QUESTION: After being a homemaker for the last 23 years, I’ve returned to work to help our two sons through college. One is in his first year, and the other will graduate from high school in June. College is expensive these days and paying tuition and books were becoming a drain on our family income and savings. Keeping up with household chores while working has been difficult, so now I’ve asked my husband to help around the house. His reply is, “It’s your job, but I’ll do it.”
Interestingly enough, we’ve had a gardener for years because he didn’t think he could keep up with yard work and his job.
~ Overworked Mom
Dear Overworked Mom,
As a son of an overworked mom myself, I sympathize. And as I recall, I grew up being a part of the problem, not the solution. So while I sympathize with you, I understand your husband. After 23 years, he has come to see the housework as your job. You did your job for 23 years. Then you chose to take on another job in order to help out. Now you’ve got two! From his viewpoint, it’s that simple. Men! (Aren’t we the worst?)
Trying to put myself in your shoes, it occurs to me that since tuition and books are so expensive these days, you really can’t afford that gardener anymore. Plus, I’ve heard that gardening can be both good for the body and soul, getting a person in touch with “Mother Earth,” watching the hand of God while your plants grow, responding to Daddy’s loving care. Why, I’m starting to feel invigorated just thinking about it! And say, isn’t the gardening something that a father and son would benefit from doing together? Think of the manly bonding! And you have two sons! Just imagine all that three big strong men could accomplish! Your yard could look like Descanso Gardens!
They could do some dishes, some laundry and some regular vacuuming to help the gracious woman who has served them faithfully for 23 years and in so doing, think of it as blessing a heaven-sent mom.
Rev. Jon T. Karn (son of a mother he doesn’t deserve)
Light on the Corner Church, Montrose
Dear Overworked Mom,
As a mother who spent many years working two jobs – high school teacher and mom/wife/housekeeper – I truly understand your plea for help. But somehow I had hoped that gender roles had changed during the years since I joined the job market in the 1960s. And I am sorry to hear that is not true – at least in some households.
Back in the days when most married women were stay-at-home moms, a husband could expect his wife to take care of most of the household chores – although help was still welcomed. But that is not the case today when two incomes are often necessary to support increased expenses for such things as college education for children, as in your case.
My hope for you is that your husband will come to understand the inequity of one spouse having two jobs while the other has only one. If that is not the case, you might want to seek couples counseling. Sometimes we can understand things from a trained professional that we cannot hear from a spouse. And if you are part of a religious congregation, the religious leader of that community could be helpful with pastoral counseling.
It saddens me to hear that women are still being expected to carry more than half the load in marriage. Such an unequal responsibility over an extended time can do serious damage to a marriage – something that I am sure neither you nor your husband wants to happen.
I wish you all the best in resolving this important issue for the benefit of both you and your husband. You are in my thoughts and my prayers.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, minister
Church of the Verdugo Hills
QUESTION: I’m in my early 60s, divorced and am playing “the dating game.” My challenge is about whose responsibility it is to pay for a night out. Some of the women I’m dating have many more financial resources than I do and yet seldom, if ever, offer to help with the check. A couple of friends have suggested that if I am the one asking a woman out, I’m obliged to pick up the entire tab.
I would appreciate some clarification.
~ Clueless Beau
Dear Clueless Beau,
We’re all sort of trapped in the culture in which we grew up. As a man in his 60s, you probably grew up with the idea of opening the door for the woman, fixing her chair as she sits down, and paying for everything on the date. Now we’re in new times. Some women can be insulted if you try to practice the little bit of chivalry that you learned as a young man.
As far as being the one who is always expected to pay, you’re in a tough spot. You don’t want to come across as “tight” and yet I agree with you that some women are better off financially than you are. Here is what I would suggest: always be prepared to pay for the first or second date. But as you get to know the woman, explain your financial circumstances to her and see if you can pick up any clues as to how she feels on the matter. Remember, too, that women are sort of stuck. They don’t want to embarrass a man by offering to pay, fearing that they’ll offend his fragile ego.
If the woman is insulted that you would even bring up the subject, drop her. She sees you as a meal ticket and not as a relationship. Also, I’ve heard it said from the woman’s angle that she had to kiss a lot of frogs before Mr. Right came along. As far as that idea applies to you, you may have to go through a lot of the meal ticket types before you find the relationship type.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
(not the Buddhist!)
La Cañada Congregational Church
Dear Clueless Beau,
I believe that some men have lost the attractive art of chivalry and their God-given role of being gentlemen. If a man wants to take a particular woman out, and he asks her, he is obliged to pay. There of course could be times that you meet a woman who may clarify to you she is fine paying her own way, but that should not be expected. Unless it is a mutual first date, or just hanging out as friends, if a man cannot pay for his date’s dinner, how can he expect to provide for her?
There are particular situations when you may meet a woman and the basis of your relationship is determined that the woman offers, and it becomes the norm for your relationship, but it should not be expected. If these women are not offering to pay, they are expecting you to pay because you asked them out. It could potentially turn a woman with financial means off if you ask them to pay half … meaning there will not be a second date.
So I would proceed with caution if you want to date. Often, once a more intimate relationship is established and you are more familiar with each other, topics like financial stressors get brought up and the couple decides to co-contribute to their recreational and dating time. But as a man, it should not be expected. If a woman is comfortable contributing, she will offer at some point.
Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT
Thrive Therapy Center