Shayne on You: Family man feels lost in the shuffle

Dear Maggie,

Since the birth of our children, I feel like I’ve been lost in the shuffle – an emotion which has grown progressively worse.  I have a wonderful family and an honest, caring wife who is beautiful both inside and out.  However, it seems like I take a distant second to the kids and household activities.

 Specifically, the most disappointing part of this dilemma occurs in the evening.  After a hard day’s work and long commute, I yearn for some quality private time with my wife.  Invariably, she appears more concerned with household chores such as cleaning up the kitchen.  To add insult to injury, after I get home she spends the majority of the time doting on the kids and asking me to “do this” and “do that.”  I view this whole situation with not only sadness, but bewilderment in that I am simply irresistible from a physical standpoint.  At times I’m referred to as being “arrogant” and/or “ignorant” by others.  I don’t understand why such terms are used since I’m simply stating facts.  Honestly, I ask myself what woman wouldn’t just drop everything else for me?  Furthermore, I do plenty of nice gestures around the house including many tasks which would be considered a “woman’s job” by people.  This, I do above and beyond all of the “man’s work.” I lose my cool and fly off the handle fairly often, however  I’ve been improving my self-control lately.

 How can I get my wife to spend more quality alone time with me?  It’s great being a father but I miss the “good ol’ days.” Please help!

 Signed,

The Man from Greene

Dear Man from Greene,

You are SO not alone in this. You’re experiencing what a many, if not most men go through when their families are young. It’s common for men to feel pushed aside for the sake of the kids. This behavior comes down to us from our ancestors, who survived because of natural urges to breed and reproduce, putting the woman’s focus entirely on her mate. Once the young were born, though, they couldn’t survive without the constant care and nurturing of the mother, so the male got pushed aside, until and unless the female was ready to reproduce again. (Or, you know, if a sabertooth tiger needed clubbing.)



We, however, with very few exceptions, are no longer cave-dwellers. The problem is, young women get tunnel vision when it comes to their kids, and it’s hard for them to understand the man’s feelings. To them it seems obvious the kids should come first, and moms are baffled that husbands don’t willingly surrender and just become part of the furniture until they’re called upon.

I’m going to give you a few suggestions. First, let’s remember there’s no such thing as women’s work and man’s work. If only one half of the couple is working outside the home, then it falls to the other to take on the majority of the household chores. If both work outside the home, the household chores should be split right down the middle. No exceptions. Be aware that when one partner is the full-time homemaker, it can feel like a pretty thankless job. It doesn’t begin at nine and end at five. It’s 24/7. And there’s no nice paycheck at the end of the week, and barely ever any praise from those you’re working for, much less a bonus. Usually, you get complaints and demands instead.

So suggestion #1 is to let your wife know you think she’s doing a great job. Praise her for all that hard work. Compliment the meals, the house being so clean, the little things she does, her mothering skills, all of it.

Young moms often tend to forget that they are women, and fall so completely into the role of caregiver that they let their personal needs go. (See, she isn’t just putting you aside for the kids, she’s putting herself on hold, too.) So suggestion #2 is to remind her that she is still beautiful, sexy and attractive to you. Often.

It’s hard for young mothers to maintain a healthy interest in sex, because they’re so exhausted and drained, both physically and emotionally, that it feels like there’s just nothing left at day’s end. A lot of them also worry about children walking in, or overhearing.

Suggestion #3: Plan a romantic evening together. Arrange for the sitter – a grandparent or aunt who can keep the kids overnight would be ideal. She won’t spend the evening worrying about the kids if they’re with someone she trusts. Tell her to take her time getting ready while you deliver the kids to the sitter. Come back with flowers, maybe. Then take her to dinner somewhere wonderful. Do something romantic together after, even if it’s just a drive to look at pretty holiday lights, or a walk under the stars. Or go someplace where you can slow dance together. Talk about when you were first dating, recalling special times, or really fun times, or major turning points in a fun and positive way. Remind her, and yourself, why you fell in love in the first place. Then come home, and use your imagination for the rest. Knowing the kids are out of the house is going to give her a lot less to distract her from just enjoying herself (and you.)

Of course, that’s one night. But you might enjoy it so much you make it a regular thing, weekly or even twice a month, which I highly recommend.

You could also try taking the kids off her hands now and then and spending time with just you and them, giving her a break to be who she is every once in awhile, while creating bonds and memories with your children.

In between incorporating all these things, try, carefully, to express some of these feelings to your wife. I say carefully, because if you just come out with it, she’s not going to hear what you’re saying, she’s going to hear another demand being put on her, when she’s already stretched way too thin. Be sure to use “I” words, rather than “You” words, and try not to be accusatory. “I really adore these kids, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but every once in awhile, I miss the way we used to go on those long road trips together, just the two of us.” Or, “I’d rather have the house a little messy, if it meant we could cuddle on the couch and watch an hour of TV together like we used to.” Or just, “I miss you.” There’s a huge difference between complaining about what she’s not doing for you, and expressing your feelings in a loving, kind way.

It’s a great idea to work on controlling your temper. I wouldn’t expect anything to work until that’s completely done. You should never talk to your wife in a way you wouldn’t talk to your mom or your boss or the president, or the pope for that matter.

And in the meantime, remember that it’s not her job to make you happy. Only you can do that. It’s a choice you make. So here’s suggestion #4, and this one’s a sure thing.

The way to ruin a relationship is to focus on and complain about all the things you don’t like about it. This is also the surest way to guarantee you’ll get more things not to like.

The way to save a relationship, is to focus on and talk often about all things you love about it. This is the surest way to guarantee you’ll get even more things to love about it.

Be generous in your praise. Be kind and patient. Throw the temper into the trash. And make a conscious decision to be happy, not because of what’s going on around you, but because being happy feels better than the alternative.

Best,

Maggie

 

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