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Husband Won’t Help With the Kids

How can I encourage my husband to take the responsibilities of parenthood more seriously and get involved more directly with our children? He likes the "fun" part of raising kids – for instance, he's great at getting down on the floor and "wrestling" with our toddler. But when it comes to the practical side of being a dad, I don't think he's pulling his weight.

Here, as in every other area of married life, open communication is critical to mutual understanding and a successful relationship. Many couples never talk to each other about their parenting expectations. Some are reluctant to open up and share the fears and struggles they’re facing as they take on the challenge of caring for a child. In most cases, both of them are doing the best they can, and both of them are feeling insecure. The first step toward resolving this difficulty is to air these thoughts and feelings in an honest and non-threatening way.

It’s also important to understand how the God-ordained distinction between male and female comes into play in this particular instance. Nature has delegated the functions of pregnancy, childbearing, nursing, and nurturing to the woman. As a result, mothers tend to have an immediate and intuitive connection with a new baby, whereas fathers sometimes feel uncomfortable and “out of their element” when asked to step in and lend a hand. Women often say they want their husbands to help with parenting tasks like diapering and feeding the baby, but when Dad tries to lend a hand, Mom jumps in to correct everything he’s doing. This leads to greater irritation on both sides, and the husband shrinks from trying to help next time, fearing that his attempts will be criticized. These are only general observations, of course. You will know best how relevant they are to the situation in your home.

The solution, as we’ve already indicated, is to discuss your feelings and expectations. If you and your husband share the traditional view that Mom should stay home with the kids while Dad goes out to earn the income, consider the practical ways how this arrangement might play itself out on a daily basis. Does it mean that the wife is supposed to tend to the children all day and all night? Does it include a condition that she must also keep the home spotless and have dinner ready when her husband gets home from work? If you have a less traditional perspective of gender roles, it’s even more important that each of you clearly understands what the other is thinking.

These days it’s common for spouses in our culture to share child-rearing tasks to a greater degree than their grandparents did. This is largely because it’s also common for both husband and wife to be employed outside the home. Many contemporary couples are convinced that it is impossible to live on one income. We would suggest that this is an assumption worth challenging. If you have enough courage to give it a try, you may possibly discover that you can cut back on expenses and stretch your resources so that Mom is able to stay home with the kids. This arrangement could go a long way toward resolving some of your conflicts over the question of sharing child-care responsibilities.

Whatever approach you take, it’s important that you and your husband learn how to function as a team. God designed babies to benefit from the love and care of both parents, and you and your spouse were designed to fall in love with your child. None of this can happen unless you spend time together. Some parents, especially dads, avoid spending time with their little ones, protesting that they’re unfamiliar with the routine. But child-care skills can be learned. No one should use inexperience as an excuse for abdicating responsibility. This is yet another area in which husband and wife need to be patient with one another and cut each other some slack.

If you and your spouse are struggling in your roles as mother and father, call us. Our staff counselors would be happy to come alongside you and lend you a hand. It would be their privilege to listen to your concerns and offer their perspective over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified counselors in your area who specialize in marriage and family therapy.

 

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage

They Call Me Dad: The Practical Art of Effective Fathering

Communication: Key to Your Marriage

Boundaries in Marriage

Other books on Communication in Marriage

Referrals
John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Articles
Learning to Communicate

Time: Do the Things Your Kids Want to Do

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