what else can I do?

nikitabJuly 8, 2006

My wife is threatening divorse perhaps once a week and snaps at me several times a day. I would be glad to hear some opinions and advice for this situation.

About myself. I am educated, 34 yo, in good physical shape. I make about $130K per year. Could be quite a bit more, but family life takes so much time, I cannot pull things together better so far. I will probably reach $200K a year in three to four years. I am a quiet type, I have no hobbies. If I have any free minute, I like working (which means sitting in front of computer). The rest of the time goes into cooking and being with the family.

About my wife. She is 34 yo, I put her through school towards Bachelor's degree. Afterwards, she worked part-time a little, making about $20K a year. She stopped working years ago, my attitude towards this: do whatever you like. She tried a variety of artistic things, and then became a mom.

We have a one-year-old child. Healthy, adorable, very active.

Every day is a day of hysterics, cries, and complaints from my wife. Actually, I am so used to it, it dos not bother me that much, I just put up with it, but I am starting to be worried about her. She seems so unhappy. So much pain in her life. I don't really see a solution to alleviate her pain.

Her main complaint: she is overworked. Notice that she does not have a job and has a very helpful live-in mother (hers), who also does not work at any job. They both basically take care of the house and the child. I always cook for all (except the baby), and I am a good cook. I don't do dishes though (more on that later). When I am on a business trip, they live on sandwiches. They clean the house. The cleaning takes many hours every week. I tried to get them to hire professional cleaners, but they are (a) stingy, (b) not satisfied with outside cleaners because they are not good enough. They fired three consecutive cleaning services and put this issue to rest.

So, this is a frequent hysteric complaint from my wife: "I am slaving away, taking care of the child and the house, and I cannot take it anymore. You are a pig, selfish, and lazy." Her main problem with me is that I do not want to clean, especially to wash the floors, sink surfaces, and such. I am not allowed to do dishes. There are several soaps and five colors of brushes and three colors of wet rugs for different kinds of dishes, and when I use them, I use wrong colors and I am not thorough enough reaching in the little crevices. So, I am usually just swooshed away with a curse of being so inept.

I offer her to hire help instead, and the argument goes in circles. She says we do not have the money to afford cleaning help. It is sort of true. She buys a lot of furniture, and constantly changes carpets, bathrooms, porch, floors. These projects eat up a lot, everything must be top quality. No IKEA furniture in our house :). Plus the mortgage, of course. We started from scratch.

Taking care of the child on the top of cleaning is just killing her. She wants to clean, but there is this crying child. I can take care of him two to three hours a day, the rest I expect to be shared between her and her mother. This limit of my time is met with a lot of resentment, hatred, and complaints.

Before we had a child, it was the same kind of relationship, but complaints were less frequent. I brought her to many trips to exotic countries, and that would mellow out the complains. Now, because of the child, she does not get to travel. It is clear that we will never have a second child, this one is just killing our schedule and our marriage. I doubt, however, we can go on much longer even with one child. Sometimes I wonder how she will manage if she indeed divorces me...

Well... I will be happy to see the replies, and I will gladly answer to additional questions as needed...

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Hello there

You sound like the model husband, earning a good wage, cooking the food, helping out when you can, providing for your wife, child and mother in law.

I think the cleaning schedule sounds a bit compulsive, to me...do you think your wife could have an obsessive compulsive disorder ?

Do you live in a very large house, maybe it is too big for you all, therefore, too much to think about and clean.

It sounds like your wife is not happy with anything, I think couselling might get to the core of the unhappiness. Does she feel loved ? Does she get enough sleep ?

Marrigages need standards of behaviour, that both sides must adhere to...like no insults, putting BOTH your happiness as a priority in all matters, helping each other out, when there are complaints...make "I" statements. Like "I am feeling unloved", or "I feel that my effort in the home is not recognised".

I think your lovely child will surely be affected by an unhappy mother, and this will show up in their behaviour eventually. So keep that in mind. Your child will reflect what is going on in the home...happy home, happy child, stressful home....stressful child.

There is nothing more important than spending time with the child, playing, talking, tickling, taking them to the park, running on the grass, going to the beach, digging in the sand. The messyness of the house should come secondary, in my opinion, they are only children for such a short time, everyday is a special time for you and for them.

I think you should let the mother-in-law look after the child, take your wife out for a walk and talk to her about your unhappiness, away from distractions. If you truly love each other, you can overcome anything.

Sorry if I sound like I am preaching...I am rambling a bit, I hope this helps your situation.

Keep in touch and let us know how you are going.

I think you are doing the right thing by seeking help.

All the best to you and your family.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 1:40AM
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My first thought too was OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). How can 4 people make such a mess that it takes that much to clean (especially when 3 of them are adults). There may be nothing you can "do", but counseling may is definatly in order. If this is a daily ritual, it may be just that a ritual. If it is indeed OCD, NOTHING you can do will change that, professional help IS needed.

Now in the mean time, some people cannot handle parenthood. Again why when you have a build in helper this is so difficult I do not understand. (okay this is comming from someone with 3 kids who did not have built in help and was EXTREMELY poor for a while, and trust me you make GOOD money). Set aside time dailey for 1. just your wife, 2. just your child. Wether it is just 1/2 hour or 1 hour. try this for a month or two and see if it helps. For your wife, try to make it a no arguing time, just time together. But I urge you to seek professional help.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 11:17AM
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:) Thank you for the replies. In this post, I will address some of the questions and comments.

- "OCD". I did not think of that. I will try to read up on OCD and see if this could be the case. In some sense, we are both obsessive, just in different domains. For example, I am with food quality, she is with cleaniness. Oh, those two are in a big conflict, because my exquisite recipes require a lot of pans and utensils that later need washing :).

- "Does she get enough sleep?" - No, definitely not. The baby wakes up several times per night, and she is always there to cradle him. We have a baby who cannot be left alone for one minute, he starts crying immediately. After three minutes alone he has a fit. He is happy when with someone though.

- "why when you have a build in helper this is so difficult I do not understand", - This came a surprise to me as well. We were waiting until the point when we have a full-time help and a nearly unlimited budget for small things, like food, toys, and clothes. We reached that point, but everyday is a struggle and nightmare anyway. We have a lot of positive moments, walks on the beach, and such, but she also gets tearful and frustrated when she is exhausted and mops the floors/vacuums (which happens about twice a week.)

- "seek professional help." - What kind of professional, exactly?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 12:34PM
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One year olds should not be waking up multiple times a night, they should be learning to put themselves back to sleep, parenting classes can help here. ECFE classes. (Yes the cry it out method can help here, and I don't always recommend it...think Nanny 911 and Super Nanny TV Shows). Hire a babysitter or better yet if "grandma" is able hire her to sit for a couple hours so mom can get a nap in.

Separation anaxity is usual at this age, playpens are good, rooms with a baby gate. Mom in the kitchen doing whatever, baby (usually at the gate crying, but with toys to play with). Mom looks over every couple of minutes, hi honey, you're fine, Mommy's her...then she does her thing. Baby learns that Mommy is there, and they have to occoupy themselves. Or Playpen in the room while Mommy does her cleaning, baby is crying, but learns to occoupy themselves with toys in playpen.

Some kids are more "high demand" than others, but than too can be worked out, get the Super Nanny Book.

If you are cooking and thus making a mess with all the dishes...clean them up, period. If you're using the wrong "sponge" (I can't remember from the first post if this was the issue), have her teach you what way she wants it, or maybe she just has to be happy you're cleaning the mess you make (as long as you're really cleaning, my son always said he "never cleaned to my standards", which his standards were, well let's say dog loved to lick the floor after he cleaned as there were still food particles left there).

By professional help, find out what your medical plan will cover, and start with couples counceling. That councelor can go from there to help find someone for OCD if s/he determines that is the issue.

If you wait until you have unlimited money, you might as well hang up your towel, as it will never happen..seriously you are living for the future, and you need to start living for today or you may lose your marriage.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 3:07PM
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You've described a disaster -- not even building up to, but right now. Not concerned about the disagreements. They can be worked out. IMHO tell-tale is the language you described. "...pig, selfish, and lazy...", the hysterics, etc. is over the top. Nobody can work toward a resolution if that's thrown in on top the other problems. The circular arguing tactic you descibed is symptomatic of a much larger problem. You must act immediately to bring this situation under control. From your description, she may not be capable of acknowledging the situation and approaching it rationally. Agree with previous poster that outside help should be sought. Beginning ASAP. Your marriage and child are both at risk.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 5:35PM
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Thanks, I have been processing all this advice. As of right now, I am facing a new hysteric fit, worse that most I have seen. Reading on the COD possibility got me thinking. I suddenly arrived at an unexpected hypothesis. Maybe this is medical. Scizophrenia, this is my best guess, based on what she did today... Now, I am not sure how to proceed - how could I have her evaluated? It is not like she would agree on her own...

BTW, I discovered the crisis hotline... they seem to be not too efficient on the weekends :). I'll wait till Monday.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 4:18AM
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I can only re-iterate, start with marriage/couples counseling, DO NOT diagnoise this yourself or let us do the diagnoising, we are only guessing from what you've told us. A professional must do the diagnosissing. If you think she is of danger to herself or your child take her to the hospital, but if you can get her and yourself to counseling (look in the phonebook for counslors in your area) that is the best. Psychologist Cannot prescribe meds, Psychiatrist can. MSW are Masters of Social Work, in school we called them "feel good counselors", sorry they were not our first choice, but they are probably more qualified then any of us are.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 9:17AM
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Listen to Vickey, there are lots of possibilites here. My mom has a thyroid problem. She is a freak without her meds.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 11:40AM
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Sleep deprivation for a whole year, could make you very emotional and irrational.

I would definately take your wife to your doctor, and let him/her assess the situation.

I am sure things will get better from now on, if you get help.

I would not advise self diagnosis.

How are you holding up, you must be very worried.

In Australia we have baby health centres, where you can take your child with any problem and they will help you. There is also a place called Karitane which is a where you can stay with your child and the expert staff with get you back on track with behavioural problems, and eating problems etc.

Do they have a similar system in the US?

I think its wonderful that you cook, good on you!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 6:08PM
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Postpartum depression can last a year or more and can include insomnia, wild mood swings and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Whatever the problem, it sounds like your wife needs help urgently, whether or not she wants it.

Below is a link to more information:

Here is a link that might be useful: Postpartum OCD

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 8:31PM
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Hi -
Sounds very much like me when my colicky dd was one! I don't think your wife is crazy, just overwhelmed by the needs of of a cranky one-year-old. You are working hard; your wife is on 24/7. She may need to see a doctor, but please don't imply to her that you think she is nuts.

There might be some hormonal issues ie postpartum stuff going on.

Is her mother actually helping? Having my mother live with me would drive me nuts.

Does your wife ever get time away from the baby? Does she ever get time alone?

As far as professional help goes, a regular marriage or family counselor could help to put these things in perspective and make it easier for you to communicate.

The sleep deprivation is serious. There were times when I literally thought I would die from lack of sleep. I loved loved loved my baby (still do) but sometimes I thought I'd never make it through. I used to go into hysterics with my dh too. He'd say "I spent 2 hours with her!" an I'd reply "And how many hours are there in a day? HOW MANY!!" Because you don't get a break. EVER. Some one-year-olds are great sleepers. Mine had a terrible time teething, colick, and was an insatiable nurser. Add that to an inexperienced mom, and you've got trouble.

Please try to be patient, consider moving grandma elsewhere, and compassionately plea with your wife to see a doctor or counselor. Tell her that she doesn't have to feel so bad, and that it will get better. She needs love and sympathy - she's giving everything she's got to the baby.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 11:15PM
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First babies can be a real upheaval for the mum. If you have never had any experience with children, how do you know what to do. Its very draining, and nobody there to tell you how to do things. At least it was like that for me. I thought I should know what to do...I am a woman, and woman have babies, always have ! It came as a big shock to me, that woman had been going through what I was going through, how come nobody ever told me !!

I read every book I could get my hand on, I think thats how I learnt to be a mother!

I also thought, is the Mum actually helping or is she just one more thing your wife has to think about and deal with?

If it was me, I would want to do it all myself in my own time, and have the occasional babysitter, so I could go out to the shops, or even have a shower for longer than 30seconds.

Things for you to ponder.

Let us know how you are getting on.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 10:56PM
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Here's what it sounds like to me. She is overworked, very overworked and probably somewhat physically sick from sleep deprivation. You are working good hours at work, and coming home putting in a few more and then calling it a day. She is working 24 hours a day for a year. And if she has a hard colicky baby, it can sometimes be impossible to get both the housework done and take care of the baby. Unless you walk in her shoes, you have no idea what it is like.

She may be depressed, rightly so, but hopefully things may settle down if you can get her back to being able to function normally after some needed rest.

What I suggest. You get a different approach and look at things a little differently. Quite honestly, I don't care if you make $15,000 or $500,000 ... Your spelling out your salary in depth, doesn't really tell me anything except maybe that you think you've done your fair share. NOT. It is not about money. Why don't you try waking up with the baby every night for a year, a month, a week? Let me guess, 'cause your job is 'more' important, you need sleep, you could mess up some big deal... Well, now let's see what could she mess up...car accident with baby, drop baby, shake baby in frustration. I'm thinking you could risk missing a few winks for a while.

And, yes some wives are picky about what chores they want their husbands to do, drop it. It's not about doing what you want to do; it's about helping her by doing what she needs you to do. There's a big difference. Why don't you try asking your wife specifically what she wants done in the evening and do that...it won't kill you to wash down a shower wall or put away socks. Ask and listen, then let her go to bed, and tell her you will be getting up with the baby at night so that she can get a good's night rest. If this is out of your realm of possiblities, then I could see why she may think you're being 'Lazy'.

I find that when many people have a first baby the wife's life changes drastically..her contact with other adults, her free time, her sleep, her whole life changes. While many husbands pretty much work the same as they did before. Maybe they watch the baby for a hour or two, mix a couple bottles, change a diaper. But, the husbands still have their own life. They have time to shower, to eat, and to go to the bathroom.

I think if you can forget about the fact that you think she should be able to get it all done, and that you may not really think she's overworked, and just "really, really just help her for a while" you will both be happier in the long run. It's not about who's right or what she should be able to do; She desperately needs your help and wants you to share in the added responsiblity of the baby/house (not some hired help); so "you, yourself" help her and let her control it; she has so little control over everything else right now. Just give her this.

Oh, and p.s., as you're doing things for her don't go telling her how easy they are, and that you don't know why she can't get everything done... Not the right thing to say. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 1:29AM
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I think everyone has covered most of the bases on this one but I just have one question and one observation in regard to that question..

Is your mother-in-law as picky as your wife in regard to housework and how to do it?? If so, it could be that your wife feels she has to have a spotlessly clean house because her mother is looking over her shoulder all the time.. That is a lot of pressure on a young new mother.

I can only tell you that a "divorce" counselor told me several years ago. The housework will be there tomorrow but the kids are going to grow up and move away. That kitchen floor will be there but the time you have to play with your family will disappear. There will be plenty of time to clean house later but the time to make memories will slip away and never show up again. It may be time for a long talk with MIL if your wife is trying to live up to her standards.

Something to think about.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 5:19PM
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Ummm. These counseling services schedule rather slow. No news so far.

Answers to the questions and comments follow:

- Several people seem to support my wife's opinion: "do it, clean it, this is your chore, period, and I don't care how much you make." This is where some of our arguments start. I make about $120 per hour. One hour of my work can hire a cleaning lady for a whole day or a babysitter for the whole night. Why can't you just leave me alone and pass these chores to the cleaning lady? I am willing to work an extra hour a day, and you will get a full-time help. Due to my desire to stay with the child, I dropped the number of my working hours, but we are still far into six digit income. I feel that I deserve to be released from the chores. Unfortunately, my argument does not fly.

- Yes, MIL is as picky, also maintains everything sterile clean.

- No, the baby cannot go to baby center. She did not immunize the baby due to her belief of danger of vaccinations. So, we avoid excessive contact with other children.

- Does my wife ever get time away from the baby? Nope. She does not trust anyone, hence, no babysitters are allowed. Yes, she is overworked and sleep-deprived. But why be that way?

- MIL loves me. My wife's sister thinks I am great. Her friends tell her they envy how easy she has it: live-in MIL, big house, no worries about bills, travel anywhere, a perfectly healthy child, all doctors are from the top-ten city list, all food is organic, and it goes on... Ok, material things. But also, I am home a lot, cooking, playing with the child, playing music, going for walks, giving her massage. Actually the last part smoothes most arguments: I am a pro at many types of massage, and she is a sucker for it. Nevertheless, last week my wife told me to move out by the end of the month. She changed her mind the next day, then told me to move out the day after, then told me that I can stay the day after that. This is growing on me... What she will tell me today, I don't know. She refused to go to counceling. Luckily, later, she agreed. I am trying to schedule this session between her periods: higher chance that she will actually go through with it instead of walking out...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 3:05AM
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I think you sound like a model husband. I think you are trying your best and I don't think you should be told to "move out" of your own house. Why did she want you to move out???? What prompted that?

I'm sure she inherited the sterile cleanliness from her mother. I certainly don't have that problem, lol, but I can understand how someone could get anxious or a little obsessive about cleaning. I agree with the above poster who said that the floor will always be there, but your kids won't. It's so true! My house might not be the cleanest, but it's pretty darn happy. And trust me, if my husband was making your salary and offered to get me some cleaning help, I would be so thankful!!! And I would love to be able to afford to eat everything organic, she should feel lucky!

On another note, I won't even go into the vaccination thing, perhaps someone on these forums will, but between that and not allowing anyone to watch your child? That seems a bit over the top. As a mother you have to let go a little bit, just for your own sanity! I think it is a very good thing that she is getting some counseling.

I think you honestly love your wife and family and are trying to figure out what to do to make your life happier. Keep us posted on what happens. I wish you the best!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 9:38AM
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Wow, you seem to be in a a no win situation. You help around the house and it isn't enough, you make enough to get help, and they aren't good enough. Unlike the above I am sure you are not the model husband (sorry, none of us are "model" anything..and I mean NONE of us). BUT it does sound like you are giving 110% BUT by the same token it sounds like your wife feels like she too is giving 110%, but in a different direction. No more suggestions from me, wait for the appointment. For your sanity, you may need to give your wife what she wishes, a seperation, BUT do it legally, and arrange for visitation. DO nothing that will make you lose contact with that child you obviously LOVE so much. She may find that you need to be careful what you wish for as it may come true! But continue with the counseling first. Just curious, is your wife of American decent, or from a different culture, it may make a difference to help understand where her values are coming from.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 8:39PM
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Nikitab, good on you for helping out etc.

You have very high standards in your life, I know what that is like, and I know myself, sometimes we can forget what really is important.

Paint your life with happy memories, housework does not create those happy memories. But maybe you know all this.

I am off to play with my son, washing, cleaning can wait.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 10:07PM
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OK, I'm no legal professional, (although I'm tempted to become one someday...) but I do talk to a lot of separated fathers. While I agree with most of what is said by the other posters...just one word of caution.
While it may be tempting to give her some 'space', especially if she's having frequent screaming fits...you need to know that if you choose to move out (or let her push you out) of your home, you may lose it, and with it your child, if it does turn into a permanent separation.

If you have a larger house (which I'm guessing you likely do), I would suggest moving into a different bedroom possibly, or some other space in the house, but I would strongly urge you NOT to move out. It will weigh HEAVILY against you, should you wind up in court. I have heard it over and over again, "She wanted me out, so I left...I thought it would help us talk more civilly if we had a break..." (etc.) Then he never gets back in...a year later they are divorced, the wife gets the house, because it has been 'her' residence for the past year, because the husband 'chose' to leave. This is your house too, not just hers, *don't* let her push you out.
Keep living at home, stay involved in your little ones daily affairs, get help from counsellors and other sources as needed, and remain, if possible polite, at minimum civil, with your wife. If you end up divorcing, you will likely be at a disadvantage, if your wife chooses to play dirty, as she will have her mother to corroborate her stories (even if she likes you now, it is unlikely she will side against her own daughter, and you could 'become' quite the monster), so try to keep your nose as clean as possible, and get documentation or other evidence where ever possible, that will show you are trying to positively influence your relationship. (Consider keeping a daily log of the things you do around the house to help take the load off of her, the measures you are taking for reconciliation, such as counselling, and time spent caring for and/or interacting with you little one.) Hopefully you will never need it. Hopefully your wife will go with you for some counselling and you will be able to come to an agreement on expectations. Just remember to cover your behind, in case it doesn't work out that way. I know far too many good men, hardworking, sacrificing, loving men, who have lost everything, despite their good intentions and efforts to save their families.

Good luck, I wish you and your family all the best.
(Who works with a non profit society that offers support to non custodial parents (usually dads) that are having issues like access denial(some more than 10 years), or child support orders that are so high they're living in their cars, despite good paying jobs.)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 2:01AM
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Ah, my life is marching forward fast. Since she did not like the idea of counceling, I found an acquaintance who has an experience in such counceling, and invited him over. So, it was a clandestine counceling session in a form of a dinner. At the end of it we came to a business agreement, of sorts: as long as I make sure my income does not drop below $15K per month, she, in turn, is willing to get household help and stop bugging me with her requests. In addition, after the baby turns one year, she will be willing to catch up with the immunization schedule and start sending the child to daycare one or two days a week. My wife is now interviewing household helpers and seems no longer to be under the spell of MIL, who was and remains the major opposition to hired help. So far things have been remarkably smooth and pleasant. I work a lot more hours now, but being not under pressure and scrutiny at home, it is not stressful because the quality of the remaining time is very high. Oh, we also collected a box full of takeout menus, so, I do not have to cook as much. Hmmm. And we switched to plasticware to reduce cleaning needs. This switch has been interesting. Cutting through the Kobe steak, the plate underneath, the cloth napkin underneath the plate, and the finish of the dining table in one swift move :). I did not even get reprimanded. Hey, it is an opportunity, she is eyeing new dining tables on the internet. Meanwhile, the baby made first two steps...

You comments have been very helpful. I will let you know if the hell breaks loose again :).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 8:21PM
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Glad to hear things are looking up. Some unusual solutions, but hey...if you can afford it and you're both happy, great! :-)


    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 9:17PM
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Just curious, how are things going?

Personal opinion -- it would do your wife good to develop friendships with other mothers who have children close to the same age of you son. It would also benefit you son. Something like baby and me workouts, stress relief of exercise and being with peers, for both of them. Also, a bit of separation, something MIL is not involved in.

By the way, your friend who came over -- did he have anything to say regarding the role of MIL in the household? I had my MIL here for several months, she consistently said one thing to DH and another to me. It wasn't until she started to harass my son that I took steps and confronted her with the two faced comments. With my DS asserting "Yes, Grammie you did do that." DH finally saw that MIL was a point of contention, orchestrating conflict.

I'm not saying this is your case, but it is another possibility.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 9:12AM
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I have just read this thread and it has brought a lot of things in my own life into focus. And maybe some of that can help you see this in a different light, too. My own situation in my first marriage was similar in many ways to yours (except that my ex never cooked!!). But I was the wife so maybe I can offer some insight on that side.

You began by telling us some very positive things about yourself - how much you make, that you are an excellent cook, etc. I get the impression that you have a pretty high opinion of yourself. And that is good! Good for you. I believe that self esteem (an overworked term for sure) comes from an honest sense of accomplishment. I'm not a great fan of the idea that constant praise works to build a person's self esteem...the person has to come to believe it through achievement. I'm glad you have that and what I'm going to say is not meant to attack or undermine that...only to suggest a different point of view.

Now think of your wife's situation.

She did get her degree (but you take a bit of the credit, don't you?) and then worked part time (at a salary that you specifically point out was WAY below what you make). She quit and you didn't even care. Well, that could mean you are just a real nice guy. Or it could mean that her efforts were unnecessary or pointless. (I would bet she took it that way.)

Now she is a mother. And I don't care what they used to say about motherhood...nowadays it is a pretty thankless task. You don't get a lot of recognition (think: "JUST a housewife"). And it's also pretty hard to get a sense of accomplishment from it. You do the daily stuff...and it all has to be done over tomorrow - or later today. And all the while you get to wonder and worry about whether you are doing it right: whether your child will grow up without being traumatized by your best efforts (there is no owners manual) and whatever the outcome...it is years in the future! Motherhood is NOT the path to self esteem.

Your wife also has her mother right by her side. That could be a fantastic source of help. But it is more likely a source of self doubt and questioning. It is awfully hard for a mother to be a cheering section for her child raising a child without ever suggesting (even subtly) that mistakes are being made.

Alright...you have a woman who probably had a shaky self image to start with and she is living with a parent (more or less supportive OR critical) and a husband (pretty doggone sure he is doing/being the best he can) and an infant (who cries for mysterious reasons, scares the living daylights out of any thinking person, and is a source of endless - sleepless - WORK and worry). The fact that your wife objects to immunizations (and I don't agree with that stance) shows that she is seriously worried about doing this right.

So she throws herself into cleaning. Is that surprising? It shouldn't be. What else has she got to do that might leave a mark? She obsesses about the one area of her work that is on display, that can be accomplished to some sort of completion, that someone might actually notice and acknowledge. There may even be an element of self defense in her cleaning - she may have reached the point of doubting her own worth to the extent that she feels she must PROVE how hard she works. I've done it myself (within the last week!) but it doesn't work well. Because this one thing that she is trying so hard to do right is dismissed as unimportant...easily jobbed out to a stranger...or just ignored and left undone! No wonder the poor woman shrieks from time to time.

I think it is particularly telling that the two of you have a great deal of friction about whether or not YOU clean up after you cook. By refusing to do that bit (which would normally be HER bit) you are saying (as she would read it) that it is not important or that it is beneath you. Not beneath HER, mind. But too boring or lowly for YOU to deal with. I'd be surprised if she isn't feeling that you consider yourself very superior to her. And that sort of inequality really doesn't help a marriage.

This is exactly the state of mind that leads a lot of women to find fault with any efforts the husband makes to "help" around the house. She is trying desperately to prove that what she does is special and can't be done by just anybody (especially YOU). In really grim situations (like my own failed marriage) she may be "staking a claim" on at least one little part of her life where she hopes to retain some control and ownership.

I wonder if your friend who supplied the unofficial "counseling" said anything to suggest that your wife has real worth, that she is valuable or that she is making an important contribution? It would go a long way to explain her willingness to go with your new program. I hope that will work for you both. Sometimes we fall into solutions just as we so often fall into problems.

For me, I left. I felt just as unappreciated and worthless as I suspect your wife has felt. I was, in fact, very near suicide. So why, once I was living in a strange place with a poorly paid job and two very small children, a crumby apartment, and ALL the household work and worry did I feel BETTER? Because I knew then - as I had NEVER been allowed to know before - that I WAS competent and able to manage my/our life. I wish I had figured all this out before it went that far. Things would be very different for me (and for the children) if I had known then what I know now.

Best wishes for you. I hope it will all work out. I don't really have any magic solution. If you read this and see merit in it, it shouldn't be too hard for you to figure out what your wife needs and then to decide whether you want to provide it to her. Or...better still...to provide her the opportunity to get it for herself.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 12:23AM
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I have to wonder why your MIL lives with you? Is she incapable of living on her own? I say this, because it puts tremendous pressure on a daughter - been there, done that! My mother lived with us for 3 years before she passed away. During that time she was ill and on home oxygen, HOWEVER, she had impossibly high standards regarding housekeeping and I didn't - oh, I kept clutter picked up, floors vacuumed, etc but windows, well isn't that why God let us invent sheer curtains? I always told her that nobody was going to come into my house, pull back my curtains and declare I had dirty windows! Sounds like your wife is frantic to not disappoint Mom!

Personally, if Mom can do it on her own health wise, I'd see to it she did, even if I had to help out with a monthly stipend. Nothing creates greater stress than living with parents after marriage.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 1:31PM
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