Life

Ask Fiona: I've got a job but my husband still expects me to do all the cooking and cleaning

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas...

You need to tell your husband that his expectations are unfair

I HAVE been married for 25 years and had three wonderful sons, all of whom have now left home or are at university. My two oldest are doing well, have established careers and great partners. My youngest is studying biochemistry and has a job lined up after that. He will eventually have to move away for that job, so I do not anticipate he or his brothers returning home any time soon.

With this in mind, I got a job last year with a local IT firm; I enjoy it and it's gone well. It's challenging work involving quite long hours, but after some in-house training and passing an exam, I am being quite well paid. In fact, I am earning about the same as my husband and sometimes more if I exceed my quota.

So far so good, but the issue of housework is threatening to undermine it all. When I wasn't working, I was happy to do most of the heavy-lifting. However, now that I am doing long hours and often getting in after my husband, it galls that he still expects me to cook the evening meal and clean the house.

I resent the fact that I have a real chance here to grow and do something with this job, yet I am being held back by my husband. I do love him, and we have had a good relationship, but if this continues for much longer, I worry about what will become of us.

ED

FIONA SAYS: If, in 25 years, you've done everything for your husband and your sons, I expect they're finding it hard to adjust.

You've clearly changed a lot and have achieved a huge amount in a relatively short space of time. So much so that I can't help but wonder if there is perhaps some resentment on your husband's part as well.

You've gone from being dependent on him for money, to being almost the ‘chief bread winner', which may have dented his ego a little. It could be that he's passively asserting himself by refusing to take on tasks that he's always assumed you would do. He may even be worried that you've changed so much, that you may not want him anymore! It could also be, of course, that none of this has occurred to him, and he's simply expecting life to continue pretty much as it always has.

Have you told him – and your son – that now you're working you can't do all the domestic tasks you used to do, and that they should be prepared to do a share of them? I believe it's time for a family get-together, where you point out that now everyone in the house is working, everyone needs to take on a share.

Explain how you are feeling, make a list of all the jobs that need to be done, and then create a rota for doing them.

I'd encourage you to ensure that, for example, everyone takes a turn at cooking. No excuses on that one – as everyone needs to know how to feed themselves, so even if their efforts are not as you'd like them to be, don't let them give up. I think all the basics should be covered, that way including doing the washing up, clothes washing and ironing – how else is your son going to manage when he leaves home?

If you don't like the rota idea then find a way of allocating tasks and split them fairly. If for example one person is doing all the cleaning, someone else needs to do all the washing and ironing. It may well be that you have to compromise to some extent, but you cannot let things drift, otherwise your resentment will grow.

Your husband may also need reassuring that you do still love him and your newfound success doesn't mean you are about to leave him. At least, I'm assuming – from what you say – that you're not, and also assuming he changes his attitude to housework!

MY COLLEAGUE IS BEING TRICKY SINCE I GOT PROMOTED

I WORK for a major supermarket chain and six months ago, I got bumped up to section head. I had worked hard for the promotion, putting in lots of extra hours and always going the extra mile to get things done. It's hard work, as managing people is new to me, but I do enjoy my new role.

Most of the people I now supervise have accepted me with good grace, including some that had worked in the section far longer than me. However, one man is doing all he can to undermine me. If I ask him to do something, he doesn't look at me and hardly ever acknowledges the task I have given him. And if he does do it, it's in a way that he knows is contrary to the way I prefer.

Some weeks back, I also got the creepy feeling that he was watching me when he thought I wasn't aware, probably hoping to catch me making a mistake that he could then profit by. When my predecessor warned me about him a few days ago, I knew it wasn't just me being paranoid. I feel that this situation is getting out of hand, and I do not know how to deal with it for the best.

Should I talk to my boss? I have been reluctant to do this so to date for fear of appearing weak, but what else can I do?

HG

FIONA SAYS: I'm glad you're doing well. Sadly though, as more women reach senior positions, other people can feel threatened when a woman is put in charge. That may be the case here – as I think you believe it to be – or it may be something else entirely.

From the way you describe this man's behaviour, I also cannot help but wonder if he doesn't have a mental health issue of some kind. His failure to make eye contact and the fact that he does tasks in his own way, rather than the way you'd prefer him to, may be nothing to do with you at all. It may simply be a manifestation of his behaviour and something that – if he is capable of doing his job correctly – you may have to learn to deal with.

Rather than resort to any kind of formal procedure, perhaps try having an informal chat with this man first, if you haven't already? Choose a time when you won't be disturbed or when others may be listening. Point out that as you are his manager, it is in everyone's best interest that you co-operate together. Then ask what he needs from you to enable him to do his job to the best of his ability. He may very well surprise you.

You could ask him to explain why he did the task you asked him to do in a way contrary to your way of doing things – he may have a perfectly logical explanation. You say you thought he was watching you and that you found this creepy, so ask him – far from trying to catch you out, he may have been watching to try and learn.

If, on the other hand, he really does have a problem with you, a quiet one-to-one may well tease out what the problem is too. Getting him to talk about it may make things clearer. If he felt ‘passed over' for your job, for example, then suggest you look for ways – together – to help him gain the skills that will put him in the running the next time an opportunity arises. Make it clear to him that it's in everyone's best interests that you can work together as a team – being heard and being recognised may be enough to bring him around.

It is possible, though, that he's never going to change, and you might find it helpful to do a managerial or assertiveness training course. Speak to your boss about this as it may be something the company offers, and far from being seen as failing at the task you've been given to do, you'll look like someone keen to make a success of it.

NOT SURE HOW TO HANDLE RETIREMENT

BECAUSE of Covid, my company had to make some adjustments. So when I was offered early retirement with terms that were just too good to refuse, I went for it. The problem is, I was completely unprepared, and have no idea of what I am going to do with all the time I now have on my hands.

I am only 61, in good health and quite fit. I play tennis regularly, golf occasionally and walk a lot, but there's only so much of this I can do. I need to do more, not for the money, just something to stop my brain going to mush.

Ideas anyone?

PB

FIONA SAYS: Unless the terms of your retirement stop you, why not look for another job? It doesn't have to be a well-paid one, just something you'd enjoy. You have skills and experience that I'm sure could be put to good use – perhaps for a voluntary organisation of some kind.

Indeed, if money isn't a motivator, you could become a volunteer.

This can take many forms from working in (or even managing) a charity shop, transport services for care organisations or office work. The voluntary sector is enormous and there should be a great deal of choice once you start to look for it, even local to you.

Go to the ‘Do It' website (doit.life) and you can search for all manner of opportunities.

Get more involved in your tennis and golf clubs too – get involved on the social side, as it will open new doors. I'd also encourage you to use things like social media to build a network of friends – even if you have plenty – to have more people to do things with.

IS MY MUM'S ADVICE RIGHT?

I LEFT my husband earlier this year, when I found out he had been having an affair with a woman that I had previously thought of a good friend. They had been seeing each other for over three years, and I only found out because her now ex-boyfriend told me about it.

He hadn't been trying to win her back; he was just angry and lashed out. Since then though, we have been meeting up regularly over coffee, moaning about our respective ex-partners and setting the world to rights.

Last week, he confessed that he had feelings for me, and it's made me realise that I feel the same way about him. My mum says I should be wary of starting a new relationship so soon after the last one and is worried about what people will think – so now I am really confused. Don't I deserve some happiness?

KA

FIONA SAYS: If you both feel the same way, there is no reason why you shouldn't let this relationship flourish. Yes, your families may well think the circumstances are unusual, but I'm sure that once they see you both happy, they'll accept things readily enough.

My only concern is that you must both be certain that this relationship is based on more than just your shared hurt.

If it's not, then it won't last, and you may be better off letting the dust settle before making a long-term commitment to each other.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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