Monday, February 18, 2019

A Case of Child Neglect

Sorry to say it, but the normally sensible Carolyn Hax whiffed on this letter. A woman wrote in to explain that she wants to spend more time with her husband… alone, just the two of them. She and her husband have full time jobs and both are desperate to spend more time with their children. The women wants to spend some alone time, some date night time, with her husband. He consistently rejects her, in favor of time with the very young children.

Without further ado, here is the letter:

My husband does not want to spend alone time with me, leaving me feeling frustrated. We have two very young kids and both work high-pressure, full-time jobs. We both are desperate for more time with our kids and try to maximize any opportunity we have to spend with them, but it never feels like enough. We never get time for ourselves, either, but have sort of given up on that for now.

I'd like to spend some rare time alone with my husband. He does not. I recently asked for a lunch or dinner every three months but it was clear he did not want to commit. He wants to spend time with me, just with the kids, too. He says he feels connected to me with them there and doesn't want to miss out on time with them.

I don't want to miss out on time with them either but I want a separate relationship with my husband. We haven't been out alone together in over a year — and that includes our fifth wedding anniversary because he wanted to spend it with the kids.

I could basically force him to go out with me but it is clear he doesn't want to and, honestly, it doesn't feel great to be on a date with my husband who doesn't want to be there. I'm a total cliche but yes, I want him to want to spend time alone with me, which I know I can't control. Where do I go from here?

— Missing my husband

Unfortunately, Hax misses the point. She advises the woman to lean in, to drag her husband to therapy, to insist on couple time, or even to discard him. For Hax the man’s refusal to spend alone time is almost a deal breaker.

And yet, consider this. The woman is a nag. She browbeats her husband about not spending enough time alone with him. Hax advises her to become a bigger nag… and this is surely a bad idea. She would do better to shut up and to allow her husband to take an initiative.

Note also, that both parents have full time jobs. Do they spend enough time with their children? Is this woman neglecting her children? Apparently, by her witness, they are. Since the children are very young, they need more motherly attention. She is not providing it. I this a problem? Of course, it is. Does she know it? Yes, she does. Does she accept her own responsibility for the state of affairs? Not at all.

She states in her letter that both parents are desperate to spend more time with their children. Perhaps her husband, in a not-very-subtle way, is encouraging her to spend more time with the children. Perhaps he is encouraging her to dial back on her full time work schedule and make more time for the children. Perhaps he thinks that the children need a mother. 

If the husband is concerned that his wife is neglecting their children…  perhaps, he has no other way to tell her than to spend more time with them himself. After all, if they go out together for an evening or even a weekend—as Hax recommends—that will mean that they are neglecting their children even more. This is not a case of a detached husband. This is a case of a man who is trying to compensate for his wife's maternal dereliction.


UbuMaccabee said...

Can't they just agree to let Guatemalan nannies raise their children and get on with the development of their careers? Isn't that the consensus view among the smart-set elites?

Sam L. said...

Babysitters! Got to be some in their neck of the woods.