Feb 012014


Molly Skyar - Family


Mother of two young kids, Molly Skyar interviews her mother, Dr. Susan Rutherford, a Clinical Psychologist, about how get your husband to help out more around the house and what it can do to your marriage if he won’t.

WVM FEbruary 2014 Molly ImageQuestion:  I’m a working Mom; how can I get my husband to be more engaged in our household?

Molly:  This came from a reader based in Los Angeles, California. She added she and her husband both work outside the house, but she feels like she’s the one that does a bulk of the household duties and childcare.  How can she get him to help out more?

Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): The biggest issue I hear about in my office with couples is regarding the division of labor at home, and the kind of complaints almost universally coming from women that they not only work full-time –as their husbands do– but when they get home, it’s more work for them.  It seems many husbands don’t participate as fully as the wives would like in the household duties.

This is a BIG problem; it’s the number one issue between couples that causes marital strife in our country, not just from what I’ve seen in my little slice of practice.  Couples need to have a lot of discussion about how things are going to work.  What has to be done to make a home run smoothly on a daily basis is endless.  Whether it’s fixing dinner, cleaning up, bathing the kids, or whatever….

Both parents may be tired, but still, somebody has to take care of the household and the children.  When one parent doesn’t pull their weight and leaves the other to pick up the slack, it can cause real problems in a marriage or partnership.

Molly:  How would you suggest she deal with this problem?

Dr. Susan Rutherford:  The only way to deal with it is to actually talk about it together.  If she stuffs down her resentment and instead acts out at home by withdrawing from him, it usually doesn’t get resolved and instead builds resentment in him, until each partner is angry with the other for different reasons, not realizing it’s all connected.
This issue really must be talked about within a marriage.  Usually it comes out when one partner is already furious at the other, either for the lack of support or the lack of intimacy.  But it’s best not to approach the subject at the end of a long day, when everyone is exhausted.  It would be better to talk about these things on a weekend, when there are fewer external demands on the couple.

Molly:  How should this wife address the issue?

Dr. Susan Rutherford:  She could address it by explaining where she’s coming from. “I’m exhausted. I’m working full time, and you’re working full-time, too, but I feel like I’m working full-time at home as well. I really need your participation if we’re going to make this work.  What do you think you can contribute to our home-life so I don’t feel like I’m shouldering all of the tasks that have to be done in our household?”

Molly:  Not only if the wife is working full-time, but I think this happens to stay-at-home moms as well.  I don’t think it should be expected that a wife do everything for a family even when she works in the home.

Dr. Susan Rutherford:  Yes, there seems to be a common expectation from dads who work outside the house all day that they deserve to come home after work and be free from responsibilities, like the 1950s father did.  And there may also be some sort of belief their wives have been sitting around not doing much all day, which is likely far from the truth.

Molly:  So, how does an exhausted wife address this when she is working from home, but by the time the husband gets home she’s so done.  She’s ready to hand the kids over to the husband then, but the husband is tired from working all day, understandably.

However she still needs his help to take care of all that needs to be done with dinner and children.  She might still be working hard even though she’s not working outside of the house.

Dr. Susan Rutherford:  That is absolutely correct.  There are often misconceptions between a couple about the amount of work it takes to run a household and raise a family.  That’s why this is a real problem, and it has to be talked about.  The truth is everyone is working at something, whether it’s out of the house or in an office environment.

No one should be expected to carry the full load of running a household, especially when kids are little, because that’s when life is the hardest for all parents.

Then when children get older, there are other kinds of demands like getting them to sports practices and activities and monitoring homework, not to mention the daily chores of dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.

All of this should ideally be divided up in the most even way possible, because when the division of labor is too off-balance, it can cause great distress in a marriage and great distress for the entire family unit, because the children witness it.

If a dad is not helping out at home in a determined and constant kind of way, his sons will be very likely to grow up to act just like he does with their own wives and children.

Molly:  So it’s important for both moms and dads to set an example of equality within a marriage?

Dr. Susan Rutherford:  Yes. We’ve seen equal marriages are happier marriages.  There was a recent study done showing men who help out the most at home have the most intimacy in their marriages.  So the lesson for guys should be the more they pitch in at home, the more sex they’ll likely get from their happier, less tired wives.


Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford publish “Conversations with My Mother,” an online resource for offering practical parenting tips and psychological insight into raising kids. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has her undergraduate degree from Duke University, a Masters from New York University (NYU) and a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Denver.  Contact Website Facebook Twitter

Photo Credit – www.freedigitalphotos.net

© 2014 Molly Skyar