquish some of your burden.
4. Enforce Boundaries:
Do not allow malicious compliance, feigned helplessness, or weaponized incompetence in the household. These behaviors can be indicative of a larger problem in the marriage. Malicious compliance refers to a behavior that follows your request exactly, but not in the spirit of the request. For example, if you ask your husband to take out the trash, he might take it outside and leave it on the porch instead of putting it on the curb for pickup.
Weaponized incompetence relies on triggering your frustration to get out of doing chores. It frequently looks like doing such a bad job at something that you’ll want to take over the chore so that your spouse won’t have to do it again. An example of this would be throwing a red sock into the white load of laundry. Your spouse might claim that they “didn’t know” that the red dye would turn everything in the load pink, hoping that you’ll find them too big of a screwup to do the job again.
After a learning and adjustment period, both of these behaviors are unacceptable and must be addressed.
5. Go to Therapy:
If you are not noticing any significant change in your husband’s contributions to the household, it may be advisable to seek professional help. The couple and family therapist’s job is to help both parties communicate their emotions and work with the couple to strategize and execute better behaviors in the relationship. Couples often report that outside help is beneficial due to having a perspective that emerged from a realm beyond the couple’s dynamic.
If your children are old enough, you may also consider family therapy. The family therapist is similar to the couples therapist in that their job is to address the family’s issues as a unit. They help with communication strategies and highlight where the dysfunction in the family seems to occur. The negative effects of lazy parenting frequently show up as poor behavior in the children. Family therapy can be particularly helpful in addressing these issues, as well as encouraging parents to create a united front with an agreed-upon set of boundaries and expectations for their children.
A lazy husband does not have to be the end of a marriage. If your partner is willing to work with you to create a more equitable distribution of work, the whole family will benefit from better balance and less stress. If you hit any bumps along the road, a licensed therapist will be able to help you confront some of the hurdles that are preventing your family from moving forward in a positive and healthy way.