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How Much Should Husband Help Stay-At-Home Mom?

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Family Relations > How Much Should Husband Help Stay-At-Home Mom?


related page: Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
August 2003

I am just wondering how much a husband should help with childcare. I am a stay at home mom of a 21 months old girl and I am also taking care of another child for about 20 hours a week. I also do all the housework . My husband occasianaly mows the lawn or fixes something in the house but of course that doesn't happen every week. I go twice a week to the Gym and my husband watches my daughter from 5:30 to 7:30. We talked about that we both take care of her on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but it rarly happens. I always have to ask for help and when I ask he usually sais that he is busy with something else or tired. I am so tired of asking for help because it feels like I am asking for too much. I know he has a stressful Job. We are also trying to raise our daughter billingual ( German / English) but so far she knows only three words in English and many many words in German. I think that is another reason why they should be more together. Well, I talked about all this with my husband but he just sais that he works his ass off at work and that he feels unappreciated because he does his share. Am I asking for too much ? He has never been to the playground with her and never gave her a bath and if I tell him what to do I am a nag. Now I let them spend their time together however he wants to which is mostly watching TV ( better than no time together) I feel like I never have a break. At night he also never gets up for her and I am so jeaulous when I see and hear what other husbands do with their kids. He always sais that he is busy but he does find the time for the computer or TV.

I consulted the website already but I just wanted to know from others how much a dad should be helping with childcare. Is 4 hours a week enough ? I stopped asking for help because I am so tired of the guilt trip he gives me later on that I just do it myself. I would love to get to know other women in this situation. Maybe we can give each other emotional support.


The first thing i want to say is that your husband may be tired after a hard day's work but don't forget that you have also just had a very hard day's work with NO lunch break or coffee break or just time to sit alone at a desk or speak to colleagues without any distractions. Your husband needs to appreciate that you are also working and I've found the best way to do this is to go away for the weekend. If this is too much to ask then go away just for the day and suggest that when you return dinner should be ready, the house clean, and your daughter happy from a wonderful day of playing with her daddy! Perhaps if he gets to spend more time with his daugher (four hours is definately not enough) he will realise how fun it can be, but also how much work it really is. (And don't worry about the language thing...your daughter will learn English as she is surrounded by it and it is great that she speaks/understands German already). anon
Your husband needs a good whack with a clue by four.

The stay-at-home moms I know consider caring for their children and their home to be their job in the same sense that their husbands' programming computers or defending lawsuits or whatever is his job -- and both of them have regular working hours and regular off duty hours. In most cases, when the husband *is* home (evenings, weekends), he is the one primarily responsible for the child(ren) while the wife may take care of other chores like cooking dinner, and every weekend, either the family does something fun together, or the father takes care of the child while mom has some ''me time'', or both.

Your husband should not be ''helping'' you. He should be doing HIS share of caring for HIS child and HIS house, just as he would have to if you were working outside the home.

How to accomplish that given that he doesn't seem willing to pull his weight is a different question, which you may want to ask for help with. But do not feel at all shy about insisting that he do his fair share. A few hours a week of ''babysitting'' (who ''babysits'' their own child?) is not his fair share no matter whether you work or how much either of you earns. Holly


Wow. I have some pretty strong opinions on this subject. Right now you have two jobs 1) House keeper - cleaning, cooking laundry, managing repair people or other that come into the home, Bills (probably)... 2) Childcare - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (feeding, changing,playing,sick care,night time wake ups...)The time, energy, creativity, and stress that you put in each week to help keep your home and family happy and healthy is every bit as important as what your husband does in his at 9-5, 8-5, or even 70+ a week job. All the things you do are things that people get paid for - so don't let him say that he's the one who supports the family. Your labor has monetary value (even if the current market doesn't pay what it should). Say your husband's job requires him to be out of the house for 10 hours a day, then all the child and home care during the the remaining 14 hours should be shared EQUALLY between you both (I know part that home time is sleep time - but night time awakenings and the lighter sleep required to be responsive to them is significant responsibility). He's tired and needs a rest? Fine, Let him have an hour when he gets home and then you get an hour to YOURSELF right after that. Best if you can alternate who gets to take the first hour off after he gets home - I'm sure your just as tired as he is and probably need a break from the children even more than he needs it.

Maybe you won't be able to get him to aggree to this. But, I think you and he should know that his refusal suggests either a serious attitude problem (his behavior is NOT ok) or perhaps he has a medical condition and can get a doctor's excuse?? Just my two cents, Karlyn

ps, I was a stay at home mom for about two years and I just recently went back to work. Now I have 3 jobs! But, luckily my husband understands that he shares two of them with me. Karlyn


I just had to respond regarding needing more husband-help as a stay-at-home mom. I still struggle with this issue and my son is nearly 3. I am curious to know what other people say since I have a hard time asking for more help from my husband. I know his job is stressful and physically tiring, but I often envy him. I think a job would be easier at times!

We don't have much money, but we managed to budget in a housecleaner. That freed me up so much. Even twice a month just to do the major cleaning. I don't have to race around as much when I get a free minute. I think of that as part of my hubby's contribution, but still wish he did more. But I want more household help and less criticism.

I think you are right in wanting your husband to have a larger hand in helping not only for your sake, but to have a closer relationship to his daughter. Once I stopped nursing, my husband took over the bedtime reading and they now have a special time each night. Of course, that's now when I clean the kitchen!

You asked if 4 hours a week was enough. I don't think it can be measured in hours though -- there are other ways to help. Things your family could do: your husband could pick up a take- out dinner once a week. Look into some classes like Music Together or something that you husband could do without you while you slept-in or got your nails done or whatever on Saturday mornings. On the weekends I find that we need to plan outings for the three of us since I don't get a break if we stay home.

I also suggest that you get some date nights with your husband to reconnect before the resentment builds too much. Try to find positive ways to talk about it. He needs to know that you need some time for yourself before you snap. (OK, maybe I'm projecting my own situation a bit) Try to see his point of view - is there a time when it's easier for him to contribute? Maybe he doesn't feel confident with your daughter, maybe he doesn't know what to do.

Good luck. And good for you for working out and teaching your daughter German. She'll get the English soon enough, I wouldn't worry. -been there and still trying


Reading your message made me feel sad for you & your daughter, but mostly MAD AT YOUR HUSBAND!!! Yes, your husband works hard, but so do you. Being a stay-at-home-mom doesn't mean you have to be on duty 24 hours a day (that would be a stay-at-home- slave...). And you care for another child 20 hours a week! Your husband's job isn't 24 hours, & he even gets coffee breaks & lunch-- I know doesn't always happen for us! You definitely deserve more than 4 hours a week!!!!!! But all this being said, if he doesn't want to change, he won't. It sounds like you have tried. Do you have friends with more involved partners who could talk to him on the sly? Maybe getting involved in a babysitting co-op could help you get more free time, of course you have to 'pay' by watching another child, too. The way that your husband spends his time with your daughter is a whole other ball of wax. Best of luck to you, it sounds like a really tough situation. sympathetic mama
Hey - it's not "help". You are a team, working together to raise a child and keep the home fires burning. And by the way this is not a problem unique to stay-at-home moms. We moms who go in to the office every day can also find ourselves the designated cook/housekeeper/childcare provider and general person-in-charge on the home front when we come home every day. Of course you need to negotiate with your husband, and redistribute some of the tasks to him.

But in fairness to the dads, I know women friends and family members who keep this situation going by unconsciously claiming the house as their domain, relegating their husbands to a sort of incompetent guest visitor status. (OK, I'm guilty of this too) Often we set up a situation where the dad needs to check in with us for every household or parenting decision, no matter how trivial, from what to have for dinner to how the baby gets put to bed. It isn't fair to ask someone to take more responsibility if you are claiming it all for yourself. So, if you really want to be a team at home rather than a household manager wife with a husband assistant, then you will probably have to hand over the reins sometimes, and step out of the picture, and let him do it his way instead of your way. In my case this means I have to keep quiet when dinner is microwaved sausages and bananas, and the baby gets rocked to sleep in front of the computer monitor while Dad is reading email. But, as they say, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen (and let him go in there instead and cook sausages and bananas.) Ginger


I think you have articulated the feelings of frustration that many woman feel. No offense to the daddys in a similiar situation but us girls have definitely been taking the brunt of this childcare thing. Having just read Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions I have realized how much this resonates with myself and many woman. The I am so tired arguement is fairly lame. After all you have two jobs- taking care of the baby and the other child for 20hrs. The difference between your job and his job is that his ends and your doesn't. Housework, cooking, cleaning- daily life stuff that is a whole other job.

Having struggled for the last 15 years t get my man to contribute equally to the household is a constant battle but one I refuse to give up just because I am tired of fighting it because that's a loser. A father should take care of the kid as much as as needed and no you shouldn't have to ask but you'll continue to have to because that won't change. My advice would be to continue to talk about it- not nag it - but keep having frank discussions about it all- how tired it all makes you, how you need a break sometimes to and how it makes you feel when he doesn't want/initate care. Develop a schedule ahead of time liek the routine of your going to the gym. Put in other times every week at the same time that you go away and leave them. Those are just some suggestions to use or not but know you aren't alone- you are justified in feeling frustrated and angry about it and just rememebr to keep communication open and honest. Good luck!
another overworked, underpaid mommy


I'm not sure how to answer your question because that question, like everything else, depends on so many factors going on in the marriage, including how you divided responsibilities before baby and who wanted to have the kid. I can tell you how it is with my husband and I (he is the primary caretake whenever he's home, he takes the baby to the park, classes, walks, reads to her, plays with her, teacher her stuff, watches videos with her, feeds her, puts her to sleep, changes her diapers, puts on her shoes, etc. etc.) - but I married him, in part, because I knew he was going to be a terrific father. He always wanted kids more than I, and he does what he does with our daughter because he genuinely enjoys it.

But I also have friends who have an agreement that the wife will be the primary caretakes of the child until he's 6 or 7. She's the one who wants the kids so for them that's what's fair. anon


I have had a similar situation with my husband. I don't think he realized how much work and how draining it can be to be home with a baby or toddler. It took a while (and we are still working it out) but I really tried to convey to him that I needed more help in order to be the best Mom I could be. Then I just started scheduling breaks. It's still not anywhere near 50/50, but it's lots better. From what you've written, it sounds to me like your husband should be helping more than he does. Address this now before resentment builds up and out of control. Been there
I think your husband should relieve you as much as possible, with the understanding that you are the primary caregiver as the mother. Sometimes only the mother can soothe a baby...but no matter how hard he works, he should have some interest in bonding with his baby. There maybe a couple of things going on,...one is that he feels inadequate as a father and is using being overworked and tired as a way to avoid being a new dad, or maybe he's just reliving how his dad treated him. Conversely, if he knew just how hard it was to watch the baby all day, he would probably see how easy he has it going to work. Or, he could just be the stoic, unavailable dad we all know too well, but I'm sure he would agree that that is a model we could all do without. I think a little guilt thrown his way could be a good thing, he's missing out on a beautiful thing, days and nights that can never be gotten back. If he would rather watch T.V. or surf the web, I think you have a right to ask for more of his time, regardless of how hard he works...after all, he did decide to become a father, he should start acting like one. I wouldn't feel too guilty since you have the hardest job in the world.

I read somewhere that a father's biggest obstacle in becoming involved in their child's upbringing is opportunity. If he never is given the chance to father, he's never going to get good at it.

To his benefit, he is watching the baby while you go to the gym, so he's not all that bad. I would maybe start adding one half hour or so, and provide him with plenty of breast milk or forumula to last three hours or more. I think the more he becomes involved, the more he will feel competent, and the more engaged he will become.

Challenge him to take the baby for a walk in public, go for a loaf of bread at the store, or just a cup of coffee. Play on his competitive male nature to see if he responds, it's worth a try. Good luck. anon


I have a very different experience and differing view from your husband. The fact that your husband works outside of the home and you work inside the home shouldn't mean that you are then responsible for childcare all day every day. I work 3 days outside the home and then have my son the other 2 days. My husband cooks/throws something together for us for dinner typically while I feed our son. Weekends are definitely a balance because it is difficult to clean the house, mow the lawn etc. with a little one. We try to take turns but it's sometimes hard to get everything done we need to. I do think that moms typically take on or end up with more than dads but I don't think that means you should feel guilty in asking your husband for help. You are equally exhausted after a full day with your child and watching another one. It's a different kind of stress but it shouldn't be considered ''less'' important than your husbands job. I would encourage you to get a babysitter and talk to your husband about how to balance your home life. Let him know you appreciate what he does at work but he needs to also appreciate what you do at home. I think what you're asking is fair. Maybe there are ways you can all do things together to spend time but have your husband take the lead. with your daughter i.e. an evening stroll but he pushes the stroller and then gets her ready for bed when you return. Good luck! anon
This is something that has come up in my marriage quite a bit since we have had our child (18 months) and which we have had to renegotiate. When we first had our child, when he was newborn, we negotiated a division of labor that basically included me doing all the childcare, housework, finances, and managing our rental property. My husband has a stressful job with long hours. When our son was about 6 months old everything started crashing. I just had too much on my plate. So after a lot of horrible arguements, I finally sat down with my husband and told him that I am just doing too much.

While I didn't want to get into an arguement where we compared how much we worked....this turned out to be the thing that helped. We sat down and decided what sort of activities constituted ''work.'' My husband agreed that childcare (esp taking care of another child!) and housework were included as ''work.'' Then when we each calculated our hours, it turned out that I was working 110 hours a week and my husband was working 55. And the hours you work should be weighed according to how much you are doing. For example, I often clean and take care of our son at the same time, so that time counts for double hours. And if you are taking care of your child and someone else's child at the same time, that should count as double hours.

It sounds to me like you are doing a lot more than your husband. Just because he gets paid for the work he does doesn't mean that what you do is less valuable. Have you ever heard the term ''the invisible work of women?'' It describes how women who raise children or take care of households work just as hard as men but are not acknowledged by society, are given no financial reimbursement, and are basically not valued. Esp in a society that values people based on their paycheck.

I think you need to do a major renegotiation with your husband. No matter what it takes, he needs to acknowledge how much you are doing.

For us, another thing that helped was to hire a housecleaner once a week and get a babysitter for one weekday or weekend day so that you both can have some ''time off.''

Another thing that helped was that at around 10 months old, my husband started taking over the responsiblity of putting our child to bed. This was a major step forward. He actually really enjoys it. He has figured out how best to put our child to bed without any input from me, they read books, etc. And it gives me an hour or so in the evening to have some time alone.

We also figured out some other things that my husband would do without being asked. (the asking is the worst part b/c then they feel you are a nag, so they have to have a few chores that they do without being asked). Now my husband knows that it is his reponsiblity to clean the dishes after dinner. He is also supposed to take out the trash when it is full (but he hasn't quite caught on to this one yet.)

Anyway, however you do it, somehow you must convince him that you need to renegotiate chores. If you can just think of some things he would agree to do every night that you don't have to nag about, I think that would help. good luck


I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like your husband isn't getting enough sleep (stressful job and staying up late on the computer?), and is not feeling very creative about how to spend time with his child. My husband has the same situation (stressful job, long commute, very little alone time, and recharges by having some down-time alone). Add to that all the fix-it tasks to do around the house that weighs heavy on his mind. It's tough to get much done (that is non-child related) once youh have a baby, and that can be a big adjustment for parents.

I suggest activities to my husband that he might do together with the kids -- sometimes he does them, sometimes he doesn't, and other times he comes up with his own plan and that's great too because it's different from what I would do. What has really helped our children to bond with him is my leaving for 2 hours every Sat. and Sun. and about 8 hours 1-2 times a month (my PT business requires that time away). My husband has more of an appreciation of what I do, and he's happily suprised when the kids run to him instead of me. It's been wonderful for our family for him to have that alone time with them. What I've learned (thanks to a communicative husband) is that men don't really respond well to nagging. They actually dig their heels in so as not to give in to it. It's better to provide some fun suggestions, ideas, etc.. and then just let it go and see what happens. Maybe you could arrange to be away (take a class, work out more, something that would require you to be away on a regular basis). Good luck. am


The answer is: as much as the stay at home mom needs! Rather than hear a lot of similar stories, of which I am sure there are many (I'm not even a stay at home mom and my husband shares a lot of the same characteristics you've described), get him to go to counseling with you. If he refuses, go by yourself. Other women can give you support, but a therapist can give you the tools you need to solve the problem. And, if you let resentment build up, it kills your marriage. Good luck! Fran
I can say that as someone who has been both a stay at home parent and a single working parent, there were many days when going to work felt like a break. I was able to associate with exclusively adults, have quiet moments, and even take a lunch on my own. I won't speak for your husband, but it may be possible that he really resents having a child, and having to take on those responsibilities. My advise would be to take care of yourself, and make sure you have ways to be alone and reduce stress, whether by leaving your child to watch tv with your husband while you go out for awhile, or hiring a baby sitter one night a week if possible. You need time to de-stress above all. I would try counseling if possible for your husband, to see how you can engage him in raising your child. Good luck. Kean
Twenty years ago I went through the exact same scenario. I never could get over my resentment about the unendingness of child and home care vs. the 9-7 office thing. I have been back to work and I know that going to the office/job is easier than taking care of the children and home. But men are exhausted by their work and don't really have a sense of the comparison. I should have eaten my anger and realized that both of us had very difficult jobs. Eventually he left, and found a woman who always worked rather than stayed home with the children. anon
I think your husband should help 50% of the time he is home from work. I think this whole 'I had a long day at work, I'm tired' is left over from the 50's. Have you not had a long day at work? Are you not tired at the end of the day? Not to mention you are working part time taking care of another child. And doing all the housework.

I think my husband ends up doing 50-55% of the childcare when he's at home, (he travels a fair bit, so I'm on my own then) because sometimes after all day with my child, I just really need a mental break from him. I *really* need it. We have a cleaning lady every other week, is that something you could afford?

Ask your husband how he'd like to work 3 or 4 more hours a day, plus all weekend, because that is what he is expecting of you. Sometimes I think working people think all we stay at home moms (or dads) do is watch oprah and talk on the phone, and it is true that being a stay at home mom has some perks, but so do many jobs. I use to work a ''real job'' & I know I wasn't working every minute of the day, sometimes I'd send personal e-mails, talk to co-workers, or take a brief walk. Just like as a SAHM I can go for a walk, occasionally send e-mails (like now) and sometimes take a nap when my baby does. The difference is I don't go home at five, and then have a weekend away from my job.

You believe he needs to help you more; you need to talk with him tell him how you feel, he has to know in his heart that you are right, and he will help you more. good luck


I am also a SAHM and my husband has had moments when he feels unappreciated....as have I. I think it's ''normal'' to have these moments. Instead of comparing what it is that you do, how about comparing downtime hours. In other words, try to equally divide time up according to who is the point person for the kids. In other words, you are in charge on saturdays and he is in charge on sundays.....or do it in half-day increments....or whatever works. Personally, it sounds like either one of you having to watch the kids the entire weekend is pretty unfair. IF you both have a hard time at first, it may be worth your while to leave the house during ''your time'' so that the other two have the opportunity to get to know eachother and for your child to learn to rely on her father as well as you.

How do other people divide the responsibilities of childcare, paid labor, and taking care of all the little things to keep life running smoothly? curious to see how others do it


I am sorry to read of your struggles. I am in agreement with many others that you need to defend your ''work'' hours. The trick is to find out which way works best for your. I have found that when I can't handle doing things, I just don't. There are days when my husband comes home and says ''what's for dinner'' and I say ''you tell me''. However, he is a lousy cook, and incredibly unimaginative, so that is a bit of a risk. However, when he runs out of clean underwear, he runs a load of laundry. This is all to say that rather than nag him to do it when I want it done, I let him take care of himself, when I get overwhelmed. Our household has been operating under the theory that if he has certain standards (that generally are lower than mine) then he has to help to make sure that they are met. It may seen perhaps a bit passive agressive, but he responds in a way that works for us both. It is also a result of some very painful fighting about who does what chores, that I would like never to repeat. While he doesn't seem to have strong views about how much I should do, he definitely expects to be able to have his time after work. I don't think I could ''lay down the law'' with my husband. So I have to be willing to let him do it his way, or me do it mine. Regarding quality time spent with the baby: I have also seen that he is hurt when my son prefers me over him, and he definitely reacts to that, and tries to spend more time. They have certain activities that I have pushed them to do togehter -- watering the plants, picking apple off a tree, etc that helps give me time off but are not super onerous for him. Good luck. anon
I missed the original post, so I hope my comments are appropriate. Before kids, my husband never even held a child. After our son was born, he would sometimes say things like the baby needed to be changed, and I would say, okay do it, you're the parent, too. He became an incredibly involved parent, and would thank me for not letting him slide in his duties. And as a result, he and my son bonded strongly. (The more you do for a child, the more you bond with him and vice versa, in my opinion.) So maybe you could have your husband take over a lot of the childcare chores when he gets home, dangling the reward of extra closeness.

On a separate but related issue, my husband died when my kids were 7 and 3. Most of what I've read says kids don't remember stuff from that age. However, both children still talk about him, 6 years later. As a result of his involvement in their lives -- helping with the diapering, feeding, bedtimes, and park time -- they knew him so well that there are lots of memories. Had he just come home and read the newspaper, they wouldn't have had the same memories. Mom with helpful husband


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