Question 75


Dear Fr. Matthew @ the Abbey,
Hello, I’m a homemaker, married for 12 years with 3 daughters, 10, 8 and 7. I've had to do the whole diaper - bottle thing by myself because my husband refused to do it, i.e. it's "the woman's job." Now I help them with their homework, take them to and from school, attend all the school, extra-curricular and religious obligations by myself. Problem is, he's pressuring me for a son. My hands are more than full with what I have and I have no desire in my heart to have another baby. But he just won't let up. 
I feel I don’t have the patience to go through it again because he never helped with diapers or feedings 1st time around. He told me it was "my responsibility because he couldn't do that because he works and needs his rest." Do I do what he wants just to make him happy? S.

Dear S, 

You need to have a talk with your husband about the role of a father. He seems to be using Archie Bunker as his role model for fatherhood. Remember the TV series All In the Family? It is not enough for a father to beget a child and then claim that his only responsibility is to work a forty-hour week and bring home a paycheck. A father must get involved with his family.

You should tell him that while he is at work you are not sitting around idle, drinking coffee. Rather, caring for children is a constant occupation. If he is at an office job, he is seated with few disturbances. You, however, must get up every ten minutes to look after this or that concern of a little one, which is much more exerting. You could ask him if, after you put in your forty-hour workweek, you should stop and say "That's it for the week for me."
Parenting requires teamwork. Both parents must get involved with the family. That means everything: diapers, feeding, bathing, putting to bed, homework, school and religious obligations, and chauffeuring. 

Tell him you are exhausted because he refuses to do his share of the work of raising the family. If you received his support, then perhaps you would not be so exhausted, and would be disposed to have a fourth child. But before you can be certain of a change of heart on his part, he needs to give concrete evidence. He can start by bathing and putting the children to bed three times a week. On weekends he can do the chauffeuring and shopping. After six months of this, then you can reconsider your position.

What if the fourth child is another girl? Your husband should examine his motives for having a son. Does he want a trophy to demonstrate his virility? Or does he want to invest himself in the rearing of a boy into a young man? A child is God's gift to a marriage. We accept the gift God sends us.

There are consequences to child neglect, if the father is absent or distant from them. Children require the direct involvement of both mother and father.

You might consider taking a two-week vacation and have your husband take care of the children for those two weeks. Then he might appreciate all that you do much more.

Cordially yours, 
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB 
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