You're working, He's Not

You are working and your husband is not - why not set some rules for a smoother household and life?

Crisis at Home

You’re Working, He’s Not

He’s been home all day, so why are the dishes still in the sink?

-Laura Weber Rossman

a husbandThis recession is having an unintended impact on working women. For the first time in history, the number of employed women will exceed men who are employed. And that doesn’t mean things at home are any easier.

Why more women in the workforce? Employers in health care and education, which heavily employ women, aren’t handing out as many pink slips as male-dominated fields like construction and manufacturing.

While women have made great advances in the work world, they are still likely to carry most of the burden at home at the same time. And if you think just because he’s not working he’ll automatically start doing the laundry, cooking dinner and grocery shopping – you must be a newlywed.

Family roles may not change with pink slips. And that can create a new kind of strain at home. The money is one thing; the emotion is another.

I was on jury duty with a woman whose husband, an engineer, was out of work. She thought this was going to be a boost to getting some of his projects done around the house. Instead, he discovered a new engineering project – the kitchen. He had completed alphabetizing her spices. Next, he was moving on to the canned goods. She was furious: not only was he not doing what she thought he should, but he was invading “her space.”

If you’ve been in the relationship any length of time, you have already established roles at home. Your projects: his projects. He won’t automatically shift to your projects just because he’s not working.

So here are three rules to help you through his job search.

Rule number one: His eyes don’t see what your eyes do.
He may be at home during the day, but that doesn’t mean he sees what needs to be done. Even simple things (to you) like laundry, dishes and vacuuming. If you’ve been doing them or you have had the luxury of someone coming in to help with cleaning, he won’t automatically click over to “I need to do this now.” I really do believe it is genetic. You need to help him see the “possibility,” which leads to the next rule.

Rule number two: Set expectations–yours and his
Stop talking to your girlfriends about what he’s not doing. Talk to him. His ego is pretty fragile right now – and he simply may not know where to start or what to do with his day. Yes, he needs to look for work. But does that really fill an eight-hour day? So what can you two agree on that he can get done around the house that will make life more pleasant for you both? Pick things that will be easy and rewarding for him. If he’s never cooked, don’t expect him to turn into Emeril overnight. And if it’s something new, don’t expect perfection or complain if it’s not the way you would have done it. Because you’ll be back to doing it yourself.

Rule number three: Stop blaming him
What’s going on in the work world right now is unprecedented. Everyday more layoffs. Jobs in some fields won’t be coming back, so training for a whole new career may be in order. He knows the lack of income makes things harder for the family. Maybe it’s smart to relax your standards a little. This is a time that requires working together, supporting each other and both making adjustments.

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  1. This just happened to me in December; my husband got laid off from his job, and while I felt terrible for him and supported him, secretly, I was excited to have a clean house and having things done that I would normally have to do myself in addition to having a demanding career. My husband did not see things the same way, so we sat down and discussed how our roles were going to change, and what his new responsibilities were, and how they should be taken seriously. While it has taken a while for him to get used to the change, things are starting to gel, my house is generally clean, projects are getting done, he’s keeping busy and feels productive, and it relieves some of my stress as the breadwinner in the household.

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