Inside His Head: What Men Really Think


Motherlode’s new, once-a-month feature, “Inside His Head” has become very popular with the mamas. We women have a million questions about why men do the things they do. Our panel of husbands (whose identities will remain anonymous for their privacy and to keep them from getting into trouble with their wives) have stepped up to the plate to answer our tough questions. They’ve been great to give us the no-holds-barred truth about how guys really think.

OK, it’s that time of month again. Time to go “Inside His Head.”

Q: My husband just doesn’t help out enough with the kids. We both work, but he comes home and de-stresses in front of the TV while I get busy making dinner, giving the kids a bath and making lunches for the next day. What can I say to him to make him understand I need HELP?! Any motivational tactics you’d recommend?

greg.jpgGRAY: Help around the house? My mom didn’t need help raising us, why do you? How hard can it be to heat up food? You don’t understand the pressure I’m under at work?

Any of this sound familiar?

We all feel like we’re overworked and under-appreciated. Being asked to do extra work can make us feel like we’re shouldering the whole household, but I have a few suggestions:

1.  Ask what’s changed. Did he used to help and stopped? Are there more kids now than there used to be? Being able to show why helps him understand you just aren’t calling him lazy and genuinely need a hand with things. It sounds silly, but if you don’t make him aware of what needs to be done and why you need help it can lead to him being resentful. Don’t turn it into a “look at all I do” competition, but have a real conversation about it.

2.  Make a list. Don’t put yourself in a position where either of you feels nagged or like you’re nagging. A list can quantify the things that need to be done without being overbearing and lets everyone know there’s an end to the work, too. The solution may not simply be in dividing chores. Perhaps he may have ideas for doing things differently that make it easier for both of you.

3.  Reward each other. Hopefully if you’re getting more accomplished, you have some extra time on your hands. All work and no play can dull anyone so treat yourselves to a job well done or you may find yourself wondering why you’re doing it in the first place. Besides, the more good memories you have together, the more you’ll both appreciate the fruits of your labors.

john.jpgMAVERICK: I’m not gonna address a man’s need to unplug or the tired female argument that men should be able to read a woman’s mind, so women-folk should never have to ask men for anything, let alone for help around the house or with the kids.

Even with all that baggage aside, how helpful a man is around the home is a complex matter. Assuming he’s not a total load and you’re not a mega-nag there are some broad, general methods that should work. First, don’t complain when he does show some initiative and helps out with the house or the kids. If he dresses the kids and they don’t look like a magazine cover but they’re fully dressed, don’t complain. If he loads the dishwasher but he puts the forks down instead of up or he doesn’t rinse the plates but they come out clean, don’t complain. If he does, say 10 loads of laundry, but washes your best blouse that YOU tossed in the dirty cloths, don’t complain. He’s not a woman. He’s not you. Leave him alone and don’t micro-manage. He’s helping.

Second, don’t surprise him. If he is getting ready to sit down to watch his favorite program on TV, or better yet he just walked in the door, don’t start yelling that he needs to go wash the kid’s hair.

Much better — at a convenient time for the both of you — tell him you need him to give the kids a bath tonight. It wouldn’t hurt to be specific too, something like: “Dear, I need you to give the kids at bath at 7 tonight, after dinner.”

Finally, leave your mommy voice for the kids. He’s your husband. If you need something, or want something, don’t talk to him like he’s a 4-year-old who has gotten on your last nerve. See the first item about complaining. Most women would have a cow if their husbands spoke to them in a similar tone. He doesn’t deserve it. It’s demeaning. He’s your husband not your child.

The bottom line is ask specifically for what you want. Ask with consideration and respect. Don’t complain about his methods as long as the results are generally acceptable. If you can manage that, help should be more forthcoming and, more often than not, freely given.

jon.jpgJON: This question is problematic to me on several levels. It is of concern to me that you or anyone can’t make a reasonable request of their spouse and get an appropriate response. In any successful relationship, communication is critical. It also concerns me that your husband acts unaware of the needs of the family regarding dinner, baths, lunches, homework, etc. Have you addressed this in the past? How did he respond?  Is this passive aggressive behavior regarding something else? Is this a new behavior or has it always been an issue?

My advice is simple. While both of you are calm and relaxed, tell him you need help. If you don’t feel you can do this, seek counseling. Avoid nagging and playing mind games that are sure to damage your relationship and heighten your frustrations.

What does “de-stressing” involve? Is it merely watching television, or does in involve alcohol or other behaviors that add to your frustrations?

What is happening at work? Is he concerned of layoffs, etc and is afraid to share these concerns and thus withdrawing? Talk.


  1. Ok, so I have a question for Guy #2:

    What is the difference between, as you say, “being specific,” and yet not “micro-managing?”

  2. Rhonda, here’s a note from Maverick re: your comment:

    Being specific would be something like, “I need you to give the kids
    a bath about 7 o’clock.” This gives the guy enough info to do the
    job. I also stops him from say, giving the bath too late in the
    evening or maybe even too early, disrupting another activity the mom
    had planned like homework or reading.
    Micro-managing would be “I need you to give the kids a bath at 7
    o’clock. Be sure the water isn’t too hot. Make sure you’re in there
    at all times. Don’t let them stand up. Don’t let the children drown.
    Be sure they don’t get soap in the tub until they’re ready to wash
    up. Oh, be sure to use soap to actually wash the child. And wash
    their hair. Be sure to use shampoo and condition. Don’t get the floor
    too messy. Use a clean towel to dry them off …”
    Specific lets us do the job within expected, normal parameters. Micro-
    managing is demanding we do it exactly how you would do it.
    Micro-managing is bad but it’s even worse after the fact. The kids
    are in their pajamas ready for bed and mom asks, “Did you use soap?
    Blah, blah, blah …” You may as well call your husband a dope and
    call it good.

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