March 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm , by Nick Shell
Today I help out a fellow dad whose wife has revoked his ability to help with their kid and the housework… or has she?
“Nick, what advice do you have for me on this? Since our infant child arrived several months ago, my wife complains (or mutters under her breath) on a daily basis that I’m not helpful enough with the baby or the housework, then complains when I do try to help.
She tells me it’s just easier to do it herself. I can’t win! Help me dude!”
Let me guess. Like me, you’ve always been a pretty laid-back guy. You’re friendly. You tend not to let things bother you, for the most part.
I say, that’s a great way to be; except for all the times that being aggressive and proactive come in to play. As a dad and husband, that actually ends up being a lot of the time.
Your wife is ultimately upset, not because she would rather do things herself, but because she’s having to take on the majority of the household duties, including caring for your child.
She needs you to take charge, even if you have to figure it out as you go along.
I get it. You don’t know as much about where the mixing bowl and the pasta strainer belong; nor do you know exactly how to fold the kitchen towels the right way.
You’re a man, so it’s frustrating that you don’t naturally know as much about the world of Home Ec; much less what to do with a crying infant who at this point can not tell you exactly what he or she wants or needs.
I understand how you feel when you say your wife wants you to read her mind. There’s a Colbie Collait song called “Realize” that sums it up for me:
“I can’t spell it out for you. No, it’s never gonna be that simple.”
Whereas in an ideal world, your wife would just simply make you a checklist of exactly what she wants you to take care of each day, here’s why that’s pretty unlikely to happen:
The #1 item on that nonexistent list of hers is for you to figure out for yourself all the other items on that list.
But isn’t that reading her mind?
Technically, but let me translate this scenario into guy language: Imagine if every time before you and your wife had sex, she said, “The reason I’m doing this is because I know it’s one of the things you want me to do as your wife.”
[Insert screeching brakes sound effect here.]
Regarding your help with the housework and baby, she wants you to show the initiative of making that list yourself, then taking care of those tasks as needed, and not ever referring to this list to begin with. She doesn’t want you to be passive, not instead, proactive.
She wants you to want to figure out what needs to be done; which is the very thing that frustrates you.
It’s like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer is the Moviephone guy and says to George, “Why don’t you justtell me the name of the movie you selected?”
It may involve some trial and error, but figure out what stuff you can take care while she’s caring for the baby and everything else. Observe what specifically is that “everything else” and add it to the list.
Pretty soon, you’ll have “the list” memorized and make a daily habit of checking off those items naturally by habit.
Washed dishes and emptied dishwasher? Check.
Folded laundry? Check.
Rock the baby to sleep for afternoon nap? Check.
Observed that your wife has stopped complaining about you not helping out enough because you care enough to figure out how to lighten her burden? Check.
Would you like to ask me for “dadvice” to be featured here on The Dadabase?
Just shoot me an email to nickshell1983@hotmail with the word “dadvice” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. Even if I decide not to use your question as part of my Dadvice franchise, I’ll still at least privately answer you; whether you’re a mom or dad.
Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be about communication in marriage. It could be about organic foods and health remedies, methods on getting your baby to sleep, a re-occurring dream about your kid; just whatever kind of weird parenthood related thing you are wondering about and want this dad’s quirky opinion on.
Image: Psychic Reader neon sign, via Shutterstock.