29 answers

Stay at Home Dad Not Doing Any Work Around the Home

My husband quit his job in June, which we both agreed was what we wanted. I love having him around more but I expected that he would do the brunt of the house work. I am still working full time. Am I being unreasonable to expect him to have the house clean while he is not working outside the home? (I don't have high expectations-a clean toilet and crumbs vacummed once a week, I am not a neat freak.) Help!

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Hi M.,

Could he possibly be depressed? I mean like clinically depressed? Just a thought.

Best wishes,

Unspoken and not-agreed upon expectations only lead to difficulties in a marriage. My husband told me many years later that he never complained about anything he wasn't prepared to take over himself!!! If you talk it together and decide, then that would be more reasonable, but ONLY if you've discussed and BOTH agreed wholeheartedly. Good luck!

Have you tried being a stay at home mom? It's not easy. Just because he is at home doesn't mean he isn't busy all the time.

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M., I guess it all depends on your agreement w/ each other. I stay w/ my four-year old daughter full time and I consider that my primary job. My husband and I both agree on that. I don't clean - aside from general tidiness and being responsible for cleaning up messes that I make - and my husband does all the cooking.

I regard staying w/ my child and raising her my full time job - and I guess that does not have the "other duties as assigned" clause to go with it :). Any way, just my two cents.

Good luck on finding some resolution. S.

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Coming from a stay-at-home mom. Make sure the chores are equal. Just because he stays home doesn't mean he has all the time in the world. He is not sitting around doing nothing. You do have a child who takes a lot of his time and attention. Divide the chores so that they are fair. I make sure that my husband takes the trash out, brings the laundry downstairs so I can do it, does the dinner dishes, mows the yard, vacuum and mop the floors, and if there is anything else I need help with he must help me with. Since I stay home I do the laundry, make sure the house is picked up, and clean the toilets, run all the errands, and pay all the bills, and all the other little duties that are required around the house.

For me the main question is did your husband quit his job because he hated it, because you made more money or so that he could be the one at home? The answer may guide your next steps as a family.

I supported our family by working full time while my husband was in school and now that he is the breadwinner and I am a homemaker (with a 2-year-old) our family income has reduced dramatically. However, we look at it as a good sacrifice.

We considered having my husband stay home, but realized he is not the kind of man who could do this without feeling "less than." I'm not saying this is how your husband feels, is right in the grand scheme of things, or a good reflection on homemaking being "women's work," I'm just saying this was reality for my husband. It may be something to think about.

By the way, I agree that handing your husband a list - whether you write it or you do it "together" - is emasculating. I would be angry if my partner handed me a to-do list of chores as if he were my father. Think of how your husband will feel about this. Is he a man or a mouse?

I dont know how to help you with your husband and the house work. Maybe if he would get a job that he can work from home. I have started one because it was that or go back to work. I love the people I work with and it does make you feel good to make some money to help. Have you tried to talk to him about the house and what you would like help with? I know with my husband if it is his idea them he has no problem doing it. I also know that my husband does not like the cleaning products that cause irritation (most of them from the store). I have found some great, safe cleaning products that my kids can use and I dont worry about them.
Helping families get great products

Yes, he should do that stuff. I've known several stay-at-home dads, and their homes are always a wreck. They just don't do the cleaning AND they hand the house and the kid to the wife when she comes home from work exhausted.

As a matter of fact, my sister (who lives like this) and I had a friend from childhood come to town tonight. I met the woman for dinner and didn't even tell my sister, because she's so exhausted trying to manage her job and the house and the kids that I knew it would just stress her out more to be conflicted about visiting our friend vs. dealing with her household.

Based on what I've witnessed in various families, I now try to warn women that this is what they're likely to get when Dad stays home.

Men don't think like women when it comes to housework. (consider what bachelors end up living in when left alone for too long) ;)
I suggest sitting down talking about it stick to the basics:
Use the phrase "I feel..." state your honest feeling, state what you think the problem is, then state what you think the solution is. Then wait for the response. (I only say this 'cause I tend to over talk when I'm approaching someone with a request.)
If it's plausible, make a short schedule of daily/weekly/monthly chores that might be posted somewhere for checking off, that way no time is wasted with re-cleaning anything.
Good job mommin'! & what a great decision to ensure that kiddos get full time loving parental time! Way to go Dad!

p.s. I also agree somewhat with was Marci says below. Chores should be a family team effort though!

I have one of those stay-at-home husbands, too. My husband is great with the 2 year old, but never has done alot of cleaning. Dishes, laundry, and mowing the lawn seem to be the extent of it. I am greatful that even this gets done. We now have a 6 week old, so I'm expecting even less when I go back to work. We have a maid come every 2 weeks to do a deep clean of the kitchen and bathrooms, more vacuuming and dusting of the stuff we don't get to otherwise. Maid service helps if you can afford it. I think it's well worth my sanity and saves arguments with the husband. I look at it this way- thank God my husband stays with our kids- I'd rather not pay a ton of money to have someone else raise our kids...

Have you told him how you feel. Maybe just say in a polite way. "I know it is a big job being home with the kids, but it frustrates me to come home to a dirty floor and toilet." Just be careful how you say it because as a stay at home mom I get resentful if I feel like my husband is telling me I'm not doing a good job at home. I know when I should have gotten more done and sometimes all you have accomplished during the day isn't outwardly seen.

Another suggestion is introduce your husband to flylady.net she has a website that teaches you how to clean and keep a clean house 15 minutes at a time. She has a lot of stuff on there but if you sign up for the baby steps it could be helpful. Many of us are not naturally born organized and it can be hard to keep a clean house when we are overwhelmed.

Good Luck in your situtation, I hope you find a solution or comprise with you Dear Husband.

Interesting...I feel the same way, except my husband has been at home since birth. It's tough but maybe just telling him your expectations would be good. Good luck!

I would suggest you two sit down and talk about a division of labor what you can agree to together is how you will split up the chores.
I don't do all the housework as a stay at home mom--and there have been times because of illness that my husband has carried the brunt of the housework even with his job but we always sat down and talked about what the division of labor would be so no one felt like the other wasn't carrying their share. he still does most of the laundry and he does the dishes when he is home. chasing around a 3 year old all day takes up most of my energies--and he appreciates that
it comes from talking about what we expect and what is going on with us though, we revisit the division of labor when we need to, for example when I got sick of laundry we changed things up so he was doing it and I took on some of the other chores like mowing the lawn that I enjoy doing and he doesn't which we wouldn't have known if we hadn't talked about it
regardless of who stays home or not or if both are working I think it is really important to sit down and decide together what responsibilities each partner will have around the home. who cooks who cleans what etc. and its a great chance to give your 3 year old some age appropriate chores too!

Oh come on! You know that most women in the world would agree with you and they would all suggest writing lists for him or having a talk with him about your feelings and expectations, or maybe a few would say just leave him alone about it. Most of these things will leave your husband emasculated. They subtly imply that he is not capable of his role and that you are disappointed in him.

I have a totally unpopular opinion that men should be the moneymakers and women should stay home and raise the kids. I realize that many women would want to slap me silly, but the truth is that men and women are wired differently. Women are nurturers, multi-taskers, etc, and men are wired to care more about their jobs and make that into who they are as a person - a provider and a protector. I think it is interesting that he wanted to stay at home. I think he needs you to tell him that it is too hard for you to work and have all that burden on your shoulders, and that you should never have agreed to it. That he is so great as a provider, you know he can do it better than you, blah, blah, blah. This is called building your man's ego up, which I think must be a bit down, and encouraging him to be the leader and provider, as he is meant to be. I am sure that you are capable of providing, but that is not the point.

Now I will just wait for a few angry emails from people here, to tell me that I am too old-fashioned, judgmental, a jerk, or whatever. I am old-fashioned. The old-fashioned, traditional marriage is what I am 100% about, and if you asked me 2 years ago to read this letter from myself to you, I would have wanted to shake myself silly and say, "What, are you crazy?" But back then, my husband and I were always fighting and always on the verge of a divorce. Now we are BOTH happy, and things get better every day.


Unspoken and not-agreed upon expectations only lead to difficulties in a marriage. My husband told me many years later that he never complained about anything he wasn't prepared to take over himself!!! If you talk it together and decide, then that would be more reasonable, but ONLY if you've discussed and BOTH agreed wholeheartedly. Good luck!

Did you assume he would do more around the house, or did the two of you discuss it when he quit working? Hubby & I made a deal before we even got married-if I wasn't working, the house was mine. If I was working, he'd help with housework. If you didn't discuss division of labor before he quit, now you have to be careful the way you say it. Boys of all ages are more sensitive than girls (sometimes hubby is worse than the kids!). Sit him down & tell him that you're feeling overwhelmed, that you were hoping he would pick up a lot of the household chores since he's the SAH parent now. Tell him (specifically) what you want help with, what you want him to do on his own & what you want him to NOT do. And after you tell him what you want him to tackle on his own, remind yourself that you asked him to do this, so you have to accept that he's going to do it his way (my hubby does dishes way differently from me & I've decided it's better that he's helping than to force him to do it my way. They get clean, I'm not doing them, it's all good).
SAH women have been doing the housework daily for how many thousands of years? It's not high expectations (in my opinion) that the SAH dad is doing the chores while you're out in society working-I'd expect it too in my house.
Write him a list of what you want in each category-hubby do, we share, I do-so he can see what it is, rather than trying to remember what you said. Tape it to the inside of a cupboard so he can refer to it, but it's not on the fridge for his buddies to tease him about (again, they're sensitive).
Good luck!

Hi M.,

Could he possibly be depressed? I mean like clinically depressed? Just a thought.

Best wishes,

Somehow it makes me feel better to know that my husband isn't the only one! My husband works now, but before he graduated from college, I was working PT while he was staying at home with our daughter. We finally sat down and talked about what he was willing/not willing to do and fixed things that way. I would try to put a load of laundry in everyday before I left and wash the dishes. His responsibility while I was gone was to put the wet clothes in the dryer. He was also responsible for putting away the dry dishes, vacuuming and taking out the garbage. Once we reached an agreement, it made us both happier (He wasn't getting nagged anymore and I wasn't having to work AND do all the housework.) Good luck!

OK...my input is going to be slightly different...so don't hate me ladies :)

Let's, for a moment, take a look at this from all perspectives.

So, dad is home. This is awesome that you guys were able to make the choice and the decision that one of you could be home to raise your daughter. And the fact that he wanted to be the one to do this...count your blessings honey. There aren't too many dad's who would opt for this. That said, being home, after having a career for such a long time, is quite the adjustment...not to mention being around a toddler all day long when you're just not accustomed to it. If you've never been a stay at home parent, it can be an overwhelming experience at first because there really is so much to do to keep the child engaged and entertained.

On the flip side, you're bustin' your tail all day long and probably feel that you would love to be the one who is hangin' out at home all day with your little darlin...and to come home to a reasonably clean house...and maybe even dinner every now and again. Not an unreasonable expectation...but does he know that?

It all boils down to just having an honest conversation about what you envisioned this transition would be like, outline some of your expectations and then find out if these are things that he can accommodate. How would I approach this? Here's a stab:

"Honey, I can't even begin to tell you how very happy it makes me that we have the ability to have you home. We are so fortunate that our situation allows us this flexibility. That said, I think I owe you an apology because through this transition, I've been a little frustrated with myself for not communicating some of the things that need to be done around the house to help keep things neat and tidy. And for that, I'm sorry. Would now be a good time to talk about this?"

When approached this way...he'll totally want to talk and you can then lay out a few expectations. No need to be confrontational...you'll find that his response will be very positive and helpful. If things don't improve in a week or so, then approach the subject again:

"Darlin...I must not have a clear picture of what your day must be like. I can only imagine that it can be a little nutty from time to time. I'm wondering, though, do we need to revisit our conversation from a few weeks ago? Maybe my expectations were a little to high."

I guarantee that he'll be embarrassed and will totally tell you that you're expectations are not too high.

Sounds like a crazy approach, but if you guys made the decision together for him to be home, then you both have to work through this together as well. If you've never done it, being a stay at home parent is quite overwhelming in the beginning...but you eventually find your groove :)

My Best!!

I have to agree with a lot of the other SAH moms who have posted...our first and foremost responsibility is taking care of the kids...which is a 24/7/365 job with NO vacations, overtime pay, etc! Cleaning is an after-thought...usually when kids are napping...if they napped that day...and if they didn't just destroy the room we JUST cleaned up! My hubby used to complain about things not being cleaned up (think he thought I just sit on the couch eating bon-bons and watching TV all day) until about a week ago when our son was sick (just poopy...I didn't want to take him out on errands with me and be far from a toilet and shower) and my hubby decided to take a day off of work and stay at home with him since I HAD to do these errands...lets just say, within 30 minutes he was calling me, asking me to come home so he could get work done...that our son was constantly "in the way"...HELLO...that's what I go through EVERYDAY...and well is worse than sick... at least when he's sick, he'll just want to lay on the couch...be held occasionally...well is CONSTANT movement, go, go go!!!

Anyway, you might just step into your hubby's shoes for a few minutes, give him a small break (see what your kiddo has been like for the day...grumpy, tired or happy, helpful), talk over the "important' cleaning you want done (like the dishes and occasional toilet/laundry/vacuuming...none of which are unreasonable requests BTW) and compliment what he does get done (my biggest pet peeve...he complains and complains, but then when I DO get stuff done, he doesn't notice and be understanding when we DO clean but it gets dstroyed before you get home...)!

Anyway, hope that helps without being too harsh!

S., 26, SAHM of 20 month old boy and 36 weeks preggo with another boy (yes....I'm tired...trying to get laundry AND dishes done today :-)!)

I don't think you are asking to much. I am a stay at home mom and I do the brunt of the housework, It's fair.

Trying to get work done with a toddler running around can be a huge adjustment. Sit down and talk to your husband and make sure you're on the same page. Ask what you can do to help so that things get done. Make sure he knows that you support him (not financially, but physically and mentally too) and that you'll help him get used to this new stage.

When I stopped working after baby #2 it took me about 6 months to find my groove. Before then I was just pulling my hair out because the demands of small children really is huge. If your kid has been in daycare till now, she's probably used to having quite a bit of attention all day. She'll expect that same amount of attention from your husband, which is probably a big part of why he's having a hard time.

I would also suggest having him use her as a helper. My 2-year-old loves to help out - putting things in the sink, running the vacuum, wiping down everything (he loves wipes), etc. It'll help teach her to clean and give him a helper.

But please be patient and understand that kids really are a time and energy vortex - sucking everything you've got and wanting more. It really does take some getting used to.

I don't think you are asking too much. You might want to direct him to Flylady.com and it will give him tips to clean the house in only about 15-20 minutes per day.

I'm a working mom and my husband splits the housework with me 50/50. The house is still a mess. I know that on the days I'm home with the kids all alone, it is very hard for me to do housework (I have a 11 month old and a 29 month old). the only time to really do it is during nap time and I usually make that my time.

It is harder to be a SAHM (or Dad) than a working parent, I think. I think you need to help him with the housework although he should be able to do the brunt of it.

Have you tried being a stay at home mom? It's not easy. Just because he is at home doesn't mean he isn't busy all the time.

There are two main jobs in your home: Full-time worker and Homemaker/child care. Write down specifically what it is you believe the Homemaker/child care job consists of. Don't be soft on him! Be realistic about what you have time to help with when you are home and ask him to find a way to accomplish the rest. I find that my husband often is willing to help, but doesn't always know specifically what needs doing in the house. So unless I speak up, I run myself ragged while he watches TV.

While I understand the inclination to be upset with him for not having the house clean I am going to have to disagree with most of the other posts. Why? Women have been working very hard for MANY years to move society away from the belief that a woman should have a clean house and dinner on the table when her man arrives home from a long day at work. I shudder to think of the responses a man would have gotten posting this kind of question and I don't think it's fair to say "it's ok" just because a woman is asking this of her husband. How would you feel if the situation was reversed? Absolutely talk to him about "straightening up" from the kids day at home but expecting him to take care of the kids all day AND have the house clean when you arrive home is an antiquated belief that a woman who is the bread winner in her home should distance herself from.

I think you have reasonable expectations. My husband was a Mr. Mom for a couple years and it worked out really well. We set up a system so we had laundry ready for Fridays. Fridays were his cleaning days, so the house was nice for the weekend. Maybe you can have a conversation with your hubby about what he's up to and what you can do to pool ideas about how to keep the house clean?

You are faaaarrrrr from unreasonable. I will assume he just doesn't know how to approach managing a home, and not fixate on the fact that he is being lazy! To start, I am curious why he thinks he doesn't need to clean? He doesn't know how, thinks cleaning fairies will come, doesn't see the dirt? You might start by finding out. Then, I agree with the other posters that you need to have a frank conversation to set expectations.

It may help him for you to write down what needs to be done -- in detail. Include it all, from shop for new shoes, return library books, to scrub toilet and go to grocery. Maybe suggest the strategy that some people use of setting aside each day for one task: Monday-laundry; Tuesday-cleaning; Wednesday-Groceries and Errands, blah blah. That sounds like the kind of directive a guy could get his head around.

I would also share some remedial housework secrets - like, yes, you do need to clean the toilets every week, change the sheets, and dusting doesn't happen by magic etc etc. And look! there are all these great cleaning products and tools(!!!) you can use. Whatever it takes to get him motivated.

I think he is trying to go for "strategic incompetence." Don't let him fool you, he's more than capable.

If he is doing nothing but just taking care of your one child, then yes he should be doing more around the house.

I am a stay at home mom of 4 children AND I own and run a business completely from home as well as do the accounting for my dad's business. I do all these things and keep the house in a semi decent fashion. If I was just taking care of 1 child with nothing else to do, my house would be spotless. In fact, when I only had 2 kids and took care of 2 others I had a spotless house and dinner on the table every night.

I hope he starts doing more around the house. You shouldn't have to!

Make it a GREAT day!


I went through this last summer. My hubby was laid off right after we had our daughter so I went back to my job full time and he stayed home. It was REALLY hard at first because I was battling a lot of guilt. I felt like I was the one that should be at home, but that is an old stereotype. Men can stay home with the kids too, however it is not accepted as well and they have a hard time feeling adequate when they aren't earning the $$$. But all we really cared about was that our daughter was well cared for and that one of us was doing it, after he had the taking care of an infant down we discussed house work, I realized I couldn't expect him to do the chores exactly how I like them. So he doesn't do dishes, but he is GREAT with doing laundry and picking things up and of course trash and yard work. Maybe just find out what chores your hubby thinks he can accomplish in a day with taking care of your child. We just talked about it. I told him that it is hard for me to be at work all day when they are home together bonding. When I am home I don't want to worry about dinner and house work so it would be nice if some of the stuff was done. He TOTALLY understood and made more of an effort. We also cleaned together when I got home from work and she was napping I would say lets hurry and get dishes and mop floors or whatever then we will have mommy-daddy time. That motivated him. You need to speak to him respectfully and realize his job is hard too!! But if you have open communication you should be able to resolve this pretty easy. We as wives have to remember one important thing...talk to our spouses...DONT NAG!!

You are NOT being unreasonable. I grew up with a father who was a cleaning machine... How was I to know most men aren't wired that way? My husband is not. He's been out of work for a few months now and I'm still full-time (Thank GOD!).

If you haven't tried yet, my advice is to leave a list of what needs to be done each day. Men seem to respond well to clear direction. It's not "wrong", but they just just don't think the way we do. Before you do use the lists, you may want to have a conversation about what should be done on a weekly basis etc. And agree the lists will be what you'll use. My husband and I did this, he's now great at laundry and grocery shopping - and he does clean when I leave the list - as well as he can. Lots of thank you's also help. Each person is different, so maybe this will work for you guys. Good luck.

This could have been written about me a year ago. I stayed home with the kids, but made dinner and did laundry (not putting it away), and that was about it. I just didn't know what to do and got caught up in other things instead. I have a problem "seeing the trees for the forest."

You'll get a lot of advice to use flylady.com, which can be useful, but was very involved to start. I started using a planner. I make it a goal to have everything picked up by Thursday morning so I can mop and do scrubbing that day. I try to clean the kids bathroom while they take a bath (minus the tub, of course), and put cleaner in our other 2 toilets at this time.

Maybe you need to show your husband how to do these things and make a schedule of when they should be done. That may seem menial, but it's what I needed. When i make a task list every day, I get a lot more done. I do laundry on Mondays, grocery shop on Wednesdays and clean some Tuesday and mostly Thursdays. That doesn't work for everyone, but it has helped me a lot!

Good luck!

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