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Splitting up with a nice but a bit useless DH - is it easier alone?!

(67 Posts)
stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 14:55:29

My DH is mostly lovely and I love him but he's a bit useless with pitching in and helping no matter how good his intentions and how many different ways we try to work things out (lists, schedules, reminders, designated jobs, shouting...).

He loves the kids but seems like being an Victorian style father where he gets them on his terms is better.
I sometimes feel like it would just be easier if he moved out and only came along to see me and them every so often so we wouldn't be constantly trying to have him involved in family life. Just remove that expectation and get on with life.
Now, I know this is Mumsnet and I am going to have people telling me that he shoud just man up and muck in. I know he should but we are both exhausted trying to get that to work so I just wondered has anyone been in a similar situation, separated out the household and found it easier?

MardyArsedMidlander Tue 15-Jan-13 16:23:25

' I wouldn't want an 'unprofessional' person on the team.'

Er.. this is a marriage and a home life- not an interview. Why not introduce monthly supervisions and appraissals and stretch targets for the husband? Or just leave him to it.

qumquat Tue 15-Jan-13 19:27:40

What Dahlen said. I don't think the issue is with your expectations, it is with him not being willing to be an involved father. Has he made any attempt to change his ways after you have spoken to him? He is choosing not to help out; anyone can go on a family day out even if they hate every second of it, lord knows I've wanted the ground to swallow me up at a petting zoo before. So why is he not willing to do that for his kids? I would struggle to put up with the situation you are in.

qumquat Tue 15-Jan-13 19:34:06

Just re read your op so will add: I think him moving out could work if he has times when he is solely responsible for the kids - to give you a break and force him to 'father up'. If, however, he just pops around every now and then for family tea and sex, I think you might find yourself getting even more resentful, and your kids would get a very skewed image of fatherhood.

Leafmould Tue 15-Jan-13 22:32:20

What an interesting thread. Thank you, op for talking about it with us, and sharing all these experiences. branleuse I would be interested to hear more about your experience, as someone for whom this idea has worked out well. Would you share some of your situation or story with us?

Biscuitsneeded Tue 15-Jan-13 22:57:50

He sounds exactly like my DP. He was working abroad a lot when kids were tiny, I was breastfeeding so up at night while he slept, he claimed to be made ill by nappies so never did them etc. Ended up with a situation where I felt I was doing everything, but also because that had become our norm he probably was genuinely a bit frightened of doing wrong and I was probably expecting him to do things exactly my way, which of course he couldn't. Interestingly we were probably at our rockiest when the children were 2 and 4, when I hit my most exhausted and felt nothing was getting any better. Now they are 6 and 8. Have things improved? Well, I just came to the PC and discovered a half-licked yoghurt pot lid and slimy spoon on the table, yoghurt pot thrown in vague direction of a (bedroom!) bin but actually on the carpet... BUT.... he is a good Dad, albeit better with older children. He will play lego/make model aeroplanes/do painting/supervise clarinet practice/help with homework for ages with them. I haven't the time, inclination or patience. He can talk to them about things in a way that I wouldn't think to. He organised a camping weekend for us last summer (which would never have happened if it were left to me as I thought I hated camping) but he got everything together, loaded the car, drove us there, put the tent up, cooked, washed up (after a fashion)... and we all had a brilliant weekend. My children's lives would be poorer for not having him as their in-house, full-time parent, and yes he is a bit crap sometimes but he loves them and they love him. Many's the time I've fantasised about leaving, getting a little house and having him 5 mins away with easy and amicable visiting rights... but I think on balance I'm glad I've never gone through with it. I sound like an apologist for selfish, hopeless males, but don't forget that a Dad who is crap with pre-schoolers may not always remain crap...
That doesn't address what's right for YOU, or how you feel about him in other ways, but wanted to say I wouldn't leave him purely because he's not much good with the children...

stubborncow Wed 16-Jan-13 01:31:53

I think we had got into a rut whereby the childrens stuff was seen as 'my stuff' and my job. He had worked abroad for years when they were younger and I think he got out of the habit and in all fairness I most probably let him as it was easier and he was tired etc. But at the end of the day he isn't doing me a favour by looking after them and helping, he is doing it for them - which is something we have discussed since. They are not just my children, they are ours and it's only fair he does parenting too otherwise we have not been together.

Owllady I find this very relatable - with regarding to falling into a rut of doing everything and what biscuitsneeded said, about it starting with breast-feeding and then going on from there and him possibly not feeling very confident in his abilities to do some of the care stuff.

I came back to update as we had a big chat last night about a lot of this stuff. I had missed lots of replies since I last posted but I have read them all now.
Lots of what was said here (about me be possibly a bit controlling, for example!) was useful to have heard here so I didn't feel attacked when he mentioned I was uptight about stuff like this.
I agreed to leave him to it when he's parenting and trust him with it as I do admit that I will tend to have an ear open rather than just letting him be. I told him that I'd love if he would offer to do bedtime or whatever rather than only doing it if I ask. I don't think things are instantly going to be better but I do think this is a good jumpstart to it all and it's been very helpful to be able to sound off here and discuss.

One thing that I do wish I could get him to do is to take responsibility for how he reacts when he's angry (again, he never would hurt me/us or anything, never ever). What triggered this post was him getting angry with me about a comment I made (not in earshot of the kids) about his parenting. He felt it was undermining him - something we have talked about before - whereas I felt that, given the kids couldn't hear, it was not undermining him. However, I get that it undermines him just getting on with being a parent so I did back down there last night. However, he angry and just walked off and left us for the rest of the afternoon when we were supposed to be on a day out. We got on with the day and had a nice time although, obviously, the kids were a bit disappointed that he wasn't there. Anyway, I was saying last night that if he was angry with me, there were lots of other ways he could have modified his reaction to not impact the kids - like he could have gone off to calm down and then taken the kids and told me that he wanted Daddy time or whatever. He was trying to say that it was my fault because I made him cross. I was telling him that it was his choice how he chose to react. I did not back down on that and I hope he saw my point. Thankfully his anger doesn't arise that often but I think it's a big issue that it is seen as a family trait rather than a negative thing that is under his control if he tries.

I am heading to the cinema this weekend on my own (well, I invited a friend along too but not sure if she'll come) . I told him and he was, predictably, totally fine with it.
Lots to work on and I am going to do my bit but if he doesn't do his - regarding modifying his anger reactions and stepping up a bit more with general childcare stuff from time to time...I may be back!

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Wed 16-Jan-13 01:53:30


The other thing you should hang onto is that a lot of Dads (some Mums too, but mostly Dads) get much better as the children get that bit older and yours are on that cusp really. Once they get to the age where they can play a game, go for a decent walk, ride their bikes etc Dads often come into their own. It's not fair and it's not 'right' but it is quite common.

I think you have seen that you also need to 'let it go' sometimes too - sure he wont do things the way you do them and it might not go as smoothly, but hell... they'll all live through it, especially now they are getting bigger!

Other times I think you need to be firm and say 'We need to leave at 10, this isn't flexible', and 'We need to eat lunch now, the children are hungry' or 'we need to leave now DC2 needs their nap' <or whatever it is> make sure HE fits in around their needs, not them fitting in around his (when you know it will cause them to misbehave and is not necessary).

If he doesn't moderate his reaction by himself, maybe you need an agreed way of letting him know he's behaving in an unacceptable way - something that doesn't mean anything to anyone else in earshot, especially the kids - so 'grow the fuck up' woudn't be too good, but something like 'If not now, when?' might be OK <meaning, if you aren't going to work on your reactions, when will you?'

... and of course a good talk on the fact that you don't want your relationship to be over, but if things stay like this, it will be.

Good luck!

stubborncow Wed 16-Jan-13 02:22:14

Yes, Chipping, that's true about him maybe getting better as they get older and as they need less general care (bathing, dressing, chivvying along to eat/dress etc.!)

I am not sure of a sort of code word for when he gets angry - I suspect he'd feel patronised by it and maybe feel more angry (mainly 'cause I think that's how I'd feel in that situation - y'know, like being told to calm down when you're worked up and you snap back "I AM CALM"...or is that just me?!)

CheeseStrawWars Wed 16-Jan-13 08:34:59

I'm glad you had a good talk. He does sound like he would benefit from anger management of some sort. If it's a family trait, it's probably learned behaviour rather than "innate". Could you talk to him about his childhood, and how his father's temper made him feel as a child? How he thinks it might have impacted on his mother? When did getting angry have a positive outcome? Remind him that how he behaves is setting a model for his children - if he doesn't like them throwing strops, he needs to lead by example.

stubborncow Wed 16-Jan-13 18:39:31

Cheesey ( May I call you Cheesey?!).
I don't think there is a chance in hell he'd go to anger management but I could ask him about his dad's temper. I don't know his dad well but haven't seen any real signs of anger...maybe he's mellowed in his old age!

I think the setting a model for the kids would be the most influential. I just need to find a way to talk about it so he doesn't feel lectured!

Abitwobblynow Wed 16-Jan-13 19:06:15

Read Lundy Bancroft - Should I stay or should I go? [chapter 3 is his problem immaturity?]

This is a fabulous book. It helps you identify what the problem is, focus on YOU, and then if he doesn't respond to the issues, how to leave. Apparently, a lot of abusive/immature change only take you seriously and move to face the issues when you are quite serious about leaving.

Leafmould Sat 19-Jan-13 11:57:14

too good to leave, too bad to stay excerpt

Phineyj Sat 19-Jan-13 22:05:42

Op, you could be describing my DF. He is a good dad, just vague and useless with small children. I think your DH will get better as they get older, although it must be very frustrating. Does he pull his weight financially? I realise that's an old-fashioned view, but it could be one thing on a list of what he does contribute, as it sounds unlikely you're going to transform him into someone who gets the needs of young children.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Sat 19-Jan-13 22:58:45

He's not going to improve because he doesn't want to. He thinks that domestic work and childcare are your responsibility and that he is the only one entitled to leisure time.

You probably would find life easier without him in the house. Less mess to clear up, an end to the stress of hoping you'll find the magic button which will turn him into a co-operative team-mate rather than a burden, and no more need to stroke his ego.

By the way, is sex with him enjoyable, or has that become another chore you feel expected to perform for his benefit?

suburbophobe Sat 19-Jan-13 23:35:43

He was trying to say that it was my fault because I made him cross.

Really? He gets cross and it's your fault? He sounds like a child himself.

No wonder you're exhausted with it all, you have 3 children to organise and get out of the door on time really....

soundevenfruity Sat 19-Jan-13 23:45:21

Sorry haven't read all posts but just wanted to say there is a far less traumatic solution. Your husband can find a job in another part of the country or even better - a different country. I saw it happen a lot in a not commutable shire. Women essentially run the household by themselves with husbands turning up on weekends or short holidays now and again. An older woman told me she didn't like when her husband retired because she didn't know what to do with him being constantly around. So the husband is heavily involved with lots non-exec jobs to get out of the way.wink

Bullets Sun 20-Jan-13 00:27:59

Really interesting thread, so reassuring to know there are other people in the same situation as me!

My DH runs his own business and is very creative, works at random hours of the day etc. He works from home so as well as never switching off, he rarely sees other people. His excuse for not mucking in and taking more responsibility around the house / with DS: "I don't have space in my head for all that stuff as well" and to be honest I think he's probably telling the truth!

I decided I couldn't spend another year nagging him and feeling resentful, something had to change!

We're only three weeks in but I have found a weekly schedule has really helped and made a difference. He now has three nights a week when he can work / do research, one night a week to go to cinema with friends / meet a friend for dinner etc, and we have three nights together to catch up on tv/watch a film (I try to get a babysitter for one of the nights so we can pop out for a drink / meal). I have a night out on one of the nights when he's working, I'm going to try an exercise class for the first time in my life!

We each get one morning a weekend to ourselves - either lie in or go out and have some 'me time'. Afternoons at the weekend are family time and DH is banned from looking at his phone and computer!

I do just about all the meal planning and cooking because I enjoy it, apart from Saturday night when DH is in charge and will cook something just for the two of us once DS is in bed.

I no longer do his washing because I couldn't BEAR anymore "I've run out of pants/socks" comments!!!! He can use the washing machine and dryer anytime at the weekend, I use it for mine and DSs stuff plus towels etc during the week (one load a day, much easier!). I have also assigned him sole responsibility for dishwasher emptying, loading and turning on.

We also have a cleaner for a couple of hours a week.

All in all, life is a lot happier for all three of us now DH has clearer instructions on what housework is his responsibility, and when he is expected to spend time with us. I am also consciously 'stepping back' and letting DH lead our family time activities as I can be very bossy grin

Sometimes it makes me sad that I have to prompt him so much to do what my friends' DHs do automatically, but this is who DH is, and I love him.

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