I have a four-year-old daughter. We have a wonderful relationship. I work a lot, so I don’t get to spend as much time with her as I’d like. I try to do something alone with her every weekend, just the two of us, so we can bond. This is great. The problem is my wife.
All week long she complains about dealing with our daughter on her own and taking care of the house. I think it’s a nice break for her when I take our daughter out on the weekend, but my wife can’t let it happen without managing the whole thing. She fusses over where we’re going, what I might feed our daughter while we’re there, and what my daughter is wearing. She gets so involved that by the time we get out the door, my daughter and I are both cranky and tired from dealing with my wife. Why does my wife do this? How can I get her to stop?
Funny you should ask. This morning, my husband is giving me a break from the kids while I relax and take some time to myself. The first thing they did this morning—I kid you not—is set off fireworks. In their pajamas. For no reason I can figure out. He just took them outside into the yard and all of a sudden I think we’re under machine gun attack and there are great billowing white clouds of smoke floating past the windows. Okay. That’s fine. They’re having a blast. And then.
And THEN: they all come inside, and go traipsing back out the door a few minutes later, and my husband is holding a machete. I AM NOT JOKING. He has a machete. He’s taken my two small children and a machete out into the woods to do some “work.” I can only imagine what’s going on out there, and I just heard an ambulance go by, and my first thought was, “Well, I hope it was one of his fingers, and not one of the kids’.”
I really, really wanted to say something to him, like, “Maybe you should just go kick a soccer ball around, instead,” but then I stopped myself. I thought of you, and then I thought of how annoying and demeaning it would be if he did this to me every time I took the kids somewhere. Your wife probably can’t get her brain to this point because she’s so wrapped up in the everyday control she has over your daughter. If she stays home with her while you work, she probably devotes a good portion of the day to what your daughter wears and eats and plays with and sings and watches and reads. To relinquish this control, and to see your daughter going off in a red plaid shirt with a blue and purple striped skirt and sandals when it’s 30 degrees out tells every part of your wife’s brain, “He’s not doing it right!” And when she’s devoted so much time to thinking about what is right, it’s hard for her to let it go. Imagine if Frida Kahlo slaved over a painting for months and then Diego Rivera came in, took a look for three seconds, picked up a paintbrush, and went, “Boop!” and painted a cat in the corner.
I think the best way to get your wife to stop is to remind yourself, before you say anything to her, that the nagging and bossing is less about you than it is about her. She doesn’t want to give up control over her masterpiece. I would do this: the next time you’re getting ready to leave, just go about your business. Listen to what your wife has to say, but if she starts micromanaging your daughter’s clothes, say, “I think I’d rather just let her pick her own outfit today.” If she has a problem with where you’re going, say, “I hear what you’re saying; the firing range can be a scary place to take a four-year-old. But she’s already taken that gun-safety course and we’re only going to use handguns today, which she’s pretty familiar with already, so I think she’ll be fine.” And then go about your business. Respond to her concerns calmly, but firmly. Don’t get aggravated. Just get the hell out of the house as quickly as you can.