33

My partner and I both work from home, and we each have varying degrees of work each day, but at the moment I am working more hours on average. Usually we decide together what we'll eat, we'll make a salad together or pancakes for breakfast and we usually are very good at sharing home tasks. He's great at doing things like that. Some meals I'll cook on my own just because he doesn't like cooking and I enjoy it.

Some days, there's a problem. Perhaps I'll need to work 8-10 hours because I have a lot of client work. And so I'll say to him that I'm very busy and I won't have time to cook. And then he says he can't cook either because he also has work to do. Except he only works two hours that day.

And I see this often. He'll say he can't do something because he has other minor thing to do which in his head is allocated to the whole day, but for me it's like two hours to do, tops.

I don't think he's purposefully trying to find an excuse, it just seems like for him things just take really long. He doesn't do it and then be done, he'll take his time and go slow and watch YouTube and get distracted and drink coffee and play PC games. So in the time I've done 8 hours of work, he's done two.

And sometimes its frustrating to see him be so inefficient when I'm really struggling to fit everything into my day. I've spoken to him about it, and said I'm really having difficulty managing, and he says "me too!" As if it's the same for him, but he does so much less work.

Now this up to now has been mostly OK. I get my down time too and he's wonderful and loving and I don't mind too much, sometimes I get distracted too. But I'm getting a bit worried, because I'm pregnant now and I know that next year I'm not going to be able to work, and if he's only working two hours a day then that's not going to be enough.

I know that if I get all resentful its going to come out in my attitude and I really don't want that. I don't want to be resentful. I want to lovingly show him that things can be done faster, and that it helps both of us if he doesn't spend large chunks of his day playing PC games and watching YouTube. How do I encourage him to be more productive in his day and not be so distracted, so we both can get more done?

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    I think professional counseling is in order here, especially with a baby on the way. It is too bad this wasn't addressed sooner, but now the impact will be much more severe if the both of you can't resolve the core issues. Also we don't know his point of view at all. – user3169 Sep 14 '17 at 17:21
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    Something that probably needs clarification in your question: You both work from home, but is it for the same company? Are you two your own boss(es)? -- How to deal with his productivity issues may be different if he has a third-party boss, versus if you're co-bosses, versus if he's his own boss in a separate company from yours. – R.M. Sep 14 '17 at 21:07
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    @R.M. I'd also like to ask; Are you consultants paid by hours worked for hours billed, or are you both working 8 hours+ remotely for a company and get paid by time clocks? – Anoplexian Sep 14 '17 at 21:10
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    Also, you may want to (mentally) separate out the he's-not-doing-enough-to-bring-in-income (partner-as-business-partner) issues from the he's-not-helping-out-enough-around-home (partner-as-domestic-partner) issues. For the partner-as-business-partner, a question on Workplace.SE might help illuminate standard approaches to the "my business partner is not as productive as the company needs him to be, how can I deal with that" issues. – R.M. Sep 14 '17 at 21:11
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    @RM we are our own bosses. He has his clients that he does work for, and I have mine. There is very little overlap. It's his responsibility to fill his time and keep his clients happy. I don't get involved. We both work hourly as consultants, so paid by hours billed. – user2929 Sep 15 '17 at 4:47

10 Answers 10

25

You might try talking about it, but (my personal opinion based on experience) I don't think talk will help. Most people that goof off are doing it because they can; they aren't that greedy for the money: As long as the bills are getting paid, the cable and Internet are working, there is food to eat --- they are good. It doesn't matter to them exactly who pays, if it is a parent or spouse, that's fine.

The same thing goes for housework, laundry, doing the dishes. If it just happens, they don't care, and on top of it they don't really appreciate it either! They just don't think about it.

IMO the only thing that works is you taking unilateral action, to do only what you feel is necessary to prevent disaster. Stop cooking, you don't have time for it, ever. Stop working so much: Do enough to pay the bills and stop; you have no income for fun. Stop doing chores, if he doesn't do his share, do your laundry for one, or cook for one.

When the complaints start coming, tell him (calmly) we have a baby coming, and this is the way our life is going to be. I cannot be doing everything to keep house and home together, take care of the baby and earn 80% of the money too. I'm not going to start a big drama and tell you what to do, but when I'm spending 8 hours a day taking care of a baby, I can't earn money for more than 4 or 5, and I can't do all the housework and shopping and laundry and everything else. So I am figuring out now how to budget my time and our money. I am not going to just wait and see how it all works out.

  • 1
    What if this backfires? – Tobias Kienzler Sep 15 '17 at 5:58
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    @immibis Many ways. For example OP could realized they actually can get along by doing less, but when the baby comes the impact will be more severe. Or working just enough to pay the bills could permanently damage her customer relations. I'm just saying, this might by a risky (though potentially rewarding) route to take, especially with a baby on its way. – Tobias Kienzler Sep 15 '17 at 6:54
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    This looks like a very "passive(?)-aggressive slippery road though. And can lead to a no-win situation, or worst, as stated by @Tobias. – OldPadawan Sep 15 '17 at 7:46
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    @TobiasKienzler Seriously? What if the sky tumbled down if a woman stopped carrying everything? She's gonna be busy with the baby even if her customers don't like it - and really, what's the alternative? Not have the baby because customers may potentially be offended? – AllTheKingsHorses Sep 15 '17 at 8:35
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    @TobiasKienzler She should put her baby and her marriage 1st, employer and customers 2nd. If work varies from home and she thinks Husband could work 4 times as much at will, I infer they have fine control of their workload (like gig work, just take fewer gigs). The only way I see this "Backfiring" is if the only reason Husband is there is being a parasite: For 10 hours of work a week he gets free maid services, cooking, cleaning and sex. If taking those away causes a blow up: OP will know long before it is catastrophic, but her knowing that may be catastrophic in itself. That's up to her. – Amadeus Sep 15 '17 at 9:36
24

The short of it, you don't.

Until you significant other sees the need to change nothing will happen. And currently there apparently there is no need - for him.

How to break the pattern without getting frustrated? How to get through?

Do the math. He is unlikely to realise the cost that is coming with a child. Put it on paper. (Not to scare you the total comes to around $260.000 or so per kid, but it luckily is spread out over some 20 years.)

Then demonstrate the math. It is sadly not just the money. It is the money, the broken nights, and sharing your life with a brand new human being that needs your attention with - yes, EVERYTHING from the littlest burp to whatever comes out at the other end, 24-7. So, demonstrate.

Drop out and see he does the groceries, the bills, the cleaning, the everything. (Oh yes, there was that day job as well?) Hopefully you'll need only a few days before the quarter drops.

Using one of that baby-doll training programs may be a good guideline to use. Or just go to your mother for a few days and bombard the poor fellow with needful phone calls. Maybe role-play the birth and first days after.

Research beforehand! Make it a genuine production with adequate production values, and make sure that for those few days he cannot count on you, that you being very needy will count on HIM. Note that the first weeks after giving birth you are forbidden to use the vacuum. Forbidden absolutely.

Once that quarter drops, talk. He really needs to take up the challenge. Good luck!

  • @AllTheKingsHorses improved upon the cost factor and specified it for the US. – Bookeater Sep 15 '17 at 16:32
  • A quarter million, huh? Not that I'm disputing it, but I seem to remember that same (approximate) number from like, 20 years ago. I'm just wondering if that figure is up-to-date. – Jennifer 442 Sep 16 '17 at 1:52
  • @Jennifer just the basic essentials as well as income dependent possibly explains the gap, the source is 2016. But indeed figures like this are controversial and may be influenced by (political) agenda. – Bookeater Sep 16 '17 at 12:40
18

There are really quite a few possibilities here.

  • He may legitimately be underestimating the work you do, and feels like he is being asked to do more than his fair share.
  • You may be legitimately underestimating the work he does.
  • He could be multitasking more efficiently than you observe. Perhaps he's just listening to the youtube channel etc.
  • He could be overestimating how well he multitasks or manages his time relative to others.
  • He may be unable to admit that he is suffering from cognitive or emotional disorder, that is making time management much more difficult. He may have Attention Deficit Disorder, which would make the level of focus he requires to work for hours exhausting. His capacity to handle stress may be reduced by something like depression, leading him to avoidance/procrastination behavior. There are a lot of possibilities here that he may not be able to open up about or even recognize yet.
  • He may be saying he works today, when he's really miscommunicating that he feels he needs a day off (or mostly off). Why that could be just opens a lot more similar questions to the ones above, but it's worth considering.

You have to discuss things to get answers, and you might benefit from couples' counseling. Here's one tip I can offer. Since it seems like he might be the type to need some unwinding and emotional bracing to deal with stressful situations, tell him you need to have a discussion about how fairly work and chores are being handled, but that you don't want to ambush him now with a difficult subject. Try to schedule a day and time in advance to deal with a deep dive into the issue. He'll be better prepared to take it seriously, and less likely to get upset, defensive, or impatient. You can also make a rule that both of you will try to constrain the discussion to this one issue and it's causes and effects. You can schedule another talk to work out another issue.

Also, try not to enter the conversation with the preconceived notion that he is in the wrong. Even if you're quite certain that he is in the wrong, both parties need to enter a discussion with an open mind or the other party will get defensive and lose the ability to remain open minded themselves.

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    This. Discuss things, calmly. If needed, with a counsellor. If counselling seems overkill to you, look at it like this: you are not in a crisis yet, but you ARE unhappy with some things, AND you have a baby on the way, a tiny human being that will hopefully make you very happy but also totally overthrow all your current habits. If you prepare for that NOW, and get the unhappiness out of the way, you avoid a crisis! Work this out now, not when the baby is there! – Layna Sep 15 '17 at 9:10
8

I would suggest two things. Based on the fact that you both have slightly unpredictable workdays and you seem to be accepting of the chaos that follows of this situation. This has to change.

My two things are easy, simple and might seem a bit too easy and simple. But the thing is, simple and easy is always best. Onwards to the suggestion, we go.

  1. Have a morning "meeting" and determine what needs to get done. Make lists. Go through yesterdays list, determine if yesterday was a success or not. Discuss eventual deviations. This sounds awfully "official" or "bureaucratic" - but it needs to be. Your home happens to be both your work places, you happen to be workers and you need to be self-managed. Have the meeting. Decide upfront whether to have lunch together (and what actions needs to be taken by whom to succeed with that...) or not.

  2. Discuss roles and responsibilities. Who does what, when as a general rule. If there are deviations to this plan - discuss it in the morning meeting. Changes need to be done? Discuss at morning meeting! Set some ground rules. No computer games during work time, should be obvious. Remove computer games from the work computer if needs be, this is a serious distraction and is partly to blame for the blurring limit between what is perceived as private hours and what is work hours.

When you get a baby, working from home is going to be difficult enough, you have to make sure there are at least 2 adults present with a good plan and a system to support that plan. I am sorry my suggestion of a plan sounds like creating a copy of "The Office" at your home, but I think that is what you need. In any case - don't worry, you'll manage ;-) Best of luck!

  • 1
    I think this is a fantastic answer because it starts to focus on quantifying things, which makes workload distribution much easier and less emotional. I would suggest that the morning list also assigns "man-hours" to every item, and that you focus on distributing the list items to stay within about 10% of one anothers' man-hours for the day. I think this will eliminate much of the assumptions about workload, and thus much of the conflict and potential resentment. – Nicholas Sep 15 '17 at 19:57
6

we usually are very good at sharing home tasks. He's great at doing things like that. Some meals I'll cook on my own just because he doesn't like cooking and I enjoy it.

There's no problem here. Quite the contrary - many people can only dream of a partner like that. :-)

Some days, there's a problem. Perhaps I'll need to work 8-10 hours because I have a lot of client work. And so I'll say to him that I'm very busy and I won't have time to cook. And then he says he can't cook either because he also has work to do. Except he only works two hours that day.

Do you know he only works two hours a day or is that your interpretation of it ?

And I see this often. He'll say he can't do something because he has other minor thing to do which in his head is allocated to the whole day, but for me it's like two hours to do, tops.

Again, that's two different people prioritizing and budgeting their time differently. That's normal.

And what you regard as minor, need not be what he regards as minor.

So you consider the time he spends on these things too much, but he may, equally, regard you as not paying enough attention to those things.

People can have different viewpoints, even in a relationship, and even in one that works !

it just seems like for him things just take really long. He doesn't do it and then be done, he'll take his time and go slow and watch YouTube and get distracted and drink coffee and play PC games. So in the time I've done 8 hours of work, he's done two.

People work at different paces. You may need to accept that your viewpoint is not necessarily the only reasonable one of this.

Of course he may be someone who is not suited to working from home, away from a structured work environment. But bare in mind that what you think of a a liability (not concentrating on work as you do) may turn out to be an advantage when the child turns up. He may be more willing to help with the kid and free you up to do work.

So don't write this behavior off - work and personal are different and he may simply have different priorities.

It does raise the question as to whether you would both benefit from some professional counseling. I'd say you would, as you (at least) have a view of your partner which is perhaps not as accepting as it ought to be. After all - you choose him and this is what he's like. And he choose you. Investing some time and money in counseling with a baby on the way seems like a good idea to me.

And sometimes its frustrating to see him be so inefficient when I'm really struggling to fit everything into my day. I've spoken to him about it, and said I'm really having difficulty managing, and he says "me too!" As if it's the same for him, but he does so much less work.

Again, that's your prioritizing his work in your head, not his view of the thing. How much of that is a fault on his part and how much is your expecting him to be like you ? That's a counseling job to figure out.

Now this up to now has been mostly OK. I get my down time too and he's wonderful and loving and I don't mind too much, sometimes I get distracted too.

There is no problem I see except two people being mutually supportive and loving. I'd concentrate on that and sod the rest.

I'd note you haven't actually mentioned a real problem yet.

There are no financial concerns, no emotional ones, no lack of love or support. I would describe that as "no problem". :-)

But I'm getting a bit worried, because I'm pregnant now and I know that next year I'm not going to be able to work, and if he's only working two hours a day then that's not going to be enough.

Again, a relationship counselor can discuss these issues with you both.

This, from my point of view, is the only real issue : that he might not be working enough to support you and the baby (and himself) for a couple of years before you, presumably, get back into working more. It's not entirely clear if he's not earning enough doing what he is now, or if you're simply worried he might not be earning enough.

I wonder if you both have sat down and looked at the household budget you'll have to work with when the baby comes - you absolutely should - everyone having a baby should do this.

A professional counselor can get you both to sit down and discuss these things (sometimes together, sometimes individually).

You might note that while you're (naturally) worrying about the future your way, he may equally be worried about it in his way. Some of what you're finding frustrating may be his reaction to the same worries - people react differently.

I know that if I get all resentful its going to come out in my attitude and I really don't want that. I don't want to be resentful. I want to lovingly show him that things can be done faster, and that it helps both of us if he doesn't spend large chunks of his day playing PC games and watching YouTube. How do I encourage him to be more productive in his day and not be so distracted, so we both can get more done?

You are heavily focused on the idea that he's a problem. But consider if there is a real issue :

  • Do you have real financial concerns ?
  • Have a a real concern he'll be a "bum" as a father ?
  • Is this a phase (pregnancy is difficult emotionally for everyone) or has he always been a problem in this sense to you ?
  • Are his good sides worth the price of his less endearing qualities ?
  • 3
    Thank you for this answer. It is levelheaded and I think I have been approaching this topic from quite an emotional place. I am worried and I have realized that I should be trusting him more. We've been together for 8 years and over that time he has given me every reason to trust him. We have a budget spreadsheet that we both sat down and created, and we're not meeting it right now and it's cutting into our savings. To answer your questions: (1) yes. I lost a couple of clients last month and our income halved overnight. – user2929 Sep 15 '17 at 14:30
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    (2) if I put aside this question and the emotions behind it and just look at his character and who he has been over the past 8 years of marriage, I can honestly say he'll be a wonderful, responsible father. I don't think he'll be lazy when it comes down to it. (3) this has probably just a phase and me being emotional about it. We are different and I'm more uptight and he's more chilled. It's always been like that but this is the first time I've seen it negatively. (4) absolutely. I love him very much. – user2929 Sep 15 '17 at 14:35
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    Excuse the verbosity but I've just realized that he's probably feeling a lot of pressure and just isn't showing it. He's really good at that. Just because I don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. He takes his role as my husband and the safety and happiness and stability of our relationship very seriously. I know that's how he is. I really should get over my emotions and remember that I know him and trust him. OK I'll stop now. – user2929 Sep 15 '17 at 14:41
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    OK. Your finances have changed. Time to review that budget again - and you'll be doing that a lot over the coming years - kids soak money up :-) Sit down and it sounds like you two will sort it out fine. Emotions ? Well what woman having a baby doesn't have heightened emotions ? It sounds like you have a partner who will understand that and you two (three) will be all right. – StephenG Sep 15 '17 at 15:13
  • Love this answer. Especially the part about the liability becoming an advantage as he may more willingly take care of the child and free his wife to do her work. – KPM Jan 25 '18 at 22:45
6

The manner of work you describe, with watching Youtube, drinking coffee, playing games, etc. through such a huge portion of the work day sounds exactly like what I used to do. It got me fired from two jobs for poor performance.

At the first one, I got by for a while on a combination of partial effort, raw talent, and bs-ing my boss. Then they called me on it, and put me on a performance improvement plan, making it very clear that if I didn't shape up now I'd lose the job.

I proceeded to work hard and improve my performance quite a bit. ...Temporarily. I could not maintain it. I really tried, having my job on the line was a huge motivator, but as soon as the threat didn't seem quite so imminent any more I slipped back into the same performance-draining bad habits, and they didn't give me a second chance.

At the second job, I didn't last nearly as long, and ended up choosing the severance package they offered as an alternative to the performance improvement plan.

At the next job, my current one, I recognized after a while that the same trend was starting - and my boss was starting to notice too. I went to a psychiatrist and got a prescription to help with it. That was 7 or 8 months ago. My boss noticed major improvement within a few weeks (he told me so directly), and I've been doing a much higher level of work ever since.


Doing that sort of thing when I was supposed to be working was simply something I was mentally unable to not do for any extended period. Wanting to do differently didn't matter. Motivation didn't matter. Organization didn't matter. Crisis-induced near-panic could make a difference, but only as long as it remained at near-crisis levels. Constant supervision by someone who'd prompt me back on-task might have worked, but isn't really a good solution.

It was very hard to a) admit that I really did need it and b) stop procrastinating and do it, but I'm not sure anything other than getting psychiatric treatment could have helped me to drop the unproductive diversions to a reasonable level.

As a stranger on the Internet I obviously have far too little information to be certain that this is your partner's problem, but it's something you may want to seriously consider. If this is the problem, you may have a major challenge in convincing him about it. Very few people want to hear "you need treatment for a mental health problem."

  • Thanks for your truthful sharing. I've seen this many times, unfortunately, and I think this is what's happening in the OP's situation. – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '17 at 15:17
5

I struggle a bit with this - not nearly to the scale that your partner seems to, but I find it highly frustrating to drop whatever I'm doing (even if it's totally unimportant) to do something else. It's a personality flaw, I know.

For minor tasks, my suggestion is that you try to get him to commit to doing something after he's finished a minor task. For example, if you look over and he's in the middle of a video, ask

Can you start dinner after you finish that video? I still have a couple hours of work to do.

Or if he says that he's busy as well, try to get a handle on what he's working on and find a good "stopping point."

5

This might sound drastic or counterproductive, but having been in similar situations I would suggest that one or both of you look at getting into a non-home office, or cowork space.

The intermingling of work & home life is a big negative that is easily overlooked to home office work, and with both partners (+ infant!) working from home at the same time this situation is unlikely to improve.

Trying to improve your partner's time management is unlikely to be greeted as constructive behaviour by your partner, and given that there is a baby on the way it might become even more difficult for him to stay focused. A separate work space can actually have the effect of increasing engagement by limiting distraction somewhat, so this actually may be a sneaky way for you to achieve your goal without creating a confrontation over it!

3

You wrote about work, however, I presume there will be other things -- like cooking -- that you would need him to increase his share of doing.

I have been in what seems a similar situation in what seems approximately the state of your partner.

My suggestion is that you two take time for an extended conversation about what is happening, what will happen and what is needed to do by either of you.

I assume it is the first baby for both of you, so both of you -- but him especially, might be in for a shock, since it is will 99,9% change your mode of living drastically.

You sound as if you are realizing much more what it will mean than he is (which is mostly the case historically, I'd say).

There are two basic things to make as clear as possible:

1) The way of living you two had, will be gone with the baby. For both of you. Gone for good, or at least until approximately when the kid starts going to the school (yes, preschoolers who go to kindergarten still frequently don't let their parents have their sleep at night).

If he is to be your partner and is thinking seriously about being father, rather than a college roommate style boyfriend, he will have to take up certain extra responsibilities, some of which will start even before the child is born.

One of the responsibilities is earning enough money for you THREE to survive the time while you will not be working and after that for some time probably working less than before. Not only you will be busy and tired with the baby, but there will be an extra person in the house, who will have his needs, which will cost money to fulfill, too.

I would not concentrate on him spending time in Youtube, rather than just on whether he can raise his earning power.

If he can do it while still goofing around, more kudos to him.

You together with him would write down how much money each of you is earning, how much you are spending, how much extra will be needed when the baby arrives (nappies alone can add up to substantial amounts per month) and the amount your household income goes down when you can't work.

Which will together show how much more he needs to earn in order to support himself and his family -- namely you and the baby.

2) However, as I said, merely earning more is just one step. I expect that you might reasonably expect him also to pick up house workload.

Therefore, if he is not only working less, but also doing only a limited amount of household tasks, I would advise you to think of the total sum of things that you think need to be done regularly -- you listed cooking, but there are others and discuss with him, whether he is ready to take on those, which you need him to.

In my mind, it should go sort of all together with earning discussion, because these are all extra responsibilities that he will need to adapt to, and he might feel resentment, if there keep cropping up more and more things "nobody told him about", but which he suddenly needs to start doing.

Realize that some of the things you might have been doing, and which he doesn't do or doesn't do without reminding, might seem quite unnecessary to him. Many men, myself included, are partly oblivious to what we eat, whether the floor is spotless and if the bathroom sink is white or not really. There are exceptions, but by and large in my experience we really don't care much.

Therefore, there might be things that you think need to be done regularly, but he doesn't. You'll need to somehow come to agreement on this. Again, in my experience, it has worked best, if we can meet somewhere halfway and agree. If that agreement is there, it is much easier to divide tasks, because then part of those taks won't feel to him like to be done simply to oblige you.

TL;DR:

This might come as big shock, but if he is going to remain your partner, he needs to "put his easy days down" same as you are doing both with your job and baby, and to understand that the era of pattering around slowly and half-awake has ended, just like teenage years and college does. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood.

Talking with him and helping him realize all the things he has to start doing (and will have to keep on doing for years) is the primary thing, but concentrate more on the goals to be achieved rather than behaviour to be stopped (ie. "need to earn more" rather than "stop watching youtube").

PS. Also, I would form those things more as questions in terms of household, for him to answer: "If our income drops to $xxx while I can't work, and we have estimated expenses at $yyy, plus there will be expenses due to baby, how can we [together] survive this?"

  • 3
    Why does everyone here assume that raising the baby is going to be mainly the mother’s responsibility? Apart from breast feeding I see no reason why the father shouldn’t/couldn’t do his fair share (or even more, if the mother has an easier time working). – Michael Sep 15 '17 at 16:00
  • @Michael I am sorry if it came over this way. It wasn't my purpose to imply that mother is absolutely required to be the primary caregiver. It is, however, quite common, and my point was rather that the primary caregiver is the main occupation for one parent, because in my experience, it has been taxing enough so that if both parents try to devote equal time to care for the child then neither of them is fit for work. – Gnudiff Sep 20 '17 at 11:18
0

I don't think it's just because he's lazy -- maybe he's just not so good in task management; specifically, recognizing what needs to be done and planning out how to get it done. Waiting for him to choose to get busy just won't work.

I suggest that you take over keeping track of what needs to be done -- maintain a list of what to do today (or in the next few days), without regard to who's going to do what. Keep the list where you both can see it. When you need his help, pick something from the list, and ask him to do it. Allow him some flexibility on scheduling -- no "right now"s if you can help it.

Many of the kinds of tasks we're talking about are quick to do and not so very difficult but there are always so many of them. And of course, taking care of a new baby is more than a full-time job (disclaimer -- I'm not talking from personal experience here).

I myself struggle with task management; it's tough to keep focused on "work" (and I don't mean the paid kind) rather than "play" (such as writing on Stack Exchange!)

Good luck.

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