Ask Mr. Nurshable: What is the Best Way to Approach a Dad About Pitching In?

Allie asked: As a gentle dad, what are the ways you feel best to approach a dad who is wonderful and loving daddy but not proactive in helping or stepping in when needed. If asked and precisely spelled out, this daddy will gladly help and do bedtime, change a diaper or whatever is needed but otherwise he sinks into the background and sometimes just sits there watching the scene. I feel like I nag when I’m constantly asking “Can you get up and help with xxx” and I feel frustrated that I have to do this regularly. This daddy also had a father who was not involved in child raising and to this day his father does not cook, clean, or lift a finger around the house so he didn’t have a positive example in this area and I would like to learn how to solicit help in a gentle non nagging way. And we both work – but he more hours than me.

Hi Allie!

Sometimes people raised in a certain environment do not have a model for how to be helpful. It’s not that they’re willfully trying to do as little as possible- more so it is that they simply do not have the connections in their brain that say “If I see a mess I should clean it up, regardless of who made it.” From the information here, it sounds like this is the case.

Since he is an adult, it is unlikely that you will be able to “train” him to be helpful (I use the word train because at this point in his age it really would be “training”). As a man, I appreciate when there are no questions about certain things. The less mind reading and guess work I have to do the better. Since you say your husband “gladly” helps when asked, I think that setting up a schedule where you split the duties on certain days might help. Basically, make a list of the things that you can both do. Then make a weekly schedule where you alternate doing certain things when you are both home. For example:

Husband has night time waking duty. Husband tidies up after work.
Wife cooks dinner. Wife puts children to bed.

Husband cooks dinner. Husband puts children to bed.
Wife has nighttime waking duty. Wife tidies up after work.

The division of responsibilities should make sense based on your household. So if dad gets home too close to dinner time for “making dinner” to not work, that wouldn’t be on the list. Or if baby has issues with not accepting dad for nighttime wakings, dad can help out some other way.

Repeat pattern until Friday. Saturday/Sunday just go with the flow. Switch the days weekly if you want to keep things fair. And of course, make sure that there is time for you both to be together as well as by yourselves doing your own thing.

This way you don’t have to keep reminding your husband to help, and he doesn’t have to read your mind.

Interestingly, Sarah and I already do this but for different reasons. I feel that a similar setup might help you greatly here.


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