Seeing my mother do it all as a single mom gave me a unique appreciation for my husband. And oddly enough, the more conversations I have with some of my married friends, the more grateful I am for him. At the same time, my husband is great — but, let’s face it, he could do better.
I’m thankful for the way he happily stays home with our son when I have something to do. I love that the other night he gave our son a bath, put on his moisturizer, and even did his best to wash and style his hair. Now that we are expecting a second child, he’s taking on a few additional tasks.
But the gratitude I have for my “progressive husband” doesn’t mean he’s perfect. And it’s frustrating to me when my acquaintances suggest that I should take him as-is because they wish their husband would do a fraction of what he does.
Somewhere along the way, we accepted the false narrative that husbands should not be equally responsible for household management or child-rearing. My mother made sure I never gave in to that logic. Despite being a single parent, she made sure to remind me as frequently as possible that there’s no point in having help if they’re not helping you. In other words, I can do bad all by myself. Living a life based off of that philosophy meant a few things. I had no interest in being in a relationship with someone who made me feel devalued. And I was not willing to marry a man who made it clear that I would be doing everything on my own.
I have a husband who helps if he sees me cleaning, encourages me to pursue my dreams, and does his best to directly engage with our son, but here are a few things I wish he did differently.
1. Help without being prompted
One of the most frustrating things about my relationship is that I always have to ask, often multiple times, before he does things I do out of habit. Many of us would love our husbands to just see what needs to be done and do it. Prompting or reminding just creates one more thing that we have to do.
Sure, it warmed my heart to watch my husband and son bond over a bath that night. But if I hadn’t asked him to do it earlier in the day, we wouldn’t have thought of it. It’s hard not to wonder how long it would have taken him to decide our son, McChub, needed a bath if I hadn’t asked for it.
2. Put family first
As the work-at-home parent, I have to plan my day around every aspect of my son’s life if I hope to get things done. My husband, on the other hand, gets to assume that I will put my stuff on hold and everything with our son will be taken care of. That puts a lot of pressure on those of us who work from or stay home with our children.
We have to preplan our daily lives because taking care of our kids is considered primarily our responsibility. There are so many decisions related to kids that we primary caregivers feel like we have to make on our own, and it would be nice if our spouses would pick up some of that slack.
3. Understand there is never a perfect time for a tough conversation
My husband basically has two function options. He is either awesome, or he’s the worst. When he’s the best, I stare at him with glossy eyes. When he’s at his worst, I want to move out. During those difficult times, he can be tough to talk to — especially about critical mutual decisions. I think a lot of this stems from his childhood and his extreme discomfort with conflict. The result is he can be pretty passive-aggressive and use “I’ll think about it” as an excuse to avoid hard topics.
By saying he has to think about it, he dictates the progress of a resolution — which frustrates the hell out of me. He avoids conversations until he is 100% ready, and that puts a huge damper on our communication. I wish he’d understand that things may never be 100% ready, but they still have to be addressed.
Bottom line: spouses need to communicate with each other, as uncomfortable as it might be sometimes.
4. Confirm our worth and value
For me, and for many at-home parents, we have doubts about our worth and value. We need affirmation that we’re important. I’m not that hard to please, but I do wish my husband was more thoughtful and would give more indicators that during the day he thinks of me.
As a work-from-home mom, I had very different plans for my life and I often feel like I have limited value these days. If our spouses spent more time letting us know that they’re proud of us and happy to be with us, it can make all the difference.
It’s possible my husband — and other spouses out there — try to do these things, but because we have different Love Languages, we don’t always pick up on them. Things get lost in translation. Either way, wanting to see more of the above does not negate the love we have for our spouses. I love the wild cocktail that is my husband, and I hope to be together for a very long time.
But with any long-term relationship, there’s always room for improvement, am I right?