Help! My Wife Only Works Two Days a Week. She Needs to Pick Up the Slack.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.

Dear Prudence,

My wife works two days a week and I work full-time in a hybrid situation. I can and do work from home a couple of days a week and it’s very flexible so I can often help out with the kids and give her some time to herself. I work 50-plus hour weeks routinely and frequently find myself burning some midnight oil at least once a week to meet deadlines. I don’t sleep much and it’s affecting my health. I’m doing my best to keep up with my work obligations, help around the house, and be a good husband/father. Our house is often a disaster—exceedingly messy—to the point where we can’t have anyone stop by our home unless we know they are coming well in advance.

I’ve recently become resentful about the time I’m taking away from life to cook, clean, keep yard work under control, and fix the many issues we have on our property. I think my wife can do more on the domestic front seeing as she works two days a week. I feel like it’s a misogynistic task but if the roles were reversed (and they have been), I ran a much tighter ship and kept a cleaner home. When our youngest was born, I stayed home for close to a year and approached our home like my job. I sort of miss it but my current profession is too lucrative to walk away from. I’d like my wife to spend less time watching TV or on social media and more time pulling her weight around the house but I don’t want to sound like Don Draper. Am I being unreasonable?

—Not Don

Dear Not Don,

Let me clarify something: It’s sexist to ask, “Can you please do more cleaning because you’re a woman?” It’s not sexist to ask, “Can you please do more cleaning because I am doing everything and it’s taking a toll on my health?” That said, you should get some more information about your wife’s workload, schedule, and perspective before you make your request.

My guess is that two things are going on here: 1) You and your wife have different standards when it comes to cleanliness, what qualifies as “exceedingly messy,” and how nice the house has to look for people to come over. This is common! But you two need to find a middle ground that you can live with. 2) She may not have the free time you think she has. It sounds like she’s either working or with the kids most of her waking hours, except when you’re able to pop out of the office and “help out.” And I wonder if she’s using a large percentage of that time to do tasks that are invisible to you. Who’s making medical appointments, registering for school, planning 100 different outfits for spirit week, buying and wrapping gifts, organizing holidays, sending out thank-you notes, cleaning out closets, and all of the other tasks that come with having a family? You two could benefit from using the “Fair Play” system to divvy up responsibilities, which of course starts with figuring out who actually does what. This will tell you a lot.

You’ll know that you have all the information you need to negotiate a change (if that turns out to be the case!) when you feel certain you’re not being at all like Don Draper.

Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.) And for questions on parenting, kids, or family life, try Care and Feeding!

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I live in Florida during the winter months and have made lots of nice friends we socialize with. He invites people from back home to spend a week’s vacation with us, dictating our time, increasing my workload, and costing us money I don’t care to spend on them. This year, he had nearly eight weeks of visitors coming and I am not fully recovered from cancer, so I talked him into canceling all visits this year. I have no excuse for next year. How do I deal with this?

—Sick of Being Taken Advantage Of

Dear Sick of Being Taken Advantage,

I can envision a compromise that lets him play host a little bit but doesn’t overly burden you. Something like a three-week period during which he can invite whoever he wants, a budget for entertaining friends, and an agreement that he will handle the extra work (physical and emotional) that comes with guests: Changing bed sheets, stocking extra food, and planning out meals and itineraries. Basically, the rule should be that if he’s inviting, he’s in charge, and you’re just along for the ride—basically, you get to be a guest in your own home. You can always throw in a mention of ongoing health issues as an excuse to go lie down if you simply don’t feel like being social.

Dear Prudence, 

How do you accept a relationship for what it is, versus what you want it to be? I’ve known my best friend, Patricia, for about seven years. She and I are both in our 30s, share a lot of nerdy hobbies in common, and I was the maid of honor at her wedding last year. Patricia offers me emotional support when I need it, and is honestly one of the most perceptive people I know. The issue is, that it’s getting increasingly difficult to see her in person. If I invite Patricia and her husband out, it only has about a 10 percent chance of happening. She’ll make our weekly Dungeons and Dragons Game run by her husband, but any other kind of invite gets canceled at the last minute. Patricia will say she’s sick or has some college work on the day off. I would think she’s blowing me off, but from social media and mutual friends, Patricia doesn’t seem to be going to other things instead of hanging out with me. I honestly think she’s much more introverted than I am. But it’s hard to maintain a close friendship when your main interaction is pretending to be other people in a DnD game. We used to do more varied hobbies together, but since the pandemic it now seems to be DnD or bust. I miss her and am getting frustrated with our friendship.

—Make a Friendship Check

Dear Make a Friendship Check,

I know what I’m going to suggest is hard. And believe me, I tried to devise a way around it, but you just need to talk to your friend. Begin with a sentence that starts with “I’ve noticed” and discuss the pattern of flakiness you described in your letter. Next comes one that starts with, “I’ve been feeling,” and explains your sadness about how your friendship has changed as well as your understanding that she is more introverted than you are. And then finish off your speech with, “I’m wondering if,” and throw out some ideas for how to move forward. For example, you could suggest a standing first Saturday of the month hangout, a switch to phone calls until she feels less overwhelmed with life, or you could just ask if she has any ideas about how to maintain your closeness.

There’s something to be said for accepting that friendships change and evolve, especially as we get older. Many of us go through phases in which we’re legitimately pretty hard to reach, and it’s not personal. But you shouldn’t have to jump straight toward acceptance of this new normal before having a good old-fashioned conversation. Keep in mind what you said about her: She’s supportive and perceptive. Your friendship can withstand this talk—and something tells me you’ll be closer on the other side of it.

Dear Prudence,

Our cousin, a widower, is smitten with a widow but can’t seem to get past his prejudices to embrace his feelings.  We want them both to be happy. It’s clear to us that she has stars in her eyes for him. He keeps saying that she is only his friend or companion. Yet he brought her 300 miles to meet the family, and has smiled and laughed more than we’ve seen him in years. He’s never behaved this way before.  When he talks about her, it’s clear that he has high regard for her. She’s pretty enough but she is a very big girl.

—Want Love in Their Golden Years

Dear Want Love in Their Golden Years,

Please do not do anything to push your cousin to date this woman only to make her feel horrible about her weight. It’s great that they’re friends and enjoy each other’s company, but she deserves someone who doesn’t have to be convinced to push past prejudices to embrace his feelings for her. Also, you obviously want him to be happy, but guess what? He’s happy with the way things are right now! Celebrate that and please, back off.

I am a professional woman who has been married for 16 years. My job is stressful, and I often work 12 hours or more. We have no children. At first things were wonderful, and my husband always seemed like a sweet, mild-mannered, caring man. Three years in, he was laid off because his company ran into financial trouble. Because I am a high-earner, I told him he didn’t need to go back to work as long as he kept the house up and did basic repair projects. He never went back to work, but he never kept the house up, either. We also hired housecleaners to visit every two weeks, but in between nothing got done. I asked him to go back to work. He didn’t. I strongly suspected he was having affairs a few years later…