Dear Fiona: I recently got a job – but my husband still expects me to do all the housework

·4-min read
Why do I have to do all the housework when we both have jobs? (Alamy/PA)
Why do I have to do all the housework when we both have jobs? (Alamy/PA)

The problem…

“I have been married for 25 years and had three wonderful sons, all of whom have now left home or are at university. My two oldest are doing well, have established careers and great partners. My youngest is studying biochemistry and has a job lined up after that. He will eventually have to move away for that job, so I do not anticipate he or his brothers returning home any time soon.

“With this in mind, I got a job last year with a local IT firm; I enjoy it and it’s gone well. It’s challenging work involving quite long hours, but after some in-house training and passing an exam, I am being quite well paid. In fact, I am earning about the same as my husband and sometimes more if I exceed my quota.

“So far so good, but the issue of housework is threatening to undermine it all. When I wasn’t working, I was happy to do most of the heavy-lifting. However, now that I am doing long hours and often getting in after my husband, it galls that he still expects me to cook the evening meal and clean the house.

“I resent the fact that I have a real chance here to grow and do something with this job, yet I am being held back by my husband. I do love him, and we have had a good relationship, but if this continues for much longer, I worry about what will become of us.”

Fiona says…

“If, in 25 years, you’ve done everything for your husband and your sons, I expect they’re finding it hard to adjust. You’ve clearly changed a lot and have achieved a huge amount in a relatively short space of time. So much so that I can’t help but wonder if there is perhaps some resentment on your husband’s part as well.

“You’ve gone from being dependent on him for money, to being almost the ‘chief bread winner’, which may have dented his ego a little. It could be that he’s passively asserting himself by refusing to take on tasks that he’s always assumed you would do. He may even be worried that you’ve changed so much, that you may not want him anymore! It could also be, of course, that none of this has occurred to him, and he’s simply expecting life to continue pretty much as it always has.

“Have you told him – and your son – that now you’re working you can’t do all the domestic tasks you used to do, and that they should be prepared to do a share of them? I believe it’s time for a family get-together, where you point out that now everyone in the house is working, everyone needs to take on a share.

“Explain how you are feeling, make a list of all the jobs that need to be done, and then create a rota for doing them. I’d encourage you to ensure that, for example, everyone takes a turn at cooking. No excuses on that one – as everyone needs to know how to feed themselves, so even if their efforts are not as you’d like them to be, don’t let them give up. I think all the basics should be covered, that way including doing the washing up, clothes washing and ironing – how else is your son going to manage when he leaves home?

“If you don’t like the rota idea then find a way of allocating tasks and split them fairly. If for example one person is doing all the cleaning, someone else needs to do all the washing and ironing. It may well be that you have to compromise to some extent, but you cannot let things drift, otherwise your resentment will grow.

“Your husband may also need reassuring that you do still love him and your newfound success doesn’t mean you are about to leave him. At least, I’m assuming – from what you say – that you’re not, and also assuming he changes his attitude to housework!”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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