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Question: My husband has a very busy, high power job. I know he is busy but I really want him to commit to helping me more at home and assisting with getting the children to their activities etc. If he happens to be home, he will go and pick them up but will not agree to pick them up consistently (e.g. basketball practice every Thursday at 7pm). How can I make him see that he needs to do more to help?

 

Answer: In therapy we often reframe questions for our clients so that they can view their situation differently and this is where I will start with your question. You are saying “How can I make him see that he needs to do more to help?” and what I think you are really asking me is “How can I make him do something I want him to do, but he clearly doesn’t want to do?” The answer to your reframed question is “you can’t.”

However, what you can do and what I would suggest is that you sit down with him and begin to honestly assess what is important to both of you and what you want to prioritize. Let’s think about different aspects of your problem first. He has a high power job. I imagine that you both benefit from that in different ways. You likely have a nice income, a feeling of success in your life, and the respect of others. Would you give any of that up so that he can spend more time with you and the children? In my experience, many couples don’t realize that they can choose to make choices together about what is important rather than just getting swept along a stressful career path with no control. Women who have “big” jobs and children are grappling with these decisions all the time. Men can too.

The second aspect of your problem relates to the type of role each of you want to have with your children? Again, the reason that having this conversation is important is because it forces both of you to be conscious about your decisions, their effect on each other, and your children. It might be time to revisit the question of who you are as parents. Not because your husband “has” to do more, but he might “want” to do more (like picking up his son from basketball practice) in order to have more connection with his children. It would be about him having more, not you having more.

The other aspect of your problem may relate to whether the entire family has too much on its collective plate for anyone to handle, including your children. Anxiety is the number one problem for children these days and many believe that it is the fact that they are overscheduled in activities. Are you and your children just taking on too much? Maybe everyone needs to just do a bit less?

The final aspect I would highlight is the question of whether you are able to find time within your busy day to do things that are sustaining and relaxing for yourself. Sometimes we project onto our partner’s what we really want for ourselves. Maybe your identifying that your husband is getting his needs met, just really points to the fact that you need to find a way to get more of your own needs met. Start by asking yourself this question, “what can I do to make myself feel better?”

Of course if the problems are running deeper in your relationship and your husband is avoiding time with you and your children for other reasons, then getting some professional help would be important.

 

Julia Staub-French, M.A., R.C.C. is the Director of Clinical Programs at Family Services of the North Shore. Questions? Write This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 604-988-5281.