Dear Hallee: “Help!”

I’m embarrassed to say how long ago I received the following letter – several weeks at least.  I read it, and started mulling over it and just never got back to it.  It took me a while to decide how to respond, and then it took me a while to decide to respond here.  The subject line in the email was “Help!”

I think discussing this here is safe because this is a pretty anonymous arena and there are absolutely no signs that would say who this person is.  But, if it’s you and you’re upset that I addressed it so publicly, I apologize.  I just really think that you would do well to hear several different opinions, and I really think that what I have to say will help someone else.

So, here’s the letter.  Read below for my response:

I have 3 kids, ages 11,8, 4.  I homeschool the 8 y/o full-time and homeschool the 4 y/o part-time and she attends a co-op 3 days/week that is 30 minutes away.  I have a 6000 sq ft house on about 2 acres.  I also work every other weekend and most nights. My husband earns a wonderful living for us, but doesn’t want to help out in any aspect of parenting, housekeeping, yardwork, or fixing stuff. He is also very messy and makes really big messes for me to pick up. He criticizes me all the time for not doing a good enough job in any aspect of anything. I have broken down the house into zones, like you have suggested.

I try to cook meals ahead of time. I try to at least get the kids to help me out, but my 8 y/o has ADHD and cleaning and organizing is very difficult for him.  This is a life skill I am trying to teach him, but in the meantime he is little help. My husband also doesn’t want me to ask the kids to do too much work – he thinks it should be my job. In addition, my husband likes the kids to be a few years ahead in their academics so we do extra lessons and schoolwork on top of everything else (swim team, tennis, basketball, therapy, gymnastics).

I have tried for years to explain that I can’t do all of this, but he thinks I’m being lazy.  I know if anyone could handle all of this you could. My husband won’t allow me to stop working, won’t allow the kids to back off activities or extra schoolwork and won’t let the kids help me more with housework.

Gregg and I are looking for property right now.  We looked at a 4300 square foot home on 15 acres.  We loved the home, but knew it would not be for us.  As we walked from floor to floor and room to room we agreed that if we had a home that big, every minute of my day would be spent maintaining it.  I’m just not willing to devote that much time to a home big enough that my children could hide away in separate rooms and never even have to interact with their family.

As for the homeschooling: the thing about homeschooling is that it takes your time and attention.  You must devote that time and attention to your homeschooled student, or else you will surely have a failed program – especially when you have a very young student and a very attention-required student.  You have both.  In order to effectively homeschool, other areas in your life that would require your time and attention simply must be sacrificed.

I am an extremely capable person.  I work quickly and efficiently at all tasks, and am very good at multi-tasking.  I left my job after Scott was born and my bosses were forced to hire two people to replace me.  I believe the skills given to me are God-ordained and are to be used for His work and His purposes, even if right now they’re just to manage our home with parenting with writing with blogging.

That said, as capable as I am, I know that I would not be able to handle full time homeschooling, a 6000 square foot house and large yard, and work part time — and continue to devote myself to God as I am called to do.  There are simply not enough hours in the day, nor are there enough ways to multitask that kind of work load.

Another thing that really stands out is your relationship with your husband.  A marriage is to be a partnership – not a dictatorship.  I can assure you that if my Gregg saw me overloaded and needing help, he would go out of his way to find a way to help me.  He has done so over and over during the course of our marriage.  On more than one occasion, he has bagged up all the laundry and taken it to a pay-per-pound laundry service.  He is not averse to doing dishes, taking the garbage to the curb, doing yard work, keeping the cars maintained, and he makes the bed most mornings.  He lovingly limited me to one morning per week in the soup kitchen when it began to consume my time and attention.  When I hear of a ministry activity I want to get involved in, he never says “no,” he simply asks what ministry I intend to give up so that I don’t overextend.

When Gregg read this letter, the first thing he said was, “Assuming her husband isn’t a jerk, I wonder if her husband has ever tried to help her in the past and she criticized him so that now he just doesn’t even try.”  Maybe Gregg doesn’t make the bed as neatly as I would.  Maybe he doesn’t load the dishwasher the exact same way I would load it.  But I would never criticize or disrespect his efforts.   If I ever did, I would certainly be asking for trouble.  Understand that neither I nor Gregg are suggesting that it may be so cut and dry as that.  However, in study after study, book after book, case after case, in even secular literature this is a cycle that is quite common whenever wives feel their husbands are not helping enough in the home.

What is certainly true is that there was a beginning to this current situation, and — unless he’s always been a bully — you need to trace back to where your relationship started to fall apart.  You need to have a LONG sit-down with him, away from your home and your children, and let him read this letter and let him see how far beyond your very human limits you feel like you’ve been pushed.  Then let him help you fix it and don’t criticize or disrespect.

If it were me, I’d say to my husband, “You have two choices.  No negotiating, no ultimatums.  It’s just come down to this, and you must chose one.  A housekeeper or a private school for the kids.  Period.”  I wouldn’t back down.  I’d research schools and contact agencies for the housekeeper and go to your husband with the list.  You must get help.  You simply must have help.

I would also insist that if he didn’t want to start maintaining the yard, then he needs to hire someone to do it until your son is old enough to take on the chore.

We limit our children to two activities — on top of church.  Currently, that’s horseback riding and softball.  It looks like your children are overloaded with activities, academic and otherwise.   Your husband is going to end up with a resentful wife worked into an early grave and some extremely resentful and exhausted children if he doesn’t learn to back off the demands and chill on the dictates.

That said, I read through your schedule that you sent me and your zones look good.  I don’t know if I would do a whole lot of meal cooking ahead of time.  At least for me, this just creates more stress.  I don’t understand why people think freezer cooking is a time-saver, because it takes at least two days of prep and cooking to pull it off, and I don’t have two full days to devote to it.  However, I’d get a crock pot cookbook and just start cooking in a crockpot every night.  Throw most crockpot meals together with a salad and you have a decent meal.

If you don’t have to work for finances, if it were me I’d stop for now.  You have enough on your plate without the burden of being away from home for so many hours a week.  If you must work, or if your pay would have to go toward the housekeeper or the gardener or the private school, then on the nights and weekends you work, you need to leave a chore list for your older children and a honey-do list for your husband.  Keep it light at first and gradually add to it.

Your letter sounds like you’re sinking and gasping your last breath.  I pray that this situation is resolved for you.


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