(I am reposting this because. Because I am right here again, and I am tired, and I am even moreso *right here* with three children and a full-time-outside-the-home-job and a house exploding with stuff and back-to-school events. My household is overwhelmed and understaffed, and I am… having some problems dealing with it.)
Psst. Your wife is mad at you. Especially if you have children.
It’s okay. Or it can be okay.
Do you know what your wife wants? Of course you don’t — that’s why she’s mad at you! And yes, she wants some things that you just don’t feel like doing, it’s true. But you will be amazed at how little “extra” you have to do.
Here are some things you can do — right now, today! — that will help your wife be less angry at you:
Four simple words: “How can I help?” Ask your wife this tonight after dinner. Really listen to her answer. She wants you to clean up the kitchen? Just do it. Or would she rather you bathe the children? Just do it. And do it all on your own, the first time she asks you. Your wife doesn’t want to be a nag, but if she asks you to do something and you say, “Okay, I’ll do that” and then start surfing YouTube on your computer, she’s going to have to ask you again. And possibly again, and then you will say, “I said I would do it! Stop nagging me” and then her head will explode.
Take care of the kids. No, really. You should have some basic knowledge of how to take care of the children. And, truly, I mean basic. Have a rough idea of their schedules. Know when they eat meals and/or snacks; have a clue about what they like or dislike. Know where their clothes are and how to dress the children appropriately. Do the bath thing, start to finish, once a week. Put them to bed — yes, both (or more) of them, if applicable. Let your wife clean up the kitchen uninterrupted and then sit down a read a book. We will understand if it’s not every night. And we’re not asking you to remember the doctor appointments or school details. Basic.
Let her sleep in. Some couples I know divide the weekend: He sleeps in Saturday; she sleeps in Sunday, or vice versa. In short, though, even if you can only do it once a month or so: get up with the children, and don’t let them wake her up. Let her loll in bed until 8:30 or 9 a.m. If you sleep in more often (be honest, guys), then give her a break.
Figure out how to give your wife some uninterrupted time. I don’t know if you know how many times your wife is interrupted in the course of her life with the children. If they are awake, be assured that they are interrupting her. Roughly every 30 seconds (this gets better as they get older, or so I hear). She is constantly turning away from whatever she happens to be doing (cooking dinner, cleaning, laundry, even trying to read a magazine or going to the bathroom) to “deal with” the children. Even if it’s to look at something they want her to see or stopping to say “hi” to the toddler who has run into the room for the umpteenth time yelling, “Hi, Mommy!”, it’s getting on her nerves a little bit.
There are two ways your wife wants uninterrupted time: She wants it out of the house, and she wants it in the house.
Give your wife a few hours — or even a day — off. Encourage her to leave the house. Don’t ask what she is going to do. Don’t ask when she is coming home. Don’t call her cell phone to ask her when or what to feed the children, or if they need baths, or what time they go to bed. This time alone, I almost guarantee, will pay dividends. Doesn’t have to be every weekend. Once a month, though? Would rock.
Give your wife a few hours around the house without the children underfoot. You know that really messy room you’ve been complaining about? Or have you noticed that the kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in a while? Are boxes of things she means to donate piling up? Quit bugging her about it. She wants to deal with it, she really does. Some days it’s hard enough cleaning up the mess from that day, let alone getting to things that have accumulated. Disappear with the kids for a few hours. Take the children to the mall or the Children’s Museum, or to the zoo, or to a movie. Treat them to lunch at a restaurant. Give your wife a few hours in the house alone. That room, that floor, those boxes, will probably be taken care of. Really. It’s bugging her too.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well why doesn’t she just tell me this stuff?” There are a few possible reasons that your wife hasn’t mentioned how upset she is:
First, it’s possible that she simply cannot believe that you don’t know what needs to be done around the house and/or with the children. She thinks that you will wake up, and start doing that little bit more — putting your socks in the hamper, carrying that basket of laundry upstairs, bathing the children. She hasn’t said anything because she doesn’t think she needs to say anything.
Second, she assumes that it is her role to do “everything” and since you work full-time (you do work full-time, right?), you deserve a break today. This is very sweet of her, of course, but here’s the thing. It’s not helping her be less angry. And when she snaps — and she will lose it sooner or later, sooner if she also works outside of the home — and throws something at your head, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
I know, I know, she doesn’t do everything. But that’s how she feels. So help her out a little bit.
Third, she has told you. She has asked you. And you either haven’t really heard her, or after agreeing to do certain things at certain times or on certain days, you haven’t followed through.
No, your wife is not perfect. And yes, she could possibly manage her time a little better, too.
Here’s another a big, important point: Your wife doesn’t want to be angry with you. She didn’t get here alone, but she feels alone — and angry, right now. Be her partner; help her out. She didn’t marry your and have children on a whim. She loves you.
Addendum: Here are some other thoughts. Seriously consider hiring a cleaning service, because your wife wants to actually be with her kids more than she wants clean toilets. Obviously. Don’t tell your wife she has to make sacrifices, because she has sacrificed a lot for you and this family, buddy — starting with her body and ending with her sanity — and she’s simply not giving up more. And if you are already doing a lot of this stuff, she’s probably not mad, but if you started doing some of this stuff and then stopped — she’s even more pissed. Just sayin’.