After a series of frustrating experiences with three different employers, my husband decided to be a stay-at-home dad eight months ago. I have a great career and we have five children (ages 10 to 16), so I liked the idea, too. It’s been working out fairly smoothly although he doesn’t get as much house work done as I would like. He does handle dinner and that’s huge for a big family like ours. The problem is my mother always ridicules or teases him in front of our extended family. She believes that he is not taking care of his family because he’s not earning a paycheck. At the last family party, my brother and uncle joined in. My husband doesn’t seem to care and I usually ignore it, too, but now it’s gone too far. What should I say?
Tell yourself that your mamacita is afraid that a lazy man is taking advantage of you. Say she worries that you’re blind to the hustle and that it’s her job to alert you to it. Be aware that age gaps and cultural expectations motivate her beliefs. Then acknowledge that your mamacita is wrong. You and your husband entered into an agreement freely, so you’re not a victim. Don’t let her bully you into acting like one.
I suggest that you schedule a face-to-face meeting with your mama and let her know that, beneath her comments to and about your husband, you are aware of her fear. Let her know that you appreciate her concern but are happy that your kids have someone at home when they return from school. Remind her that you entered into the stay-at-home-dad agreement freely and that you would tell your husband if you wanted a different arrangement. Explain to her that slip-casing her fear in humor often feels unpleasant to people on the receiving end. Ask your mom for her help in supporting your life choices. Then forgive your other relatives for joining in on the pillow fight.
Finally, if your house is not as tidy as you would like, you and your husband should talk about that. If he feels too busy to take on more, assign a few chores to your kids, if possible. Focus on managing the household, not getting everything accomplished perfectly with your own four hands.
What’s the best way to break up with someone?
In person, with as few words as possible: “Hey, it’s not really working out so I want to end this relationship.” If the person pushes for a reason, just repeat: “It’s not working out,” then leave. Otherwise, you’ll be defending your decision and that gets ugly fast. Of course, if it feels right you can add, “I hope we can be friends in the future. And, if you want to do that, too, maybe we can reconnect in about three months.” Don’t add this if you just want to be friendly (a cordial “hello” in public, a holiday card, nice words to mutual friends), only if you plan to be friends (hanging out occasionally without any romantic expectations or overtones, invitations to each other’s parties with dates in tow, etc). If you text, e-mail or voicemail the end to a relationship, what you’re really saying is that you don’t have the cojones to treat another person with respect. If you just stop calling or stop returning calls, you’re announcing your fear of being direct, honest and open. If your relationship has been complicated, you can write a letter (leave out blame and criticisms), but you should either read it to the person or offer to briefly meet and listen to their feelings after they have read it. After all, learning to deal with uncomfortable emotions, confrontation and rejection are vital to being an adult.