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Parenting is hard at the best of times. It can be made significantly easier when there are two parents on the same page in regards to their contributions to the family dynamic. But, if there’s always one parent who isn’t pulling their weight it makes things infinitely harder for the one who is.
Many wives find themselves taking to the internet to complain about their lazy husband. You’ll find thread after thread with the title ‘my husband is a lazy parent’ and a lot of different answers without anyone really knowing what the exact situation is.
If you’re on this article, then it’s because you feel you have a lazy parent of a husband and want to know how you can make things better for yourself. We’re going to dive in to this complex situation and hopefully help you find the next step.
A look at archaic parenting roles
The phrase a ‘woman’s place is at home’ is old fashioned, outdated and it was never ‘right’ in the first place. Even a ‘woman’s instinct’ is exaggerated and in fact all parents pretty much learn on the job. The view that women raise children and men are hunter/gatherers is just plain wrong and damaging to the household dynamic. Both parents need to spend time with the children and helping each other – that is the point of getting married in the first place.
With the exception of breastfeeding a baby, a man has just as much of a role as the mother and this should be expected and not a bonus if it happens naturally.
It takes two to get pregnant and it takes two to raise children.
On the flip side, men can also be over-appreciated when they are doing what is expected which can give people a warped perception of how much they are doing. The phrase ‘hands-on dad’ is one that suggests that being ‘hands-on’ is something special rather than something that is just expected of them. You can see it all the time in mass media as celebrity dads out with their children or with a baby in a carrier are labelled as ‘doting’ and ‘hands-on’.
Other times, husbands taking their children out on weekends can be seen as giving mum a ‘break’ rather than being seen as just parenting. Even parents who get the changing mat out and changing the odd nappy can be seen as superdads.
You’d never hear about hands-on mums because that’s what society expects of them. Every mum is expected to be hands on. This needs to change but that is a subject for another time.
For now, we can use this as context to determine what is expected of a husband. What is the difference between a parent and a lazy parent. We think it comes down to not knowing and not doing what is expected of them, probably from the perception they’ve gathered while growing up.
What classes as being a ‘lazy? parent?
Everyone has their own definition of what lazy is. In terms of your husband is he; doing very little, nothing or putting in such a poor parenting performance that it actively makes things more difficult for everyone in the family.
Every dad is different in terms of their contribution but all of them should be doing their fair share. Both parents have equal rights and therefore equal responsibility for their children, specifically:
- to protect their child from harm
- to provide their child with food, clothing and a place to live
- to financially support their child
- to provide safety, supervision and control
- to provide medical care
- to provide an education
Are you doing most of the above or are they shared between you?
The definition of lazy is:
‘Unwilling to work or use energy’
So the question is, is the dad unwilling to help with the kids, do they deliberately avoid helping out and are they actively leaving you to pick up the slack and effectively parent the children alone. Basically, an absent father who just lives in the house with you.
Worst of all, is the person aware of their contribution and still not willing to improve.
Is the dad just a little bit passive, present but not really engaging with the kids, effectively doing the bare minimum. Perhaps he is the one earning the money and somehow feels that’s enough to not have to bother with the kids. Perhaps the father assumes that his role is just to give you a break from time to time with a couple of hours in a stretch once a week and still expect you to do the washing and so on.
There is a big distinction between the two above definitions of a lazy dad.
Parenting is not just looking after the kids
Being a good co-parent is not just looking after the kids, in our opinion. It’s not good enough to just hold the baby or let the child watch television so the mum can get a 30 minute bath. It’s not good enough for the mum to be up all hours breastfeeding only to be welcomed by a full sink of dishes, an unmade bed, no cooked dinner or a mounting pile of housework.
Good parenting is being engaged with their child by reading to them, playing with them, talking and listening to them and helping them have good childhood experience. Great parenting is doing things without being asked but wanting to do it.
A baby, despite not being mobile or talking is an intense workload to look after, they are very clingy and need attention. Mothers of a newborn baby often struggle immensely in the first few days and weeks especially if it’s their first one and more so if they’re breastfeeding, when they’re sleep deprived and exhausted.
This can continue even when they are a 2 or 3 year old. A husband’s role is essential here.
Not doing something worthwhile with children is being lazy. Not caring about their own child’s progress is lazy. Just doing things on a weekend is lazy.
Caring only about their own wellbeing is being selfish. It baffles us sometimes why a parent wouldn’t want to do the very best job for their marriage and baby, let alone their fair share.
Being a good parent means pitching in with the chores, making sure the house is clean, doing the washing, paying the bills and everything else that’s involved with a healthy relationship or marriage. Doing the chores or holding the baby as a ‘favour’ to the wife is lazy. Parents should feel like they’re doing themselves a favour by doing these tasks. Being married means being committed to doing this.
Some families can be on a single income which can complicate things. If the father is the sole money earner and working all hours of the day to make ends meet and then is too exhausted to do anything else would it be fair to call him lazy? For dual income families then that can’t be an excuse.
However, even in this instance – if the father works 40 hours a week and does not do anything in the house this does not compare to the 100s of hours the mother works parenting.
Lastly, not caring about the wellbeing of their partner or wife is not only lazy but borderline abuse. Leaving them with all the parenting is a cruel act on both the mother and the children. This can lead to depression which makes an already stressful situation worse, sometimes ending in tragedy. This can be more common in single income families where the husband may feel he’s earned a pass from parenting. Not the case.
It can be easy to fall into the habit of excusing a lazy husband and putting up with it but it is unhealthy. Something needs to be done about it for the sake of the mother and the son or daughter.
So, is your husband doing the bare minimum or not even doing that? Or perhaps your husband is doing more than you think, upon reflection?
What is the impact of a lazy parent?
A parent which is not present or engaged with their children can impact them on a psychological level for the rest of their lives. Young children look to their parents to learn how to behave in society as a whole. It seems dramatic but many bad habits, abilities to form healthy relationships and mental health issues can stem from their childhood.
Children with ‘absent fathers’ can themselves end up being absent and ‘lazy’. They can start to view other males or people of authority differently. The role of the father in the eyes of the child is most influenced by the role played out by THEIR father, if it’s a daughter you’re raising would they want them to get into a relationship with a lazy father in the future? Of course not.
On the extreme side, they can learn that doing the bare minimum is normal – this can lead to behaviour issues, lack of discipline, apathy and lethargy. Unfortunately, it will be the mother who may have to deal with these behaviours.
However, the impact is not just felt by the children but the mother as well.
When one parent is not being present and helping out then the other has to do twice the work -this can lead to physical and mental exhaustion of carrying the burden. Post natal depression for women, sleep depravation and loneliness being three of them. This can impact women on a massive scale and should be addressed one way or another as soon as possible.
Communicating the issues
If you feel your husband is loafing to the point it’s affecting your mental or physical health full time then action needs to be taken – something’s got to be done about it or it will continue and potentially get worse to the point the relationship can be unsalvageable. Night after night of suffering and crying can have lasting damage.
This is not something anyone wants despite what’s gone on, unless of course it has become a sorry and abusive marriage.
You could always talk with friends and share experiences but you will unlikely get the real life story but you may get some advice which can be unhelpful. Friends can often be biased towards you so take any advice with a pinch of salt.
Speaking directly and honestly with your husband is the top priority.
Communication should be the first step to resolving your issues. Explain your side of the situation calmly, objectively and rationally without resorting to any insults or needless jabs. Try to time this chat so that the both of you are free and not in the middle of anything else – when the children are in bed or when the children are out being cared for are good examples. Going for a long walk is another good recommendation.
The goal of this conversation is to achieve a positive outcome and a change in behaviour – not point scoring or arguing. Set your expectations of your husband’s role in the home, acknowledge what he does get right but make it clear that it is not enough and why.
You may even find out what your husband expects of you and why that is. Some of his reasoning may surprise you so be ready to adapt and debate constructively.
We recommend getting all of your feelings written down so that you are able to discuss everything in one sitting leaving no topic untouched. It’s important to let your husband answer your complaints and that you listen as well as speak about his. The objective is to be on the same page as each other and to learn. The objective is not to make the other feel like a bad parent.
Be specific with how you’d like help, don’t be vague. Do you want them to do bath time, bed time, do the school run, make a healthy dinner. Do you want a break from time to time, maybe for a walk, maybe for therapy, massage etc but during that time you insist that the time spent is quality time and not just time watching a video.
Perhaps what you’d like is a bit more intimacy, someone to talk to whenever you both do have some free time. Maybe you feel he does OK with the kids but lacking in supporting you.
If you’re pregnant and you’re with a child are you exhausted and just need a rest.
Through dialogue you may be able to find a path forward. Perhaps there was miscommunication, perhaps the husband becomes repentant, instantly realising the error of their ways or maybe even you might have.
After the conversation don’t make any rash decisions – sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning in the cold light of day.
The ideal scenario can start with a simple ‘I’m sorry, I will do better’ and then gradually it happens and the behaviour improves and the relationship becomes a solid marriage once again. All couples face challenges – money, sex, children, but good marriages always find a way to overcome them and learn from them. But, not all.
You may find yourselves going in different directions, unable to agree on the way forward and that being partners is not possible. Perhaps the conversation has made it abundantly clear that you are on separate paths when it comes to the parenting life and no one wants to compromise. As sad as it may seem, this may be a turning point for both of you in an amicable way.
This can lead to the awkward realisation that the formal married relationship needs to come to an end. In the long run, it may be the best course of action.
Sadly, this can happen but it’s better to be out in the open about it rather than come home to the same miserable relationship everyday. If that is the case, then it’s up to you to decide what happens next in terms of living and weekend access arrangements and if going your separate ways, literally, is the best way forward for everyone.