How to get your husband to do more housework and parenting

Author and Psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman offers suggestions for how to get your husband to help out more around the house
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How to get your husband to do more housework and parenting

So I often have mothers ask me, “How can I get my husband to do more housework and parenting?” and in general, men have gotten much better about this over the past four decades. The past four decades men have doubled the amount of housework that they use to do, they have tripled the amount of parenting that they used to do. So they double the amount of housework from 15% to 30% so it’s still less than women, but there’s doing much more and also doing much more parenting than they use to. Dads today actually have more conflict about being away from their children and being at work than do moms, so I think things are radically changing. That said, there’s still a big problem in a lot of homes where mom feels like she’s doing more of both. So the question is: How do you communicate those things as a mother and a wife in a way that’s actually motivating and not de-motivating? And the way to do it is to start with is to do it in a really friendly, affectionate way. The study show that in terms of both housework and parenting, if men feel criticized or complained about or unappreciated, they tend to pull way back. They don’t actually hear it as a suggestion for more participation. So, in general, the more that men feel liked, admired, appreciated, the more likely they’re going to be involved. Secondly, try to make your comments productive and not critical. A lot of women, because they feel very frustrated, they feel unappreciated, they feel resentful, they end up saying things in a way that makes the guy just feel humiliated and shame rather than very motivated to want to be very different. The third is don’t give mixed messages. So you have the agreement that whoever cooks is going to clean and you’re the primary cook in the house and your husband says that he’ll clean afterwards, you can’t go around him after he’s done with a sponge or tell him how to do it. You can’t be a micromanager. This is very true in parenting. The studies have shown that when wives are able to just give their husbands a newborn and walk away and not say, “Okay, you have to hold the neck like this. Make sure you change the diaper, that you’re supporting the bottom,” and when they just basically assume that the dad is competent. If he asks a question, answer it but not to act like you’re the expert. The more that women do that, the more dads get involved. And the more dads not only do more parenting, they also do more housework because they feel like it’s much more part of the picture. Companies are figuring this out as well, that’s why they’re actually getting more in support of paternity leave because they’re seeing how important it is to family life and to mother participation in the workforce when dads are involved in the household. The final point that I want to make about that is that, and this is true of anything in marriage that really bugs you, and that is sometimes you have to use your power and use your authority. Sometimes you have to play hardball. Sometimes you have to say you’re thinking of divorce because of this issue or it makes you furious or you find yourself hating your partner, you have to say, “Look, I’m not going to carry your weight and mine too. If you’re not going to do the dishes if I cook, I’m not cooking for you. If you’re not going to help with the laundry, I’m not doing your share of the laundry.” But some people worry that that’s going to escalate and be a tit-for-tat but I see that more just kind of a basic limit-setting on somebody so that you don’t feel too taken advantage of or taken for granted.

Author and Psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman offers suggestions for how to get your husband to help out more around the house


Expert Bio

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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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