Mom Wants to Run Away From Husband and Adult Son Because They Won't Help With the Housework

Elle Silver

Are her expectations of a clean home simply too high?

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Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev

If you had a husband and an adult son who never lifted a finger to help with the housework, would you want to pack up, leave them, and skip town? One Texas woman who goes only by the name "Gracie" wrote to Newsweek that this is exactly what she'd like to do.

"I want to just run away or even better move out and leave them to tend to themselves," Gracie said.

Though her husband brings in income from a day job, once he comes home, that's that. He doesn't lift a finger to help with the housework. He doesn't even fix things around the house, "from plumbing to shelves," Gracie laments.

Her adult son doesn't help out either. Sure, she shares he's mentally challenged. Still, this mom complains her grown-up son "does nothing at all unless I ask him to do something."

According to this overworked mom and wife, her husband and adult son "can't even bring any of their own garbage to a trash can."

She complains:

I come home from work to a sink full of dirty dishes before dinner. When I'm done with the laundry, I ask my spouse to put his laundry away and he doesn't do it even when it's all been placed on hangers. When I clean the living room area, they both just go mess it up again.

At her wit's end, Gracie has declared, "I'm a Cinderella waiting for some prince to come save me."

She wants to rescued and leave her husband and adult son to fend for themselves.

When husbands take responsibility for some of the housework, marriages are happier.

Sure, Gracie's son does appear to have some issues that get in the way of him helping around the house. His mental challenges may very well make it hard for him to clean up after himself, even if he is an adult.

But Gracie's husband? There's nothing getting in the way of him lending a hand to clean up after himself. Still, many men still expect their wives to do most or all of the housework.

And yet, experts have determined that when men help around the house, this can actually deepen a couple’s relationship. At least this is what a study carried out by Virginia Rutter, a professor of Sociology at Framingham State University, found.

A study published in Feminist Economics also revealed that when husbands take on more responsibility with the housework and childcare, divorce rates go down.

Clearly, Gracie is feeling the push toward leaving her husband because he isn't pitching in with the housework.

Is there a solution?

Janine Hayward, a clinical psychologist, has some advice for Gracie. Instead of fleeing her home because she's so fed up with her husband and her adult son's alleged laziness, a better choice for this frazzled mom and wife is to set up a good, old-fashioned chores list.

Hayward recommends Gracie ask each member of this household to choose some chores.

"Invite everyone to assign themselves to parts of tasks according to their preferences and strengths. This encourages empowerment, team, and mutual gratitude," Hayward says.

In short, Gracie should stop nagging and start creating a spreadsheet where husband and son can designate the ways they want to help. Pitching in with the housework will make them feel more grateful for all Gracie’s heavy lifting.

That’s not to say that Gracie shouldn’t express her own gratitude.

Hayward says the wife and mom can’t just expect her husband and son will help and that's that. Their efforts need to be rewarded.

"Acknowledging the person and their actions means they are more likely to repeat the behavior,” Hayward shares.

And finally, Hayward advises that instead of running off like Cinderella, expecting to find her perfect prince out there, Gracie needs to take ownership of her own bad boundaries. It’s her duty to stand up for herself and say no to behavior she can't tolerate. By continuing to clean up after her husband and adult son, she's actually part of the problem. If she doesn't like that they don't help out, she needs to stop cleaning up their messes.

That said, Hayward does warn that Gracie's standards for cleanliness may simply be too high.

"Will it matter if clothes are not put away today?” the psychologist asks.

Sometimes we need to let go of perfection in the household. It would do Gracie a world of good to relax a little.

What do you think? Do you think this wife and mom's expectations of her husband and adult son are just too high? Or is she in the right and simply needs to exert better boundaries in her home? Let me know in the comments.

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I write about dating, marriage, divorce, family, society, and the city I live in: Los Angeles.

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