This is an issue I hear far too often from women or anyone married to a certain type of man: “my husband is a lazy parent.” I’ve been through this too; so today I’m sharing some tips on how to get him involved with your family’s life.
We’ve talked about lazy moms over here on the blog, but as I made very clear in that post, moms often feel like they’re lazy when they’re not. Dads, on the other hand, tend to get off scot free in our society.
This becomes especially obvious when you start to look at how people treat moms and dads when they’re alone with the kids. When your husband takes the kids to the grocery store I’ll be strangers have made comments like, “giving mom a break?” and “wow you’re a great dad!”.
What does mom get? Usually side-eyed every time the kids act up. Sigh.
If you’re thinking my husband is a lazy parent read on for some tips to help make your marriage more fair.
Tell Him How You Feel
Assuming you’re in a loving marriage, it might be enough to have a talk with your husband about your feelings. If you think he’s being lazy, tell him how his inaction makes you feel.
Parenting is really hard; men and women both get wrapped up in life and don’t always realize they’re not doing the best for their family.
This is also an opportunity for him to share his feelings; maybe there’s something else going on that’s making it hard for him to parent.
Review Chores and Responsibilities With Your Husband
I find men often look the other way when it comes to chores and other household responsibilities. Most adults understand these things have to be done, but guys who’ve been enabled to avoid domestic chores will generally feign ignorance about the scope of work involved.
That’s’ why I always recommend taking a hard look at what everyone is doing. If you’re a stay at home mom and your husband works, he’s likely putting all household expectations on you. That’s not OK! Stay at home moms need breaks too.
Once you go through all the household chores, look at your schedules. If you’re both working full time this labor should be divided 50/50. Stay at home moms should take on a reasonable level of extra, but keep in mind childcare is your primary responsibility throughout the day.
Yes, a stay at home parent should handle doctor’s appointments and preschool drop off, but shouldn’t necessarily be responsible for scrubbing the bathroom every week. Adjust based on the age(s) of your child(ren) appropriately.
Managing Parenting and Childcare Duties
Maybe you already have a husband who picks up his fair share of household chores, or works too many hours to do much, but is dropping the ball on childcare. Some men only seem lazy in the parenting department.
I still think it’s a good idea to lay out what you do in a day. Make sure to include what times you’re “on” when it comes to parenting duties, and what types of parenting tasks weigh on you.
So many dads come in to have fun with the kids and leave all the hard stuff to mom. That’s not fair!
It’s ok to tell your husband that he’s not being fair to you or the kids. Sometimes that’s just the wake up call he needs.
Completely Even VS Fair
I strongly recommend you give chores weight based on preferences and what feels fair, not what actually is fair. It’s entirely appropriate to play to your strengths and abilities in the division of labor, and I encourage it for a happier household.
For example, I am very scared of bugs, so I have a strong preference against doing yard work. My partner, on the other hand, really enjoys it. Likewise, I’m exponentially better at meal planning and grocery shopping.
A few things to remember, though:
- If your husband does the “man” chores like cutting grass or taking the trash out, think about how often these chores must be done. We live in an area that only involves grass cutting for a few months out of the year, so it wouldn’t be fair for my partner to only do a seasonal chore while I labor all year.
- Some chores just suck. These should be divided evenly.
- Parenting is separate from chores and should be addressed on its own.
- Don’t forget the emotional labor that you both perform.
Is My Husband Actually a Lazy Parent?
Just like with moms, I’m hesitant to call all husbands who don’t participate equally lazy. There are so many reasons why your husband might not be giving it all.
Before you say, “my husband is a lazy parent” really ask yourself if you’re being realistic with this idea. Are your expectations for both you and your husband reasonable? Are there other issues at play?
Mental or Physical Health Issues
Unfortunately, men are taught by society to hide their feelings. This can lead to guys keeping issues like depression or anxiety to themselves. The result is often poor energy, temper issues, and other family problems that look like personality faults.
The emotional labor is not on you as a spouse to diagnose or treat mental health issues in your husband. That being said, you should ask him about his mental health if you’re concerned.
Medical issues can also affect men silently. If this is the case, work with him to find out what he can do with the kids and what accommodations would help.
Maybe you’re comfortable bending over the bed to change a diaper, but it hurts his back. A changing table may solve the problem. Work together to find solutions.
ADHD in Men
My partner and I both have ADHD, and we’re both on medication for it. He was diagnosed in childhood and had a lifetime of exceptions and excuses made for him. I was diagnosed in my 30s and had a lifetime of creating systems and feeling like a failure behind me.
This means we behave very differently in our daily lives.
If your husband is diagnosed with ADHD, I strongly recommend looking into medication if he’s not already on it. If the meds aren’t working, consider increasing the dose.
Not everyone with ADHD gets diagnosed as a child, so it’s possible a husband with ADHD symptoms might have it. If you feel it’s hurting your marriage, encourage him to seek testing.
Finally, I strongly believe that ADHD can be managed in a way that makes a relationship work. It adds a definite challenge, but it’s not a get out of jail free card when it comes to attention, responsibility, and childcare.
At the same time, the more you’re both aware of how ADHD affects your marriage and life, the more you can find solutions and grace to live with it.
What is your husband’s schedule like? Does he work 12 hour labor shifts or 9-5 in the office with a short commute? While you should still bring up your concerns about fair division, some of your husband’s perceived laziness could be exhaustion if work is sapping all his energy.
I know plenty of men who stay up all night playing video games and then put in less effort with their family during the day. If that sounds more like your husband, I recommend referring to the first two steps.
It’s not up to you to send your husband to bed, it’s up to him to manage his responsibilities. If he’s not and frank conversations aren’t helping, you may have to make some tough choices.
I hate that the emotional responsibility falls on women for this, but it does work often. Sometimes you just have to ditch your husband with the kids and let him figure it out. Trust me, he is capable.
He’ll also likely be happy to spend some time with his kids!
Instead of waiting for your husband to offer or do it on his own take your kid-free time. Don’t ask, tell your husband what you’re doing; after all, you’re not 100% responsible for parenting.
It’s not fair, but so many guys do well when told what to do. It could be as simple as “it’s your turn to put the kids to bed” or “I’m heading out to the store, not sure when I’ll be back, the kids need lunch.”
I find it’s common for men to suffer from poor self esteem when it comes to parenting. Once they start doing it, though, they build confidence. That leads to them taking on more naturally.
Important note from experience: If your husband protests, refuses, or is mean to you when you expect him to look after his own children there are more issues going on in your marriage.
Likewise, if you feel you can’t trust your husband alone with the kids you should explore that with someone you trust.
When Your Husband Refuses to Change
This was, unfortunately, my reality. No matter what I did or said things never improved in my marriage. While I can’t give specific advice for every situation, I ultimately left that relationship.
If you’re at the breaking point with a husband who won’t participate equally in your marriage, you might have to make some tough decisions.
Therapy can help some couples, so that may be an option if you want to work on things.
If you’re thinking “my husband is a lazy parent” I hope these tips will serve as a starting point to making the marriage more fair. It’s also important to know that marriage is a journey; so keep adjusting as your family grows.
This guide only works if your husband is willing to change. You can’t control a mean or confrontational man, regardless of what you do. If your marriage has deeper issues, consider seeking professional help or divorce.