Steph & Dom solve your sex, love & life troubles

Steph & Dom solve your sex, love & life troubles: He‘s at home all day but still won‘t help with the kids

TV‘s Steph and Dom Parker, 52 and 54, draw on their 21 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems…

Q I‘m 44 and a stay-at-home mum. My husband is a lawyer, and earns more than I ever did, so this makes the most sense financially. He‘s always worked long hours, so I‘m used to him being involved only at the weekends. But I thought this would change now he is working from home.

I didn‘t expect him to help with home-schooling, but I did hope he‘d have dinner with us, and show more interest in the children, who are desperate for his attention. But he spends all his time in his study, eats on his own, and refuses to read with the kids before bed or join in with anything we‘re doing.

I know he‘s busy, and I don‘t want to put extra pressure on him, but I resent that he seems to have no interest in getting to know the children. If he has no interest now, when it‘s easier to spend time with them, when will he? What should I do?

STEPH SAYS: Before we go any further I would like you to take three deep breaths. You need to reduce your anger. You are at the end of your tether. I understand — every mother is, and it is fine to ask for help.

The reality is that you are at home with your family 24/7, when your kids are normally at school, football, ballet or flute, for example. For now that‘s all over, and your work rate has gone through the roof.

The location has changed; his job hasn‘t

It is completely justified to feel stressed about how much more you are juggling now. However, it isn‘t reasonable to accuse your husband of not caring about his children. I doubt very much this is the case, and I would advise you to be careful about what you say. It seems to me your allegation is unfair.

It‘s perfectly reasonable to expect him to take on some of the extra childcare, but to complain about him not eating with you and the children appears unjust. Isn‘t family suppertime 5pm or 6pm? My guess is he would normally still be at work at that time. Well, he is still at work, he‘s just working from home.

I have a strong feeling there is an underlying money issue here. You mention his earning capacity being larger than yours. It upsets you that he makes more money than you do, or did, or perhaps could.

If this was just about having the kids under your feet all the time, you wouldn‘t raise the money aspect, but you do. I think that is what‘s bothering you.

So, be honest with yourself. Yes, you can be annoyed about the choices you made when you had your family, but be wary about using the kids as a crutch for your irritation. It never ends well when a parent uses their children as a weapon or shield during a disagreement, however close to the truth they may be.

I think you‘re missing the point here. Remember the strain your husband is under, too. His life — and therefore the entire family‘s — might be about to change dramatically, and I imagine he‘s working all the hours he can to try to limit the damage, and not worry you.

Here‘s my advice. Stop painting him as someone who is uninterested in his children. Instead, choose to be on the same side. Put your hand up for help. Tell him you are exhausted, run ragged and missing time alone.

Get him to suggest ways he can help you — giving you an hour off every day, for example. It can be organised around his work.

Your children should be the source of contentment, not a bone of contention. Count your blessings.

Dom says:

We all know that this is a very difficult time, but I‘m not liking what I‘m hearing. I understand the issues with family finances and how, with only one salary, your husband will feel he needs to work long hours to earn enough to support you all.

But we all know that lawyers are well-paid and I‘d have thought that, if your husband has been working in his field for a good number of years, he should be doing well enough that these long hours are no longer necessary.

I have several friends who are lawyers, and some are busier than others at the moment. In certain sectors things are starting to pick up again, while in others business has been waning. But whichever camp your husband falls into, I see little reason why he shouldn‘t at least eat with you all. I‘m concerned that he‘s hiding from something.

Maybe it‘s a work problem —perhaps he‘s not remotely busy and is frantically worrying about keeping it all going. Or could it be that he‘s concerned about being seen to be busy by his boss? Or perhaps work isn‘t the issue, and he‘s simply hiding from you and the children, or just the children.

You don‘t say much about his demeanour, so it‘s hard for me to tell if he might be depressed, but if you think that‘s a possibility, then don‘t hesitate to make a phone appointment with his GP.

Surely he can spare 10 mins for his kids

It is worrying that he is so withdrawn from his children. After all, even if he really is madly busy, he can surely find ten minutes to read with one of them each night. He has 24 hours in his day, and is no longer commuting. At the very least he should be able to give the time he used to spend on the train or in the car to his family.

A serious conversation has to happen. I suggest you sit down in his study with him and ask him ‘What is going on?‘

I have a strong suspicion he is struggling with being a husband and a father. Just like being a mother, being a father is not always easy. He may not have had a good example from his own — I find we tend to be the kind of father our father was to us.

But even if he was lucky enough to have a wonderful role model in his old man, we all need a little help from time to time. He needs to share what is going on in his head and his heart. Please help him find his way back to the family that he surely loves.

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