ask the readers: how can I balance kids, marriage, and a job, when I sometimes have to work in the evening?

I’m throwing this one out to readers to weigh in on. Here’s the letter:

My wife and I are both very ambitious in our careers. She works in higher-ed and I work in the nonprofit sector. While her job allows for a more flexible schedule, it requires her to bring a lot of her work home with her. My job is the traditional 9-5 but there is an expectation that I will be a part of the community that I serve by attending events and running programs in the evenings.

We have a two-year-old son and one on the way. I drop the kid off at daycare every morning, but because my wife’s schedule is more flexible she picks him up early and spends a couple of hours alone with him before I get home (I commute 45 minutes each way). By the time I get home, she can’t wait to hand him off so she can cook dinner or have some peace and quiet.

The expectations of my job are that I will be available to work some evenings. It has been expressed to me by my boss. My wife thinks that I can just tell him that I am unavailable due to child care issues. She thinks I am asking too much of her when I work an evening and leave her to care for our child. Currently I am trying to keep evening commitments to about two a month, but there are times where there will be more requirements. We don’t have family near by and we really don’t have anyone who can help with our son.

I am having a difficult time fulfilling the expectations of the job because of all this and it is creating an incredible amount of stress in our lives. Any time I mention that I need to work an upcoming evening, it becomes a big fight. I am afraid that I may lose my job if I remain elusive to evening work, I am a senior-level member of the organization. I try to be understanding of my wife but can’t bring myself to tell my boss “I can’t work tonight because my wife wont take care of my child alone.” It seems unreasonable and I don’t know what to do. Especially because other people in the office with small children work some evenings.

I am not asking you to diagnose my marriage, rather I am seeking advice on how to fulfill the requirements of the job and my family. Since my wife only knows the demands of academia, I feel that she doesn’t understand the requirements of my job, and I can’t convince her that it is normal for people to work outside of scheduled hours. I also wonder, what boundaries are normal for a parent of a young child to set with their workplace? Is it okay for me to say that I can’t work evenings and that weekends are out of the question? How many hours beyond the dedicated 40 hours a week is appropriate?

I am losing sleep and I am having a hard time being productive because I am afraid that this is all about to come to a head. I could really use some advice.

Readers, what advice do you have?

{ 944 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Quick note — there are already lots of suggestions below for paid help, which the OP has probably considered, so I’m going to suggest we focus on other ideas for him!

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Has he? I don’t see any indication of that.

      And when you have as deep of a problem as this, there aren’t many other options to suggest before you start straying into “get to couples’ therapy” realms: “[…] I can’t convince her that it is normal for people to work outside of scheduled hours.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. And I’m assuming the OP and his wife know about babysitting :)

          (Still a perfectly good suggestion, but I didn’t want the thread to become nothing but that.)

          1. animaniactoo*

            I’m willing to bet however that it is the ONLY realistic workable solution for them, and they’re rejecting it for reasons that are more emotional than practical and they need to figure out that’s not going to work for them and that they are going to have to build a network of paid professionals they can rely on.

            I do have some other thoughts which I’ll post below – but I don’t think having a lot of people tell them that they need to look at paying for a babysitter is a bad thing simply because I think they need to realize that they’re resisting the obvious solution – so obvious that many people are telling them to do that.

            1. Hmmmmm*

              Well there is also nuance that maybe they haven’t considered. Such as someone who is less of a babysitter and more of a “helper.” Especially if OP knows what nights he will need to work late in advance or has some flexibility on what specific night he can work late. My parents had help one night a week from a neighbor in college to give them some flexibility and some breathing room. I am hesitant to call her a babysitter because she kind of just provided light help as needed. I think maybe she also ran light errands while my parents were at work? Like she didn’t regularly grocery shop for us, but if my mom realized we were out of trash bags or milk or something, “Laura” would pick some up and drop them off. She would watch a movie with us in the living room if my parents needed to handle stuff in the home office, put us to bed etc but almost never was alone in the house with us. She didn’t really clean the house, but sometimes she would unload the dishwasher or fold some laundry. But yeah, 30 years later, my parents openly say that Laura giving us less than 6 hours of her life every week saved their marriage.

              My big question is: What time is their kid going to bed? I just did a quick confirm with my friends with preschoolers and they all put their under 3-year olds to bed before 7:30. If he gets off at 5pm and has a 45min commute, were really only talking about an hour and a half max.

              1. Hush42*

                It might be that putting the child to bed is what she needs his help with the most. With some children bedtime is the most difficult time of the day.

                1. Helpless*

                  OP Here: Bingo! While my child does go down around 7:30 or 8, he is often difficult and will not go down for anyone else! He is a challenge, at best, around bedtime.

                2. Obelia*

                  OP, our child was really challenging at bedtime too, and what really helped us was getting help from a professional on the bedtime routine. (In fact one of the things we were advised was to have only one of us put her to bed, so we started taking turns which immediately made life vastly easier.). You may already have tried getting that support or it might not work as a way forward, but it certainly made it a *lot* easier for one of us not to be around on a given evening (we both occasionally travel for work).

                3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                  I am compelled to give this piece of bedtime advice (sorry, but it was life changing for us and I can’t help myself). Children set their own internal clocks. The more sleep they get the more sleep they will get. Seriously. Do not fear the nap or any time they want to sleep. If they are having a hard time going to sleep at 730-8, that might be too late for them. Roll it back to 7, and see if it gets easier. About the time they are running around like they are an insane wind-up toy, is *exactly* when they need put to bed. Our oldest had to be in bed no later than 705p. Any later and he would scream and fight sleep for hours. If he was in bed by 7p, then he would sleep straight through for 12 hours. It was amazing when we figured this out.

                4. Steph B*

                  OP: I understand the struggles of bedtime with a toddler/preschooler at bedtime, and the stress of having to do that with two little ones (which may or may not be the anxiety your wife is facing now at the thought of regular evenings of you away).

                  We are still struggling with my eldest staying in bed all night, but bedtime got a bit better once we made some rules for weekdays / bedtime routine. For us that means no TV/screen-time, same dinnertime / bathtime each night, and so many bedtime stories. We tried earlier/later bedtimes without much success, but it seemed to have helped others.

                  Also, in our case and with pediatrician approval, I finally started using children’s melatonin with my eldest. It has done wonders to settle her / remove the anxiety she was starting to display about bedtime. I’m starting the process of trying to wean her off it now, but I don’t regret using it earlier.

                  Thankfully, our second is THE BEST SLEEPER EVER, except when teething, which helped me to feel less like a failure in terms of bedtime parenting. Every kid is different!

                5. Thlayli*

                  Op, it sounds like you are a great dad and do a lot and fair play to you for that! The world needs more like you.

                  I would say your plan of attack should look like:
                  1 ask your boss to clarify what he expects and see if you can negotiate a little until the new baby is a bit older – I gave some possibilities for options you might agree on in a comment below. It is really normal for people to say to their boss that they can’t work lots of extra hours anymore because of changing family commitments. Your boss might be reasonable but you won’t know till you ask. If your boss is a jerk and actually says you need to do a night every 2 weeks even when you have a newborn or else you’re fired, it might be helpful to get this in writing (email?) to show your wife that you are not just making it up – but honestly I can’t imagine anyone would be that much of a jerk to require someone with a newborn to work late.
                  2 once you have a clearer idea of what is actually necessary to keep your job you will be able to go to your wife with a definite number of nights per month and say right upfront that you want to find a solution that works for both of you
                  3 if paid help is an option then that’s the easiest solution. Even someone to sit with the baby while wife wrangles the toddler will take some pressure off, but ideally someone to actually help or take over toddler bedtime would be great. Even just an hour on the nights you work would help with bedtime
                  4 if you are absolutely unable to afford paid help then there are techniques for minding baby and toddler together and putting both to bed. I highly recommend the contented baby and toddler book by Gina Ford. It worked very well for me with two 14 months apart and I am the type of person who likes rules and schedules and techniques to follow – they give me the illusion of control lol. She may not like all the routine parts but some of the bedtime tips are really useful like having a place for baby in toddlers room and what to do with toddler when feeding baby etc.
                  5 other areas of work aside from bedtime need to be looked at too. Any night you work late she will be too tired to do her evening work so make sure you schedule time in for her to catch up on that. Cook in advance or agree for her to buy dinner in work those days. Can she leave toddler in daycare later on those days specifically? Etc etc.
                  Tldr: clarify terms with boss, assure wife u are in her corner and want to help, plan what to do for bedtime with baby and toddler when she is alone, plan what to do with all the other work when she is alone (cooking, housework, catching up on her evening work for her job etc.
                  You are a team and you can do this!

                1. Ellie*

                  Me too, our 2 year old will not go to bed before 9, and it’s usually closer to 10. There’s not much we can do about it since he is an extremely strong willed little boy, we both work full time, I have an hour’s commute each way and my partner has a 45 minute one. At least he sleeps soundly once he’s down, and naps during the day.

                  I have a second one on the way as well, and was hoping to get some advice by reading these comments. My partner and I cover for each other when either of us have to work late, but it’s no where near twice a month… that seems excessive to me. I think you need to push back on that at work, for the sake of your relationship. Talk to your partner and agree on what’s reasonable, then talk to your boss and work something out. And outsource everything you can… maybe you don’t want additional childcare but you could get a cleaner in? Do your food shopping over the internet? Anything that will give you more time will help.

              2. Marissa*

                And working in academia probably means access to students willing to do random tasks for not much money! In college I was the Laura – made $8.50 a night to help with bedtime from 7-8PM Mon-Sat for the Chabad rabbi’s wife while he was running programs. Sometimes I was entertaining the baby while she put down the toddlers or vice versa, sometimes it was doing dishes or folding laundry. Now the idea of giving up an hour of my life almost every night of the week for $50 is unfathomable, but at the time it was easy grocery money!

                1. c*

                  I work in higher ed, and I have always shied away from hiring students for things like this (dog walking or house sitting, in my case). My job involves a lot of day-to-day contact with students, I rely on them as volunteers for campus events, and I am sometimes privy to disciplinary issues. I am really wary about boundaries with them. I would hate to get in a situation where I needed to ask my dog walker to do something differently (or tell them their services are no longer needed), and have to also worry about negatively impacting my relationship with a student. Maybe this is just me being overly cautious, but I would never hire students for personal tasks.

                2. KellyK*

                  c has a good point. I can see where that combination of relationships could get sticky. Maybe hiring students but not *your* students is a good way to maintain that boundary. If OP’s wife teaches, say, Physics, there are probably plenty of English and Economics majors who she’ll never interact with as their professor.

                3. KellyK*

                  Obviously that doesn’t work if her role is more general (e.g., financial office) and she doesn’t want to make things weird with *any* students.

              3. Trillion*

                I was just going to suggest this! When I was about 11 or 12 we had a friend who worked from home with a small child. Once or twice a week she would pick me up when she picked her daughter up from daycare. I would play with her daughter, read books etc. Basically just take the pressure off mom for a bit. I was too young to baby sit on my own but I kept the kid distracted, ran off some energy and helped at bedtime. If there is a preteen or someone in your building or neighborhood or maybe a friend’s kid this might be a good option. It’s not as formal or expensive as a sitter but mom gets a break while still keeping an eye on things and the preteen gets some babysitting practice.

              4. Perfectly Particular*

                I just reread this post, and another nuance struck me. It sounds like Mom is picking up their child earlier than required by the daycare. It may make sense to let Dad pick him up right before daycare closes if he knows that he will have to go back to work that evening. There is usually no extra charge for this, and it would give Mom time to do her take-home work and/or get started on dinner before toddler is home. They may feel guilty about doing this, but it should go away quickly! I used to leave my kids in care for an extra little bit so I could work out or run to the grocery.

              5. TootsNYC*

                When we worked full-time, we couldn’t EVER get our kids into bed at 7:30. They went to bed at 8:30 or 9.

              6. BananaPants*

                OP may not like this idea, but sleep training was critical for our kids and for our family. We sleep trained at 8-10 months (not including night weaning) and our kids are awesome sleepers.

                I work full time as does my husband. On top of it, I go to grad school part time. For the entire time we’ve had kids, he’s worked 2nd shift/evenings while I work a typical weekday schedule. The daycare/after school care pickup, dinner, baths, and bedtime routine has always been my sole responsibility because he’s at work. There is no way I could function if it took hours to get the kids to sleep – it would eat up my entire evening.

                1. Sunglow28*

                  I understand what you are saying, but frankly, this family maybe looking at a sacrifice. My twins were simply not sleep trainable. Not a sleep consultant, any number of daycares all of whom promised to train them, not even the good Dr. Ferber himself made an ounce of difference. So, I made the impossibly hard choice to quit my job. That was sad. It was not in the plan. But we were running on 3 hours of sleep or less a night and we were dying. Quitting, and my husband dialing back his work responsibility were unforeseen circumstances, but sometimes you get the hard kids. You don’t know until they arrive. Then you just have to deal. Sometimes you hate the consequences, but that’s parenting.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          I meant childcare as well. Paid help in the realm of couples therapy is certainly a strong possibility as it sounds like there are communication issues.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I meant childcare as well. Paid help in the realm of couples therapy is certainly a strong possibility as it sounds like there are communication issues.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I wonder if there wouldn’t be some value in a How To Baby open thread for people to discuss various experiences and strategies for managing childcare, job demands and/or marriage stuff all at the same time.

        1. NJAnonymous*

          I’d love to see what others do as well!

          My husband and I both work full time in jobs that can require long hours (lawyer and management consultant). His job is roughly 90 minutes away, and my commute is either 2 hours each way when working ‘locally’, or possibly out of state when the client isn’t located in NYC. We send our 10mo to a great local daycare.
          We are lucky that our jobs, while sometimes stressful, generally allow us to make our own schedules to a certain degree. I work from home twice a week, and on those days I will handle the drop off/pick up and set expectations with my team and clients that I will not be available between 5pm and 9pm (though I then typically make up work in the evening). On days when I am traveling or having to commute into NYC, my husband will drop off but typically he can’t get home in time to get her in the evening. In those instances, we either rely on local family to bridge the ~2 hr gap between end of daycare and when one of us gets home, or we hire one of the great daycare workers to bring her home and cover that gap.

          It sounds complicated typing it out like this, but it really does run like a well oiled machine in real life.

          1. kindnessisitsownreward*

            kudos to you for making this work, but it sounds exhausting to me. I am always amazed to hear how far some people commute to work. I complain about 20 minutes each way–on a bad day.

            1. Adlib*

              Yes, this always amazes me too. My dad is about to retire and has commuted an hour+ each way for his entire 37 years there. No idea how he does it.

            2. NJAnonymous*

              I hear you. The commutes are the worst, but unfortunately it’s really expensive to live in areas of NJ that are closer to NYC. The property taxes are insane. And unfortunately, there aren’t as many firms near us (Jersey Shore area) that can pay what we would need to maintain a similar standard of living.

            3. DDJ*

              I think it’s all in how your expectations arise. I’ve been commuting since high school – it was a 45-minute to 1-hour commute each way, every day. For 3 years. I grew up in the suburbs and have mostly worked downtown, so from the time I was 19 I was commuting about an hour each way (sometimes longer). Parking runs about $30/day; if you’re really lucky you might be able to rent a space for $450/month. So it’s always been public transit. When I was young and single, I considered moving into a an apartment downtown, but a decent 2-bedroom would have cost me nearly as much (after condo fees and all that) as what my 4-bedroom house in the suburb costs.

              Although I will say…in my early 20s I dated a guy who lived in the beltline, and sometimes I’d spend the night and walk to work the next morning, and it was glorious. A 20-minute walk instead of an hour-long commute? Dang.

            4. Monica*

              My 8 minute commute annoys me! I can’t imagine working 2 hours away! Actually… I just wouldn’t work more than 20 minutes away. Period!

          2. Girl Alex PR*

            That is exactly what my husband and I do! We don’t have any family, but we have my youngest daughter’s teacher on our daycare pick-up so that she is authorized to take them home when one of us can’t make it. My husband is a television producer and travels frequently. I’m usually more local, but my hours can be long if I have a press event. Finding reliable sitters and paying them well enough to be happy to take your kids when you can’t is the key to our success in our respective careers.

          3. KaraLynn*

            “…rely on local family to bridge the ~2 hr gap” – this is the component that so many don’t have, and those who have often don’t fully realize the importance of.

            1. TootsNYC*

              And it’s something that no one should be exclusively relying on.

              Not having family local doesn’t mean you are without resources. You may have to work harder to create them.

              1. KaraLynn*

                Much, much harder. Family members have an inherent desire to help, and almost always for free. And there’s a huge trust factor at work. Finding that in a stranger – at least, someone who’s initially a stranger – is a huge hurdle to climb over.

          4. Erin*

            Day care is expensive. I know women who’ve left the work force because after taxes and daycare costs and gas to and from work they were bringing home less than $20 a week. And these women left full time jobs that brought in $20,000 plus per year.

      1. Kiki*

        One vote for this! My husband and I are at the point where we’re talking about when to have kids, but he and I are both so busy with work already that we’re not sure how we’d logistically make it work. I’d love to hear how others handle it.

        1. Amber Rose*

          That’s why I suggested it. Letters like this one are frequent throughout the internet and scare the pants off me when I think about whether I want a kid or not.

        2. Software Engineer*

          The way it works is, usually, one parent has to sacrifice. Somebody has to give. You can either pay somebody or one parent can sacrifice their career, which most often is the mom. Who is going to leave work early to take the kid for their flu vaccine or take the day off when the kid is sick? Who is going to go for a promotion which involves more travel and who is going to opt for a job with better ‘work life balance’?

          You can either choose who is going to fall on that grenade, you can hire help to get through a lot of it, or you can both slow down and share the burden (so nobody goes for that promotion). Those are your 3 options.

          1. Paula, with Two Kids*

            If we are speaking of US parenthood, I completely agree. I read an article that American mothers are some of the unhappiest in the developed world, due to the highest burden of childcare hours and work without decent maternity leave. With our long commutes and jobs, having both parents be gone for 10-12 hours a day makes raising children incredibly stressful. Add sleep deprivation and no time off to the mix, and it’s no wonder a couple of evenings are causing such stress for this family.

          2. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

            As a US parent, I think there’s a lot to be said for approaching the whole kit and caboodle as a united front. My husband and I don’t look at it as him OR me, it’s both of us who opted to live here, to have a kid, to have careers, so we don’t expect the other to do what we wouldn’t. Our arrangement is too long to get into here, I’ll probably write about it over at the blog, but there are ways.

            In short: We both took time off to be with our kiddo, though his leave was paid and shorter than mine which was unpaid and longer, and we either both go to appointments or do pickup on sick days, or take turns. We’ve both earned raises and promotions in the two years that we’ve had our child and worked on the kinks in our relationship as they came up, and we’re weathering a pretty tough year together this year. There’s a lot of trust and proactivity, not least of which is reminding someone taking on more than their fair share that they aren’t the only one obligated to do all the sacrificing and to take the time they need to work out or take a solo hot shower.

        1. Chloe*

          +1 on this!!!! For all ages please. In the “we just got married and kids are a couple years away but we’re both insanely ambitious and have enough of a tough time balancing couple time and work time!!”

          1. Demon Llama*

            It me.

            Also I had to sit through this really weird “if you get a nanny you’re basically treating your kids like accessories” chat with my mum and sister last weekend, which is weird because:
            a) We don’t have kids yet, this was an entirely hypothetical discussion
            b) I worked really hard at school to have a really good career and suddenly that’s not important?
            c) Having a nanny is a perfectly legitimate choice! Where did all these Opinions suddenly come from in my family?!?

            So I’d really appreciate advice from those who’ve done the home help option on how this works well for you?

            1. Moose and Squirrel*

              A nanny can also be more cost effective than day care once you get to child #2 or #3.

              That aside, you have to figure out what works for your family and tell everyone else to take a hike if they don’t like it, up to and including family.

            2. KaraLynn*

              Why is a) so weird? She’s giving her opinion to something you seem to have suggested you plan to do. “I’m planning to paint my house black.” “You may not want to do that.” What’s strange about that? I don’t understand.

              1. The Rat-Catcher*

                It’s kind of an adversarial comment for a purely hypothetical discussion. The wording you suggested sounds fine but “treating your kids like accessories” is pretty inflammatory.

                1. Software Engineer*

                  Yes. And it’s the ‘if you’re not going to raise your kids why’d you even have them’ argument against two working parents. Which is like um so did dad’s of the previous generation not raise their kids? Why even have kids if you’re a dude, is it just a bauble you’re giving your house wife to entertain her? Raising kids is more than just taking care of them from 9 to 5. Childcare providers become important people to kids lives but it’s not the same as raising or parenting

                2. KaraLynn*

                  Adversarial or not, making this its own bullet point is strange itself. If you have a problem receiving feedback for a future plan – regardless of what the feedback is – then you shouldn’t mention it.

                  Something else worth keeping in mind: Getting feedback *before* you make a big decision or take a big action is much more valuable than hearing it afterward.

              2. Helena*

                It’s also not true. “Dyeing your kid’s hair to match your handbag” is treating them like an accessory. Paying for high-quality childcare, not so much.

            3. TootsNYC*

              I once worried about having a nanny, and my boss (who had one) said, “I used to as well. Then we started doing it, and I realized, I haven’t taken anything away from my child. I’ve given him one more person to love him, and for him to love.”

              My MIL said to me, when my daughter had been in daycare for 4 months (she was 8 months old): “Do you think she knows she’s being taken care of by strangers?”

              I laughed at her. “They’re not strangers! She has known them half her life. She sees them more than she sees you!”

              It shut her up.

              Another huge advantage I see in nannies, based on my colleagues: They often work out a deal where the nanny starts dinner every night. And sometimes the nanny does laundry. The nanny generally never cleans, but these two other items are often added on and paid for. That’s REALLY powerful.

              1. Emily*

                The home daycare we had our kids in when they were babies became family. When we moved for a new job they all piled in a car and drove an hour and a half to visit and make sure we settled in. Our new daycare center is full of people who love or children. 92nd of my son’s teachers it’s already making us promise to keep in touch when he leaves in two years because she thinks he’s amazing. They are NOT strangers.

      2. Jesca*

        I am a single full time mother of two children, one of which has some medical issues. I had my first child (the one with medical issues) somewhat early (23) and had to build my career around managing single motherhood and handling his issues. I would be interested to see how others handle this as well.

      3. No One*

        Yes! My husband and I are expecting a baby in a few months and I would love to hear what has worked/hasn’t worked for other people. My husband works from home most days so he can handle daycare stuff but my job doesn’t allow for that.

        1. Specialk9*

          In short:
          *Baby K’tan Active sling (I tried ~15)
          *Freemie breast pump cups (discreetly pump while commuting, not painful)
          *Peapod ($7 for groceries to just show up at your door)
          *Housecleaner ($100/visit where I am for a pro)
          *Weekend helper while you both deal with bills, meal prep, etc. A teen is ideal – if you don’t know local people.
          *Buy a small toy bin – everything else gets put away. Rotate in & out. A sea of toys will engulf you if you don’t.
          *Overdrive app for audiobooks – free with library card number. BFing, pumping, and night feedings can be long and boring. I use a Motorola Boom Bluetooth headset so no cords.

          1. Emi.*

            For baby carriers, see if there’s a Babywearing International (or some thing similar? this is just the one I know about) chapter near you–they have “libraries” of baby carriers you can borrow and try out before buying one of your own. Or see if your friends can led you any. :)

            1. Anion*

              Yes, at the very least, go to the baby store and try putting your baby in some carriers before you buy. Our first daughter HATED the carrier and refused to be put in it/screamed when we did. Our second looooved it. So don’t buy one until you know if your baby will like it.

      4. Emily G.*

        There’s a new book for that too, which aims to kickstart these conversations with workplaces as well as among parents–The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity & Big Success After Baby, just out last week. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the publisher.)

    3. M&M*

      I think 4th OP should really analyze if he is doing a 50/50 job with his wife. It sounds to me from what I gather she is doing the bulk of the work. She comes home from work for her second shift of cleaning, child care, and making dinner for the both of them. On days when the OP has to work late maybe he should see if it is possible to come in later in the day to balance out being there in the evenings. As well it probably wouldn’t hurt on a weekend or two to just send your wife off to do things on her own during that time you are solely responsible for your child. I realize this is a difficult situation but I personally don’t feel you are giving your wife enough credit. She’s taking on the bulk of the child care and that alone is it’s own job, plus she has her own job to bring in money. A large part of the reason I am resistant to having children is hearing stories like this from women and their husbands often feeling like their work was more important and then also not helping with chores. It is entirely possible you are helping as much as possible and she just doesn’t feel like it is enough. In that case maybe you should look into outside paid help. Like a maid that comes in once to a few times a week, or budgeting to get one of those food delivery services to cut down on the outside the home errands she has to do. I’m sure you can get creative with relieving her obligations around the home so she can have more time to feel like it isn’t all on her shoulders.

      1. Mommy*

        I second this. And not in a bad way that men don’t do enough. But there’s a really good article about a “default parent” and usually it is the mom who ends up in that role. It is not just the couple of hours that “she wont spend with her own child”, it is probably that she is the “default parent” which comes with all the responsibilities for logistics, planning family activities, addressing the emotional and physical needs of the children, taking them to appointments from doctors to haircuts, buying clothes, diapers, favorite foods, writing thank you notes for birthday party gifts…and the list goes on.

        OP – look up the article, read it with an open mind, talk to your wife and acknowledge these things. Thank her for these things. Ask her which ones of them you could take over and then do take them over – completely, without reminders or pestering from her. I bet your two hours once in a couple of weeks won’t be such a huge deal if you truly commit to being an equal partner in running the family, the house and taking care of the kids.

        1. Sally*

          This. It’s even more important that you understand and acknowledge the incredibly all-consuming work that your wife is doing (while growing a baby, no less), and that you thank and love her profusely for it, than that you step up to take on more responsibility yourself. I would argue that most women actually *want* to be the default parent – we like to have that control – and want to be given credit where it’s due.

          That being said – is she doing your laundry? If so, start doing your own laundry and never let her do it for you again. That’s your responsibility, man. And bring home healthy takeout at least once a week if you’re not going to cook.

          1. TL -*

            I am a woman. I do not want to be the default parent. I want to have a kid with someone I trust to parent without my needing to control things.

            1. Emily*

              I have to say, being a lesbian really helps with evening things out. I don’t know any straight couples who really to balance things, even the ones who are really conscious of it. There is a LOT of societal pressure that is hard to overcome.

          2. WerkingIt*

            I don’t know, every relationship is different, but I would be plain old pissed if someone did their laundry and not mine. You’re a couple, you’ve got kids. And they have laundry too. You’re in it together. Laundry and all. So maybe suggest that he just do the laundry.

            I have found that at my house, just do it. Don’t wait for me to say that it’s trash night or the sink is full of dishes. Just do it.

            There is going to be crap (toys and shoes and when you get to potty training possibly real crap) all over the house. Fine, but just not where someone is going to trip on it.

            Like it or not, get a sitter. And use the sitter even when you don’t have to work late. The two of you go out together or just be not home and do your own things on the same night. (Ever been to the movie theater and each seen a different movie just to decompress?) Frankly, get as much hired help as you can afford. Get a dog walker, get a house cleaning service, get Amazon prime and have things delivered instead of running to Target. Buy a DVD the kid can’t stop watching so you can have 10 minutes to take a shower. Start using they dry cleaner. Day care with longer hours and pick the kid up after your errands or whatever. Take out. Mobile car detailing…

            Seriously as much paid help as you can afford. You know what I told my son once? At the end of it all, no one is going to give you an award for doing it all by yourself. So take all the help you can get.

            Two words: Crock. Pot. Seriously, if you’re not using a crock post or as many one pot wonders or sheet pan dinners as you can you’re trying to hard.

            I understand the wife feeling overwhelmed, but I do also think working late occasionally is just something that happens. And even as a woman and a mom I feel like she’s not totally be reasonable here. I work late sometimes. My husband travels for work a lot. We both know this is how our jobs are and it would be unreasonable for either of us to whine about it or demand that the other can’t have a job/career. And his work has very clearly said this is expected of him. So on those nights, order a pizza (frankly, just order a pizza or whatever regularly, because you can spend an hour cooking or $10 on a pizza, no one has to do it all). And a bed time routine that doesn’t rely on just one parent is going to help. And so is taking turns with dinner and sometimes getting take out. And it’s not going to hurt to let her have time to herself every now and then when you take the kids to the park without her.

            Parenthood is a series of each of you taking turns taking one for the team. And lots of people have to do it without a partner.

            1. Spooky*

              “At the end of it all, no one is going to give you an award for doing it all by yourself. So take all the help you can get.”

              I’ll be framing this quote – thank you.

        1. Nicole*

          I also agree. OP needs to truly think about what is more of a priority right now in life. Is it your job? Family? Whatever? Being a working parent is like spinning plates. You have to know going into it that at some point you need super glue because something is going to fall.

          OP said “The expectations of my job are that I will be available to work some evenings. It has been expressed to me by my boss.” Talk with the boss to clarify how many hours that you are expected to work outside of the 9-5. I don’t think it is unreasonable to talk to your boss about the fact that the evening hours are making it difficult to maintain a good work/life balance. What sort of compromise can you reach to help with this so that you aren’t struggling to do the job well without it impacting the rest of your life? Do you want to reach a compromise or maybe change your job duties? Perhaps your boss has been in this boat earlier in his/her career and has some insight?

          Are you getting paid for the after-hours work? Are you getting comp time (being able to have time off from the 9-5 part) for the extra hours that you could spend with your family?

          1. FormerHoosier*

            But for some jobs, the expectation to work evenings is not additionally compensated but is a requirement and is something you need to do to move up in an organization.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              From the letter, it sounds like the extra time is being pitched by the company as ” giving back to the organisation,” and volunteering for your own company always seems sketchy to me, even when the company is a non-profit—doubly so when the “volunteering” is higher-level stuff like running programs (like OP said) or any other responsibility they wouldn’t give to an actual volunteer.

              Tl;dr: I doubt the time is being compensated in any way, and I doubt OP is exempt from overtime. This sounds like a case of a non-profit exploiting its workers “passion for the cause.”

        2. birchwoods*

          Yes, yes, yes. There are so many “little” things that when you are the default President of All the Things (citation: One Bad Mother podcast), it’s exhausting. So kiddo pickups and dropoffs are about equal, but who gets the kiddo ready in the morning? Who gets them ready for bed at night? Sounds like the wife does most, if not all of the dinner cooking. Does she also do the morning and evening dishes, keep track of everyone’s schedules, dr. appointments, events, notice when the plants need to be watered and things need to be fixed? How is the cleaning parceled out? OP says although the wife’s schedule is more flexible, she also brings “a lot” of work home. So is she doing dinner, cleaning, playtime/bath/bedtime AND having to do career-related work in the evenings?! Also IMO it’s totally reasonable for parents of a small child to be unavailable outside of regular business hours. No one would think that’s weird.

          1. birchwoods*

            OMG. I also just noticed that she’s PREGNANT. Hire some help, do more around the house, and give that woman a break.

            1. ohyeah*

              Thank you! Hire a babysitter! It makes no sense to me that this is not an option, especially as baby number two is on the way(!!)

              And if the answer is “we can’t afford it” I have to wonder how you can afford a second child when you can’t afford an occasional babysitter for the first child? I think maybe all this should have been thought out before the second pregnancy.

              1. Nicotene*

                Woah I think that’s outside the commenting guidelines. You should be kind to the letter writer – and suggesting that other people shouldn’t have children, especially ones that are already on their way, is hurtful. Don’t say things like this to people. OP is a real person who might be reading this.

              2. Katie the Fed*

                I don’t know if you know how much babysitters cost these days, but a babysitter for 2-3 hours each afternoon is going to be at LEAST $100 a week. That’s on top of daycare costs. To give you an idea of daycare costs, I’m going to be paying $375/week for newborn daycare.

              3. MashaKasha*

                Seriously, if prospective parents sat down and totaled all expenses for the next 25ish years (because it does not end at 18 by a long shot), along with their projected income, factoring in all the unplanned expenses, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, layoffs, paycuts etc over the next 25+ years, and used those numbers to make a decision on whether to have their first or second child, none of our children would be here. None of us would be here.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Slightly OT but I’m compelled to push back on this. Essentially saying “Children are financially crippling and no one can afford them, so everyone should just have kids anyway because no children would be born if people considered the expense” is a short-sighted response to the idea that people should maybe consider their finances before deciding to take on literally the one (huge) expense people are encouraged—if not outright pressured—to take on (early and frequently).

                  I don’t mean this as a criticism for low income families with kids, or single parents or anything like that (I was raised poor, my parents did the best they could with what they had for 9 years, and then I was raised by a single parent), I’d just love to see the idea that people look at the realities and costs of supporting children before they’re in the situation instead of glossing over it like “if you think about it too hard, you’ll never end up doing it”—again, having children is the only context where I’ve heard this seriously presented as a valid argument in favor of.

              4. Anion*

                Wow. Our second baby was a Happy Accident, and our finances were super-tight at the time. Are you saying we shouldn’t have gone ahead with the pregnancy because money was tight?

                When adult people do the thing that makes babies, sometimes babies are made even if said adults are trying to not make a baby.

          2. Helpless*

            OP Here: Thanks for the comments. i would like to address the following:
            Drop offs – me
            pick-ups – wife
            Wake up with the kid – me
            Get the kid ready in the morning – me
            Get the kid ready for bed- Shared
            Put the kid to sleep – me
            Cooking – wife because she is talented and enjoys it
            Dishes – me
            Keep track of schedules – shared
            Dr. appointments – shared 50/50
            events – He’s 2, he doesn’t have a social calendar
            Water the plants – me
            Fix things – me
            Cleaning – shared
            Laundry – me
            Bills – me
            Car care – me
            lawncare – me

            I feel that a lot of posters are making some unfair gender based assumptions. I am not upset but want to clarify that We really try to split duties around the home.

            1. SamSam*

              Hi OP – Thanks for coming in to respond. I think part of the gut response is seeing that your wife has 2 hours alone with the kid every evening before you get home on days when you don’t work late, and I admit I’d probably balk at having that time extended, too.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*


              Thanks for engaging! It sounds like you really do try to carry your fair share of the household/child rearing burden so that is a good thing.

              I think you and your wife need to have a serious heart to heart conversation about how your lives are going to change with the addition of a second child to your already hectic schedule. If this evening work is a newer addition, she may be afraid of what’s going to happen going forward when there is a newborn in the mix.

            3. CheerfulPM*

              Thanks for this breakdown! My husband and I have similarly hectic schedules and I feel you that it is so hard to strike a balance. My husband is the one with more job flexibility (small business owner), so the bulk of the week childcare falls to him in the afternoons.

              A few things that help us (4yr old and 8month old):
              – I understand that your wife likes cooking and is talented, but on nights that you need to work late, maybe you could care for the kid (take him out to a park for a picnic dinner for example) and give her an hour or 2 to recharge and prepare to be on again when you have to be working.
              – Alternatively, on nights that you’re working, get take-out and remove cooking dinner from The List.
              – If you need to get right back to work when you get home, then maybe the next evening when you get home you’re on for dinner and bedtime to give her a break.
              – Talk and consider if utilizing some television makes sense. TV had no place in my original parenting vision, but dear god it is a lifesaver to throw on a 20 minute show during the witching hour. With streaming services you can avoid the commercials. (*please note – I totally get that this is not the right choice for many. I’m not looking to get into a kids and television debate, just sharing something that has helped us.)
              – Really amp up the schedule tracking. Get EVERYTHING on the calendar. Review it daily, weekly, and monthly. Our worst nights are ones that I didn’t realize my husband has to work after the kids are in bed and I’m not prepared for it.
              – Figure out a 2-3 hour chunk each week that you each get some time off from the kid. My husband gets Sunday evenings (4-7) when I take the kids to my parents for dinner. I get Thursday (5-8). If I want to do a work happy hour, I try to schedule it during that window.
              – Hire a babysitter during the day on the weekends occasionally. We use a high-school student 3 hrs twice a month. Even if you use it just to get things done around this house, it is money well-spent. You can do this during the day and you won’t run into bedtime issues. Plus, since we’re still around, we’ve been able to find high-school students at a much more affordable rate.
              – I’m all about not over-scheduling kids, but seriously – look into some playdates – esp. on the weekends. It does take time and effort, which I know it feels like you have none of, but in a year or two, think how nice it will be if you have friendships with the parents of your kids friends and you trust them for drop-off playdates. Even so, in the short term – playdates when you have to hang out with the other kid’s parents are still a break and can be fun (even for us introverts).
              – Consider if you can hire help for the cleaning, laundry, or lawn care. We couldn’t afford to do both, but we squeeze 2 house-cleanings a month into our budget and I’m pretty sure it saved our marriage.
              – I don’t see grocery shopping on the list, so maybe you already get it delivered, but that’s another small place that you can spend a small amount of money to save a lot of time.
              – Remember that this is a season!!!! It does get easier (and then harder and then easier, etc). But when they’re little it is hard. You will get through it. Things won’t be perfect. You’ll try some things and they’ll work for you, you’ll try others that won’t work.

              1. Cybil*

                TV may make you feel less bad if it is an educational video like Baby Signing Time, Your Baby Can Read, or even PBS kids. Those are made for little ones and are only half an hour. Your baby might not learn anything, but at least it’s not harmful for them.

              2. BananaPants*

                2nd the rec for Baby Signing Time. Our kids had very impressive ASL vocabularies and it was really helpful for all of us in the stage before they had strong expressive language skills – really cut down on tantrums because they were able to communicate effectively!

                1. Story Nurse*

                  Third rec. My 19-month-old is just starting to work on spoken words but has a big ASL vocabulary thanks to Baby Signing Time (which we have to call “BST” because if we say “Baby Signing Time” where the child can hear us, they get really excited and sign “time” to ask if they can watch it). Tonight I was working late and videocalled home to say goodnight, and when my kid was tired they signed “all done” and waved bye-bye. I said “Okay, goodnight, I love you” and signed “love you” and they signed “love” back to me. I melllllllted. It’s amazing to have that level of communication with someone who’s still basically nonverbal.

                  We’re generally not much of a TV-watching household—I’m pretty sure we haven’t even turned our big TV on since the baby was born—and we consider BST to be Strong Magic that should be employed sparingly, but it has saved many a stressful morning and helped us all survive a recent lengthy car trip.

                  I warn you, though—the earworms are POWERFUL. And you do need to at least occasionally watch it along with your child so you learn how to interpret the signs they’re using!

            4. Katie the Fed*

              OP –

              You sound like you’re trying and doing a lot! One thing – you should read all the posts around here about emotional labor and click through some of the articles. Your workload sounds a lot like me and my husband – I really enjoy cooking too. But sometimes the thought of just figuring out WHAT to cook is more than I can mentally handle. It’s the emotional labor that can really drain you – the planning and the coordinating and whatnot.

              1. Thlayli*

                I hear you! Every time my husband says something like “what’s your plan for dinner” I feel like stabbing him. Why is it my job to plan for dinner?

                (Note I have never actually stabbed him)

                1. Paula, with Two Kids*

                  My ex drove me nuts when he would say, “I feel like hamburgers tonight”. And I would tell him, sorry, that’s not what I defrosted 12 hours ago. The man was a trained cook, too. Meal prep requires planning.

            5. NoCryingInBaseball*

              Hi OP! I also love cooking. What I don’t love is wrangling a toddler solo while trying to cook. Totally different activity! Also, I know in my house, the two hours before bedtime have always been the hardest of my kid’s day. She’s bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning, and a whining banshee when she gets picked up. Maybe ask your wife if that’s the experience she’s having, because it might not just be about “we do 50/50” if one 50 is way harder qualitatively than the other.

              1. Sunglow28*

                I think there’s information about energy level that can be hard to quantify before you have kids. I was a kindergarten teacher for many years. I was an Energizer Bunny. I loved the noise, the chaos, the activity. But a difficult multiple pregnancy, an absolutely disastrous birth, a terrible post partum period combined with special needs children left me vulnerable and far more tired than I had been pre-pregnancy. Despite valuing my independence pre- children, I now depend heavily on my husband. I can’t do it on my own and for everyone’s safety, he has to be home quite early. I’m sad and often a bit ashamed, but basically, I developed a chronic health issue and there’s no way to change that. Perhaps this mother’s tolerance is lower for any number of reasons and that may just be something that must be worked around.

            6. MashaKasha*

              Wow! That’s a pretty even split! You’re off to a great start, OP!

              (insanely jealous because my kids’ dad never did the wake up and put to sleep part, which were the most time-consuming. Heck, most of the time I passed out before the kids fell asleep and they then fell asleep next to me.)

              And yes, I admit that a lot of us probably read about the dinner and had flashbacks to their own or their friends’ marriages, where the wife busts her tail with the toddler until the husband comes home from work and greets her with “What’s for dinner? What do you mean no dinner? Alright, alright, I’ll play with the kid, but only while you cook the dinner, and make it quick please.” Not terribly fair on our part! Guilty as charged.

            7. Working Mom*

              I too have to balance evening work obligations with a child. It does get easier as they get older. My husband has also pushed back. I sat him down and asked what his long term vision for our family was. Talking that through together helped get him to realize the sacrifice is worth the long term result. If she realizes that a different lower paying job is her other choice she might feel differently. The key is to let her draw her vision first, then talk about how you can give that to her.

          3. Shay*

            You’re basically saying that he shouldn’t expect to work after hours or on weekends because of work life balance. But it’s been expressed as a component of the job. If this job isn’t working for OP (and it sounds like it isn’t if two nights per month is an issue) I’d recommend finding another job. I’d be very taken aback if a senior member of my team told me they would be limited to 40 hours a week because of work life balance when I’m already working 60+.

            1. FormerHoosier*

              I agree with this. I never thought about any gender issues when reading OP but I will say that many, many jobs have the expectation that you be available past 5. I have hardly had a job when the wasn’t an expection. I used to have a job that had significant social requirements in December and June and husband had to cover often but he traveled more so I covered then.

      2. Jess*

        I didn’t really read it as his wife was doing the bulk of the work. (I mean, that could be 100% true, but I don’t think we necessarily know that from the letter or should read it in.) It sounded to me like he took the morning childcare shift & daycare dropoff while she took the afternoon shift & pickup because she had the flexibility to start/end her workdays earlier while he did not. The morning/afternoon childcare responsibilities could be a fair and equal split. And while the letter did mention his wife cooking dinner, it didn’t say anything about her coming home to clean. It’s very possible that they’ve split up such household tasks equally and each chosen the ones they’d like to take on, and she cooks but he does kitchen cleanup every night. I understand that more often than not women do take a much larger role at home and it leads to a completely unbalanced workload, but I hesitate to automatically apply that stereotype here when the letter doesn’t actually give us any reason to think that’s the case any more than that it’s not.

        1. Hedwig*

          I agree that we should not jump to stereotyping LW and assuming that he isn’t pulling his weight based on his (presumed) gender. But it seems definitely a question worth asking oneself honestly in this situation (and a good thing to periodically ask oneself in any partnership really; I’m a stay at home mom and I ask myself that all the time).

          I think getting time off the parenting clock so to speak is worthwhile for both partners. I know I feel better about the evenings when I put the kids to bed without help if I know I am getting a night where I don’t have to do bedtime at all later on. LW, can you plan on giving your wife the night off the night before or after your evening events? And then maybe think about building in some time off for each of you on the weekends on a more regular basis, since it sounds like you couldn’t probably both use a bit of a break.

          1. Flossie Bobbsey*

            Above Alison said “his wife” in reference to the OP so it seems to have been confirmed that OP is a man.

      3. JD*

        Yep. Stuff like taking on the “thinking” portion of the work too. Commit to being home in a timely manner and making dinner those nights – including figuring out what to make and buying all the ingredients yourself. It’s all the thinking and figuring out that exhausts me. It’s really no help for my husband to say “I’ll make dinner. What should I make?” Start “seeing” all the things that need to get done – laundry, dishes, lunches, walking the dog, putting away toys and tidying, etc. This website ( has some excellent worksheets that really highlight all the domestic things that need to be done and helps evaluate the workloads of each partner.

        I suspect OP’s wife is actually managing a lot – her work schedule, her personal schedule, the schedule of a toddler (which includes staying on top of when he needs a bath, new clothes, play dates, doctors appointments, what he’ll eat and not eat, when he needs more diapers and wipes, etc, etc, etc) and the schedule of an unborn baby (do you KNOW how many doctors appointments that is?!?). OP’s wife likely feels like she is the last on every list, so when an evening work commitment comes up, I completely understand her frustration.

        It’s not ridiculous to do 2-3 evening events per month, but OP’s wife clearly doesn’t feel like he’s shouldering his share of the domestic work. She likely feels that the she’s left to “figure everything out” and her needs (exercise? an hour of reading a day? a massage or pedicure? dinner with girlfriends?) come absolutely last. AND in order for her to take care of her needs, she’s got to organize a babysitter, figure out what everyone else is going to eat while she’s out for dinner, who’s going to pick up the kid from daycare, etc. It’s so much work for a mother to organize self-care time, and women are generally the ones holding everything together, so it’s really important that they can regularly (like, 2-3 hours a week) get that time in to take care of themselves, without adding more logistical work to making it happen.

        1. birchwoods*

          100% agreed. It doesn’t sound like a lot until you’re the one having to do all the figuring stuff out. By then it’s easier just to do it yourself anyway, and then you feel resentful of having to do it.

        2. Your Weird Uncle*

          OMG agreeeeeeeeee. The ‘figuring stuff out’, as you say, takes up so much mental overhead every. day. And that’s what it is: mental overhead. My husband can be with me in the grocery store and ask, ‘do we have any mayonnaise/pasta/eggs/butter’ and I will be able to tell him the exact inventory, when it expires, when we should buy more, etc. And that is only a portion of the stuff I have stored in my head. To do lists, laundry, toilet cleaning, sending out birthday cards, figuring out dinner, and why-the-hell-has-this-sock-been-in-the-couch-cushion-for-a-week-and-no-one-else-in-this-house-has-noticed-or-bothered-to-pick-it-up?!?

          Who knows how or why someone becomes the default person for these sorts of things, but I think the other partner in this situation generally has no idea and/or just learns to rely on it as a given. And it’s exhausting. OP, please follow JD’s advice and look into how much mental overhead your wife is carrying, and start picking up some of that overhead yourself.

          1. carlie*

            Oh yes. Once when the kids were little, I mentioned how stressed out and upset I was over everything, and my husband said “what are you thinking about that’s stressful?” and lord help me, I blurted it all out for about 5 minutes straight, everything from we’re almost out of juice to what happens when my degree is done. He just sat there stunned for a minute and said “you’re thinking about all that?” and I said “ALL THAT ALL THE TIME OVER AND OVER IT NEVER STOPS”.

            One thing that did really help for us, in the absence of being able to do much else, was to agree to a mutual emergency relief valve. As long as one of us was available for the children, the other one, no matter what time of day, could announce that they Needed To Go Out. That was the the code phrase that gave the user up to about 3 hours of time out of the house, no questions asked, no report back needed, just get the heck out and have some alone time. That covered both “I’ve been with the kids too long” and “Work was horrible and I can’t deal with home stuff right now” and whatever else between. The person left with the kids knew there was a time limit to how long they’d have to deal with the kids/house alone, the person going knew they didn’t have to do something “responsible” with their time. Neither of us used it more than once a week at most (my hazy memory says maybe twice a month), but just knowing it was there and available made all the difference in the world. It was just having that pact of “If I lose it, they have my back”.

            I feel for both sides here. I’m an academic, so I know that your wife might not quite “get” that your after-hour requirements aren’t optional the way she should. Also that it’s frustrating to be the flex-time person, because too often that turns into the all-time person, and you’re left at 10pm swearing at a pile of tests that still needs graded. I agree with everyone that it’s about communication and understanding for both of you knowing what the other person is facing.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Sometimes I think we need a “You Need To Go Out” phrase.
              To get time alone IN our homes!

        3. Trig*

          Thanks for this resource, I think it might come in handy when my partner and I have kids… I just can’t help but wish it could be a bit more inclusive of same-sex couples. So much “father” and “mother” stuff, which is valuable in helping opposite sex couples overcome ingrained gender roles and expectations, but I know working same sex parents likely struggle with this stuff too!

      4. Moose and Squirrel*


        And if they just can’t work it out a few sessions of marriage counseling could help them find middle ground. Think of it as a tune-up for the relationship after the big change of having a child.

      5. MAT*

        Yes I think the OP should think about working from home part or all of the days when he has evening commitments. Maybe on those days he can make dinner so his wife doesn’t have to juggle making dinner and watching the toddler (while also probably being exhausted cause it sounds like she’s pregnant). Even if he can’t wfh, maybe he can commit to making dinner for her the night before he has an event so she can just microwave dinner.

        Also don’t get caught up in what other people with small children at the office do. Your relationship and your wife’s needs are unique and it will not go over well if you just say to her “Well so and so’s husband/wife does it.”

      6. Helpless*

        OP Here: Thanks for the feedback but I don’t think you got the whole story here. We try VERY hard to split the duties evenly while I will admit that she does get stuck with more duties. I wake up every morning with the kid and get him ready. I take him to day care. I put him to bed at night and then I clean the kitchen, do the laundry, do the lawncare, pay the bill, split the cleaning, split the grocery shopping, cook when I can (although I am lousy) split the doctor visits and take on a majority of the childcare on the weekends. Her career is as important to me as my career. She has a bit more flexibility with her schedule and she works in the town that we live in so she is much closer to his daycare.

        1. Mommy*

          You sound like a great parent and partner and that definitely needs to be acknowledged. And also, your response made me smile because that is exactly the kind of stuff my husband rattles off if a discussion like this comes up – and he is right, he does do all of those things. But he could not tell me what size shoes our kids wear. Or even how children’s sizing works, for that matter. He has bought exactly one piece of children’s clothing since we found out I was pregnant with our first and that is over 4 years ago now (and the thing, naturally, was too small and could not be worn by anyone). He doesn’t know how many teeth our 1-year-old has although we do alternate nights getting up with him when he’s teething. Just the other day he sent me a text, in the middle of a workday while I was at work and he was at home, to tell me we were out of milk. Because that is how milk gets into our fridge. He is amazing and I could not ask for a better partner in life. But he is clueless about the majority of things that somehow magically get taken care of at home. Being a default parent is a thing separate from just doing chores or daycare drop-offs. Read about it. Recognize it. Appreciate it. Contribute the default-parent way, not the back-up parent way.

          As far as what to say to your boss about not being able to do part of your job? Honestly, it is not a conversation I can envision without a risk of having to walk away from the job…

          1. Helpless*

            OP Here: My son wears a size 7 shoe and although he is actually younger, his clothes are all 2t. He just popped his second canine and we are waiting any day for his molars to start. I am having a blast teaching him how to brush his teeth, even though he just wants to chew his tooth brush. I schedule his doctor’s appointments and take him for his shots. We are working on counting right now. My wife does get the milk most weeks and orders the diapers when i tell her we are low. When he scraps his knee, he comes to me to kiss it better and then to mom for a hug. I put him to sleep every night and I wake up with him every morning. His first word was dada. We really try to both be the default parent.

            1. JD*

              Hahaha, okay, also, having kids is hard. It’s just hard. All my suggestions, good, but also it’s really just HARD and a LOT OF WORK.

            2. Mommy*

              Well, sounds like maybe you are the default parent! Sorry for misdiagnosing :)

              And sorry for no advice on how to deal with your job on this one. My husband and I are both extremely busy and his actual schedule requires him to work late twice a week so he is usually not home until after the kids are in bed. And those nights suck. And still, neither one of us would think it is reasonable to bring this personal-life exhaustion up as a reason for him to not work late, as opposed to his co-workers who do not have small children.

              1. Michelle*

                I expected OP to say 2-3x a week, 2x a month isn’t that much to be honest. My ex used to go out of town for 2-6 weeks without a second thought, that made me crazy when me going for 2 days involved extensive planning/coverage/directions.

                To OP try making sure she takes a couple nights out a month? It’s nice

            3. yasmara*

              I think you sound like a great parent. Maybe it’s helpful to hear that almost all parents struggle with this? For us, it worked to have our kids have an early bedtime – 7pm for years & years and occasionally during growth spurts and times of emotional stress (starting a new daycare/preschool, kindergarten, etc.) it was 6:30. If we missed the early bedtime window, it actually meant a longer more drawn-out process.

              I wonder if your wife is missing adult connection time with you? Being pregnant is a big physical (and emotional) drain for a lot of women. If you can put off the work until after the kid is in bed, that’s great for the kid-stuff, but it does mean that any time you and your wife would have to connect, talk, etc. is probably taken up by work.

              Occasional evening work is a reality for both me and my husband. We both just try to give the other person a head’s up – “Hey, I have a call with India tonight so I’m going to be on the phone at 10pm.” Or, in my case, “I have a 6am call with Germany tomorrow morning so I’m going to do some prep for it at 9pm after the kids go to bed.” Just a warning that if either of us expected to sit on the porch with a glass of wine we will have to take a rain check.

            4. Anion*

              I dunno, OP. It sounds to me like you’re doing the bulk of the work, honestly. I know this won’t be a popular comment, but I think your wife is being kind of unreasonable here. I mean, I’m a stay-home mom (and a writer) and always have been, so maybe I’m looking at it from a biased or off perspective, but I’m kind of shocked by the idea that it’s a hardship for her–for anyone–to be home alone with their own child for two hours. When I go away for the occasional work event (like an appearance at a con or something), my husband doesn’t complain about having to be alone with the kids for the whole weekend, or when I go out to the store or whatever he doesn’t complain. Work events are work, and they’re necessary.

              Having said that, has this always been an issue or is it just since your wife became pregnant? Because she might be having some depression or something that makes it much harder, or she might be so tired, or whatever. It really is worth looking to hire a Mommy’s Helper or get a relative or friend or someone to come help out on those evenings when you have to work. When my first was born my best friend came over twice a week for a couple of hours just to hang out/help with the baby/let me go nap/whatever–sometimes I slept, but sometimes it was just a relief to have another person in the house, and that was largely because I was so overwhelmed. So it could be that the pregnancy is making her feel really vulnerable, and she could use some company or help.

              See if any of the people at the daycare do any babysitting (the best non-family babysitter we ever had was an employee at Youngest’s nursery school–she already knew and loved Youngest, we knew and trusted her, and she was great with Oldest, too), or maybe go to a local school/college and see if any teaching/early childhood ed/etc. students are looking to make a few extra bucks. They might like not only the cash but the chance to enter the workforce with a ready-made professional reference.

              Best of luck to you!

          2. Snark*

            So he’s a great partner and that needs cursory acknowledgement, but he still needs a good stern lecture about what you assume to be his failings? I think this is just continuing a really unfair assumption that’s rampant in this thread that the problem is OP and he needs to be taken to task, and yeah.

            1. Mommy*

              I am assuming this was in response to my earlier comment… I definitely did not intend anything as a lecture – just sharing experiences, advice that marginally worked in my family and a perspective that his wife might have (and it happens to be the perspective that many commenters here also have as wives/partners/mothers) that is not really stereotyping the LW, but saying “hey, this might be what your wife is thinking/feeling and why”. And absolutely, not in a million years was I pointing out anyone’s “failings”. Being a parent is hard. Having a career is hard. Having your choices and obligations affect other people is hard. I judge no one, we all just do the best that we can to get by!

        2. Kelly*

          I was a young, single mom and did EVERYTHING on my own, so I am a little baffled as to why your wife can’t plan for those couple of nights? It’s not “left to figure it out” if you both know in advance, right? Or am I missing something vital?

          1. Newbie*

            OP, it is great that you do all that. It sounds as if you think you share the load pretty much equally, and that may well be true. But the real issue is: does your *wife* think that? Would she say the same? Because it sounds as if she thinks that an extra few hours here and there will push her over the brink. It sounds as if she doesn’t have any additional energy to give. Now, maybe that’s because she thinks she does more than her fair share of the work (quite possible that she thinks that) or maybe that’s because she’s simply at her maximum even if her maximum is 50% or less (also quite possible). I know that feeling myself. So the question is: how to reduce her load? When her load is reduced, I think she will be more flexible about the after-hours working. You might also offer some kind of concrete evidence that without doing it, you will be fired.

            1. lovelyrita*

              She’s having a second baby, her workload is about to get much heavier. I imagine she’s thinking that if she’s at the breaking point now, what happens after the second baby is born?

            2. kadi*

              I admit I don’t see what my husband does. I’m carrying so much around in my head – occasionally I’ll explode and he’ll remind me of all the things he does that I don’t see.
              When that happens it’s time for us to be alone. No kids. Just us. To remember who we are, what we contribute, what we value. The whole reason we had the kids was because we love one another. Every time we take a break it recharges me. It reminds me why I’m doing it. For us, for him, for me – it is re-energizing.
              I don’t know if it’s a choice, but a breather for just the two of you is one I would add to the many great suggestions you’re getting.

          2. Close Bracket*

            I am sure she could plan for those nights. However, advising her to just act like a single mother is not constructive. She has a partner, and it is reasonable for her to expect her partner to actually act like a partner.

            1. Kelly*

              And if working a couple of evenings per month is his requirement, why can’t that be planned?

              1. Zillah*

                It can be – but we don’t get to decide from the outside what requirements are reasonable and what aren’t.

          1. Loose Seal*

            And there’s nothing wrong with sandwiches one night a week.

            (Obligatory “not everyone can have sandwiches” notification)

            1. Zillah*

              Or salads, even – get lettuce, some fruits/veggies/nuts, and toss them in. It’s super easy.

            2. BananaPants*

              A blogger I follow has “popcorn dinner” every Friday – popcorn with cut up veggies and fruit.

              OP, it may be time for both you and your wife to seriously reconsider your standards of cooking/dining. Sandwiches, a bowl of cereal and piece of fruit, frozen dinners, etc. can all be made quickly and with a minimum of effort. We cook more complex meals on the weekend, but during the week dinner is stuff like a Costco rotisserie chicken with a bagged salad, or PBJ sandwiches and applesauce, or scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.

              1. Paula, with Two Kids*

                I’m a working single mom. Monday thru Thursday, sandwiches pretty much every single night. Friday pizza. I cook Sat/Sun. Just because a family has two parents shouldn’t mean they have to work like they are a family with a stay-at-home parent. Should never feel guilty about making easy dinners.

                1. Amy*

                  We don’t even have kids but do have a long commute. For our weekday dinners, we buy a bunch of chicken breasts every few weeks chop them up in chunks dump them in freezer bags with different marinades and freeze them in a stack. Each night one bag goes into the fridge and then into the oven for a half hour when we get home and served with frozen veggies. I have a friend who thinks eating this way is terrible but we don’t care all the work is front loaded and dinner each night requires no skill and little effort. It also gives us a half hour to decompress after working and commuting so we can enjoy eating dinner together. Since the decision is already made there is no “what do YOU want for dinner” back and forth, there is Dijon chicken in my fridge right now and that’s what I’m having tonight.

            3. kadi*

              I get the feeling she might like the cooking? In which case maybe a quick, earlier dinner for kid(s) and while he’s being put down she can make something for the two of them? I have friends who do this with their FIVE kids and they have a date-night dinner most every night after everyone is in bed.

      7. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Did the OP say they are a man? I didn’t notice mentioning their gender so this could be a lesbian couple as well.

      8. JD*

        I agree.

        I’ve found this website ( and concept to be very helpful in initiating productive discussions about the amount of “domestic” work that is required to run a household. It can be very eye-opening. There are some worksheets on this site that are helpful in understanding the division of labour and providing many ideas of where to start to balance it out.

        In my opinion, as an ambitious mother with a somewhat demanding (on-call 24/7) career in a male-dominated industry, it’s not necessarily getting paid help to fill in the gaps (although I’m not going to knock it!). It’s all the thinking and planning work that goes into running a household and raising kids. There is a whole other career (mental work) of tracking daycare/school schedules, food preferences, outgrown clothes and shoes, diaper supplies, meal planning and grocery shopping, changing the sheets on the bed, switching the laundry, remembering to run the dishwasher, walking the dog, cleaning out the cat litter, etc etc etc. And currently, on top of that, OP’s wife is managing all aspects of pregnancy, prenatal care and checkups which is taxing and time consuming on it’s own! So I suspect help with the “thinking” (and execution!) part of the domestic sphere would be appreciated greatly. And not just on nights where OP has work commitments. At least once a week. Something like planning a meal EVERY TUESDAY and shopping for the groceries, managing daycare drop off and pick up, cooking, cleanup, bath time AND bedtime and free time for wife would go a loooong way.

      9. Elysian*

        Maybe I’m too late for the OP – I hope not! – but one thing I realized shortly after having my baby was that my husband was helping SO MUCH but it just wasn’t the help that I needed. He was doing things he disliked and spent a lot of time doing that he thought would make me happy (like doing the laundry) when really I would so much rather have done the laundry myself because I don’t mind that chore and I wanted a baby break. He thought he was doing all sorts of things so I could focus all my attention on the baby, but sometimes I just wanted to focus on something other than the baby. So we were both doing a ton of work and both felt unappreciated, until we figured out how to switch some tasks around so that the same stuff was getting done, but now we were a better balance of things we preferred to do. I don’t know if this is something that could work for the OP, but it has worked pretty well for us. The same things get done, they take the same amount of time, but now we both feel like we have the better end of the bargain because the other person is doing the thing we don’t like to do.

      10. Rachael*

        I agree with this. Something tells me that she is upset because she never gets time off from the kids. OP, maybe you should look into taking the kids, yourself, for a couple of nights a month to even it out. That way you can say, I need to work these nights but I can take the kids on these nights so you can relax. Because it may be that even when you are both there she is doing most of the childcare and then is left with 100% when you are working.

    4. Helpless*

      OP Here: Thanks for this. I wonder if anyone has any feedback about what kinds of boundaries are acceptable for me to set with my work.

      1. Snark*

        My feeling is that you can ask for a temporary reprieve when the newborn arrives, and ask for no more than 3 evenings per month with as much lead time as possible.

      2. Flossie Bobbsey*

        Would it be possible to shift your work to after the baby goes to bed, if bedtime is part of what’s making the current arrangement problematic? Maybe blocking off 6:30 to 8:30 (for example) as unavailable but making clear that after 8:30 you can log back on and give your full attention for several hours?

      3. JD*

        I don’t think what work is expecting is ridiculous. If you’re not getting more than a couple days notice for evening events, that could be one thing you could ask for boundaries on – for example, saying you can’t commit unless you’ve got at least one weeks notice (7 days). That seems reasonable. Also, if you commit to doing childcare pick up 1-2 days a week, then you absolutely must leave the office no later than 4:30. Also reasonable, I believe.

        You may feel like you’re struggling a bit more on the work front because as a society, we’re not used to seeing men leave work early to attend to children, or taking a day off to care for sick kids. There probably aren’t other fathers at your workplace that say “hey, I can’t come to the meeting at 5, I have to pick up the baby”. There probably aren’t any role models in that respect. You’re blazing a trail for new fathers here! And it’s not easy, for sure.

        1. JD*

          Anecdotally, one such father at my workplace had been calling in sick to care for a sick toddler, and another colleague (man) heard that Fergus had called in sick “again” and replied “come on! Doesn’t he have a wife for that?!?!”. It was pretty terrible.

          1. Paquita*

            A lady in my department calls in to care for her sick kid, or take them to appointments. Her husband does NOT WORK and is home all day.

          2. Amy*

            My brother gets this a lot, but from his boss who is a mother. I guess since she had to do that kind of stuff she doesn’t get why he is doing it.

        2. Helpless*

          I agree. I think the there is a gender assumption that childcare is not my responsibility. My wife is a PhD and way more accomplished than I will ever be yet SHE is supposed to let her career suffer for childcare? She’s worked too hard for that. What I truly want is equity. She has fewer evening engagements but I wish she would have more. That way I could say “no sweat, I got this”, which I do any chance I get.

          1. oldbiddy*

            Pregnancy can be tough, and toddlers are a lot of work. You sound like you are already doing a lot, and hopefully the two of you will be able to brainstorm some fixes, either temporary or permanent. Some of the suggestions here would be a good way to start the discussion – mention the ones that seem the most useful and see what sticks.
            One thing that hasn’t been mentionned very much by the commenters, although you alluded to it, is the decompression aspect of it. I’m an introvert and by the end of the day I really need a bit of time to myself, esp. if I’ve spent the day being “on”. It took a long time for my extrovert husband to really get that – sometimes I’d snap at him. With toddlers, you’re “on” all the time. She might be getting her decompression time when you’re home but not when you have to work late.

          2. Zillah*

            Hmm. It sounds like she does have evening engagements pretty often, though – they’re just in the form of work she can do at home. I’m wondering whether it would make sense for you to look at her bringing her work home as being similar to your evening events, and start treating it as such if you don’t already?

          3. JamieS*

            Would it be possible for you and your wife to establish a few times each month where she has evening commitments and you’re solo with junior? The commitments could be in the form of her focusing on the work she brings home, a night out with friends, joining a book club, etc. Basically just time for your wife to be able to focus on herself. I think that’d go a long way towards your wife being more open about you occasionally having to work evenings and will help with mental fatigue she may be experiencing.

            As for your work, set clear expectations for how often you’ll be available for evenings and if possible establish specific days you’ll be available (ie you’re available every other Tuesday). From the letter it sounds like you’re hesitant to do that because you don’t want to seem like you’re slacking off work duties due to being a parent.

            If that’s an accurate statement, the best thing to do is to do a 180 and drive away from that mindset as quickly as possible. As a dedicated parent of absolutely nobody I can assure you it’s perfectly reasonable for anyone regardless of parenthood status to not always be available to work evenings and to set clear expectations on when you will be available. I do so and unless you’re already a slacker (hope not!) or work in a toxic environment people probably aren’t going to fault you for saying you aren’t able to work evenings whenever at the drop of a pin. Most everybody has a life that extends beyond just work.

            Main takeaways from my ramble: find time for your wife to focus on herself and establish when you’ll be available to work evenings.

      4. nonymous*

        Try looking at the policies of family-friendly workplaces as a start. For example, my employer gives me credit for extra hours I work, and I can use them like extra vacation days.

        Regarding coordination with the spouse, I’m going to assume that what you do now is an even division, with both of you working at fullest potential. So when you add the task of working late, consequently you are doing less at home and that means she has to pick up the slack at home and then something else in her life (work, self-care) has to be sacrificed. So what are you doing at home to make up for it? Are you taking some other home responsibility (e.g. doing more than your share of laundry or meal prep or cleaning – even if that just means hiring it out)? Are you doing any planning/prep ahead of time so that late work evenings == leftover day? Does your wife get a “late evening” of her own on some subsequent week?

        Consider also that your wife might really be saying “This is too much for me to handle”. When I was in grad school I saw that most of the professors really needed to put in 2 -4 hours after dinner to stay on top of their duties during the week. It may simply be that your career paths both depend on having access to an underemployed spouse (or live in domestic) to do the work of housekeeping/childcare. While I completely understand that it is not always possible to outsource bedtime routines, please do look into outsourcing the rest of it, because it sounds like both of you are at your limits.

        1. nonymous*

          OP, I know you’re asking about how to push back to employers, but I also ask you to take a critical look at the parents whom you and your wife work with.

          They might have more resources for labor than you, or they might have really low standards. Or your employer may not be family-friendly. The original letter states you’re concerned about losing your job, so I’m not sure how asking to do less work will be well-received.

        2. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

          “Most of the professors really needed to put in 2-4 hours after dinner to stay on top of their duties.

          THIS. I admit I only made it about 500 comments in, but so far everything has focused on OPs wife’s extra childcare duties and need for a break. But the OP specified that his wife regularly brings work home. So the time when he is regularly doing bedtime is not time off that she is losing when he works late 3x a month (which is ~15% of work days in a typical month!) she is losing work time. Imagine if, instead of working at home, she split her shift and went back to the office every night at dinner time when the OP got home. I do not think people would be suggesting things like “give her some extra time to recharge and take a break on the weekend or another evening!” as a solution. Does she have sufficient hours in the day with childcare to complete the work she needs to do in a day on days you work in the evening?

          1. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

            ETA: read the thread earlier today on my phone and apparently missed a ton of comments. My statement above is pretty inaccurate. This does get addressed below including a really great thread dedicated to it. Reading comprehension fail :(

      5. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think it seems reasonable to start with short term boundaries, during the pregnancy/right after birth. Look into what kind of family leave your company offers or consider applying for FMLA to help take care of your family if you can.

        And have an honest conversation with your boss. “Wife is expecting in Month and I’m going to need to cut back on my evening obligations as much as possible during this time. What events are non-negotiable for me to attend and which can I get a pass on?”

      6. Heavysnaxx*

        I, too, am a senior-level non-profit person whose role requires attending community events. Because I’m also significantly disabled (since birth), I’ve struggled to balance “keeping up” with my peers with setting reasonable expectations. Different from your situation but similar in that we both have barriers that we typically think are private problems that call for private solutions, e.g., you find money for a babysitter. But my first thought was about childcare at these events. It may not be an easy systemic issue to address but, depending on what branch of the nonprofit sector you’re in, it might be one that would get more traction than you expect.

        Because your wife is also pregnant, I’d strongly encourage you to see what, if any, paid family leave (PFL) benefits your state has. In CA, most employees pay into it and it’s administered through the same system that handles unemployment and short-term disability. I believe that, like unpaid FMLA, paid family leave can be taken in small increments, if that’s what you need. PFL would, ideally, be available to both you and your wife.

        In terms of setting boundaries, what’s worked for me is approaching and presenting it as a planning matter. I’m not complaining or coming in with a crisis; my bosses have usually been more open when I’m matter of factly explaining a barrier, my proposed solutions, and confirming we’ll revisit any changes if the powers that be develop concerns. It demonstrates strength in planning, problem-solving, and communication. Go for it!

        Because your wife is also pregnant, I’d strongly recommend you looking into whether your sta

      7. Close Bracket*

        You can reasonably set the same boundaries that a childless person can try to set. Your job duties are not set according to the number of children you have.
        The question should be, what can I offer my wife to make up for my nights away from home? For example, would it be helpful for her to spend some evenings outside the house to get her take-home work done while you take the kid for that evening?

      8. krfp13*

        I would suggest:
        1. First try to uncover a true reflection of what the expectations are at work. Do you see people on your level/with similar requirements/the person who was last in your job and successful at it attending these evening events only twice monthly? Or is it more once or twice a week? How much notice do they expect to get that these are happening, same day or a few weeks? I would be both discuss this with your boss from the perspective of wanting to be able to fill his/her expectations successfully, and also discuss with your coworkers to get the feel in the trenches for what reality really is (you mentioned only that your boss told you this, but often that’s not the end of the story).
        2. Once you have a good picture of that, you can talk to your wife about what your family will realistically need to expect from this job. You and she can negotiate to determine what would make this doable for her.
        3. Then, if necessary, after steps 1 and 2, you circle back to your boss and tell him that because it is so important to you to be there for your family, you were wondering if it would be possible to do x (frequency), y (notice/lead time), z (some other arrangement), if that would work for him.

        Maybe you’ll find out your boss talks a tough game, but nobody else takes it seriously and it hasn’t affected their advancement. Maybe you’ll find out s/z/he’s playing it straight and you have to figure out how to make this work or leave, or maybe you’ll find out s/z/he’s horribly sexist and you don’t want to work for a creep.

        I do think your wife needs extra support due to the pregnancy, I think you do too. I really recommend couples counseling not because I think you are in crisis but because I think that we don’t learn how to communicate in relationships without awareness that it’s important and some effort. Having a professional help you is just a shortcut to getting that information when you are already pressed for time, but you could do your own research and reading on the subject too. It’s okay to ask for help, is the bottom line I guess. Glad you reached out to the community here.

      9. TootsNYC*

        yeah, we’re getting pretty far afield, and away from “boundaries to set with my work”

        The thing is, your job needs what it needs. If you work in a nonprofit, I can totally imagine that many of your stakeholders will be employed during the day and need contact w/ your organization at night.

        People who are on the City Council have to attend evening meetings. It’s just what it is.

        And if you have to attend meetings with board members, that’s likely to be an evening.
        A fundraiser? It can’t be in the evening.
        If these events involve people who are outside the organization, they can’t be eliminated.

        So then that leaves: Does it have to be you?
        And sometimes, since you’re pretty far up the org chart, it probably does. If I were a board member, I would want to meet with the top folk; I wouldn’t be happy to meet with substitutes.
        If I were a donor, ditto.
        For a fundraiser? Maybe it doesn’t have to be you all the time.

        So maybe the thing to do is determine (and discuss w/ your boss) how many these evenings must be you, and can’t be someone else.

        Personally, I think it’s not fair for a job to drop evening work on people without a couple of weeks’ notice.
        And I think it’s fair to press for trying to make most of these events happen on the same weeknight, or in some sort of predictable pattern.

        I think you are a far better judge of what kind of “return on investment” your organization gets for your time at these things. So that’s something to consider as well–Maybe you can meet with board members in person during the day most of the time, or something.

      10. BananaPants*

        Honestly, it sounds like what they’re expecting/asking of you is pretty typical for someone at your level. You can ask for a temporary break for a month or two after the baby arrives, but your participation in several evening events per month is part of your job. Your boss has made that clear to you, and this is not an uncommon or unreasonable expectation.

        1. CheerfulPM*

          Agreed! I would even argue that it might be best for him to think about some leeway with that for the first few weeks, but then for the first few months AFTER his wife goes back to work. I did some nights solo with both kids in the first weeks after I went back to work and it pretty much broke me (even though I had been able to handle it at the end of leave). The difference was, I had been working all day.

          1. TootsNYC*

            When my daughter was born, my husband had JUST started a new job. I did ALL nighttime awakenings, because I had a 4-month maternity leave, and he had to go into work and make a good impression!

            So I would be saying, “try to have no evenings in week 2, but then I’m going to need you in that Fifth Trimester*.”

            *which book, see.

      11. KellyK*

        It’s kind of hard to say, because it depends so much on your j0b. A temporary reprieve when the newborn arrives, like Snark suggested, is really reasonable. (I’d extend that into the last month or so of pregnancy depending on how your wife is doing physically and emotionally. Especially once she gets toward that “could have the baby any day now” stage, the last thing you want is for work to be counting on you for major events.)

        I also think asking your boss about prioritization would be helpful. In his ideal world, there might be 8 events that you could go to in a given month (hypothetical number), but maybe 1-2 is reasonable while you have a newborn and 3-4 is reasonable going forward. Not all those events might be equal, so it might be a question of *which* 3-4.

        That helps you plan. If you know the XYZ events are really necessary and the ABC events are a nice to have, then XYZ nights can be the focus, with planning way in advance, ordering pizza for dinner, whatever makes it work. And you can hit ABC events based on your wife’s schedule. When she’s grading finals, maybe not. During winter break, sure.

        Since you’re worried about your job, it makes sense to try to show commitment by doing more than the minimum when you can.

        Depending on the kind of events, you might also ask about prioritization on *number* of events versus duration. That is, is it more important to show your face at most events, or to stay the whole time at the ones you do go to?

    5. Tired HR*

      I didn’t read all the comments, because there were a lot! But I did scan through and I didn’t really see much focus on the questions about hours working requirements, etc.
      “I also wonder, what boundaries are normal for a parent of a young child to set with their workplace? Is it okay for me to say that I can’t work evenings and that weekends are out of the question? How many hours beyond the dedicated 40 hours a week is appropriate?”

      I will tackle this. There are no boundaries that are normal for a parent of a young child to set with their workplace. You are not the boss. They are. Asking for some give and take is fine. But if they say “No, we need this from you”, then either you play by their rules, or you find something more flexible. No, it’s not o.k. to say that working evenings and weekends are out of the question, because, see previous statement. As many hours as they need you to do the job is appropriate.

      You stated that you are a senior member of the organization, so you are most likely an exempt employee. That means that you are exempt from overtime and you are expected to work the amount of hours it takes to get the job done. If you are at a senior level, you probably already (or should) realize this.

      Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of companies that don’t require you to work a ton of hours over 40. I work for one of those myself. But I have in the past worked at companies that the expectation was 14 hours a day and to be on call 24/7. That’s one reason why I’m with my current company and not with the previous one. I didn’t want to live like that.
      If your current company’s expectations are too much, then definitely start the search for a new job. You can ask, but don’t expect them to change their requirements for your position because you have a child. I always hated when people expected special treatment because they have a family. That is your choice and it should not affect your production for your company.

    6. Fiona*

      I agree with the paid help comment. Get a babysitter or something for the evenings you have to work. It also sounds like she’s doing a lot more around the house than you are…cooking, carrying your baby, being EXHAUSTED and possibly nauseated from carrying your baby. You need to make her life as easy as possible now.

    7. Clisby Williams*

      Just based on this letter, I have no clue what LW’s wife’s perspective is. Surely she realizes that professionals don’t just work 9-5. If part of his job is working 2 (or 4, or 6) evenings a month, then that’s what it is – he has to do it. Seems to me they’re lucky they don’t need extra childcare. One thing that occurs to me is that if this seems to be a problem for the wife, LW could do more in the mornings. Not just take the kid to daycare, but prep the food for dinner, maybe even get the crockpot going.

  2. Muppet Herder*

    Have you looked into hiring a local teenager to look after your son on evenings when you have to work? They could be a “mother’s helper” sort who comes into your home and entertains your child while your wife makes dinner/takes a long bath/reads a book in the bedroom alone.

    1. Ivy Gator*

      This was going to be my suggestion. If you can afford to hire someone to help, it sounds like a possible solution.

    2. Xarcady*

      This. Or the mother’s helper could arrive as soon as your wife gets home with the child, and take care of the child while your wife decompresses from the work day, does her take-home work, etc. And then she might be better able to care for the child alone in the evening.

      I know the OP said that they don’t really have anyone who can look after the child, but that is a problem that can be fixed. If they start now looking for one or two caregivers, they will have the time to observe them as they play with the child and will be able to pick a caregiver or two who meet their needs. If they wait until there is an emergency, they will have to use whatever caregiver they can find.

    3. Mouse*

      Yes! I babysit two amazing little boys, and about 50% of the time one of the parents is present in the house. They’re both college professors (I was in one of their classes), so they often need peace and quiet to work but don’t necessarily want to leave their home office, so I keep the boys occupied while they close their door and work. I’ve been looking after them 1-3 times a week for over two years now, and I love the boys so much! The parents trust me, they give me life advice, they’ve met my fiance, and honestly I feel more like an aunt who happens to get paid than “just” a babysitter.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      After some thought, I think this is the way to go even if it seems obvious. Yes, it costs money, but sometimes money is what will fix a problem.

      You’re probably saving on daycare if your wife is able to pick the toddler up by 4 every day. But she does need that time in the evenings to do her work–and when you’re pregnant, putting in the extra hours late at night after the toddler is asleep can be really hard from a physiological ‘but my eyes are shut’ point of view.

      My own experience is that “I have a work thing tonight” is most hackles raising when the kids are very small and need constant attention lest they climb some new and inappropriate object. But at this stage, it really is a big ask in a lot of cases.

    5. Specialk9*

      Not only hiring a helper for the hours from daycare to bed, but also help with the other housecare. OP, you’re worried about losing your job, so think of this as spending money to keep your income.

      Hire a housekeeper. I pay $100, twice a month.

      Do at least half of the laundry and dishes. My husband does laundry and I fold; he puts away dishes and I fill the dishwasher/scrub pots.

      Get groceries delivered. Peapod charges only $7 to shop for you and bring it to your door (under $2 if you get yearly subscription).

      Cook yourself, or hire a meal delivery service (Foodery is all pre cooked whole foods,) or get healthy prepared foods from the store. Pregnant mom who just watched baby should be lying down while you get food. Every night. Every single night. Every. Single. Night.

      I have a toddler the same age and a health issue that mimics the exhaustion of pregnancy. I would have a very hard time if my husband didn’t come home to spell me, especially if I put in a full day of work (pregnant and exhausted), spent several long hours solo with a toddler (pregnant and exhausted) and then was expected to pick up more hours solo? There would be some long, serious marriage discussions going on.

      So find ways to reduce the physical and psychological strain of the woman who is creating your baby from her own body. You have the easiest part of this equation, by a thousand. Pick up your slack and start paying to solutions.

      1. Adlib*

        All of these are amazing suggestions. We do a lot of these in our house, and we don’t have kids. It’s amazing the amount of mental space that kind of stuff takes up, and it’s a relief to not worry about it.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Same, no kids but a monthly cleaning service and grocery delivery weekly have made life exponentially easier for both of us. Oh, and a robot vacuum. No more arguing about whose turn it is to change the sheets or vacuum/sweep up the dog hair. Run out of milk? Add it to the Prime Now list instead of relying on the other person to pick it up.

      2. Fiona*

        No….he needs to do MORE than half the chores if his wife is carrying the baby. That is a huge contribution to their family.

    6. Helpless*

      OP Here: I think this is a wonderful idea. It is hard to add this additional expense but may be necessary.

        1. Zillah*

          I think that can be a bit dependent on the person, though – I do understand and agree with what you’re saying, but I think that there’s often a societal undercurrent that certain things don’t really matter, and that’s not necessarily the case. I know people who need to work out or watch Netflix to recharge – when they can’t, they often end up with more problems than they had before. It’s obviously not universally the case – I just wanted to mention that.

          1. fposte*

            Sure. But the OP and his wife are going to have to go without something they have right now, even if it’s only leaving alone their massive trust fund. They’re getting into a situation where they need to ask themselves if keeping Netflix is more important than staying married.

    7. Rebecca in Dallas*

      My mother-in-law does that when she watches her grandkids (maybe one weekend a month). She gets way to overwhelmed with dinner and bath time, so she found a high schooler in the neighborhood to come over just to help her out during those times. The mother’s helper will entertain the kids while grandma gets dinner put together and on the table, can straighten up the kitchen a little while they eat, then helps out with bath time.

      I’m a fan of throwing money at the problem sometimes! We used to argue about various house-cleaning tasks, especially after we got a dog that sheds a fair amount. We decided to hire a cleaning service to come in once a month and it has made the biggest difference! Money well spent.

  3. Kyrielle*

    OP, this one is hard. I’ve been in your wife’s shoes – I’m not in academia, but I work a shifted schedule in the corporate world and leave mid-afternoon – but my kids are a bit older.

    If you can afford it? My solution would be to hire a baby-sitter, nanny, or mother’s helper to be there for your wife on at *least* those evenings when you had to work (and maybe some others: as a bonus, this would give you someone used to your child, and whom you were used to, to watch them while you had an occasional date night, also).

    Solo care of young children is rewarding. It’s also exhausting. But if the expectations of your job include evening work and it’s going to hold back your career to keep ducking it, you either need additional child-care/assistance, or you need to shift careers or roles enough to reduce or remove that expectation. (Or, if you think it will limit advancement but not cost you your current job, you could make the choice to keep on as you are and live with the professional consequences, but based on your letter that doesn’t sound likely to be what you want.)

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      +1 on the Nanny

      +100 on the “or you need to shift careers or roles enough to reduce or remove that expectation”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If the expectations of your job include evening work and it’s going to hold back your career to keep ducking it, you either need additional child-care/assistance, or you need to shift careers or roles enough to reduce or remove that expectation.

      This is really well put.

      And for his wife’s job–she isn’t expected to be physically present at an outside event in the evenings, but she is expected to do several hours of work. She is not free from work responsibilities after 3:00, she just has some flexibility as to location and precise hours.

      1. Snark*

        Which is why I think the kid needs to stay in daycare for the full day. The solution is literally right there, and nobody seems to be picking up on it.

          1. Snark*

            Any solution might not be feasible, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth bringing up. We have no reason to assume this one isn’t feasible – or at least, worth consisdering and discussing with the wife – based on what OP told us. And while I totally get that switching daycares is a massive pain in the ass, if the daycare’s hours and location are problematic, that’s not insurmountable.

              1. Helpless*

                We’ve looked but he is most comfortable here. We live in a small town with few options. He is really happy in his current situation.

              2. Anon Mom*

                Switching daycare provider when there’s about to be a new sibling in the mix is going to put a LOT of stress on this little guy. This is should be an absolutely last-resort option, if even considered. I wouldn’t do it.

                1. Emi.*

                  Well, the current situation is a lot of stress on both the parents, and that’s before they go back to taking care of an infant!

                2. Zillah*

                  @Emi. – Right, but it’s not going to alleviate their stress if their toddler is reacting poorly to significant changes in his life.

                3. LoiraSafada*

                  Not to mention not all areas have a high quality option to just switch to on a whim. My friends with kids in my area had to get their kids on a waiting list for even an ‘average’ daycare provider (that is still $$$$).

                4. Emi.*

                  @Zillah Sure, they should take that into consideration! I just wanted to push back on the idea that switching shouldn’t even be considered.

        1. Kyrielle*

          This is a good point. It needn’t be every day, either, if they’re trying to keep their child with them more than care-providers as much as possible – but on days when the OP has to work late, perhaps their child could stay until closer to dinner/closing. His wife could then do work in the afternoon, and if cooking and watching the child at the same time is a problem (and it can be, in my experience), use leftovers/made-ahead food/takeout.

    3. Nat*

      You know, I had a career with minimal time flexibility, a 5 year old, newborn twins and my husband was an accountant during busy season. I just dealt with it. I was probably pretty pissed a lot, but I am not sure I would have ever considered that my husband should shift careers or reduce his role/expectation as that would really, really impact his and our family’s future. Even now with a teenager and elementary-aged twins there are times when I want to pull my hair out as they all need to go in 3 different directions. This is what happens when you have kids. it can be really, really tough. To be clear, however, they do not have a childcare issue – that would be if his wife worked every evening and there was no childcare provider open during that time (or something like that).

      Most have already indicated that the only other option here is to hire care during this time, and that is probably true. There may be some high schools that have a list of approved/trained babysitters or those that need volunteer hours, or a church may have a list of “grannies” that would love to serve as a mother’s helper to do other tasks ,etc. I see no other option.

      1. EC*

        I suffered from major burnout in my previous career and took a year off to work as a personal assistant. As a side note, this led to a fabulous new career for which I’m very thankful. During my year as a personal assistant, my hours were earlier, typically 7:30am-3:30ish. Through the grapevine, I met a family who needed someone to shop and prepare dinner for them 2-3 nights/week. I would draft up several menus and the mom would pick out what she liked for the week. I’d stop by their house, take inventory of what they had, note ingredients I needed, shop, cook (usually enough for 2 meals, so they could have leftovers the next day), walk the dog while they ate and then clean up the kitchen. All in, about 3-3.5 hours at a time and it helped this family SO MUCH! Their two sons were in high school, played sports, and they were all pulled in different directions. They wanted to focus on family dinners and simply didn’t have the time/energy to pull this off on their own. Sometimes they wouldn’t all be there, but they were so grateful for the help. And these weren’t particularly complicated meals either. Just regular healthy dinners such as roast chicken with quinoa salad, etc. Stuff you’d like to have for supper, but don’t usually have enough time to make on your own.

        1. Vanessa*

          Good on you, what an awesome thing to do! I can imagine that being very helpful. I would love to hire someone to do that but it isn’t financially possible right now. Hopefully soon!

        2. Your Weird Uncle*

          I love this idea! My stepkids are younger (primary and middle school) but both super active in sports which we don’t see decreasing as they get older. I would love to have something like this! :)

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        “… they do not have a childcare issue …”

        I am going to disagree. They do have an issue with childcare, namely that each parent is not able to equitably contribute to childcare in the evening. The fact that the wife is not at the office in the evenings does not mean it is not an issue. The wife has clearly stated to the husband that it is in fact an issue. She gets to decide what is an issue for her.

      3. fisharenotfriends*

        Nat, perhaps not intended but I find your comment quite rude. Essentially you’re saying that you had it much harder than the OP’s partner and that she just needs to suck it up, and she shouldn’t be prioritizing what she needs. We don’t know if the OP’s wife has asked him to reprioritize his life, we only know the OP is seeing his wife being frustrated and he has asked for suggestions on how to balance all this. I don’t think it’s fair to just tell the wife to tough it out, and I commend the OP for seeing this and asking for help.

        OP, I think if you’re worried about balancing everything, you need to ask yourself and your wife where you want to prioritize your time. Sit down first and foremost and have a conversation with her about what is lacking and decide together how you want to try and ameliorate the situation. Allow her to air her grievances, but don’t leave it to her to figure out how to fix the problem by herself. Other people on here have given good places to look if you decide for external childcare, or perhaps you’ll both decide that the time you have right now with your children is precious and one or both of you will dial back professional ambitions for the time being. Perhaps you’ll hear that she is frustrated, but she thinks the way you are doing things is the best way. I’d ask you to consider whether or not the time either of you spends with your child is quality, having fun as a family time, or if it’s busywork to get things done. As a child, I really didn’t care who got me dressed or off to daycare, or who fed me what during the day, I cared if someone would race cars with me or read me a bedtime story. I feel like your wife might have some guilt about not staying home with her kids (I feel like in academia it can especially rough) and compensating by leaving early, and doing busywork with her baby when maybe the answer is to leave the kid a little longer and charge through the other tasks so that the time she spends with baby is the happy time.

        If it puts anyones mind at ease, my mother was MISERABLE as a stay at home mom, and she was much happier hiring a full time nanny even if it ate most of her salary. I feel like there is so much pressure on moms no matter what the decide to do, but ultimately I feel like I am better off for having someone who was happy to take care of me, and that if my mother had stayed home our relationship would have been a lot harder. Also, if either of you are really passionate about your careers and goals you shouldn’t feel the need to sacrifice them.

        1. Helpless*

          OP Here: Thank you for this feedback. My wife has never asked me to switch careers only set boundaries and expectations. There in lies the challenge. I am not sure what is acceptable.

          The time we spend with our son is VERY quality. Our home life is amazing. We play outside, we cook together, we play cars, we go to the zoo, we read. We are always having a good time. I am not worried about the quality time (if it were feasible, I would spend every day with him).

          Your sentiment about there being so much pressure on moms, I hope to share some of that pressure but the expectation is often that because I am the dad, there is a mom out there to take care of my child. I do think it is important for my wife to cover me and for me to cover my wife on occasion though.

          1. Courtney*

            I don’t think it’s really fair to simply state that is the expectation – that because you’re the dad, there is a mom to take care of the child. Perhaps (I hope) you just mean that tends to be the mindset of your company’s culture, but realize that it’s a sexist mindset and not one that is truly fair. If you were a woman, what would they be saying regarding you having a child and needing to attend these work events at night?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I read that as meaning that it’s tougher to explain the situation to his boss because people (not the OP) tend to assume a man doesn’t have child-caring responsibilities.

            2. Ellie*

              They would probably have mummy-tracked him… not expected him to cover the nights but not considered him for promotion either.

          2. TL -*

            If you really feel that way, have you considered being a stay at home dad?

            There are tons of reasons why that may not be a good idea of course, but it’s worth considering if you haven’t. Academia is set up to be easier with a stay at home partner and with a second baby on the way, it might make financial sense.

  4. KR*

    Hi OP. Your situation sounds really hard. I’m sorry. Is there a way you could afford a baby sitter or someone to help your wife in the evenings when you have to work? Otherwise I have to say honestly it seems like your wife is being the unreasonable one here.

    1. A person*

      It sounds like it might be about more than just that though – if the wife feels like she’s already doing the vast majority of the work with child care and taking care of the household (like cooking dinner every night before doing the work she brings home) she’s not unreasonable in refusing to take on even more.

      I absolutely agree that getting a babysitter is a great first step in finding a solution to the problem! But I do think the OP should talk to the wife and find out what else she might want some help with.

      1. Artemesia*

        Probably the key point here. When we had two careers, I cooked dinner during the week because my schedule worked better for that, BUT my husband cooked on the weekend and would prepare more elaborate meals and also plan for leftovers we could use during the week. So knowing I had meatloaf, or beef stew for at least one meal during the coming week and perhaps a nice roast chicken left over for another made my daily grind easier. We also were a team on other household management and when we could afford it hired a cleaner every couple weeks to do the deep clean.

        We focused on how much ‘time off’ each of us had for ourselves. The problem here MIGHT be that she not only has full kid duty weekdays often but that much of the rest falls on her two so she rarely has respite. Academic work also tends to expand to fill the time available, so she may need to explore ways to manage her own time better.

        All of this is much more than just the working late and the fact that if it is seldom occurring and this is still such a big deal, there may be a bunch of other issues of inequity in how they manage their household responsibilities. It is easy to get into a rut on this.

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh gosh yes, 1-2 big things of food to eat all week. On Sundays I feel strong, I make one of these: chili, beans and rice (with frozen veggies, extra beans, ground beef), casserole, shepherds pie (w veggies), etc.

          I pack up lunch containers for me and the baby – entrees, cut fruit (fresh or frozen), veggies, yogurt, etc. They’re all ready to grab and throw in a lunch bag, or feed the baby. I have long clear fridge bins for me and baby – I stack the containers, then can pull out the whole bin when I need food.

        2. Helpless*

          OP Here: Comments heard but I will say that I do a lot of the household duties including cleaning the kitchen, laundry, yard work (big yard), pay the bills take out the trash, split cleaning duties etc. I wake up every day with the kid and on the weekend spend several hours alone in order to get my wife some extra hours of sleep. I am SO happy to do all of this if it means that she gets some respite. She cooks, because she has a talent for it and likes to do it. I really try to take on or help in every other aspect of our lives.

          1. nonymous*

            Well clearly you don’t have time to do everything yourselves (otherwise you + wife wouldn’t both be asking for a break).

            It’s not all or nothing – your wife can make fancy dinners 1x/week instead of 3x/week, and you can get a landscaper to deal with lawn but still do the edging and quarterly tasks. Do what you do, just cut back on what isn’t contributing to the priorities of time @ work and time w/kid.

          2. Emi.*

            I wonder, when you say that you split tasks, whether you’re also splitting the mental load associated with those tasks? You haven’t said anything to make me think that you’re not (and you’re clearly not slacking here!) but you haven’t addressed it explicitly so I’ll throw it out there to consider. If your wife is carrying all or most of the mental load of split tasks, that could have a big impact on how stressed and burdened she feels.

    2. Amy*

      I wouldn’t be so quick to say the wife is unreasonable. Apparently there is a common phenomenon that bread winner women tend to also be the main cooks and housekeepers, so it would be understandable that the wife doesn’t want to add more to her plate. Maybe instead of going to your employer and stating you can’t work, perhaps compromising with your wife (such as you Have this day to be responsible for everything because I won’t be home and in return I take this day where I do everything and you can be outside the home doing whatever you need for self care) might be the path with least resistance vs. going to your company and saying you can’t be available.

    1. Still Lurking*

      Honestly, it HAS to be for anyone with children and a career. I am a single parent to an autistic child and I work a full time demanding finance job and am in my last year of a part time masters (4.0!) and I have made it work. There is so much sacrifice and $ spent on top of me getting some help occasionally from super aunts/uncle and grandma and grandpa. The main thing I self-advocate for is my mental health. It can be tough some days/weeks but I am willing to paint my own fingers and toes or go periods without visiting my hair dresser to make up the $ for additional child care if it is needed. Also, OP, if you are reading this: COMMUNICATE with your wife openly and honestly and you two should set up some expectations – and please do it before baby #2 arrives. I work in an environment where there are people who lost their marriages due to work (and subsequently meet their next spouse here). I wish you all the best of luck!

  5. Christy*

    Do you have a babysitter? I know it’s not ideal to have to use a babysitter or mother’s helper for a work event but it sounds like it would be the easiest way to deal with this.

    And if you don’t have a babysitter then I strongly advocate you get one. Date nights are important! Plus it’s good to have someone in case of some sort of emergency later.

    1. Erin*

      Maybe the wife enjoys her baby and hates housework. If you know and trust a teenager maybe they can come over a couple times a week and clean up the house for cash. My husband and I don’t have kids. But we have animals and when he leaves town and I have to work an abnormal schedule the neighbor kid comes over and lets the dogs out and checks their water and waters our chickens and checks for eggs. It takes him 10 minutes a day for a couple days and it makes my life so much easier. So I’m not in the backyard messing around with a garden hose in the dark at 10 pm.

    2. Moose and Squirrel*

      Yeah, a sitterbis a must regardless of this issue is handled. You just never know what will come up. And as you said date nights are important!

  6. M*

    There is a lot going on here, but could you ask your wife what she wants? Could she get one night totally free of childcare responsibilities each month for every night that she has all the responsibility? Is she worried that you and she don’t have time together?

    1. Gen*

      This. Talk to your wife and find out what she needs in exchange for what is a very normal situation (I’m a similar position except my husband works 60-70 hour weeks and has a few nights away each month). At 2yo your child is probably asleep by 7pm anyway so it seems like your wife wants commitment to time together rather than childcare help. Or if she’s pregnant she might want more help with the cooking and other chores so she isn’t on all the time. How much solo child care do you do in a week? You’ve mentioned that your wife ‘won’t look after the child alone’ but does that mean you’re always helping her rather than taking over? If that’s the case she might not think there’s a fair division of labour (not saying there isn’t one just that might be a perception).

    2. Siberian*

      Also seconded. My husband and I have really struggled over these kinds of issues and our frustrations have kept us from truly negotiating instead of just being stuck in “this isn’t fair.” Not saying that’s the case with the letter writer, just providing context. In our case it was somewhat about child care but much more about cooking—I do all the cooking, something I had to teach myself to do and something I really don’t want to do. My husband just wouldn’t budge on taking turns cooking, almost like he got panicked at the idea. We had an accidental breakthrough a few months ago and realized that I was waaaay happier with the idea of having to cook nightly dinners if I could have one weeknight a week off. My husband takes our son out for the evening and I go home alone, at my leisure instead of rushing out of work, make myself a bowl of cereal or an omelette, and read on the couch in peace. Extremely refreshing. Just last week, I was able to negotiate that my husband make school lunches (which I hate doing just as much as cooking dinner, but they’re quicker to make) to balance out my making dinner. Looks like that might stick also. Lesson learned: be creative with your negotiating and solutions.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        Yup. I LIKE cooking and find it relaxing, most of the time, but even so the idea of having to make dinner every night is stressful! Because it’s not just making dinner; it’s planning the menu, shopping, keeping an eye on what we have and don’t have, and cleaning up. And because I’m cooking for only two people, to keep any semblance of a budget I have to try to figure out recipes that build on each other so I’m not spending a lot of money and throwing out food.

        One thing that worked really well for us was signing up for Blue Apron. If you’re a meat-eater, it’s actually cheaper than buying groceries. We usually do it 2-3 weeks a month, and it often stretches enough for lunch the next day for one of us. During the workweek, I only cook three nights a week, the other two we just do a meat and cheese plate.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          +1 on not cooking every night. We have a 4 month old and both are back at work now, so we try to cook every other night at most. The other night is leftovers or turkey sandwiches or soup from a can or whatever. Its not glamorous, but I find I look forward to the non-cooking nights because they are so much simpler. Double a recipe so you can eat it for 2 nights, with only slightly more work going into prepping on the first night. Have the night you work late be a leftovers night.

        2. A.N.O.N.*

          Yes to Blue Apron for saving time (grocery shopping) and hassle (figuring out what you want to eat).

          But with very few substitutions – or none at all – you can recreate a Blue Apron meal for way less than what it costs ($10 per meal versus $3-5). Yes, you will have leftover ingredients, but you can find other recipes that utilize them or do what we do: make a double or triple batch of the recipe and have leftovers for days.

      2. JD*

        That sounds glorious.

        To have one night a week where you come home whenever you feel like it and eat whenever you feel like it and do whatever you feel like without considering what anyone else needs or wants?!?!

        This is me implementing this next week!

      3. Specialk9*

        Yes! Parenting young kids is exhausting and neither of you are at your best. I constantly have to watch myself for martyring and over-counting my work and under-counting his work. Both of you need to say “thank you” a lot, and both of you need to be doing enough work to earn a thank you.

        But being annoyed and feeling overwhelmed and fantasizing about running away or getting so mad at your kid — that’s normal. Feelings are ok, you just gotta keep on top of your actions.

    3. Friday*

      +1,000. The situation you two have now is unsustainable, as she isn’t just taking care of your kid in the evening; she also needs to work. And she’s pregnant so every day will get harder and harder. You two probably need to pay for more childcare and/or someone’s job needs to change. Don’t even think about telling your boss your wife doesn’t want to watch your kid – if you say anything, you say that your wife works long hours (so what if it’s at home) so YOU have childcare duties every evening.

      Good luck to all of you.

    4. Antilles*

      This is really the key thing here. Set aside a few minutes where you and the wife can be alone and uninterrupted to sit down and talk this through. Why? Because there’s literally dozens of potential issues that can be going on here. And it very well might not *actually* be caused by the late nights – she’s upset about something else and the late nights are just the rotten cherry on top of an already-awful sundae.

    5. sometimeswhy*

      This is basically what I came here to say.

      Work with her to find a way to rebalance the responsibilities and nurture your relationship with each other (inclusive of and independent of your children) because from what you describe, the majority of it is falling on her and, with a second child on the way, it’s likely to get even more unbalanced. It’s easy to let it stay that way if you don’t work at it now and be mindful about continuing to work at it for, well, forever.

      I know couples where both are super-dedicated professionals with occasional long hours (including regular overnights and periodic week-long travel) and young children and it’s HARD. But it’s possible. In one case, the arrangements got hammered out ahead of time and are periodically revisited. In another, it was shouty and ultimatumy but worked out. In others, it was a bit of a mix of active engagement and clenched teeth.

      1. Another bureaucrat*

        haha on “active engagement and clenched teeth” ….yeah, that sounds like some of my life lately.

        1. Ros*

          And mine.

          But if I was pregnant (and therefore exhausted and everything hurts and nauseous as hell, in my experience), running after a toddler, carrying the household responsibilities (groceries, dinner, etc), and had work to do after the kid was asleep… being told “hey youre on your own for a night this week because Work” would lead to shouty moments, yeah.

          I mean. If it was phrased as “I have to work late on Thursday so I’ll make sure that the house is tidy and dinner is made and in the fridge for you, and don’t worry about the housework, I’ll take the time to do it on Friday, just take care of the kids and do your own work”, the reaction would be better. But if it feels like I’m doing 80% of the work normally and I’m just told that I have to pick up the extra 20%? It’s gonna explode.

          1. Steph B*

            Oh yeah, I forgot the OP’s wife is pregnant!

            When I was pregnant with our second there were times I was like — how do people survive? Working full time and then keeping up with a toddler and then dealing with pregnancy exhaustion?

            In a somewhat related story: my sisters, mom and I planned a spa weekend out of town when I was about 7 months pregnant with my second. There was an evening where I ended up in exhausted tears, because they had excitedly also decided to do a brunch we had to make for the family of my sister’s boyfriend. At the time my sister was baffled on why I just was like — “I can’t, I wont, I am just going to sit here and try not to get shouty and rage”, but now that she is pregnant with her first, she actually called and apologized because she know has the full first hand knowledge of the sheer exhaustion + hormone cocktail that hits you sometimes when you are growing another human being.

          2. VerySleepyPregnantLady*


            -signed, someone who could not grocery shop or cook for 9 weeks without puking, and once had a full on crying meltdown (including peeing myself) when my husband asked me to do the f-ing dishes for once, and the result was a epic vomit session.

            P.S. It is super embarrassing to puke in the middle of the grocery store.
            P.P.S. Sometimes, being pregnant feels like you are full time taking care of a tiny human that you can’t ever get a break from, because IT IS LITERALLY INSIDE YOU.
            P.P.P.S. Sometimes, take out is worth its weight in gold.

          3. Another bureaucrat*

            Oh for sure. It’s some of my life lately and I only have 1 kid and rarely work after bedtime. Being pregnant and having to work on top of that?? Ooooooh man. There would be some shouting. And crying. And then more shouting.

    6. Cher Horowitz*

      This is the smartest next step. I will add that do this at a completely different time; not when you are in the middle of negotiating the latest evening event request but rather at a quieter less stressed time.

      1. Antilles*

        Excellent point. The time to have this discussion is a completely separate time when you’re calm and casual – not in the middle of an active argument, nor as a prelude to “…and now that we’ve decided that, I’ll be late tomorrow”.

    7. Steph B*

      Amen to this.

      We have two kids in daycare (ages 4 and 1), and there was a definite period of time with the first (right around a year) where I realized that I needed a not-kids evening out at least once a month. I joined a local bookclub, have planned a few weeks away for myself, and altogether it did wonders for my sanity. I’m an introvert who loves my daughters with all my heart, but you can’t fill another’s cup if yours is empty.

      We have a similar schedule to the OP (my husband drops off, I pick up), and it is definitely a juggling act no matter how you do it. I’m the one with the long commute, and there are times I wonder where the last few years have gone (long term sleep deprivation?). I hear it gets easier in some ways when they get school aged. Maybe?

    8. Jesmlet*

      This. Find out what she wants, why she feels how she feels, how much flexibility she’s comfortable with month to month, then see if that would work with your job. There are also so many jobs that don’t require evening work including in the nonprofit field. If it suits your priorities, you can also look into finding a job elsewhere or a different position within your current company.

  7. Anonymous Poster*

    It sounds like there’s a fundamental conflict between your work commitments and family needs, unfortunately. This may end up coming down to you selecting which is more important, because I think you recognize that there is a fundamental difference here.

    It doesn’t matter for you that other people do this in your office, because your wife has made it clear that this won’t work for you. It sounds like you’ve tried to negotiate with her, but this is a hard ‘no’ situation. And that’s okay, it’s good you both understand where you stand with this.

    You may end up having to find another position that can accommodate your schedule needs, because this sounds like it may be one of those situations where, like Alison has said before, there’s just a fundamental mismatch between what you can do and what your job requires. That doesn’t make you any less of a person or something’s wrong with your family, it just means that you can’t do what they need because of higher priorities.

    While you may or may not kick off a job search, another solution may be looking into a sitter or something those couple nights a week to give your wife the rest she needs. It may be a strange situation where she’s around but the primary caregiver duties are to someone else in the house, but maybe it’s a solution. I’ve heard of couples that have ‘off’ time, where they’ll always send the kids to the other caregiver in the house (whoever that is) during that off time so they aren’t burnt out. You could try something similar.

    Stick in there! You’re weighing some heavy stuff, and figuring out where your priorities lie. It’s better to weigh these things consciously than ignore them and let it get de facto decided later on in a way you might not like; that is, it’s better to face these things head on then letting events dictate your decision for you.

    1. Sr. Manager*

      Such a great, well thought out response! “Fundamental conflict between work commitments and family needs” hits the nail on the head.

    2. Faith*

      I agree that this might be “zero-sum game” type of a situation where OP simply might not be able to keep both his boss and his wife happy. My husband and I are in a similar position because both of us are highly driven successful professionals with demanding jobs. His job requires a lot of travel, sometimes for a couple of weeks at a time. My job occasionally requires working long hours. Fortunately, my busy times are fairly predictable as they are part of the normal work cycle in my field. So, we had to agree that he is simply not available to travel during the times when I am expecting to be busy. Does this mean that he is sacrificing some of the career opportunities that might be available to people who do not have this type of constraints and are able to commit to their job 100% at any given time? It probably does. But that is the trade-off that he had to make in order to be married to a woman who has a successful career herself and to have children with this woman.

      1. AVP*

        ohmygosh, yes, this. And if you think about it, as a family you’re probably ending up with more money and satisfaction overall since you both get to bring in a salary and fulfill at least a good portion of your ambitions. I think sometimes one partner tends to think, “well, I’m sort of leaving money on the table if I can’t take this project/position,” but in the end if those choices allow you both to work your family could be in a better overall position.

      2. DDJ*

        I also wonder if perhaps this has been an ongoing issue, or if it’s something that’s come up more since the second pregnancy. Being pregnant versus having a second child…they’re two very different things. LW’s wife might be feeling very exhausted right now, and the idea of being somewhat alone a few nights a month could just be really stressful for her. I know that a lot of people have mentioned getting a babysitter or helper every now and then, which I think is a great idea, especially since their lives are going to change again once baby #2 is officially out in the world. But there could be a certain amount of stress that’s directly related to the pregnancy and the changes that LW’s wife has been going through.

        I think it’s the work boundaries that are a bit more difficult, to be honest. But maybe the expectation of “time-in-lieu” could be useful here? In that, if there’s an evening event or weekend commitment, would it be possible, LW, for you to leave work early to start meal prep or do some shopping, or to take a half day on the Friday prior to a Saturday commitment? I feel like most bosses tend to be fairly reasonable with these types of requests, as long as there’s not a pressing deadline that makes a shifting of work times less feasible.

        This bit here: “Especially because other people in the office with small children work some evenings.” Here’s the thing: can you be sure that these people don’t have family members who help out with the kids, or hired help of some kind (maybe they have a cleaning service come in once a week so that it’s one less time commitment)? You mention that you don’t really have a lot of family to help support you, but that might not be the case for some of your coworkers. Additionally, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else does, because it’s all about you and your wife and your growing family. Some people really thrive in a high-stress environment, some don’t. It’s not a case of being “better,” just different.

        I will add here that I don’t have children, I just know a lot of people who do have kids, and some of the things they do. Which, honestly, largely, is having family support them, take the kids every now and then, help out around the house. When my sister had her second child, my Mom would go over to the house to keep an eye on the kids and do some light cleaning while my sister napped. Which is a tremendous type of privilege to have, I get that. But I feel like some support is going to be needed every now and then, whether it’s paid or unpaid.

    3. Kalamet*

      I tried to write a response several times, so I’m glad you posted this – it expresses everything I wanted to, in a much more thoughtful way.

    4. ArtsAdmin4Life*

      This is a great response. Another thought – is there any flexibility in your position? I work in non-profit and 9 months of the year, I am expected to work 2-3 evening events a month, sometimes more, and occasionally early-morning meetings too. My boss has the discretion to offer some flexibility, for example, when I work an evening event, he often tells me to come into work late the next morning, or if it’s been a particular busy period, he might give me a under-the-radar day off. Having some flexibility might help with getting your child ready in the morning or perhaps you could pick your 2 year old up from daycare and give your wife the afternoon off from taking care of him. My husband is a SAHD and when I take my flex time, I use it to give him the morning or day off from being the primary caretaker. He really seems to appreciate it.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      Perfectly worded. This isn’t a situation that will resolve itself. Something has to give. I work in higher ed and I guarantee OP’s wife knows that not everyone works 9-5. I pull 12+ hour days frequently throughout the year because I’m salaried and someone has to get the work done.

    6. Miss Elaine E.*

      Perfectly put. I know it’s not easy. I’ve been there and in our situation it just made sense for me to leave my position for the sake of our family. It hasn’t been easy and we did take a financial hit for it. While two incomes is nice (and it may be necessary for the OP and others), the sacrifice has indeed been worth it for our marriage, our sanity, and our family’s stability. I have been fortunate to find some work at home opportunities, perhaps the OP and/or the spouse can do the same?

    7. Veronica*

      I really appreciate you writing this, Anonymous Poster. I’m also in an industry where it’s expected that we will occasionally need to work nonstandard hours, often on short notice. Obviously, this is really tough on parents of young kids (and anyone else with commitments outside of work). But it’s also very much part of the job — in fact, I’d argue it’s THE JOB. So I’ve rearranged my life accordingly, but I have coworkers whose family needs aren’t really compatible with their work commitments. That’s when evening/after hours work falls to me, and that’s really frustrating.

      OP, I really commend you for trying to figure this one out. You sound like a thoughtful husband, father and employee. But I think Anonymous Poster is right — sometimes there’s just a fundamental mismatch, and it might be time to figure out if the skills you’ve built in the nonprofit sector can translate to a field where less community engagement is expected.

  8. Nobby Nobbs*

    Is hiring a babysitter a couple of times a month not on the table for some reason? Try or a friend’s reasonably responsible high schooler, or ask other parents to put you in contact with someone.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        What are your thoughts on people directing others how to post beyond “be kind?” I am not appreciating this today.

        1. Snark*

          This is a self-moderating community, and I get the general impression that Alison does rely on us to remind each other when we’re out of bounds. I’ve gotten it, you’re getting it, someone else will get it tomorrow. If you’re feeling like you can’t comment constructively, I find that taking a break for a day or two does wonders.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            Please leave me alone. I’m not interested in your input, if I haven’t made that clear. My commenting is in bounds.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s fine for people to remind others of the commenting rules when they’re being violated. I’m not here 24/7 and can’t always step in as quickly as I’d like, so I appreciate a small amount of community self-policing. (It’s not always done exactly the way I’d do it so it’s not a perfect system, but I ask everyone to please be generous and kind with others.)

          1. Bend & Snap*

            My question was really about what if it IS in bounds? I’m finding people are policing when they don’t like the comment, vs when the comments don’t follow the rules.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Obviously I can’t speak for Alison but I thought your comment was fine. My suggestion would be to just ignore it and not respond. Once people start bickering back and forth, it becomes off topic and not helpful and that’s when it becomes out of bounds.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Basically, the comment rules. Of course, not everyone will call things exactly as I would when it comes to interpreting those, but as Jesmlet says, the best thing you can to if you disagree is to just move on. The sniping and bickering makes things far worse.

    1. motherofdragons*

      This is coming off as overly harsh to the LW. LW *is* actively taking care of their child: “I drop the kid off at daycare every morning, but because my wife’s schedule is more flexible she picks him up early and spends a couple of hours alone with him before I get home (I commute 45 minutes each way). By the time I get home, she can’t wait to hand him off so she can cook dinner or have some peace and quiet.” So, LW *is* caring for their child during that time at home, and without complaint as far as this letter goes. Plus, LW is actively trying to find a solution to respect wife’s wishes to not have multiple evenings a month having to be responsible for child care, meals, etc.

      I’m also not sure where you’re getting the following: “according to you working in academia is not as taxing as your oh so difficult leadership position.” LW says, “While her job allows for a more flexible schedule, it requires her to bring a lot of her work home with her.” That seems like an admission that it’s no less taxing (because she has to bring work home with her), just more flexible.

      I can imagine it’s quite difficult when your husband is away as often as you mentioned. Can you share how you and your husband handle childcare/housework/etc during those times? What works for you? Maybe that would help the LW find a solution.

  9. Anonarama*

    When I worked in higher ed, I had to work night and weekend events all the time. My management did not, however, expect me to work those night and weekend events on top of my regular working hours. You need to talk to your management about their expectations. Furthermore, I would suggest you really deeply interrogate your expectations about the gendered basis of who does what work around the house.

    1. Anonarama*

      I’d also add that the higher ed calendar functions differently than the rest of the world’s calendar. I was at the outside edge of my capacity every year from mid-August through early October. Did this issue rear its head as the academic year was ramping up?

      1. Jennifer*

        I was wondering about this, too. My husband and I are lucky that our busy seasons don’t occur at the same time (tax, higher ed) but it gets really stressful when we don’t explicitly renegotiate who’s responsible for what with each shift, and there’s usually a hairy week or two as we transition from one setup to another.

    2. A person*

      Agree with this. If you’re working one evening, arrange to take off early a different day the same week to pick up the kiddo from daycare, and start making dinner yourself sometimes! If you’re not into cooking there’s take out, and my grocery store does these prepackaged but still fresh meals with directions for sticking them in the oven that pretty much anyone can manage.

      1. motherofdragons*

        I think the suggestion of “If you have to work an evening event, ask to take off earlier during the week to make up for that” is a really good one! And during that time, offer to be solo on childcare, dinner-making, etc. so your wife can get work done, go out, or just relax in another room. (And honestly, I have to wonder if experiencing all that work on your own will help you understand a little better why your wife is so reluctant to be repeatedly stuck in that role!)

    3. kbeers0su*

      I’m in higher ed now, but luckily moved into a 9-5 part of the field just last year…and I’m currently pregnant with our second. I would definitely have a conversation with your boss about your overall hours for the job. I know that not all supervisors/departments/divisions/universities are great at understanding work/life balance. BUT I also think that among higher ed professionals we have a disease called “busy-ness” that we can’t seem to shake.

      After I had my first child, while my husband was a doctoral student, and I was still working in a job with enough night and weekend expectations I had to come to terms myself with the fact that I had my OWN issue with wanting to work more than I reasonably should. I was so used to being able to put in 50 hours, or run back to campus for an event, or to do whatever before our first kiddo that I thought that was normal, but it really wasn’t. And, honestly, those extra hours every week weren’t really core to my job or mission- it was just extra stuff that made me feel busy and important.

      I’m now in a place where I am comfortable with not doing it all, partly because I also know that this is also a temporary situation. Once the kids are in school and have their own lives things will change. So there is a point where I can opt back into those long hours later. It’s just not for me right now with the other decisions that my husband and I have made about what we want in life.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Working a regular 9-5 plus 1 or 2 evening events per month sounds pretty normal to me, not some outlandish expectation that requires a negotiation with management.

    5. Kalamet*

      Yes – I don’t necessarily think OP is coming from a gender-roles perspective, but maybe he is viewing the evenings he works as “time off” for his wife because she is at home.

      OP, your wife is taking care of a toddler for several hours on those evenings. That counts as household labor. Also, from your letter it sounds like she is pregnant as well, which can contribute extra fatigue and discomfort. Maybe it would help if you could frame it to yourself that when you work evenings, your wife is working too, which may explain why it stresses her out

      1. AVP*

        Thank you for catching that! If she’s pregnant, that’s a lot of extra “household work effort” that she has to put in just to maintain stasis, and it might be catching up to her.

      2. I woke up like this*

        I was coming here to say this. I am an academic, a spouse, a mom of a toddler… and I’m six months pregnant. I just don’t have the stamina I used to, and yes, my spouse has been taking more time off of work to support me. I’m super grateful of how involved he is, and even though he is tired too, he’s been wonderful about giving me breaks for both rest and catching up on my work.

        Pregnancy is a ton of work; it isn’t all just glowing skin and growing bellies!

    6. Helpless*

      OP Here: Thanks for the comment. I have seen a few comments suggesting that the workload around the house is unfair but I feel that is just an assumption based on gender. While my post did indicate that she cooks every night (she’s talented and enjoys it) I do so much of the other household duties including Laundry, cleaning the kitchen nightly, trash removal, lawn care, car care, bill paying… the list goes on. I really try to alleviate as much of her responsibilities as I can.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        Let me preface this by saying that I truly believe you are a great guy and a great husband, and a hands on and involved parent. Your other responses have made that very clear, and the fact that you haven’t gotten defensive about the general tenor of the comments speaks to the fact that you’re aware of the ways in which subtle bias can creep in and are committed to actively working against it.

        It strikes me, though, that you use this phrasing: “i try to alleviate her responsibilities as much as possible.” Because they aren’t her responsibilities unless you have both decided that they are; they are family responsibilities that need to be done by someone. I could be off base, but this phrasing does make me wonder if there isn’t some deep, unconscious belief that you’re going “above and beyond” by doing things that should be “her responsbility, and which is covertly contributing to the degree of tension this is causing.

        1. Helpless*

          OP Here: I here what you are saying. That is a bit of a loaded phrase and your point is well taken and I do think that throughout our marriage, there has been that adjustment of mindset. That is a good check that I am not relieving her or responsibility but just taking on the responsibilities because they are shared.

      2. Anonarama*

        So I would suggest that the very fact you are describing the work you do as “alleviating as much of her responsibilities” is the exact type of thing I think you need to seriously interrogate. You are both adults in a household and those things are both your responsibilities.

      3. jo*

        Hi, OP! At this point, after seeing several of your comments, it seems clear to me that you are taking on your fair share of household labor or quite close to it. Questions you may want to consider:

        -Are there any evenings where your wife gets to shut out domestic concerns and focus solely on those piles of work she’s brought home? If she’s having to squeeze in her take-home work between doing chores and attending to your son, she may need you to help make room for her to do more deep, focused work. Also, are there any times she gets to go do social things for a few hours (since it sounds like some of your evening commitments may double as Adult Social Time)?
        -You sound like you genuinely enjoy a lot of the tasks involved in caring for your son–teaching him to brush his teeth, putting him to bed, etc. That’s awesome! Is it possible your wife enjoys these tasks to a lesser degree, or in smaller quantities, than you do? I am NOT implying she loves your child any less or doesn’t want quality time with him, but not everyone gets equal enjoyment from the nitty-gritty work of childcare. If this is the case for her, she may be afraid to admit it. Or the cultural pressure to be a perfect mother may make her worry that she’s not “good enough,” and that’s why she gets anxious when you’re not around.
        -Does your wife need to reevaluate what she is able to contribute domestically? Even if you two divide duties exactly 50/50, fifty percent of the labor for your particular household may still be more than she can realistically handle; in other words, she may *still* need outside help even when you pull your weight. “Fair” and “normal” in these situations matter a lot less than everyone being honest about what they can do. If her responsibilities right now feel crushing, then what you/other professional people/other working mothers find bearable is irrelevant.

        I’ll echo what others have said about bringing paid help into your home. What your boss is asking isn’t unreasonable, but your wife’s needs are what they are, and you sound already stretched to your limit. Y’all need help.

    7. Thlayli*

      I second OP needs to talking to his boss about expectations. It seems that it is not at all clear what exactly is expected. Is 2 nights a month required for op to keep his job? It seems that op is the one who came up with the 2-per-month figure. But is 1 a month sufficient? 3 every 2 months? Can op sit down with his boss at the start of each quarter (or some other suitable time) and agree which events op absolutely must attend. Can he come late/leave early? Can he get time in lieu (eg get a day a month off in lieu for 2 x 4 hour evenings. A day that could be spent doing housework/batch cooking and freezing). Can he get additional pay? It seems none of this has been discussed.

      It also may help your sense of perspective to ask your colleagues with young kids who babysits for them when they are out working. You may be surprised by the answer – I think it is highly unlikely they all have wives with full time day jobs who also work from home in the evenings AND manage to mind two kids at the same time. More likely they have partners without jobs/daytime only jobs/have a lot of family support.

      1. Moose and Squirrel*

        These are all great suggestions. Especially planning out X amount of time ahead when he has to do an event. That gives them time to plan ahead. And asking coworkers about childcare arrangements could have the added benefit of getting the names of some sitters that the coworkers know are good and reliable.

  10. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Wait, I’m confused — you say that your wife is bringing work home, but then claim that the time you’re taking point on childcare is time for her to relax. Which is it? That’s pretty critical, because you’re framing “my wife won’t look after my child alone” when it might be “my wife needs time in the evening to do her job and that’s not compatible with wrangling a 2-year-old.”

    1. Gee Gee*

      Agreed. The issue seems to change partway through the letter.

      If the issue is the equitable distribution of childcare between both parents, the frequently-suggested babysitter may not emotionally satisfy the wife’s concerns.

      If the issue is the wife getting her own job done when bringing work home at night, the frequently-suggested babysitter will probably suffice.

    2. Emi.*

      This distinction seems pretty crucial to me, partly for the reasons Gee Gee points out, and partly because if it’s about work, then how does your wife not understand that people have to work outside of standard work hours?

      1. Gen*

        I’m wondering if it’s the context of whatever these ‘events’ involve? Is he working late in the office or is he doing something that looks like socialising? While I understand that my husband has to go out to dinner with clients I do end up resenting the times he comes back drunk and loud when I haven’t had a night out since 2014. There might be some reason she thinks these events are unnecessary compared to the work she has to bring home.

        1. Steve*

          Yeah there’s got to be something going on that the OP doesn’t understand (or at least isn’t mentioning in the letter). Watching their child for the whole evening, even as often as once a week, doesn’t seem like a huge imposition. But yet I don’t get the sense that the OP thinks the wife is a normally unreasonable person.

      2. LCL*

        I wonder if when OP says her wife doesn’t understand that people have to work outside of standard working hours, OP is using a different meaning of standard. I think what OP means is her wife doesn’t understand that people have to work hours outside of the work day in ADDITION to the regular agreed upon office hours. From what I have read here, that is all too common in the non profit world. Maybe part of the solution is for OP to use her status as a senior member of the organization to start a new policy-those attending after hours events don’t have to be in the office all day the day of the event or possibly the day after.

    3. RPL*

      Exactly my thoughts. As someone who works at home, often well into the evenings, I know it took a lot of serious discussions before my spouse fully understood that me sitting on the sofa with my laptop and headphones was actually me working instead of me relaxing. If OP’s wife is sacrificing her work time for child care, that adds a different and important spin on the situation.

      1. JustaTech*

        This really can be a hard thing to understand as a spouse. My husband working and my husband goofing off on the internet look identical to me from across the room. I’ve asked him to give me some kind of sign so I can tell he’s working (put on a hat, sit in a different chair) and not try to have a conversation. (We’re still working on the sign bit, but at least now he knows I’m not trying to interrupt him, but that I honestly can’t tell when he’s working.)

        1. Turquoise Cow*


          My husband has a home office and tends to do more Work there, and uses his laptop in bed/on the couch for more Fun things, but he also goofs off a bit during work hours (checking Facebook, chatting with friends, etc) and his goofing off time tends to involve work also (he reads industry articles and is friends with a lot of people in the industry, so they have similar conversations when he’s not Working.) On top of that, the occasional work emergency pops up in the evening that he needs to get involved in, either by sending an email or text, getting on the phone, or actually working on something.

          So it’s definitely hard, as a spouse, to know whether or not I can/should have a light conversation with him at any given time! We don’t have kids yet, but we’re in the planning stages, thinking about childcare. He works from home and says he can have the baby sleep in his office while he’s working. I’m very skeptical.

          1. Thlayli*

            haha that’s hilarious. I guess he thinks everyone else in the universe is just paying for childcare for no reason coz babies just lie there sleeping all day lol

          2. fposte*

            I’m with Thlayli in laughing. I think this is a plan that cries out for a dry run with somebody else’s normal, non-angelic infant.

          3. CMDRBNA*

            Yeahhhhnope. I nannied for a couple and the husband spent a period of time working from home more frequently when the baby was about two, and I admit at first I was skeptical that someone couldn’t work from home and mind a toddler, but no. No you cannot. The toddler would get very whiny and sad if you were in the same room but not paying attention to her. Once her mom brought her downstairs to the office to eat while she tried to get some work done, and the toddler rubbed yogurt all over herself and her hair while the mom was trying to answer emails.

            Toddlers know when you are not paying attention, and they hate it! They will get ACTIVELY destructive/tantrum-y if you are trying to do something else, and sorry, a 2-4 year old may be able to entertain themselves some of the time, but they can’t do it most of the time. If you are watching a toddler, it’s really hard to do it with half your brain engaged.

            It’s just a part of their development.

            An infant? Sure, they sleep most of the time, and up until about 1 and 1/2 can usually amuse themselves in a pen or something, but once they’re mobile and can climb, forget about it.

    4. PieInTheBlueSky*

      Maybe it’s both? After a full day of work and then coming home to watch a small child for a couple of hours, perhaps the OP meant that his wife needed some time to recuperate and refocus before she can get back to her own work.

      1. JaneB*

        As an academic (childless myself, but lots of friends juggling!), being able to get out early to fetch and care for a child doesn’t mean the work isn’t there, it means that the time the work gets done is shifted – perhaps to the later evening when someone else is there to help out with bathtime/evening chores/witching hour, perhaps to a weekend day when the other spouse has the child all day and the academic spouse does their work.

        To me the letter seemed to shift part way through from “we’re both juggling, any suggestions” to “she’s not accomodating my needs” – which is probably what it FEELS like, especially when the boss is pushing.

        What’s not clear to me is whether the wife starts work earlier in the day, so does their full 8 (or whatever) hours before leaving to pick up kiddo, then has evening work, or is actually needing to work to make up basic hours…

      2. Helpless*

        OP Here: Yes, there is a little bit of both. I am certainly aware of the work she has outside of the office and work to get her that time. After the kid goes to sleep, I clean the kitchen and pick up the house so se can work if she needs to, or rest if she needs to.

    5. MashaKasha*

      Yes, as an ex-gf of a college prof, I was really wondering – who watches the kid while OP’s wife grades papers? There is no mention of it in the letter. My ex worked late evenings and weekends (from home, but it’s still work) pretty much every day when the college wasn’t on break.

    6. fposte*

      I’m also wondering what the plan was and how it came about. Was there a change in expectations at the OP’s job recently? Was it clear from the get-go to both of them that the wife was going to be on her own with childcare some nights as well as cooking dinner and doing her job? Or is this a situation where assumptions got both sides in trouble?

      I think the OP is focusing too much on what his wife thinks about his job. I agree she might be wrong about him simply opting out of the evening stuff, but saying that doesn’t resolve the fundamental problem: she is sending a message loud and clear that the current situation is not sustainable for her. If you can’t address that that’s a huge blow to a marriage.

      1. Thlayli*

        “She is sending a message loud and clear that the current solution is unsustainable”

        I think that’s the relevant point. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong it’s about the fact that this isn’t working. Simply pointing out that other people with and without small kids work similar hours is kind of irrelevant.

        There may be a way (or many small ways) to make it work e.g. Batch cooking and freezing meals, leave kid(s) in childcare longer so she can do her evening work in the office before coming home, get a cleaner, get a live in nanny/au pair instead of paying full time creche fees for two children (depending on where you live there may not be much in the difference) etc.

        You need to sit down together and work out what needs to happen and what you are willing to sacrifice (and what you are willing for your child to sacrifice. Something’s gotta give. It may not be your evenings, but something has to. Are you willing for your child to spend an additional 10 hours a week in childcare so your wife can get her evening work done in the office? Is she willing to do that? Is your job’s evening work more important than your child’s time with his mother? These decisions need to be made as a couple.

        1. fposte*

          There’s an interesting thread on the Bogleheads forum that’s dealing with much the same question–it’s called “Is it worth it?” and the poster is asking for experiences on two-career couples both working 60-70 hours per week and raising kids. (Bogleheads skews to a different demographic, so there are plenty of people saying she should just stay home full time, but there’s plenty of discussion that was more in tune with the poster, too.)

          I think that whatever the OP and wife’s plan was for how this was going to work isn’t happening, and they’re having a hard time letting go of that. She thinks it would work with just this one tweak, but they’re beyond a “just one tweak” situation–that would be a serious derail of a career they agree is important. Which may be the decision they make, but something in their current expectations has to change.

        2. lovelyrita*

          The current solution is unsustainable right now AND another baby will soon be part of the equation.

    7. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

      Gah I missed this thread last time I scrolled through (accidental collapse comments?) and now I look like an idiot for replying above and saying people hasn’t talked about this when I am just an idiot. But yes! To all of this! In this thread !!!

  11. Bend & Snap*

    Flex time? It sounds like the wife is making the bulk of the sacrifices right now (work time and personal time) to do childcare. Can you flex a couple of days a week to do pickup, give her a break, and let her spend more time at the office get some downtime?

    I am a single parent to a 4 year old and I find childcare more taxing than work, but trying to balance it all is really, really stressful.

    Alternatively, can you set your evening hours for after the kiddo is in bed? I work with a lot of people in a different time zone and tell them I’m not available from 5-8 in the evenings but can do calls or work on a deliverable after 8pm. I don’t do it often but that’s how I manage if I do have to.

    1. Snark*

      “It sounds like the wife is making the bulk of the sacrifices right now (work time and personal time) to do childcare.”

      Per OP: “I am not asking you to diagnose my marriage, rather I am seeking advice on how to fulfill the requirements of the job and my family.”

      Two nights a month is not an unreasonable imposition. Let’s move on and not dump our own baggage on OP to carry.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I didn’t diagnose the marriage. He asked how to balance his home life and his work life. This is my advice. I don’t appreciate your comment about baggage even a little bit.

        I am posting within guidelines and would appreciate you worrying about your own posts. You are free to disagree but please do not direct me on how to post. If Alison sees an issue, she will step in. Thanks.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        That’s not a diagnosis of the marriage, it’s giving the exact kind of advice he’s explicitly asking for. The answer to the question “how do I fulfill the requirements of the job and my family” involve actions that involve the job and family, obviously.

        1. Infinity Anon*

          If the OP’s wife is feeling burned out by having to take care of their child alone so much, perhaps the OP could offer to do an equal amount of solo child care when he has to work in the evenings. For example, if he needs to go to a three hour event in the evening, offer to take their child out on Saturday for three hours so that his wife has a chance to catch up on work or recharge.

      3. Temperance*

        Arguably, though, this isn’t really a problem to solve if you leave the personal side out of it. Otherwise, the answer is that he can just keep his work commitments and his wife is stressed and unhappy.

    2. KClen*

      Flex time was my first thought as well- when you have to work an evening, can you also then take an afternoon off during the week so that you can pick up your child from daycare and handle the evening responsibilities? That way you can give your wife time to catch up on work/quiet time as she needs?
      You mentioned that you are a senior-level at your organization and know that others in the org also have small children- you setting this example of a strong work-life balance by using flex time for after hours events could really be helpful to all at your organization, not just yourself.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t think she can control the timing of her evening work — she’s expected to attend events and run programs (as opposed to writing reports, catching up on email, or other things that can done at flexible times).

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It sounds like the OP’s evening work is more event based, which makes scheduling in the evenings tougher– if he has to physically be somewhere other than home, that’s a big part of the issue. Flex time sounds like a really good option, though.

      1. JaneB*

        Or trading off childcare with the spouse so that the spouse can have a weekend day for catching up on lost work time or whatever in the weeks when there’s an evening event – that’s good for kiddo too as at the moment kiddo gets more HE-spouse time, especially when LW spouse has evening events so isn’t even home to eat/do bedtime…

        1. Bend & Snap*

          This is good too. Toddlers are exhausting and so is trying to balance work and home life, especially when you can’t leave your work at your desk at 5pm.

          Really if you can’t make changes to your work schedule, which I think is worth exploring, you’re going to need to work with your wife to make sure you both feel like you’re splitting the load fairly.

          That doesn’t necessarily mean equally, but it does mean that you both don’t feel like you’re carrying most of the load.

  12. Gwen Stefani-Shelton*

    Agreeing with other comments to throw some money at this problem. Hire a babysitter. Your wife can either enjoy some time at home with help or she can go with you to your work events, if possible. Let her see how essential it is for you to attend these events and how your presence helps your career.

  13. neverjaunty*

    Hey, OP. Been there, got the gray hairs, and all the sympathy for you.

    I suspect the issue is not really work per se; it’s that you and your wife are so exhausted and overworked that you are desperate for any scrap of alone time or rest. And when you’re in that place, it can feel like you’re both fighting for the last lifejacket on the sinking ship.

    All I can advise you to do is sit down with her and try to work out a plan that is fair to both of you. Maybe your toddler can spend a little more time in daycare so your wife gets a break? Maybe you can cook dinner instead (or get more take-out)? Maybe you can figure out exactly where the line is with your boss – “I can do X evenings per month” – to reassure your wife that this isn’t going to turn into mission creep where suddenly you’re at work all the time?

    It’s hard to get out of that place where you resent your partner because you feel like they’re always dumping the kid on you, or you never get time alone, etc. But I urge you to work through that first.

    1. FDCA In Canada*

      Yes–could you talk with your boss that “due to family commitments, I can usually only manage evening work X days every other week or so. Would it be possible to arrange things so I can do that and have some advance notice?” Or work later in the evenings after kids are in bed, or what have you.

      One caution: Don’t compare your situation to others with young children working in the evenings. You don’t know their lives. They might have spouses who are happy to look after the kids all evening, or nannies, or accommodating family members, or a St. Bernard who looks after all the kids while they go to Neverland. Don’t start down the road of comparison.

      1. Gen*

        Yep, don’t compare and don’t let other people comparing wear you down. You need what is best for YOUR family, not what seems to work for other people. I had a manager who used to insist that since he had young kids and regularly worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week then so could everyone else. He was surprised when he was served with divorce papers. Turned out that what he thought was fine was actually not good at all. But I also know couples who live like that with no issues at all. Everyone is different.

        1. Kiki*

          My husband’s boss is in a similar situation. He often doesn’t leave the office until after 9 pm and comes in on weekends, and had given my husband a bit of flack for leaving by 7 pm each night. When his wife filed for divorce earlier this summer he was legitimately surprised. They have four young kids…I don’t know how he didn’t see this coming.

          1. JaneB*

            And you never know how easy/difficult other people’s kids are, either, or other aspects of their lives. Add in even a small other issue, from a job the spouse doesn’t care about and is therefore willing to short-change or a child with complex food needs and the whole thing changes.

      2. Overeducated*

        True on a personal level – SO many of the parents of toddlers I know have grandparents who are thrilled to watch their kids frequently on nights or weekends, or just visit for company. But I’m a transplant, and my spouse’s parents are very busy with working and political activism, so we just don’t have the same help. I have made difficult career decisions around avoiding the OP’s problem.

        On a professional level, though, op probably does need to keep in mind that his colleagues and supervisor may be comparing…..

    2. KellyK*

      This is a good suggestion. Even without adding to the “get a baby-sitter or a mother’s helper” chorus, there are lots of ways to creatively address the problem of “too much stuff to do, not enough time to do it.” More take-out, simpler meals, hiring someone to clean, etc.

      Also, what about finding someone with kids of a similar age to trade off some childcare with? There may be Facebook or meetup groups for parents of toddlers in your area. It’s not necessarily twice as hard to watch two toddlers as it is to watch one, so some alternating playdates could free up blocks in your schedule. This might or might not work for your work commitments depending on how late they run, but a Saturday playdate that gives your wife some time to grade papers or drink a cup of coffee in peace might make it easier for her to deal with those evenings.

      1. Infinity Anon*

        If takeout is not an option (due to diet or finances) there is also the option of cooking larger amounts when you do cook and eating leftovers for a few days.

        1. oldbiddy*

          My husband and I do this and it’s really helpful. We also freeze soups and main course. He’s on an early schedule, and I’m on a late-ish one, and I’m really trying to eat healthy so I’m the one making the meal choices. I love to cook but not when I’m hangry. Having most of the dinner be ready on a microwave or vegetable-steaming timeline is good. We sometimes cook after dinner as well.

        2. Specialk9*

          I rely heavily on rotisserie chicken and veggie loaded beans and rice. It’s a meal to pile rotisserie chicken into a taco with cheese and salsa. It’s not perfect, but food gets into your belly. Have a big container of roasted veggies? Even better, toss those on top. Boom, dinner!

      2. Zahra*

        I’d say that watching 2 toddlers is actually easier in some ways than watching one. While they play with each other, you do need to supervise, but the mental energy of actively engaging and playing with them is less because your kid has someone else to play with him.

        How to find those parents? The park is a great place to build your “parent” network. See also: all the parents that you see while dropping off/picking up your kid.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      Additionally: are there things you can do when you are home that will ease the burden on nights when you work? For instance–making a double batch of dinner and freezing it so your wife only needs to defrost something on Event Nights, or doing some aspect of scheduling/admin for the family that you could do during some downtime at work?

      1. Gen*

        Once a month we make a huge slow cooker meal (curry or stew usually) that lasts four days. It’s boring but it’s such a relief to just reheat and eat for the other three days

      2. fposte*

        Or even mornings! If the OP can flex time on days he has to work evenings, he can get dinner done and refrigerated before he goes to work.

    4. Adhdy*

      Hi OP,
      I’ve been the 1 a week late night person with 1 kid and the frustrated wife with two. My advice is specific to my own experiences:
      First – second child on the way is a very big deal! Anything is magnified right now. And it should be. For us, everything that wasn’t smooth became really hard.

      2) can you phrase it this way to your boss – that nights/weekends can work, but you’ll need to take time off in the same week and leave early. So yes, she’s got a night alone, but some other day that week you pick up from childcare, etc.

      3) Takeout Pizza, precut carrot sticks & sugar snap peas and paper plates. Kind of healthy. No utensils, no cleanup. Leftovers. Not insanely expensive.

      4) can you alternate cooking/dinner prep and bed? Someone does it one night, the other person the next?

      5) do you and wife have a way to communicate that you just need 5 or 10 minutes alone to recharge? And then you’ll come back to be a partner?

    5. Specialk9*

      Yes!!! Parenting a small child or more is exactly like that. Desperate for rest and alone time, and often pissed at each other. You *have* to find solutions both of you feel is fair.

    6. Helpless*

      OP Here: This is helpful. I am weary of setting boundaries like that but my boss is really reasonable and it might not be as bad as I think it is.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        Something that I had a really hard time with when we first had kids was taking time off work for the kids. If they got sick, it super stressed me out, because “OMG I’m missing work and it’s not my fault and this isn’t FAIR!!!”. Looking back, I can see how ridiculous that is. Parents work. Kids get sick. Parents must take time off to deal with that. I know you are talking about working in the evening and not sick days, but I think it follows. Setting boundaries is normal. Needing to step away from work to parent is normal. Good bosses should get that.

      2. Marissa*

        May I just add as well that “bedtime is a two person job these days”” is not exactly the same as “my wife won’t take care of my child alone”? In terms of framing to your employer. Throw in the fact that she’s pregnant and works full time and your boss would have to be ice cold not to feel any sort of sympathy for the situation.

      3. Zillah*

        Super late, but a few thoughts:

        1) I wonder whether cooking is taking more of a toll than you’re aware of – and maybe even than she’s aware of. I love cooking, too, but particularly when I’m not just cooking for me, it can get wearing. No matter how much I like it, it’s still 30-75 minutes of the day that I’m devoting toward something, and when I’m wearing thin, that’s tough to handle.

        I hear you that you’re not great at cooking, but not all meals are super complicated, and you can definitely improve! Chili is a really good thing that’s quick and easy – sauté some onion and garlic, dump in beans + crushed tomatoes + chili powder + frozen corn + a couple other spices (e.g., oregano, basil, cumin, curry powder), possibly add a zucchini and/or meat, and let it simmer. Prep time is maybe 10-15 minutes, and if you make a big batch, you can freeze some.

        Another good option is just making a really big salad once every week or two. If you buy lettuce that’s prewashed, it cuts down on the prep time, and you can diversify it a lot week-to-week by adding different fruits/vegetables/nuts/cheeses. One of my staples is mixed lettuce + avocado + tomatoes + strawberries + pistachios + feta + sunflower seeds – it takes maybe 15 minutes to throw together.

        There’s also frozen pizza/burritos, canned soup, and takeout. I’m not saying that you should give up cooking, but I think that there’s probably room to work in 2-3 simpler meals every week, especially with a new baby on the way – and I wonder whether your wife would agree with that if you made it clear that you didn’t expect her to spend the time she’d save on cooking on childcare.

        I don’t think that this will solve the immediate problem, but I think it could help alleviate some of the stress that’s clearly adding to it.

        2) I get where both you and your wife are coming from. Two evenings a month aren’t that much, but it sounds like sometimes it’s more, and if it’s taking her a few days to recover her energy each time, even two evenings a month ends up taking up a lot more time than just those two evenings. It seems like it may not be feasible for you to not do evening events; if that’s part of the job you signed up for, you can definitely try to renegotiate that (either for a defined period of time or on an ongoing basis), but that may not be possible.

        Asking about flextime when you work an evening event is a good idea that other commenters have mentioned, as is hiring a babysitter. Ultimately, though, I think it’s possible that what you’re describing isn’t compatible with the demands of your family life, and I do think that that’s something that you need to first figure out (preferably by speaking with your boss) and then discuss with your wife.

        Good luck!

        1. Zillah*

          I’m not sure why this ended up here – I meant it to be a standalone reply to the letter. Sorry!

    7. Amy*

      Yes! This is my same exact thought! I have a two year old and a high level career and so does my husband.. the only way it works is with agreed upon rules that recognize that sometimes you put in more work and sometimes the other person does.. as long as each other hold up to the agreement, less fights for sure (specially when you are sleep deprived, hungry, and stressed to the max with work events)

  14. Chaperon Rouge*

    If you are at a senior level in your organisation, can you afford help with childcare, as you seem to know in advance when you will be working late? I have worked in both academic and corporate settings so I completely see where both of you come from. This is a situation where it can be worth it to throw money at the problem for a few years if you can. It’s also likely to be more fun for your kid than spending the evening with a frustrated parent!

    1. H.C.*

      In a similar vein, if you’re a senior level employee in your org – can you delegate, reassign or hire someone to handle some or most of the evening work for you?

      1. Oma Morris*

        You seem to think that being at a senior level means that you can knock off at 3pm, whether that’s to do child care or hit the links. Nothing is further from the truth. The higher you go, the more hours you put in.

  15. K.*

    I echo the other commenters: this sounds like a call for paid help, if you can afford it. In fact, I did a ton of babysitting as a tween/teen/college student, and my first gig was mother’s helping – basically keeping a kid out of her parents’ hair while one or both parents worked or cooked or did laundry. If your wife works in higher ed, some universities have babysitting services on campus – that might be a resource.

  16. Startup HR*

    You could ‘trade’ evenings with your wife. For example, if you have events once a week when she has sole childcare responsibilities all evening, then she gets one night per week where she can do whatever she wants and you’re in charge of the house. She could use it to network or spend time with friends. You also don’t mention how much you help get your kid ready in the morning so this next part could be unnecessary. If you take on more of the work to get your child ready to go before daycare on evenings when you’re gone, that’ll help too.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is great advice.

      If possible, designate specific days that you will take on sole childcare in the evening while the other works/networks/etc. And make sure that you also designate at least one day for family time where neither of you is working so you can have quality time together.

      I would suggest that you two sit down and come up with a list of everything that needs done on a regular basis and figure out a rough schedule for getting those things done *and* who will be responsible for each task. That way you can ensure things are divided equitably and nothing is falling through the cracks.

    2. kittymommy*

      I think something like this may be the best solution outside of changing jobs, which is easier said than done. Where I work attending some evening events whole not “mandatory”, are definitely expected and will come across as very oppositional if not done. Sympathies, OP.

    3. Helpless*

      OP Here: That is good advice. I do wake up with the kid and get him off to daycare, sometime before my wife even wakes up. We value her sleep as she is pregnant.

      1. Chriama*

        Whoa dude, way to bury the lede. Pregnant wife??!! And you already have a 2 year old? First of all, I bet she’s more tired because she’s pregnant and so what used to be “enough” support is now too little. Secondly, her resistance to your evening work sounds like it’s because she’s imagining a future where she gets home, wrangles 2 kids while cooking dinner, then you get home and she has to catch up on work. Again, what was feasible with one kid might seem downright impossible with 2.

        Overall, I have to say that the advent of 2-income families has raised a lot of new social problems to ponder. You mentioned earlier that you feel like the expectation is that you, a high level man in a demanding field, have a wife who can take on the burden of home life. I think that it’s pretty common for people (especially men) in high levels to have a home support team. Either a stay at home wife or a nanny/housekeeper. If you and your wife both want to work and raise a family, you need to have a discussion about what gets compromised and given up on. I suspect your wife’s career progression is already limited by her habit of leaving early – not to say her job is at risk, but she probably can’t move much higher until her workday no longer has a hard stop at 3 or 4pm. I think your hesitation to set boundaries with your boss is probably also causing some resentment, because right now every incident of needing to work late is a separate negotiation. If there was some sort of schedule (e.g. only twice a month, and notice given at least a week in advance) that might make a difference. Because I think that as much as you’re sharing the family responsibilities with her, she’s made a very tangible sacrifice in her career and you’re trying to have your cake and eat it to.

        1. Chriama*

          My bad, you mentioned that you have a 2 year old and one on the way. Minus ten points to me for reading comprehension. I still think it’s an important factor in your situation that’s a little bit glossed over. I also think that your characterizing the issue as “I can’t work late because my wife won’t take care of our child alone” is a pretty unkind and probably reflecting your feelings of frustration with this situation. The problem isn’t your wife not wanting to be alone with your kid, it’s the fact that you haven’t discussed expectations with her or drawn boundaries with your boss.

  17. Dalia524*

    If that’s the expectation, I don’t think you can bow out. I think you have two options: 1. Find a new job with no after-hours work, or 2. Have a babysitter/mother’s helper or two available for the nights or weekends that you have to work so your wife has some help. It sounds like your wife may need some of her own breaks where she gets to have an evening out on her own, as well.

  18. JBPL*

    This is almost my exact life, genders reversed. I can understand the strain this situation puts on you and your wife. I think the first step is to have two conversations: one with your wife, one with your boss. Figure out a reasonable number of times per month for you to work evenings . If your boss can agree that because of child care issues you need to restrict yourself to X evenings per month, then sit down with your wife to figure out what child care will look like on those nights. Can you come home for a few hours in the afternoon (I assume because of the commute that it’s not a reasonable option)? Can you go to work late those days and spend the morning getting laundry, dishes, or other chores done so that she only needs to focus on the child that evening? Can you agree that the next night you give her the “night off” for some alone time? The point is, come to an agreement that even though it’s not ideal, it’s a job responsibility and the price you pay to have that specific job. Figure out a way to reduce the burden on the nights when you’re not around. And good luck!

  19. AnonEMoose*

    I am not a parent. And I have never been pregnant. So my advice may be of limited usefulness. That said, my thoughts are these:

    Your need to work some evening and weekend events is not unreasonable. It is, as you point out, part of your job.

    The other side of the coin is that your wife is pregnant and working what sounds like a pretty intense job of her own. Her need for some extra help right now (and probably while the new baby is small/a toddler) is also not unreasonable. She’s probably extra tired and uncomfortable right now, and caring for a two-year old is exhausting at best, especially after a full day of work.

    I know you don’t have family nearby, and I don’t know your financial situation. But I think there may be some options here. You said your wife works in higher ed. Is there a way she could look around to see if there would be a college student who would be interested in an intermittent sort of “mother’s helper” position on the evenings you have to work? Or do any of your coworkers have a reliable teenager who might be interested in the same?

    Someone who can come over and take care of the 2 year old for a few hours while your wife makes dinner, or naps, or just has some quiet time. Or maybe they cook dinner while your wife spends time with the little one. Whatever will work for your family.

    It’s not perfect. But if your wife knows that she will have help on the evenings you’re working, and she doesn’t have to do much of the work of arranging for that help…that might be an acceptable compromise to her.

    And, you know…sometimes it’s ok to order pizza and pull up a video on Netflix to occupy the little one for a half hour or so. Or pick up one of those rotisserie chickens and a couple of sides from the deli. Too much isn’t good, of course, but a couple of evenings a month shouldn’t be a big thing.

    But the thing to remember going into this conversation is: Neither of you is “wrong.” You both have legitimate needs in this situation. So it’s not about being right. It’s about solving the problem.

    1. Ell*

      Your advice is of equal importance as any advice from a parent.
      Not having children does not negate your opinion!!

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Thank you for that!

        I don’t think it negates my opinion, but I think it’s additional context about my experience that might be good to have.

        I’m sympathetic to both the OP and the wife in this situation. As I said, I don’t think anyone is really wrong, here, but there’s a definite conflict of needs. I also do wonder how much of the general housework the wife is doing. No way to know from the letter, of course. But another option to consider might be looking at whether it would be feasible to find some help with that, at least short term, too. It doesn’t have to be a lot, necessarily. But maybe (for example) having someone who can do laundry and clean the bathroom and the kitchen would help. It’s really individual, but there are options to consider…and I think if the OP can try to work with the wife to make the dynamic less confrontational and more “let’s solve this,” it might help them find something that will work.

      2. Specialk9*

        Actually, most parents learn early on that advice on parenting from people who have never parent is usually terrible. Infuriatingly impossible and condescending and impractical.

        But AnonEMoose’ advice was the opposite of that. Spot on, Moose!

    2. Paige Turner*

      As someone in the same situation (no kids), I think this is all very good advice. Also, if it helps, in about five years, the situation will probably be a lot easier for OP’s family- their younger child will be five and their older child will be seven/eight, they’ll be in school (so, probably less daycare expenses), and they won’t need the same kind of constant supervision that toddlers need. If OP and his wife decide to pay for more childcare, meal delivery, etc, they can keep in mind that these expenses will probably lessen in time, while their overall earnings will likely go up. I certainly don’t know all the details about childcare costs, etc, but it might help OP to see that an end date or tapering off of their current situation is in sight, even if five years seems like a long way off.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’m glad it was helpful!

        Something I picked up somewhere along the line (wish I could remember where!) is this: Remember that your wife is not your opponent. She is your partner. That might help you re-frame the situation in your mind, and help your approach to her. So that you can go into not with the goal of “winning,” but of making sure everyone’s needs are getting met, insofar as possible.

        Also, generally speaking, sincere reminders of how much you love and appreciate your wife can also be a good thing. What she’d like the most depends very much on her, of course. As a starting point, something an acquaintance of mine who was pregnant at the time really appreciated was a massage. I know of at least one person in my area who specializes in prenatal massage – there might be someone in your area, too, if you think that’s something your wife would enjoy and it would be within your budget. It almost doesn’t matter what it is – as long as it says to her “I love you and I know you’re having a hard time right now.” Not something you have to do, but something you could do if you’re so inclined.

  20. Amber Rose*

    LW, is there anyone at work you can approach about this? It sounds like nobody has explicitly said to you that your job is in danger if you don’t work evenings. Maybe your boss can help you work out a schedule that works better for your family, or make some other arrangement.

  21. MuseumChick*

    I think you and your wife need to sit down and have a good long talk about this.

    Occasional evening work is very normal. It’s also very reasonable for her, after working all day to what a little bit of a break. Maybe you can balance it somehow, for each day you have to work late you agree to watch the kids for X hours on the weekend so she can go out with friends/take a nap/whatever.

    No one is wrong here (you, her, your company) but I find your wife’s position slightly unreasonable.

    1. FCJ*

      The OP says their wife brings work home. It’s possible that the OP’s expectation that the wife will just take care of the kid on those evenings is cutting into her own job. And, honestly, while they’re obviously not communicating well, to say that the wife is being “unreasonable” is unfair.

      1. Snark*

        My wife’s expectation that I will take care of the kid on her odd evenings cuts into things I need to do too. That’s not necessarily a problem. It’s just a reality of the situation. Sometimes, one spouse needs to do some lifting for the other one. A 50/50 effort split is properly regarded as an average over time.

      2. MuseumChick*

        Oh that’s a good point I didn’t think of! Your right, if he isn’t there and she is bring work home that would effect her job.

        I find her stance to “just say no” to evening work unreasonable. It’s not a viable option for a lot of jobs. It would sort of be like if the OP told his wife “Just work from home more.” Yeah, that would be great but it’s just not an option for most positions.

        1. Snark*

          All very true, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that skipping evening events would affect HIS job. And Mrs. OP is telling OP “Just work in the evenings less,” and that would also be great but it’s just not an option for his position.

          1. MuseumChick*

            Oh I agree. That’s why I think her insisting that he just says no to evening work is unreasonable.

            1. JaneB*

              Also she can’t just work from home more – unless she has extra child care. We say a LOT here that working from home is absolutely not a child-care solution!

              1. MuseumChick*

                Right, I wasn’t suggesting that she work at home as a solution. I was using it as an example of an unreasonable request.

              2. Snark*

                Actually she could, she’s an academic. The kid could stay in daycare for the full day – which they do not, currently – and she could work on campus or at home.

    2. Infinity Anon*

      I agree that they need to sit down and talk about why she is making those demands. It isn’t reasonable to ask the OP to not fulfill the requirement to sometimes attend events in the evening, but the reason why she is asking that could affect how to handle it. It is possible that she feels like she is not fulfilling her job requirements well right now either and the evening work makes her feel even more behind. Maybe it is time to evaluate the balance of housework and childcare responsibilities to try to make sure that neither of you is overwhelmed, which may include prioritizing what needs to be done and deciding its ok to let other things slide. It is also possible that the evening events sound like fun to her and she is resentful of what she sees as a fun night out. That would need to be handled differently, either by giving her a night out or explaining exactly what you will be doing at the event so that she can see it is more work than fun. Or maybe it is something else entirely that is bothering her. You can’t fix the problem until you know what it is.

  22. Let's Sidebar*

    Have you considered changing your child care to a nanny who would care for children in your home and can stay into the evenings occasionally? Especially once you have two children, the cost may be in your favor and it would allow the kind of consistency and flexibility that would relieve a strain on both you and your partner. Imagine not worrying about pickups, drop off, arrangments for sick days etc. plus the benefit of alleviating the occasional evening conflicts that are causing such stress. I know there are several websites services geared toward helping parents find this type of child care.

    1. jmm*

      I think a nanny is a good idea, but can bring complications too — unlike daycare, a nanny may get sick, or decide to change jobs, etc. Daycare is great because you know for sure they will be open 5 days a week, 10 hours a day, no matter what. Daycare definitely doesn’t solve the evening issue, though.

    2. Althea*

      I commented on this below, but you could consider au pairs as well. You have to be willing to have someone live-in, and the space for it, but it’s more affordable than a traditional nanny.

  23. ZSD*

    Oops, the original comment got removed as I was typing. Alison, if you want to remove my response as well, that’s fine.

  24. Vegas*

    You are being so thoughtful! Would hiring a babysitter for those nights or offering to give your wife some alone time while you watch your child on the weekend after you have to work late an option? That way, your wife could get some space and you could work late. Some day cares offer extended stays so maybe your son could stay a little later on those days. I hope this works out!

  25. julie*

    It seems to me as if both of your jobs have very “normal” requirements for professional positions- work during the day, and occasionally evening work as necessary. Your wife appears to have the same issue, it’s just more flexible. You both will need to come to terms on schedules and solutions. I agree with the babysitter/helper suggestions- having someone regularly come in two nights a week, even when you are home, might help. Or, budgeting for dinner to be delivered or having housekeeping/yard services might be solutions if those things aren’t being done already. This sounds like a problem that can be worked out! Maybe a marriage counselor could help you both communicate and plan together.

    1. Trinity*

      throwing money by hiring a babysitter, or the equivalent, won’t help. You need to sit down with your boss and find out exactly what is required from you regarding evenings and weekends. Then, sit down with your wife and discuss your options. Balancing family and work means making hard decisions
      It may mean turning down a promotion or finding a new job that fits your life better.

  26. INTP*

    If it was expressed to you as part of your job requirements, then I don’t think you can reasonably refuse to participate in evening work. Or you could, but unless you’re an amazing performer, it will probably result in you not moving much further within this organization (and possibly being replaced). There isn’t really a universal expectation of what is reasonable for parents of small children – there are different requirements for different jobs, and it’s up to parents to figure out what hours work for them. (IME, when the expectations in a certain workplace start to be based on the employees’ family status rather than job descriptions, resentment quickly brews among the people forced to pick up the slack.)

    Two ideas here – one, is there any weekend work available that is similar to the evening work you are expected to participate in? Community meetings and events often happen on weekends. If you pick up *more* than your share of weekend work, you may find that coworkers are happy to cover you for most of the evening work, as many people would prefer to work late rather than on weekends. Two, hiring childcare – a babysitter or whatever other arrangement you’re able to find, either in the afternoons when your wife would normally be with the kids, or in the evenings when you work. Working from home with a small child is difficult so I don’t think your wife is necessarily wrong here. If more hours of childcare isn’t possible it may be a case of this job not being a fit for your family situation right now.

  27. AZ*

    Is it possible your wife not pick up the child from childcare early on those days where you work late? At least the way I read it is that she picks him up early and has a couple of hours before you get home. If you like the childcare, then maybe a few times a month he stays?

    Another option when #2 comes along – look into a nanny. When we lived in ATL, by the time you payed for two kids in daycare, you could hire a nanny. Nannies can be great – and sometimes will flex with your schedules and do light housework.

    1. Becky*

      I was about to say the same: on the days when you have to work late, she leaves your son at daycare longer instead of picking him up early.

    2. Gen*

      This is a great suggestion. We negotiated a few longer days at childcare for our toddler and it had a immediate positive impact- not just on my exhaustion but it also helped prepare my son for the longer days at primary school which reduced his transition stress.

    3. Academic Addie*

      I agree with this. I’m also in higher ed, and I have at least some work that needs to be completed at home every night. Most nights, it’s an hour or so. Some nights (maybe 10% of nights), it might be three or four. On those nights where it would be a lot, I often went home, get my workspace ready and set up for whatever tasks I had, made a quick dinner and then picked up the kid at the last possible moment to avoid late charges. I completed the work after she went to sleep.

      That being said, when you’re pregnant, your body sometimes just quits at like 8 pm. So that only leaves an hour after a 7 pm bedtime. Perhaps those days with a lot of at-home work, a babysitter could pick up the kid from daycare, and bring them home? Even just getting the commute time out of her way might help.

      1. Steve*

        The pregnancy is probably playing into it. The OP shouldn’t have to give up his or her career forever, just because of this issue, but s/he might need to take 9 or more months off from the evening events. Once the baby is less of a parasite on the mother, then s/he should be able to resume them.

    4. Sarabeth*

      Yeah, it sounds to me like a significant part of the problem here is trying to fit in two full-time-plus jobs, when there’s actually less-than-full-time childcare.

      I’m an academic, and yes, I do sometimes take advantage of my flexibility to pick up my kids from daycare early and hang out. But I can’t do that every day, or my job won’t get done. I have flexible hours, but I also have 45-50 hours of work to do each week. I don’t think your wife’s schedule is sustainable, to be honest. If she really, really values those hours with your kid(s) each day, something else has to give, probably in the form of paid help elsewhere in the day. But the simplest solution is full time care, whether that’s staying longer at daycare, getting an au pair, or transitioning to a nanny (maybe plus part-time preschool for the older kid).

    5. Managing to get by*

      Or even on an occasional evening that you don’t work late, let your wife go straight home from work and have a couple of hours to herself and you pick up your child from child care that day. That might really help her feel better.

  28. ZSD*

    This obviously depends on which community you serve in your nonprofit job and what the events are like, but for the evening events where you’re just attending rather than running the show, would it work to bring your son along?

    (I’m not a parent, btw.)

    1. jmm*

      Respectfully, I believe this is probably not feasible. Even if the child is perfectly behaved, it would be very difficult to meet the child’s needs (food, drink, diaper changes, entertainment) while conversing with people or whatever is required of OP at the events. I can barely have a conversation with other adults while keeping track of my kids…

    2. JuniperGreen*

      As a professional at a non-profit that also has many after-hours events that serve the community, I actually was commenting to ask this very question. I’m not a parent either, but many of our staff are working parents and will occasionally bring their kids and partners to community events.

      This is obviously very dependent on the types of events and his role at them, and may not be possible. But the OP mentions being senior in his org, so his role might be more about face time and demonstrating solidarity with the program efforts, rather than organizing event logistics. In this case, showing up as a member of the community (e.g., working father, neighbor, voter, etc) is as important as being the staff member in a suit or with a name tag.

      Certainly, depending on the event and your child’s needs, it may not be appropriate. But if it is, it might be worth a try. Or consider bringing your spouse AND son along so your spouse sees what your work is about. My partner sometimes comes to events that I must attend, and it’s helpful for both of us when he sees the organization in action (gives us more common ground to discuss our scheduling and work demands).

  29. K*

    Your wife is being unreasonable if she expects you not to do work your boss has told you is a requirement of your job because it inconveniences her. Would she accept you having veto power over an assignment her boss gave her because you had to care for your kid? That being said, if her absolute answer is no on care-giving when you have to work, then think of her as being out of town on those nights and look at alternative options. That probably means paying someone to care for your son. Your other option seems to be losing standing at your job, or losing your job altogether if you can’t perform the required duties. Is that worth it?

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      LW didn’t say they were “required”, but “expected”.

      Also, I don’t think it’s fair to frame this as LW’s wife being “inconvenienced”. She takes care of the child on her own, every weekday, for hours. As others have suggested, what LW described as her “peace and quiet” time might be when she does the work that she brings home. So having to do that much more solo child-rearing may very well impact *her* work.

      1. Traveler*

        I can’t speak for LW, but working in a nonprofit sector where things are not “required” but “expected” like this, is code for “we can’t make this mandatory but if you don’t show it could hurt your promotion, performance review, and what other projects we trust you with if you consistently forego these events”. And maybe not even so much hurt directly as it is – if there are no other defining factors between me and Sally, but she’s been going to events and I’ve been bowing out for personal reasons, she’s going to get the advantage.

          1. K*

            +1 to Traveler’s comments on hurting the OP by not doing these events. And maybe OP’s office is different, but if my boss says “I expect this brief to be done by the end of the day” it usually doesn’t mean that getting the brief done by the end of the day is optional.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Maybe the OP needs to accept that his career will be on pause for the next several years, while he has two young children and can’t spend as much time focusing on his job. I feel like that’s a pretty common expectation of mothers, but in this case, it might be worth serious consideration for the father as well. Not that he needs to take a demotion, but maybe right now, Sally will get that professional advantage, because the work/life balance is worth it to the OP.

          This stage of your life will not last forever.

          1. Thlayli*

            Agree. There’s a BIG difference between “I have to attend 2 evenings a month or I will be unemployed” and “I want to attend 2 evenings a month so I can improve my resume and get a promotion”.

            Either way, any time you are working and expecting your partner to care for your child is time that impacts on your partners career and life also – not to mention impacting on your own relationship with your child. You should be doing the cost-benefit analysis as a couple not looking at it as if it’s a battle of your career versus her career. It should be about “what’s the overall best option for our family and each of us as individuals”

            Many many people let their career take a back seat for a few years when they have young kids. It’s a totally normal thing to do. If possible Dial it down a notch and come back fighting fit in a few years.

    2. Insert name here*

      Yeah, so unreasonable to work a full time job, childcare in the evenings, while pregnant, taking some of her work home…she’s just soooo entitled isn’t she? Ugh women!! Am I right??? Don’t get married bro focus on your career! Wait too late now you’re trapped!
      Great job making the wife out to be a horrible shrew!

      1. KellyK*

        Your actual valid point, that the wife is busy and stressed out too and may not be *able* to take on more evening childcare without hurting her own career, is really lost in your snark and condescension.

          1. KellyK*

            Yes, you’ve explained repeatedly that you think the wife is being unreasonable and should just suck it up and deal. But that’s not really helpful to the OP or considerate to his wife. Growing a person is physically exhausting, and she sounds like she’s at the end of her rope. A little consideration might be warranted.

            1. Snark*

              If that’s really what you’re getting from my posts, I suggest that you take some time and read them again. Pointing out the obvious fact that he absolutely must attend evening work events isn’t telling her to suck it up and deal, but it is the terrain they’re walking on. Whatever else they do to make it easier for her, that is the reality, so our suggestions need to factor that in.

              1. Infinity Anon*

                We don’t actually know that for a fact. He hasn’t tried talking to his boss about doing fewer events due to childcare issues. It might be that he needs to really look at the amount of housework and childcare that he is leaving to his wife and see if maybe he is asking too much of her. She is working a full time job and doing several hours of childcare alone everyday. When he gets home it sounds like she switches to housework. He doesn’t necessarily have to say that working evenings and weekends are completely out of the question, but he could make it clear that they are difficult and he can only do it when it is really necessary. Sometimes something has to give and he can’t simply decide that that something is his wife’s happiness rather than his jobs unwritten expectations.

                1. Snark*

                  “We don’t actually know that for a fact. ”

                  His boss told him that it was an expectation of the job, though he did phrase it somewhat oddly: “The expectations of my job are that I will be available to work some evenings. It has been expressed to me by my boss.” I think it’s reasonable to err on that side. Totally understand if you disagree, but.

              2. Kalamet*

                I don’t necessarily agree – he could move jobs or roles that don’t require evening work until the kids are older. I’m not saying he definitely *should* do that, but it’s not an absolute unless you are assuming that his career is the most important part of this situation. We don’t know what his job situation is like other than that he prefers to stay where he is.

                OP *and* his wife have to be onboard with any plan they make, or the fights and resentment will continue. If she’s expressed that something is a problem, it’s a problem, whether we agree or not. Whether or not they can come to a solution that makes them both happy comes down to their relationship, so I can’t say what’s best.

                1. Snark*

                  “he could move jobs or roles that don’t require evening work until the kids are older”

                  Possibly, but he specified that he’s in a senior role in the organization – e.g. not a lot of lateral flexibility – and that his evening obligations involve forming relationships with a served community. I’m basing my responses on not seeing a lot of flexibility in that situation.

              3. Thlayli*

                Actually OP has posted elsewhere that he has not set any boundaries with his boss so far. It seems that the boss requires him to come to evening events but there has been no discussion regarding how often / how long / possibility of time in lieu etc at all. So it is absolutely not correct to say that he has to go to all these events. After a discussion with his boss he may well find out that the boss would be perfectly happy for him to attend only one event a month and to have an afternoon off in lieu. OP hasn’t even asked yet.

      2. Sleeping or maybe dead*

        Honestly, I can’t tell if this is the case for op, maybe he’s a genuinely good and concerned partner and parent.

        But then again, I work with so. many. men. like. these. Not only the openly sexist ones; Even more reasonable people can carry unconscious bias, it is definitely a thing.

        I don’t want to derail the conversation, but I think it is important for op to think carefully about gendered expectations and don’t measure up what your wife can or can’t do with your coworker’s wives.

      3. Olive Hornby*

        That was unnecessary. And there’s no firm indication in the letter that the LW is a man. My partner and I are both women, and we have similar conflicts.

        1. Thlayli*

          Op mentioned something in another comment that implied he is a man. He said “I think that is an assumption based on my gender” (the assumption in question being that he leaves all the housework to his wife, which is an assumption usually made about men). That implies to me that OP is a man, although it is true that there was no indication of OPs gender in the actual letter.

    3. Let's Sidebar*

      It’s unfair to say that a pregnant woman with a toddler who works full time in an ambitious career that “requires her to bring a lot of her work home with her” is unreasonable to assert that she can’t be solely responsible for child care, completing her work, and managing their home and dinners on a regular basis. The OP certainly seems sincere in trying to find a balance, but studies show that even when men think they are splitting responsibilities 50/50, that is not actually happening, so I think it’s more than safe to assume his wife is not being unreasonable.

      1. No, please*

        Yes! I’m sure they are both stressed, exhausted and worried about adding a second child to this situation.

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      This is a lot more than an inconvenience for her, and from the letter it appears that the writer hasn’t actually attempted to see what he can do with his own work schedule because he’s embarrassed about what his boss will think if he brings it up. I would be pretty upset if my partner wouldn’t even try to see how he could arrange his work schedule to give me more relief in the evenings– if he truly can’t change anything then that’s one thing, but he doesn’t actually know if that’s the case because he won’t bring it up at work. And even if those evenings are wholly mandatory, there are other ways he can make an effort.

      From the wife’s perspective she’s working all day, picking up their existing kid, watching him for most of the evening, then only gets the luxury of going to do other chores or her own work she’s taken home once her husband comes home. On top of all that, she’s pregnant right now and probably not feeling in the best shape to start with. That’s a lot to deal with, it’s not an inconvenience and it’s not petty for her to want him to make an effort to just find out what he may be able to do to share some of this between them a little more.

      1. Snark*

        You’re off base. You seriously wonder why he’s reluctant to ask his boss to not do basic, expected functions of his position? He’s not “embarrassed about what his boss will think,” he’s worried that he’s going to get fired if he avoids required evening work obligations. And he’s already shirking events to arrange his schedule to accomodate her, and getting into fights for the few he can’t avoid.

        The wife sounds like she works typical academic’s hours, which are extremely flexible and do not require one to be on campus for an entire day, and she’s choosing to pick the kid up early from daycare rather than leaving them there for the whole day. And then they trade off when he gets home, which is an entirely ordinary and normal thing that most couples with kids do.

        Really don’t understand the reflexive siding with the wife here.

        1. JaneB*

          Typical academic’s hours and flexibility means you can do most of your 60-70 hours a week whenever you like, not that you can work less hours. Flexible, but not easy.

          And working with a PET around can be hard, never mind a little one!

          1. Snark*

            Sure. But part of the reason she’s burned out when he gets home is that she picks the kid up early from daycare. That would, at the very least, free up a solid….what, maybe 15 hours a week, to do other work and not get drained by a toddler.

            1. Infinity Anon*

              She may not be doing that by choice. They may have mutually agreed on that arrangement because they can’t afford full time daycare.

              1. Snark*

                I hear you that that’s a possibility, but I don’t see how dismissing suggestions because they might theoretically be infeasible is productive.

                1. Infinity Anon*

                  The phrasing implied that she was making a choice and therefore being burned out was her fault. I was just trying to say that phasing it as her choice implies that she is creating the situation that is burning her out when it is more likely a mutual decision.

                2. Snark*

                  It may be a choice. It probably is. Your assumption I’m implying choice equates to fault is a little uncharitable and also doesn’t follow your first statement about being able to afford it. It might be a mutual choice, and a choice made for good and deeply felt reasons, like wanting to maximize the kid’s time with parents. But it might be a choice they have to sacrifice.

        2. Academic Addie*

          I wouldn’t say that people are reflexively siding with the wife. But I remember being pregnant. My window of workable hours was shorter, which meant that if my husband needed to trade off at, say, 7:30pm, that was about my bed time during the first and last trimesters. I would be falling behind if I had my normal nighttime workload, particularly if my evening workload included research activities, not just grading or filling out administrative forms.

          1. Sarabeth*

            This is absolutely true – but in my experience, it doesn’t get better until the kid is at least a year old. Pregnancy exhaustion is intense, but so is sleep deprivation when your infant is up 5 times a night. I would certainly not problem-solve with the expectation that this situation will get any better when the second kid is on the outside. I’m an academic, and I cannot work at nights any more. By the time both kids are asleep, I’m too exhausted to think. But also, missing bedtime is a HUGE deal now, because getting both a 6 month old and a three year old to sleep by myself is really, really hard. I can do it, but I avoid the situation at all costs. Including getting a babysitter to help in the evening when my husband travels.

          2. Snark*

            I think a lot of folks really leapt for the interpretation that he wasn’t contributing enough and needed to be taken to task, honestly.

        3. Infinity Anon*

          I think it is fair to say that he should try to see it from his wife’s perspective. Right now he sees her as making unreasonable demands that are negatively affecting his career. Trying to see why she would make those demands and what her needs are could help him to fix the problem. Seeing someone as asking for something unreasonable is a harder starting position than seeing them as asking for what they need but it is something that you cannot do. If you see them as asking for what they need you are more likely to be able to figure out a compromise and not feel resentful.

        4. The OG Anonsie*

          Friend, I’m reiterating what he has explicitly stated in the letter. If it sounds kooky to you, I’m not sure what else to say.

          There is not a wife’s “side.” This isn’t an issue with sides. Seeing people trying to help the LW understand where the source of the conflict could be– which is what he asked for and why he wrote in here –as taking the wrong side is bizarre enough that I’m not actually sure what to say about it.

  30. Jess*

    Do you appreciate that you can work 9 to 5 hours because of the way your partner has arranged her schedule? She is already facilitating your career. You’re lucky she can do that. Do you think it’s reasonable to ask her to invest the time that lets you hold down a 9 to 5 job and ALSO ask her to invest the time to let you work outside of those hours when you could outsource that time instead?

    Hire help. It’s an investment in your marriage and an investment in both of your careers. If you think you can’t afford to hire help, you’re going to need to tell your boss that you have other commitments in the evening, because you do. But if you’re in a position where you’re senior at your company, hiring help is an investment you should be able to afford, certainly more easily than you can afford to skip evening work.

    1. Beckie*

      This first paragraph makes a terrific point. It sounds like the LW’S partner has maximized her flexibility in order to benefit the whole family, and that she is all out of options (and energy). I think the status quo needs to be interrogated from all angles — the LW’s work schedule, the domestic division of labor (including childcare and cooking), and the options for paid help in some of that evening labor.

  31. Morning Glory*

    Would it be possible for you to discuss with your boss the possibility of leaving early one day a week on the weeks you need to stay late another night? That way you could pick your child up from daycare that day and take over childcare duties so your wife also gets a night ‘off.,’ just on another night. If that does not work, volunteer to take all of the childcare duties one day or half-day the following weekend to give her a rest.

    Another idea: you said your wife cooks every evening. You could make and freeze a dinner for your wife and child the weekend before a night you need to work late. That way she just has to pop a lasagna in the oven (or something they like) and does not have to balance taking care of a child and cooking dinner all at once.

    1. Liz*

      Or if you don’t want to outsource child care, outsource some other tasks. Subscribe to a meal delivery service, or invest your time in cooking so at least dinner is taken care of.

      Another consideration: put the child to bed earlier. I have some friends whose children go to bed at 8pm so they sleep till 7-8am, but then you lose all your evening. At 2yo we tried to enforce a 6-6.30pm bedtime, and although it made for slightly earlier mornings it gave more flexibility in the evening.

  32. Friday Night*

    I think you need to reframe this a little. Your wife is telling you that she can’t handle (won’t be able to handle) that amount of childcare responsibility on an ongoing basis if you start working evenings more regularly with nothing else changing. She is never going to be able to ‘get’ all of the nuances of your job, just as you can’t get ‘all’ the nuances and stresses of her job, you really just have to make it work with the resources you have.

    You don’t mention if she works from home once she’s handed off the kid(s) to you, but if what you characterize as “peace and quiet” is actually “not falling behind at work” then her reluctance there is understandable since she probably values her career as well and may she this shifting of household labour as a devaluing of her career.

    Additionally – it sounds like she’s doing most of the cooking, and that may make sense for any number of reasons, but it’s work – both planning and labour. It might ease some of the stress, and give you more flexibility to talk about restructuring responsibilities if you jointly took full stock of how labor in the house is both managed and divided up and take on more where you can. Also don’t forget about the managerial/planning aspects of household labour – making sure things get done on time and correctly is as stressful as actually doing it.

    One way out, as already suggested, is to pay for additional child care/household help. If you do decided to spend money to hire someone with the kids, understand that this is a joint expense, so make sure she gets some relief from this expense as well, since it sounds like she’s already operating at her limit.

    1. spocklady*

      +++ to all this. My husband and I don’t have kids yet (hopefully soon) and even as single people we sometimes struggle to find balance regarding the amount of evening/weekend hours we both feel we need to put in (I’m also in academia so I definitely see where your wife is coming from, OP). We’re both early/early-mid career so now feels like a natural time to invest hours in our jobs.

      However, as many others have noted, it’s pretty tough to come home and handle cooking/laundry/grocery shopping/whatever after a full busy day of work, and that’s without the additional strains of pregnancy or childcare. Honestly, it sounds like you two just have a lot going on, and that’s ok. Others said above it’s not helpful to compare yourself to others you work with, and I think that’s important to stress. You don’t know what their other commitments are.

      Sometimes it’s been easy for me to stay at work until 6 or 7 if I wanted to finish something (like when I was living alone or my husband worked a closing shift), and sometimes that would throw a big wrench into the works (like when we need to eat early and not whenever I get around to it because of an early morning the next day).

      I think if you combine re-framing how you’re thinking about what you’re asking of your wife, and then sitting down with her to find out what in particular makes this situation a hard no for her (as MuseumChick and FCJ suggest), that will help you figure out some options.

      Good luck!

    2. Academic Addie*

      Absolutely. For a while, my husband had a second shift job, and I was working 9-4, picking up our daughter, taking care of her and getting dinner on the table, then finishing 3-4 hours of work after she went to bed. Even though I was at home, that meant I was effectively working 9am-11pm. We all love our kids, but that’s a lot. Taking care of a toddler and cooking dinner is different than just vegging out at home.

      When I was pregnant, expecially during the first and third trimesters, I was done for the day by about 8 pm. Just useless. If the wife is giving up all of her good hours every single day to do household chores, she is probably freaking out. I would be. I think the solutions need to not just take into account giving her a night off, but ensuring that she has time to complete her work tasks on a schedule that works for her current biology.

      1. JaneB*

        Maybe for now finding ways for her to have some weekend time if that lets her get some good hours without the little one?

        I think one other thing to remember is that things change SO MUCH in the first few years with children – every few months, what your family needs to function smoothly might change, and so maybe it will help to not think of this as a forever deal, but a for-now deal – whilst wife is pregnant, you do X. Whilst she’s on maternity leave, you do Y. Once you have two at day care, then you choose between Z and AA…. it’s really easy in the trenches to feel like this is unendurable because it feels never ending… setting a time limit on when it will next be discussed/renegotiated might help you both feel less desperate?

  33. CR*

    Leaving aside the obvious solution of a babysitter, I think you need to be more sympathetic to your wife. She’s working AND doing the majority of the childcare. That’s incredibly hard, draining, tiring work.

    If you can compromise with your wife about working in the evenings, make sure that when you are ARE home and not working that you’re giving it 110%. Perhaps she feels like she never really gets a break even when you aren’t working, because you’re still checking emails or involved in something else instead of spending time with your wife and child.

      1. Snark*

        Yes. Dudes can cook dinner, dudes should cook dinner, dudes cannot expect dinner to be provided for them every night.

        1. Morning Glory*

          I assumed this in my post too, but rereading the letter, OP said she hands off the kid in order to cook dinner OR have peace and quiet. I don’t think it’s fair to assume he never cooks dinner.

          1. Snark*

            I meant that more as a general statement. Loading up one partner with cooking every night can be a real imposition. I cook 5-6 nights a week because I love it, but there are times when I can’t even.

      2. Becky*

        Yes–maybe days when you know you are going to be working late at home, throw something in the slow cooker in the morning! Fixing a meal doesn’t have to be a lot of work.

        1. Snark*

          My go-to meal for this is toasted mini naan or flatbread, spread with goat cheese and charcuterie and topped with simple dressed salad. With two people on deck, it’s literally a 10 minute dinner, and it’s easily as delicious as anything I spend three hours on.

      3. MashaKasha*

        Yes, that part where OP said she’s so happy to hand the child off so she can finally start making dinner brought back a lot of bad memories. Takeout is a thing!

    1. Starbuck*

      Don’t forget, she’s doing all this while pregnant. Oof. OP should know better than we do how the extra stress of pregnancy might be affecting her.

      1. motherofdragons*

        Yes, I keep forgetting that part (probably because I myself am pregnant, and preggo brain is real for me right now). I am exhausted, stressed, cranky, and sore, and I don’t even have a toddler to look after! I can really empathize with LW’s wife.

    2. Another bureaucrat*

      Working, care for a toddler, AND (presumably) pregnant! Thinking about that, I completely understand why she’s losing it every couple of weeks. Not judging all pregnant woman, just thinking back to my own experience. Hormones are real. Fatigue is real. It will get you.

    3. thunderbird*

      Meal planning in general is a huge life saver. Take some time on the weekend, decide what meals you want for the week, shop for the ingredients and prep as much as you can ahead of time (how I spend my Sunday mornings). Then during the week, you don’t have to think about it when you are already drained, and you can quickly assemble the plan.

      Are there other chores/emotional labor that can be managed ahead? I keep a very busy schedule and personal life, and my routine keeps me sane and not feeling like I am unraveling.

      Working 2 evenings a month is not a big ask. With the right planning you can successfully manage this!

      1. anon24*

        Meal planning is great. I don’t often do it, but on weeks where I know we are going to be busy I do. My husband helps me, and between the two of us we can plan, shop, and prep for a weeks worth of meals in less than 3 hours. It’s a lifesaver to be able to just pop food in the microwave and have eaten and cleaned up in 15 minutes. It also helps us eat healthier and save money, otherwise we’d be eating fast food for the week. This wouldn’t help with OPs childcare issue but sometimes every small thing matters.

        1. thunderbird*

          Well they asked about balancing all the pieces, and perhaps the wife would feel less stressed/drained with the extra child care on those nights if she didn’t have to focus and worry about other things like cooking, cleaning, etc. Planning ahead can definitely have a positive impact, especially on the nights he has to work late. Also beyond swapping nights allowing her time off, what other benefits can they come up with to make it easier on everyone?

    4. Siberian*

      I don’t hear necessarily that the OP is not being sympathetic to his wife (maybe he’s not, I just don’t hear it clearly in his letter). But I did want to say that when you’re both this stressed, it’s good to really evaluate what you’re doing. I heavily supported my husband practically and emotionally during his first year of grad school. I totally got how stressful his PhD program was, and shouldered child care, special relative circumstances, unpacking after our move, learning to cook (part of the special relative thing), doing all cooking and most housecleaning and all bill paying, car care, etc. on top of my full-time freelance work. What really enraged me, however, was that he was so stressed that he’d come home and be irate if there were dishes in the sink. It was part of an “I’m better and tidier and prompter about housework than you” theme and honestly he’s lucky I didn’t just walk out on him. So, OP, I encourage you to evaluate how you approach your wife, your tone, if you’re being unnecessarily critical, etc. Not because I’m blaming you for this situation or because I think you’re doing what my husband did, but because it’s good for all of us to reflect on the ways we contribute to relationship problems. Except me, I’m perfect. :)

      1. Courtney*

        +1 to evaluating all this stuff. I’m a full time student with in-classroom work on the side (going into education.) So I’m working/in class all day, do the daycare stuff, cook meals and buy the groceries, and do like 90% of the cleaning. And then when the kids are in bed it just means it’s time for me to study and do homework. So when I need my husband to flex his schedule a bit from what’s expected (he works 60 hour weeks at his dad’s business) and he tells me that’s probably not possible and I just don’t understand how his job works…I see red. Because hello, I cannot help the fact that the high school has an earlier start time than the elementary school! I already bring tons of work home with me to accommodate the kids, and sometimes his job needs to be flexible too! (Can you tell I’ve had this argument literally within the last week?)

        Once my husband and I calmed down from this argument, we reapproached it with a clear talk about how we need to remember we’re on the same side and figure this out together. He needed my understanding that it’s hard talking to his dad (who is super into traditional gender roles and thinks I should stay at home to take care of everything.) I needed more appreciation and acknowledgement of how much I do. And then we worked on coming up with a solution together, keeping in mind finances, what possible solutions will look like in the long term, etc. Sounds like you guys need to have a similar talk, OP.

  34. Traveler*

    Yeah, this is the norm with working in the non-profit world where there are events. I’ve struggled with it myself and I don’t even have kids. It has not been uncommon for me to work 50-60 hours with almost all that overtime being due to nights and weekends. It’s one of those jobs where the limit is whatever the requirements of the organization are, and you have to decide whether or not you can live with them. It sounds like you can’t – not without a sitter, or other outside help for your wife. Trying to get out of all of these responsibilities on the basis of childcare will likely not go over well, as its a known aspect of the job and the alternative would be to heap all those responsibilities on the childless employees which is not a feasible solution. It sounds like you might need to start thinking about another career, or whether or not you can afford a sitter.

  35. Unicorn Ranger*

    Aww…OP ….I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    As you noted at the beginning of your post that both your wife and you are professionally ambitious. So I’m assuming that your wife gets why you are in the job that you have.
    I would sincerely have a conversation with her…come to a compromise that you’ll work a max of 2 events a week or a max of 6 events per month because its part of your professional development. And as part of that you’re willing to get a baby sitter or perhaps let her have her peace and quiet and whatever else she needs the rest of the week/ month.
    You should also have a similar conversation with your manager – letting them know that as a parent of a toddler and an infant – that you require a bit of work life balance – and that you’ll work the 2 events per week or 6 events per month.
    Of course it sounds like all talk because I’m not in your shoes – but really atleast from your manager’s side – it shouldn’t be that big a deal – work/ life balance is a big deal and most companies strive towards it.

    Good luck!

    1. Helpless*

      OP Here: Thank you. I think the number of events my wife is comfortable with is more like 2 per month.

  36. Colette*

    I don’t think paid childcare is the only solution (although it is certainly one of them).

    Can you:
    – take off work early the day after an event and do all the childcare so your wife can do whatever she wants?
    – pay for some of the work around the house (e.g. cleaning, ordering take-out or freezer-ready meals) so that child care is the only thing that has to happen on those nights?
    – investigate other kid-friendly activities for your wife to do with your child while you’re out (e.g. indoor playground)
    – ask friends to help with childcare twice a month (or even to come over and help your wife with your son so that she’s not dealing with it alone)

    I think you also have to be clear with your wife about the fact that this is actually a requirement of the job, and you either have to do it or find a new job – and you have to be clear with your boss about how often you can do things outside of normal work hours. (Twice a month seems reasonable, assuming these aren’t events that happen daily).

    But really it comes down to:
    – being clear about what you need to do and what you can do, and
    – recognizing that your wife sees this as a burden, and minimizing the impact on her/finding ways to make it up to her.

    1. Overeducated*

      I like your last suggestion. When my spouse is out of town I make an effort to invite friends over for dinner (the kind of really close friends you can feed takeout or leftovers, not the kind you need to clean and cook for) or organize a play date with another parent. It isn’t exactly childcare so it wouldn’t help OP’s wife get work done, but it helps take off the pressure and loneliness of parenting by yourself.

      1. Snark*

        I don’t like that last point. She can see it as a burden, or accept it as something she has to compromise on, independent of other things she would like him to compromise on.

        1. Overeducated*

          I meant the last of the concrete suggestions, to ask a friend for help or company. It helps me.

          But in terms of the last sentence, the OP is the one who wrote in for advice, so it does make sense for him to try to understand his wife’s point of view; we can’t realistically say “you must force your wife to view it as a compromise and not a burden,” that may not be in his power.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      This is all really great advice. To the last point, I think that’s a huge key here– if you can’t change your work schedule at all, make an effort somewhere else to give her relief from the load that she’s carrying right now. Being actively supportive wherever you can be is a big deal.

  37. Frozen Ginger*

    Maybe for every night you have to be at an event, you should give your wife a night “off” where you handle your son on your own. So say Thursday you have to go to an event, then next Thursday you tell your wife to get out of the house and do something she enjoys. You may say “Well that’s not fair; I’m missing evenings due to work, not pleasure.” But that doesn’t change the fact that every night you aren’t home is another chunk of time that your wife has to watch the kid alone.

    1. The OG Anonsie*

      You may say “Well that’s not fair; I’m missing evenings due to work, not pleasure.” But that doesn’t change the fact that every night you aren’t home is another chunk of time that your wife has to watch the kid alone.

      This is the thing that I think is really hard to get into when you’re trying to balance demanding jobs like this. For you, all your burdens are mandatory and you’re not really getting “out” of any responsibility. To the other person, they just need help balancing the responsibilities you both share, and making your individual responsibilities fit around that is something both of you have to do.

    2. Perfectly Particular*

      Completely agree with this. We have a similar struggle in my house, but I have to travel for about 4 days at a time, leaving my husband to manage the kids. Ours are older, so that means making real food, helping with homework, running to soccer practice, etc. His job requires no travel. When I come home from 4 days straight of working all day and into the evening, I am exhausted, but also, our children and their loudness is jarring! The house is usually a disaster too. I have to be really careful to not criticize, and to make sure my hubby gets some time to just wander around Home Depot or do whatever he wants to do for a few hours. I use that time to get our house back in order. The other thing that helps is that I do a ton of prep beforehand: the meals are planned, groceries bought, laundry done, schedule up to date before I head out the door. So, now that I’m done talking about myself, OP, maybe you can think about how you can take some stress off your wife when you will be out. What can you do ahead of time, and make sure she knows that you understand if things aren’t quite perfect when you get home.

  38. Summerisle*

    It’s so hard to juggle the demands of both, and situations like this are why I’m such an advocate of flexible working.
    It might be worth explaining the situation to your boss (if they’re an understanding type) and see if you can come to some arrangement about the late nights. If not, job hunting for a more flexible position might be the only realistic option – albeit not an ideal one, sadly.

  39. extra anon today*

    If it’s only a couple of days a month, why not hire a babysitter? Tell your wife to take those nights off. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  40. Ms. Meow*

    Instead of viewing evening events as overtime, would your management be willing to treat it like comp time? Say you work an evening event on a Tuesday, then say on Thursday you could leave early to pick up the kids and make dinner and whatnot. This would give your wife the opportunity to complete her work at the office then come home to a nice dinner with the family and some nice time to relax.

  41. Snark*

    My wife is an organizational psychologist and is often in a similar position, where she has to work slightly odd hours or in the evening, and….at some point, this is something your wife needs to get over, OP, just as I’ve gotten over it. I have to take care of a rambunctious toddler a lot, and it seems to happen most often when I happen to need a night of quiet and solitude, and I just kind of have to suck it up. As do many people. A LOT of jobs – teachers, lawyers, consultants, trainers, emergency personnel, customer service and retail – have obligations outside the traditional 9-5 office core hours. You’re not the only pair of parents to have to negotiate this.

    That said, I think having major fights every couple of weeks when this happens is indicative of issues that are outside the purview of this blog. Maybe you need to step it up more when you are present. Maybe she needs to get right with the fact that your job is going to make you do this for the foreseeable future and expecting you to be home at 5pm every night is more than slightly unreasonable. But either way, I think the correct person to unpack this with is a couples counselor. They’re not just for marriage extinction-level problems.

    1. motherofdragons*

      When those nights happen where you’re taking care of your toddler solo, is there any other balancing or compromising going on that week? Like, will your wife take on childcare on another evening for you to relax or work or whatever you need to do? I’m trying to figure out if there’s something your family does to balance the scales a bit, or if this is just how things are and it works for you.

      1. Snark*

        I occasionally have to travel overnight, and my wife occasionally graciously takes the kid so I can go climbing or kayaking or whatever, but sometimes, especially in the moment, it can feel like how things work. I’m contractually limited to 40 hours a week, she’s a freelance consultant, so….this is how the cookie crumbles, a lot of times. And, honestly, I think the major balancing comes from having the kid in daycare full-time, which is more a sacrifice of money and togetherness than it is of one person or another’s time.

    2. BRR*

      This was one of my thoughts as well but hasn’t seemed to really surface yet in the commenting section. It sounds like the LW’s wife is in the teaching side of academia and from my experience, people in this field sometimes don’t understand non-academic workplace norms because that’s not what they’re a part of. It seems that evening and weekend work is a requirement of the LW’s job and I don’t think they can say to their boss they can’t do it.

      I’d let your wife know that this is a requirement of your job and work on solutions from there. Trying to change what can’t be changed isn’t going to help. If evening and weekend work is not a requirement of all jobs in your field, is it possible to look for a new job that has a schedule better suited to your needs?

      1. fposte*

        Though it’s a parallel–*both* of them need to work some nights. I’m not clear that the OP realizes that he’s not the only one who needs to meet that demand to keep a job.

        1. BRR*

          Oh definitely. I might have missed something but basically my thought is they need to figure out what they want and how to get as close to that given how the cards lie (innovative, I know right?!?!).

  42. Sunshine Brite*

    Wow, I’m really surprised by some of these reactions so far. The work expectation is extremely common in nonprofits serving a particular community.

    Recognizing that both you and your wife are ambitious with demanding careers that require evening work. Recognizing that she has additional physical stress of pregnancy right now. Recognizing that this problem with about to intensify with a toddler and a baby. You both need to do some personal stress management and together as a couple.

    It sounds like you may not be acknowledging your need and hers for individual decompression time and the way that conflicts with toddler management. You need to recognize her need to be able to have ample time to work evenings as well; while the schedule is flexible it is still demanding.

    Your wife is incorrect that you can just say that there are child care issues. Evening obligations are common, expected, and mandatory for your position. It isn’t reasonable to say no to all evenings or try and get people without children to cover for you. That reflects poorly on you and your professionalism. Twice a month is not unreasonable and more is likely. Your fear of losing this job over this is real. This may mean that this field is not for you if you’re not wanting evenings.

    The thing is that this isn’t work outside of scheduled hours; it IS scheduled hours. Just ones in the evening. Plenty in academia have evening requirements so I’m surprised you’re getting as much pushback on this.

    Solving this now will help in the future. You’re going to need to invest in finding evening care. Someone who will be qualified to assist with an infant as well. Care agencies or local referrals will be able to assist. Figure out what other duties you can take on at home or hire out. Those efforts will ease the burden.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      Plus, while this couple is likely to be husband/wife; it’s not outlined in the letter itself and I encourage use to refrain from stereotyping men and their abilities to help in the home. While statistically speaking, if the OP is male he is more likely to underestimate his wife’s burden in the house the focus should be on trying to improve the balance.

      Maybe you could be in charge of the toddler on the weekend for her alone time/time to finish her work on the weeks you have evening obligations. Think about slow cooker type meals/make ahead.

    2. Sunshine Brite*

      Also, your toddler goes to daycare so that place likely has reliable local resources to provide for evenings.

    3. Quickbeam*

      I agree on the requirements of a salaried position like OPs. Flexibility and extra hours go with the territory. You just can’t bail on them.

  43. Overeducated*

    I feel like your wife may have a similar conflict that you’re not recognizing when you say at first that she has to bring a lot of work home with her after coming home early with your son, but then that she wants time to make dinner or relax. Is it possible she feels like your leaving in the evening means she is unable to get that work done at home, so she is cutting her work week short or losing sleep to work after bedtime so you can work later? Its very common for academics with young families to create “balance” by just working when everyone else is asleep, but that’s not sustainable, especially when pregnant or sleep deprived with a new baby. Especially if she’s trying to get ahead before the baby, you might need to try to balance your evening work with her needs more.

    There are several ways you can do that. One, hire a mother’s helper as suggested above. Two, cook extra or order takeout on weeks you work late so she doesn’t have extra housework as well as childcare and can fit more into the nights you are home. Three, think about whether it’s reasonable to ask for flexibility in your schedule to come home earlier yourself the day or two after a late event (very common for senior salaried staff where I’ve worked but every organization is different), giving her those extra hours to get HER work under control.

    She might also be freaked out about you ramping up your weekend/evening work AFTER the new baby comes, when she will need more support for a while, but it seems like you’re trying to create a new pattern of working more. You might want to talk with her and your boss explicitly about expectations for the first 3-6 months after the birth, and really think about the mother’s helper idea for that time too.

    Good luck. It’s tough and our employment structures a can be really punishing to dual career parents. It’s not just you, it’s the system.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Yes, I like this “flex-time” idea. He should try to fit it into his schedule while still considering hers, or maybe even push some into the weekend if possible/necessary.

  44. RabbitRabbit*

    Beyond suggesting childcare options, I wonder if meal delivery service and/or a maid service might help as well, what with both parents working. It might help reduce some of the overall stress at home.

    The comment about her bringing work home is interesting; it’s kind of buried and contrasts a little with her apparent attitude towards ‘out of house’ working after hours. Is she interpreting the events and programs as being fun/socializing/networking solely for his benefit, rather than a requirement of his bosses? She works in academia; would she consider the requirement to teach a night class something that she could just decline to do? Has the OP tried to reframe his job requirements in that respect?

    1. KellyK*

      That’s a really good way to reframe things. If she’s struggling to complete the requirements of her job, I can see her really resenting something that looks like networking and socializing, rather than a true job requirement.

  45. Durham Rose*

    Just to throw this out there, not everyone can afford a babysitter even just a few times a month. Childcare in many parts of the world can easily equate to one person’s paycheck.

    1. Temperance*

      My friends in this situation started a babysitting co-op, where they take turns babysitting each other’s kids, at no charge. It’s lovely.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I once read a Carolyn Hax column (or chat, it was a looong time ago) where two couples had a babysitting arrangement. On the nights one couple wanted to go out, they would put the kids to bed and one member of the other couple would come over and babysit, which essentially meant just being in the house while the kids slept. It sounded like such an awesome solution for everyone; each couple got downtime and the babysitter got some time on his/her “own”. I always said that if I ever had kids (an unlikely situation at this point), I would work really hard towards this option.

        I don’t know if something like that would work for the OP, but it’s worth considering. On nights where he has to be out, a friend can come over and just be there or be “on call”.

      2. Antrobus*

        I wonder if this is something the OP or OP’s wife could explore? It would be HIGHLY dependent on their work communities and relationships with co-workers, but if OP works somewhere that evenings are expected and other co-workers also have children maybe they could do a co-op? OP, Fergus, and Anita will be at the event this time, while Jim looks after OP and Anita’s kids. Next time, Jim attends the work event and the next person looks after the kids. It could benefit OP as well as others at OP’s work – everyone has childcare and can attend events with some regularity.

        Again, TONS of caveats, but it could be a solution worth exploring

    2. Jess*

      If they’re both very professionally ambitious, they can’t afford not to have childcare, any more than they can skip work appropriate clothing or commuting costs.

      1. KellyK*

        That’s true. Some jobs do require more than is reasonable for the salary you’re getting, but if that’s the case, it’s worth considering whether you’re in the right job. If “work a bunch of evenings” is a job requirement, but it’s not providing you the salary to outsource your other responsibilities on those evenings, then it may be a bad fit. It may be a job that only works for people with spouses who work part-time or not at all.

  46. designbot*

    Yes, it is normal for an exempt employee to be expected to work some evenings. In fact I consider you lucky that you get advance notice of what evenings those are–in my field things just pile up on you and you have to stay and deal with them.
    However, there are some people I’ve seen that have seemed to opt out of this. The key to this as I see it is making sure you have backup, that you’re not the only person at your job who does what you do so that when you’re unavailable they have other options. In my line of work this basically means not putting too much responsibility on those people, and they do advance more slowly as a result.
    This may also be a time to consider whether this is the job for you anymore. People’s needs change all the time and it’s normal and understood that especially new parents may decide to make a change to something with more flexibility. If there are other options in your area for the type of work you do, it may be worth investigating whether any of them could get you what you need.

  47. E*

    I’m a working mom to a toddler, with a working husband – both in high powered careers. Here’s what I’d suggest:

    1. Make room in your budget for a few hours of additional childcare/assistance a couple nights a week. Perhaps a local student or one of the daycare staffers would be interested.

    2. Some boundaries at work around evening events are reasonable in most workplaces. It sounds like 2x/month is too tight a limit though. How about targeting 4x/month or 1x/wk? Make exceptions for anything particularly important, but hold firm otherwise. Explain the boundaries you’re drawing clearly to your wife.

    3. Encourage / give your wife permission to have a night out on a regular basis, either with a group of friends, taking a class, in a book group, seeing a solo movie, whatever. I have some working mom friends that get together one evening a month doing different activities in our city, and it’s seriously one of the most wonderful things for helping me feel like my work/life balance is in check. Commit to handling childcare solo or getting a sitter as needed. We started when our babies were winding down nursing, but some people are now pregnant with #2 and planning to keep up with it.

  48. Temperance*

    LW, I’m wondering if your wife is feeling that the burden of childcare and housework primarily falls to her. Does she get the occasional evening to herself? Does she do more than 50% of the housework? I saw in your letter that you have no nearby family for childcare help, but have you looked on Many of my teacher friends are on the site, and you can really vet any sitter that you choose.

    My husband and I both have jobs with occasional weird hours, but no kids. We will split duties when we can, and we are constantly communicating. He’ll occasionally ask me to take care of dinner / laundry / a random chore if I’m home from work early and he’s not, and I do the same. It’s usually only urgent stuff, like “hey there’s no clean underwear” or something.

    I’m trying to also be gentle, but I’m wondering whether your wife might be dealing with depression or anxiety. I recognize a lot of myself when I’m not at my personal best in your description of your wife. Things that weren’t actually objectively all that hard became awful, insurmountable tasks. My life is much better now on a low-dose of an anti-depressant, and I don’t break down at the thought of having TWO loads of laundry instead of one.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      This is good advice. All of it. I’m blanking on the term but women frequently have to do a lot of planning and remembering of things that they’re just kind of expected to know, like brands to buy and when to replace something that’s running out and how often certain things need to be cleaned, etc. (Emotional labor?) The division of labor might not be so equal.

        1. motherofdragons*

          Yes!! This has been running through my mind as well. This great comic illustrates the concept of emotional labor so well, and I plan on sharing it with my husband once babies are here and having a thoughtful conversation around it: I don’t want to assume that LW is not aware of this, but it may be helpful for him to look at to better understand why his wife is drawing a hard line here.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Yes, this was what came to mind, though there was a Time article late last year, and other writings on the subject.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I got REALLY good advice here about that issue when I first got married, and I realized my husband expected me to tell him what needed to be done & when, do all the planning, etc.

        We’ve come a long way since then which is good because in 4 months we’re going to have a baby.

      2. Jojo*

        YES, this is truth. I had a breakdown a few years ago with my husband, recently after the baby was born, and I was trying to explain. “It’s my brain, there’s so much to remember. When to pay bills and what to make for dinner and did I get meat out to defrost and do you have enough socks and will we need more toothpaste this week and I CAN’T ANYMORE”, and mercifully the man volunteered to take over all the bill paying. Literally saved our marriage, and now (with the occasional help of Digiorno’s pizza) I can handle everything else!

        1. oldbiddy*

          This. My friend and her husband had an ongoing argument about the dishwasher which led to a productive discussion about emotional labor and adulting. She hates to unload the dishwasher, he hates to see dishes in the sink but never knew if dishes in the dishwasher are clean or not so he didn’t unload them. They figured out each other’s pet peeves and now she loads the dishwasher and he unloads it. Sometimes you just have to figure out the triggers.

    2. Courtney*

      When you ask about anxiety or depression, I think it’s important to remember that she’s pregnant. It’s very, very common for women to be more tired when pregnant. Getting physically exhausted is way easier and picking up your toddler gets way harder. Although I agree it’s important to be ok the lookout for those things. I suffered from depression during and after my pregnancy and had a really, really hard time with feeling lonely when I was home alone with the kids. Although of course I don’t want to assume that’s the case with OP’s wife – if she’s handling most of the emotional labor tasks, then there’s a deeper problem rooted in here too. And it’s also a pretty common one!

    3. Lehigh*

      Well, she is pregnant so she doesn’t really need a depression/anxiety diagnosis for it to make sense for her to be more easily overwhelmed than usual. I have never been pregnant, but my impression is that “not at my personal best” is pretty much par for the course.

  49. Academic Mom*

    I have been in your wife’s shoes (I work in academia, have 2 young kids, and my husband has to travel for work occasionally), and have a couple of comments. First, you’re right in the thick of things right now with the age of your child/one on the way. It’s hard when they’re that young, really hard, but it does get better. I wouldn’t make rash decisions about the compatibility of your job with your family right now because the kids will be much easier to handle in a couple of years. Second, I think the comments about you being selfish or gender bias at home aren’t helpful, it’s not like you’re going out and playing poker those nights. It also doesn’t sound like you’re not helping out at home on a regular basis, it’s just the nights you have to work. (Although, it would be good to discuss with your wife if that’s part of the issue). But, for the next couple of years, you are going to have to figure out a way to make it work. Hiring someone to help watch the kid/s on those night would be great. Or, is it an option for your wife to pick up your child from daycare later in the afternoon on those days? Also, making sure she has an evening to herself sometime during the weeks that you have to work late will help as well. Life is really hard when you both work and you have young kids.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I agree it’s not fair to assume gender bias based on the OP’s letter… but your comment about poker confused me. One common aspect of gender bias in the U.S. is that the wife is expected to make sacrifices in her career to prevent her husband from having to make sacrifices in his career.

      Again, not saying that is at play here, but it can be a sensitive issue for working moms, and the fear of this dynamic developing in their marriage may be contributing to his wife’s hard line on this.

      1. Academic Mom*

        My comment about poker was saying that he wasn’t out having fun while his wife was at home taking care of the kids. It wasn’t clear from his letter that she thought her career was being affected by his work, but more that she finds it difficult to be at home with the kids after working all day. (Which I completely understand). But you do raise an important issue of whether she thinks her work is being compromised because of her child-care duties, which he should also address with her.

        1. Morning Glory*

          Well, the wife does bring work home in the evening, according to the OP. Being the sole provider of childcare all night long for a toddler makes getting work done pretty difficult. I imagine that is at least partially contributing to OP’s wife’s stress about this.

    2. rj*

      I am also in academia – I am not married, and don’t have kids. Some days (especially now as the semester is ramping up) I come home from campus, and, during the semester, from teaching at around 3 pm. I am literally done for the day. This is not a space where I would ever be good at negotiating around anything.
      My flexible schedule means I start work super early because I’m at my sharpest, and I don’t have any meetings then ever (there are endless meetings – I think this may be something the nonprofit sector is familiar with as well).
      Some universities are more family friendly than others – but some unofficially penalize women with children, who, as a result, work even harder. (Anecdotal, having worked at teaching heavy college and R1 school).
      So, my sympathies. I hope you can find a time when neither of you is exhausted to talk about life.

  50. High Score!*

    I know this seems tough, but take a moment and thank your designated deity or fate for your healthy wife and children. Let the stress drain away. It will help.

    I was a single mom for almost 20 years, I had to work outside normal hours often and I was and still am an engineer. I had no family in the area, no help from dad and could not take kids to work and wasn’t making enough to even have extra child care.

    Heres how I did it. I made friends with other moms inn the same boat that I met at the daytime daycare. I would trade babysitting with them. In absolute emergencies, I would take the kids with me. At home, I worked with the kids on behavior, such as don’t pester people when they’re on the phone, sit quietly when at work and do not speak unless spoken too, and only tell each joke one time. I had my kids trained before they were out of diapers to understand work vs play environments. This was crucial our financial survival.

    When my oldest was old enough, I sent her to red cross babysitting classes and our lives got easier when she graduated.

    Having kids with no family back up is not easy, but it’s doable. Remember to count your blessings and that kids grow up so fast. I’d love to relive some of those days.

    1. Rocky*

      Excellent suggestions, High Score. I second the babysitting trade arrangement. It has been my lifeline. Even when I was a single parent I had a flatmate, so I could leave my kids at home with my flattie, while I babysat someone else’s kids.

    2. rj*

      yes! friends with small children do this coop type babysitting and it saves them money and sanity. And their kids see their friends so they look forward to it too.

  51. Apollo Warbucks*

    Could you arrange to get off work early occasionally so you could do child care pick up to give your wife a break?

  52. Beancounter Eric*

    Simple answer – you can’t have everything.

    You and your spouse chose to have a child. Now, you have to make the choices to properly care for that child. Sometimes, those choices require sacrifice – whether it’s you or your spouse, career may need to be dialed back to insure proper care of your son.

    Assess what is possible within the bounds of your situation – if it means one or both of the adults in the household change jobs, change work hours, or become a stay/work at home parent, well, get the resume’s updated.

    1. Another bureaucrat*

      I think you’re being a little harsh here. OP didn’t choose some crazy hobby to devote himself to — he had a kid. LOTS of people have kids. And now, it’s more common for employers to expect weeknight and weekend work AND it’s more common for both parents to be working (or have one parent) without a lot of family support nearby. And it’s also more difficult to support a family on one salary. Women, especially, are constantly told how much earning power they lose by trying to stay home. But try to work and you have a whole other set of challenges.

      There’s lots of families trying to wrestle with this question. It’s not just OP’s crazy decision and his consequences.

      1. Brigitha*

        I think you’re reading an accusatory tone that isn’t there. I don’t understand why you’re re-framing Beancounter’s comment that way.

        OP and his wife chose to have a family, childcare concerns are becoming an issue, and they might have to dial back their work commitments while the kids need more care.

        1. Another bureaucrat*

          That’s fair — and it’s entirely possible I’m being defensive because I’m worrying about the same questions that OP is. So I’m sorry to Beancounter if I read a tone into his comment that wasn’t there.

          I read it as saying basically, you’re going to have to do something–make sacrifices at work, at home, etc–
          and I think that’s what OP is trying to wrestle with. He knows something’s gotta give because the situation now is untenable. He’s trying to ask us — what’s gotta give? His job? His wife’s time? What? So just telling him you made this choice, now deal… it’s seems less then helpful. But this is also a sensitive subject for me.

          1. Beancounter Eric*

            What has to give is a choice (that word, again) he and his spouse will have to make – whether one or both has to adjust their careers to better fit the challenge of being parents, whether they can work out how to better juggle the time requirements of kids, etc.

      2. Steph B*

        I actually tend to agree with beancounter here, in the sense that the OP does have to assess what is possible in the bounds of the situation.

        I don’t think much can prepare you for how much time and energy goes into parenting young kids (baby-preschool). I have noticed with my 4 year old that things are getting much much easier, but it just is what it is. And when you are looking at adding a whole new human being into the situation and just assuming you can continue on as is? Eh.

        A lot of my working parent friends with kids in elementary school and beyond just keep telling me how it gets easier. Most of them have crazy stories about how they managed. They nod their sympathies when I come in the office with the I-didn’t-know-it-was-safe-to-make-them-this-large Americano by the end of some weeks.

        Something has to give, at some level. Maybe it is the tidiness of the house, the hours of sleep you can manage, the next higher level position in your career ladder that you have to put off for a few years, the food you consume (my sanity has relied on easy prep/pre-made grocery meals a lot this past year), or the health of your marriage or other relationships. It isn’t just a fact that you can just do everything and not have something give, IMO.

      3. Veronica*

        I’m guessing the work OP is doing on evenings and weekends is community engagement work — it’s an essential part of some jobs (mine included) and it can ONLY be done after work and on weekends.

        If you have a job that’s 20 percent community engagement (or 10 percent, or 5 percent, or whatever the case might be), it’s not reasonable to expect that job requirement will go away when you have young kids. From an employer/coworker standpoint, I don’t think it’s *unreasonable* to ask someone to build the expectation of a certain number of hours community engagement into their childcare plans.

    2. MashaKasha*

      I did dial back when my kids were young… It’s irreversible. You never catch up to where you could’ve been. I am very happy with how my sons turned out, and have many interests outside of work, so on the balance it was worth it. (Also some of my dialing-back was not by choice – I lost my job when my oldest was born.) Still, sometimes I wonder what my career could’ve been like if it hadn’t taken a back seat because of the kids.

  53. Another bureaucrat*

    Huge sympathy for OP here. I have a 2 yr old and am in a somewhat similar situation, but reversed. I have a fairly flexible academic gig, my partner has a marketing-type job that requires client meetings 1-2 times a month. Trying to raise young (under 3) children with a two-parent working household is TOUGH. It requires a community. We lean on my parents heavily and I think my life and my marriage would be under far more pressure if they weren’t around. I don’t begrudge my husband his work evenings too much, because I also take 1-2 book clubs, happy hours a month. I get my time away in the evenings, and he gets his (although to be very fair, his involve work, even though they are at nice restaurants!)

    I’m thinking of this a lot lately — I am interviewing for jobs, one of which is in the development side of our university and probably would be less flexible. How do I come across as being eager for the job and invested in the work (which I would be) while protecting my family time, that is also very important for me?

    I think OP’s issue is a larger work-children- life balance question, so I don’t think one babysitter is going to solve it. But I do think that will be ESSENTIAL for a bit when the new baby comes. Not sure what kind of parental leave you’ll take, OP, but taking care of a 2 yr old plus a newborn, plus recovering from childbirth will put a lot more demands on your wife for a while. Maybe this is a time to find a stock of babysitters, (neighbors??) who you trust and can lean on when the baby comes. (and Congratulations!!)

  54. knarly*

    You have my sympathies, OP. I have a 2-year-old son myself, and until recently my husband’s job took him out of the house frequently on nights and weekends. It was tough, though my stints of solo parenting got easier over time. I think it’s reasonable for you to attend a handful of evening events a month, but I’d suggest trying to offer your wife extra time for herself when you can. Take your toddler to the park for a good chunk of Saturday, for example. Alternatively, would it be possible for your son to stay at day care the full day on days when you have an event? So your wife will have those couple of hours to relax or do her work at home without distractions. Best of luck.

    1. KellyK*

      Those are both really good ideas. You need to balance the time she’s doing solo childcare while you’re at work with the time you’re doing solo childcare so she can get work done.

  55. ThatGirl*

    I’m not a parent. So take this for what it’s worth.

    But I can’t blame your wife for being frustrated, even though working late occasionally may be a very realistic job expectation for you. She is tired, pregnant and probably wants some downtime to either rest or do her own work at home. Instead of problem-solving your job, you may want to approach it as problem-solving her time at home. I agree that she may want to let the kid stay at daycare a little longer so she can have some downtime to herself. Her knowing you “get” how she feels and care about solving it may help some.

    Another thought – you have a long commute on top of less work flexibility. Have you considered looking for a new job closer to home?

  56. Good Afternoon!*

    Maybe you should look at it as more of an immediate issue.

    She’s pregnant on top of work and childcare. It can be incredibly draining and emotionally difficult in ways that didn’t happen with a first child.

    Have you considered talking to your boss and for the duration of pregnancy and and the first 3 months of newborn life have a set maximum evening commitment?

    She’s telling you what she needs. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what’s expected at work. She needs you to be present right now and has told you that. Why fight her? You haven’t even started a discussion with your boss on what they can do for you. That should be your first stop. Then discuss with your wife what your actual job expectations are.

    From her point of view you are just inferring you should be there and are taking a hard stance without actual rules or directions from your boss. That would irritate me too. Why fight with your wife but avoid a professional discussion at work? It’s a bit silly. I think you would also find life less stressful to know your actual job expectations rather than just guessing.

    Most jobs and conworkers have no issue in making expection in times of temporary need to help their coworkers. You haven’t even given these folks a chance to work with you.

    Use your words man.

    1. ZSD*

      This seems like excellent advice. I have a friend who regularly travels internationally for work, but for the third trimester of his wife’s pregnancy and the first several months of their child’s life, he’s told his work he can’t travel, and they’re okay with it even though it’s normally a large part of his job. OP, explaining to your work that you can’t work evenings from now until your second child is at least [x] months old should be reasonable.

    2. Christy*

      Yes, I think you should treat the rest of pregnancy and immediate infancy as separate from the larger question of working evenings. Right now, your wife is pregnant and has a two year old and brings work home and has a husband who occasionally has to work evenings. Since the pregnancy is time-limited, try talking to your boss about just that time frame. I’ve found that my work is pretty understanding of “my wife is pregnant, I can’t do X” or “my wife just gave birth, I can’t do Y.”

    3. Another bureaucrat*

      I like the idea of setting a timeframe around it with the boss – for the rest of the pregnancy and the first 3-4 months. I think that will help with OP’s (understandable) anxieties around seeming not committed to the job. While I think a lot of people may not understand needing time with a toddler, most everyone should get prepping for a newborn.

    4. KellyK*

      I think this is really reasonable. Asking your boss about setting a limit on evening work just during your wife’s pregnancy and the first few months of your newborn’s life should be doable, and should give both you and your wife a little breathing room to come up with good long-term solutions. Your boss can also give you guidance on which events are the highest priority.

    5. spocklady*

      Oh yeah, this is a great idea; wouldn’t it be great if you talked to your boss and found out a) that your work can accommodate you for the short term, and b) that once you all hit your stride when your second baby arrives, a lot of your wife’s stress dials down? Time will tell on the second part, but for sure all you have to do to find out if the first part will be true is talk with your boss.

      I’m sure I would be super anxious in her shoes about how your family dynamic will change; even though things may be objectively harder for a while once you have two kids under 4 in the house, at least you’ll both have a better sense of HOW they’ll be hard. It’s the unknown that always freaks me out the most.

    6. VerySleepyPregnantLady*


      I’m thinking that the wife’s “NO!” might actually be “No, not while I’m this f-ing pregnant and while we have a f-ing newborn.” But pregnancy brain/hormones could make it hard to communicate that longer thought (could, not do! but the growing-a-fetus struggle is real for some of us).

      While I think a “do not work evenings ever” line is unreasonable, “no evenings or only 1 evening/month for the next six months” could be very reasonable. And the wife might have said the first, the second could be the needed compromise.

    7. The OG Anonsie*

      My thoughts exactly. The very first step is to talk to his manager and figure out what his actual options are, a really crucial piece that he hasn’t taken yet.

    8. Gee Gee*

      This is an excellent suggestion, and if I may extrapolate from it: consider the opposite issue as well.

      Is this the last time you’ll be doing this? If two kids is your agreed-upon limit, then consider what you need to do to ensure that it stays that way.

      If you may consider more children later on, try to plan today’s short-term solution in a way that will allow you to re-use it in the future. It will only make your life easier later down the line.

  57. John*

    Which takes priority, your family or your job? Maybe it’s time to make a choice. Not saying it’s easy, but you both decided to have a family. Sometimes a family takes sacrifice. More sacrifice then you ever thought. One or both of you need to back off the job responsibilities. If that means a new job or not advancing in your current one then so be it. Once again, these are not easy decisions, but you both decided to have a child. Hard choices come along with it.

  58. Scarlott*

    I think this stems from a misunderstanding by people outside the professional realm, such as academics, unionised labourers, and anyone else that believes work ends the minute they walk out the door. They can’t fathom the idea of weekend or evening work “unpaid”. She seems to be viewing this as something optional, but it’s really not if he wants to survive his job. I’m not sure how he can get it through her head that it’s a mandatory part of his job, just like her bringing home work.

    1. iseeshiny*

      Ummm academics, especially educators, absolutely do not have jobs that end when they step out the door. They grade, they do career development, they have office hours. Just saying.

    2. Snark*

      Sorry, but do you think teachers and academics’ work ends the minute they walk out the door? As a former academic, let me assure you that it most certainly does not.

      1. Scarlott*

        Fair enough. I retract my statement about academics, which would seem to conflict with the situation presented in which she brings work home.

        1. Snark*

          That said, you’re not wrong in that academics’ hours are extremely flexible, and that one largely makes their own hours and sets their own schedule. There’s no real reason why, instead of picking up the kid early, the kid can’t be picked up later and she stay on campus to do the work she’s currently doing after OP gets home.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            This. If the daycare facility has hours to accommodate, she could stay at work later at times and buckle down hard on getting some stuff done, rather than take it home. Having worked in a similar environment, I understand the temptation to run home, but then everything at home that you have to deal with gets in the way.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      It sounds like in this case it’s sortof the opposite, actually. The OP has a 9-5 job with occasional, structured after-work activities (events, etc.), whereas the OP’s wife has an academic job where she brings work home frequently.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Did you miss the part in the letter where she has to bring home work in the evenings?

      1. Scarlott*

        Yes, see above. The statement about a fundamental misunderstanding that his evening work is not optional still stands. Some jobs just don’t have this flexibility. It sounds like if he skips out on it, he’s putting his career at risk. I think someone above pointed out that having children inevitably has a negative impact on your career one way or another.

        1. DArcy*

          Except it kinda is, kinda isn’t optional. It’s not part of his official job responsibilities and it’s not actual work, but his boss has verbally “expressed” that it’s expected that he socialize off duty.

          1. Scarlott*

            Expected, mandatory. As per many of the posts on this forum, official job duties listed on the job description are never exhaustive. I don’t see him say that he’s socializing, nor should we assume it. We don’t know what he’s doing. I will take him at his word that he’s kinda, really really supposed to really be at these events, and that by not going repeatedly, he jeopardises his job. Maybe the wife sees it the same way you do, that he’s socializing and just chilling out in the name of “work”. Realistically, they should look for a compromise so that he can fulfil his duties at work and continue to collect his paycheck, and she can continue to do her job, and collect her paycheck, and they can take proper care of the child, house, and marriage.

            1. DArcy*

              His exact statement is, “there is an expectation that I will be a part of the community that I serve by attending events and running programs in the evenings.” He’s a senior exec at a nonprofit, so even the running programs part is likely to mean high level socializing and showing face, not nuts and bolts venue work.

              I totally understand and acknowledge that high society socialization is a *huge* part of how nonprofit work gets done, but I can also sympathize with the wife who only sees, “I’m already having to bring work home and balance that with child care responsibilities, and you want to dump MORE child care on me so you can go wine and dine.”

              1. Scarlott*

                We still have no idea what his role is at these events, other than he’s pretty much required to be there. I still think you are inferring that he doesn’t need to be at these events to have this job. If you view this as socializing and showing face, maybe that’s how the wife sees it, when in reality maybe he’s essential to the running of these programs, and the viability of his non-profit.

                1. DArcy*

                  How are you inferring that when I *explicitly said* otherwise? I also explicitly said that socializing and showing face *is* essential, because that’s how nonprofits work. There’s no contradiction at all.

                  What I’m saying is simply that I think we can have a lot more empathy for the wife who is effectively being told, “I know you’re already taking on a greater-than-even share of our child care responsibilities *and* pregnant on top of it, but you’re going to have to double down with an even bigger share and possibly compromise your own work so I can go wine-and-dine for my nonprofit.”

                  It’s not that it isn’t a legitimate work action, it’s that it’s a *relatively fun* work action and the wife is being asked to pick up even more *exhausting, unglamorous* home front work so that hubby can do it.

                2. Scarlott*

                  You really don’t know that it’s a “relatively fun” event that he has to go to. The LW has said that it’s mandatory. I absolutely have empathy for the wife, but the LW has said he has to go to these or he won’t be able to stay in this job. Are we not taking the LW at his word? There’s also no evidence that he’s not taking on his fair share of child care responsibilities. Anyways, we’re at a stalemate. You clearly don’t understand that in order to earn a paycheck to feed his child, he needs to go to these events. He can make up the *difference* of child care responsibilities elsewhere at different times.

  59. Cafe au Lait*

    OP, it sounds like you’re expecting your wife to take on the bulk of emotional labor for child rearing and maintaining your marriage. *She* needs to understand that you must work outside or your working hours, but you aren’t as equally understanding. Cooking dinner isn’t down time, it’s part of the second shift labor that mainly women take on to make sure their households are running smoothly. If she’s also flexing her work time to pick up your child from daycare, she still needs to make up that time in the evenings.

    The easiest solution is to hire someone to come watch your kids for a few hours in the evening so your wife can finish working.

    1. CR*

      Sadly a very common story for many working couples these days. Women still do the majority of housework, childcare and emotional labour even when working fulltime.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s not, though. He’s asking for advice relating to his family situation and work situation.

    2. Jessica*

      Agreed. The situation is not “My wife doesn’t understand that I sometimes have to work in the evenings and acts like it isn’t fair.” It’s “BOTH of us have to work in the evenings, and take care of kids, and cook dinner.” Because all those things are both your responsibility, not just hers. She has a more flexible schedule, but that doesn’t make childcare and dinner her job. She can bring work home, but that doesn’t excuse you from being responsible for the child on the nights SHE has to work.

      So…first step is to stop framing it as how your job is the priority and everything needs to fall in line behind that, and everyone needs to arrange their schedule to make it convenient for you. That is not the reality. The reality is that both of you have jobs that expect you to work in the evenings, both of you have one toddler and one on the way, and both of you need to make equal sacrifices to accommodate everyone’s needs. Expecting your wife to make all the sacrifices for none of the benefits is not fair.

      If you can’t fulfill the needs of your family and meet the expectations of your job duties, get a different job. Or get a different family. I think you can probably guess which one would be easier. If you think that’s “unreasonable” or “unfair”, guess what, women just like your wife have had to tolerate exactly that kind of unfairness since forever. That’s the deal when you have kids (or any other personal responsibility outside work). If you want the benefit of your wife’s partnership and the added income of her profession, then you need to understand how to share the pain equally in order to share the privilege. Your wife is not asking you to do anything that she herself is not doing.

    3. Scarlott*

      I would disagree with your first statement because he’s given us no reason to believe that he’s not doing his fair share. He works longer hours in the office/events (they probably do the same amount overall if you include the work she takes home). while she’s cooking, he’s taking care of the baby. IMO it’s entirely unfair to say that she’s doing the bulk of child rearing and maintaining the marriage. He obviously cares deeply in that he’s coming here for help.
      The bulk of the problem sounds like on nights when he has to be at events, she can’t have any time to do her own work, take care of the baby, and make dinner all at the same time.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        I don’t want to harp on the LW and assume he’s not doing his share, but I do get the overall impression from the letter than he’s expecting a baseline level of labor from his wife that is greater than his own. Or at least, he feels that the split is even but his wife feels that the sacrifice on her end is greater– even if the division of direct labor is the same. Say, they both spend the same amount of time on chores and childcare in the evening, but only she had to make accommodations and a career hit to get that time.

        That’s the kind of thing that turns giving a little more (the late nights a few times a month) into a bridge too far. She could be thinking “I’ve already rearranged my work schedule to make this work and taken the setback to my career that will cause, but you won’t even talk to your boss because it’s ‘not fair’ that you should have to sacrifice something I’ve already sacrificed. You expect me to do that for you, but you won’t even see what you can do for me.” That’s just an example, it may or may not be her feelings exactly, but you get the idea.

        There’s a lot of blur to what’s “fair” or “even,” it’s not an objective x number hours and y number tasks. Regardless of how the work at home is really balancing out, it’s clear from this conflict that the wife here feels that she has given more in some way or another and is not getting the same consideration. The way the LW is describing it, he also seems to see the current division as one that is as fair as is possible and doesn’t understand why his wife won’t accept that as the way things have to be. She thinks everything is not fine, and he thinks everything would be fine if she would just be fine with it. But the decision that a certain arrangement is fair for everyone can’t be made unilaterally like that, and in some way or another he’s going to have to find the places he can sacrifice to give more back to her. The first step is finding out what she would want for that, because from the letter it sounds like he doesn’t actually know what would be helpful for her, only that she is unhappy about this specific thing. And yeah, he’s trying by writing in here, but more important than that is going to be what he does with what we tell him.

    4. DArcy*

      I would point out that what he’s “expected” to do here isn’t actual extra work; it’s attending work-related social events. I can very much see how his wife is considering it unreasonable to say, “You’re going to have to double down even more on juggling childcare and working at home so I can go socialize — it’s for work, really!”

  60. Jan*

    This debate comes up all the time with my husband and I and we’re actually in the process of separating so it’s important to deal with it before it gets out of hand.

    Talk to your boss. You can tell him you’re unavailable due to child care issues. Or you can limit the amount of events you’re expected to attend. I work in higher ed now. I’ve worked in non-profit. I’ve worked in for-profit. At every job I have had to tell my boss “I absolutely have to be out of here by 5:30 at the latest to pick up my kids or I need advance notice if I’ll have to stay later.” and they do it. Don’t get me wrong — they grumble. They roll their eyes. People without kids roll their eyes. I miss out on projects. I miss out on information. I miss out on brownie points. My career absolutely has been negatively impacted by the fact that I have to leave work to pick up my kids and can’t attend a number of evening events. It sucks.

    My husband once said “I can’t exactly leave at 5 every day! They look at the clock when I’m leaving and someone says ‘working a half day again'” and I had to say “That is literally what my life has been like for 9 years.”

    Having kids negatively impacts your career. It just does. Anyone who says it doesn’t is very lucky or has a stay at home spouse. Sometimes you just have to take the bullet and know that in a few years it will get slightly easier. When they’re school-aged you’ll have more freedom and you can be gone and she can get work done and the kids can play video games or do their own homework without much help. But when you have a baby and a toddler, your career will be negatively impacted and you just have to power through.

    1. The OG Anonsie*

      I debated saying something along these lines, but I do agree. You’re saying your wife doesn’t understand that this can negatively affect your career. A few things about that: She probably does understand, and she expects that sacrifice to be made as a part of your responsibility to the family. She very well may have taken big hits to her own career already as well with the changes she’s already made, and is especially angry that you’re unwilling to give the same things that she’s given. And lastly, as Jan says here, having kids usually has a negative impact because of things like this. It’s not something you can shield against purely by expecting your wife to take up the slack when you need to be with coworkers, since your wife is making it very clear that this isn’t something that she is comfortable with doing– at least not under current circumstances, re: you haven’t actually asked if you can move your own schedule around in the first place.

      1. Jan*

        Yeah, it’s the whole “Can you have it all?” debate – I think you CAN – just not all at the same time. And when your kids are little, they make your career take a back seat. They just do. In time, it evens out a bit more. And when they’re out of the house and you’re the VP or the Executive Director you can be a bit more understanding to those who are struggling with little ones at home. But if you both work and you have small kids, both of your careers are going to suffer. I think for a long time women were the ones who mostly dealt with this and now men are having to deal with it too. Especially if the salaries are similar in your house. If one person makes a great deal more money, their job should be the one that you try to keep at all costs which means the lower paid person should accept that a high salary might require more hours. But if the salaries are equal, the ding in your career should be equal.

      2. Thlayli*

        Yes! Absolutely. She totally realises it will affect your career because she is already having it affect her career. You think people without kids don’t roll their eyes at her when she has to leave on time to pick up the kid? Of course they do!

  61. In the Same Boat*

    Very similar to my situation with my husband- we have an almost 2 year old and one on the way. The good thing about 2 year olds is that they go to bed very early- are you able to work from home after bedtime? Can you come home around 5-6, help with dinner/child wrangling, then say “I need 7-9 to get some work done, can you manage him”? I often have to work from home in the evening (lots of international conference calls that are best had after 7 pm), and on those nights my husband handles bedtime/etc. I expect my husband to pick up the slack on days I need to work more or if I want to go out with friends, and vice versa. If we both lay claim to the same night, we prioritize, or find a sitter. Hopefully you two can sit down and set expectations for each other going forward, and make a game plan of how best to support one another. Good luck!

    1. MJH*

      My husband has periods of intense work and this is how we deal. He picks our daughter up at daycare (always his responsibility, brings her home, eats with us, and helps me get her ready for bed). Then, at about 7:30 he goes back to work. We definitely miss out on couple time, but since these things are only periodical, it’s okay and we reconnect later.

      I don’t know if LW can come home, what with the 45 minute commute, but if he can bail early in the afternoon because he knows he’s coming back in the evening, he could put in 3 hours of quality time at home before heading back in once the toddler is in bed.

      1. In the Same Boat*

        Yeah, if the wife has work in the evenings too sometimes, a teenage “mother’s helper” might be a good option, but if she’s just concerned with having her “me” time… unfortunately you kind of have to “get over it” when you have kids. My husband doesn’t get home until 30 minutes before bedtime, so I don’t get a break right after work, I have to pick up my son, entertain him and cook dinner by myself. Me time comes after bedtime, and I just have to deal with that fact during this particular phase of life, which is fine.

  62. nnn*

    Thinking in the longer term, is it possible to scale back on events/work for a few years, and ramp it back up later? Your kids won’t always require as much care and attention – as they get older, they’ll be better able to amuse themselves, they’ll have friends of their own (and you might be able to get stopgap childcare by having them spend an evening at a friend’s house), they’ll have extracurricular activities, etc.

  63. iseeshiny*

    If you can swing it I’d advise a few joint sessions with a counselor to help you get on the same page regarding goals, because it sounds like you’re having some communication issues and resentment is starting to build up: you see your wife as unwilling to support you in your career over just a couple evenings a month. And I’m sure your wife has her own side of the story that (just spitballing here, this might not be accurate) might have something to the tune of her doing the bulk of the child minding when the child isn’t at day care as well as doing a lot of invisible household running like cooking dinner while still doing a substantial amount of work from home for her own demanding career while at the same time growing a human being, which is fairly exhausting in and of itself. I think a little compassion and impartiality for the difficult situation you’re both in and some help remembering you’re a team could go a long way.

    I’m glad you’re addressing this now, before the baby comes. It’s only going to get more difficult from here – two small children are so, so much more demanding than just one, and that’s going to be exponentially harder if you and your spouse don’t have a plan to address that as a team and head on. I have a hunch that the best solution, assuming you have the funds, will involve a nanny if neither one of you is willing to sacrifice career for family (which, no judgement from me there at all for either of you.)

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yes – this is perfectly stated. OP also should remember that stress isn’t good for the pregnancy.

  64. Consider*

    When you say you “can’t bring myself to tell my boss ‘I can’t work tonight because my wife wont take care of my child alone,'” that feels judgmental of your wife’s needs, and perhaps the fights you’re experiencing are because she senses that from you (even if you don’t mean to hurt her or realize it). I don’t say this to be unkind, but these kinds of uncomfortable conversations and boundary setting are things women have to deal with regularly. It feels like you haven’t yet talked to your boss about your needs/boundaries and are hoping your wife will compromise on her needs so you don’t have to have an uncomfortable conversation, and that’s not really fair.

    I think it would be perfectly reasonable to state, without blaming your wife, that your co-parent childcare constraints limit your after-hours participation at this point in time, and that realistically, 2-4 evenings/mo with advance notice is what you can do right now. Flex time (10a start or leaving at 4p on days you’re not committed in the evenings) is also something you can suggest as a means of providing more flexibility in your schedule while still committing to the work required. Perhaps also consider requesting a work-from-home day that would allow you to avoid a commute and perhaps do some odds and ends chores while you work that could lessen the overall load your wife might be feeling.

    Also, consider what you can do on your longer commute home in otherwise dead time — make decisions on what to make for dinner, schedule necessary appointments for the household, pick up groceries or take-out.

  65. Student*

    First, you need to define and understand what your actual problem is. This is not a problem of communicating your work hours/job’s expectations clearly to your wife. She knows what your work is expecting of you. This is a problem where your wife is telling you she is not willing to shoulder as much child care as you expect of her. On top of that, you don’t seem to have had a spousal conversation about childcare, you just do what you decided was best for you personally.

    That ain’t how marriages work, pal. At least, not for long, as you’re starting to realize.

    You have to actually sit down and figure out what your childcare needs are and how you can meet them, together. As a conversation, where you both listen to what each can offer – meaning you need to listen to your wife and show her some basic respect and understanding when she tells you she’s not willing to care for your child for 8 hours every day on top of her job. I’ll point out you aren’t willing to do that, either. You are both going to have to make sacrifices to make this work. I don’t know what those sacrifices will be, or how they’ll be apportioned, but if they only fall on your wife, then your wife probably won’t stick around. You may, in fact, need to sacrifice your job to find one where you can meet your duties as a parent and a spouse. Or prepare for a divorce, which will inevitably include paying for some portion of childcare expenses when finalized.

    In a marriage, a job is supposed to support the needs of the family; the family isn’t supposed to support the needs of one person’s job.

      1. Thlayli*

        Actually I hadn’t read the OPs other comments above but it seems he actually does do a lot of the childcare so in light of that this now seems harsh. But the original letter did make it seem that wife did almost all the childcare

  66. JGray*

    I worked for about 9 years in the non-profit sector and so I have some experience with this type of thing but I was actually the person doing the majority of the childcare as well luckily I had a boss that let me bring my kids with my to events when feasible. But here are my suggestions- talk to your boss about the after hours events and the 9 to 5 schedule. I am thinking that perhaps if you explain that your life outside of your work makes it hard to do the events that your boss might be willing to work with you on a flexible schedule on the days that you are going the evening events. For example- if there is a dinner you must attend than perhaps you could go into work at noon or leave work at noon (which ever works best for you). I think you have to do the evening events if that is what other people at your level are required to do. This may or may not work but I think that you have to at least give it a try. If your boss is anything like the bosses that I had they understand that many times people at nonprofits are overworked & underpaid so a little flexibility at times goes a long way. In my job at the nonprofits as the admin I was expected to be at the office when it was open (usually 8 am to 5 pm) but my boss knew that when we did evening events I needed to leave earlier to transport my kids to other care. In your case it might just be picking your son up from daycare having a few hours together and then perhaps starting dinner before your wife gets home.
    My own personal suggestion is that I have learned being a working mom that as long as everyone eats it really doesn’t matter what you eat- cereal for dinner occurs at my house when I am really busy & my kids are fine. I think society and ourselves put too much pressure into things. I am convinced that if each household had a stay at home parent than things would be super clean & dinner would always be perfect but that’s not the society we live in now (at least in the US) with both adults having to work.

    1. KellyK*

      My own personal suggestion is that I have learned being a working mom that as long as everyone eats it really doesn’t matter what you eat- cereal for dinner occurs at my house when I am really busy & my kids are fine. I think society and ourselves put too much pressure into things. I am convinced that if each household had a stay at home parent than things would be super clean & dinner would always be perfect but that’s not the society we live in now (at least in the US) with both adults having to work.

      Absolutely. Lowering your expectations is one way to free up time and emotional energy for both of you. Cereal for dinner, a house that isn’t 100% clean, a kid who maybe watches a little too much Dora or Thomas when Mom and Dad’s busy times at work overlap. None of these things is the end of the world.

  67. Brigitha*

    Seems like you’re under the impression that your wife is being unreasonable. I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect your spouse to find a solution for a problem caused by his increasingly busy work schedule that doesn’t include just expecting your wife to pick up the childcare slack. I’m pretty sure you wife understands that people have to work outside business hours (she herself is working outside business hours when she brings work home) but she’s made it clear that when you do it causes a ton of stress for her.

    Please remember that this is a stressful situation for BOTH of you. You’re dangerously close to blaming your wife for all the stress in your life. When you talk to your boss about evening commitments (which many other people have given you good advice for doing) your current instinct is to say something pretty crappy and blamey about why you can’t work those evenings. The reality is that you can’t work all those evenings because your family needs you home more. That’s not your wife’s fault. You both decided to have a family even though you don’t have access to outside childcare in the evenings. That means more time spent on childcare for both of you, especially while your kids are young.

    Her’s a really good article on equitable parenting:

  68. BeezLouise*

    This is basically my exact situation — I have a two year old, I’m seven months pregnant, and I’m a fundraiser for a nonprofit, so my job involves significant travel and some evening/weekend work.

    My husband is a public defender, and could basically use an extra week every week to get everything done, but he often theoretically gets done earlier than I do because he’ll get out of court at 3/3:30.

    I would suggest a few things: maybe your wife could work a few of those afternoons instead of coming home early; and that way her work is done when she gets home and she isn’t so overwhelmed by the childcare. As someone in her position, though, my husband has definitely had to step up a ton during this pregnancy. I’ve had a few complications and I’m just not physically able to do the amount of work at home I was doing. And some days I get home and need to put my feet up or lay down immediately. Which is hard with a two year old. My husband is sometimes the only one on dinner duty, and bath duty, and get a toddler to bed duty.

    We moved to be closer to my parents, and they’re able to pick up some of the slack on nights when I’m traveling, especially, but if you’re not in a situation to take advantage of family help, maybe try and carve out some time with paid help or friends.

    You didn’t talk about this, but I also highly recommend outsourcing anything you can afford. We finally broke down and hired someone to clean out house every other week, and it’s been a huge weight off of me.

    But really, I would maybe talk to a therapist alone or together. Bringing a second child home is incredibly stressful, and can be hard on your marriage, especially when you’re both managing stressful careers. Talking some of it out ahead of time, and having some strategies for working through these type of conflicts could help immensely.

  69. Spills*

    There’s not? It seems like he drops the kid off in the morning and that’s it until he gets home each night, while his wife is taking care of their child for several hours each afternoon while simultaneously attempting to work, so essentially working two jobs, and then is also cooking dinner each night. Meanwhile, OP’s phrasing of his wife “handing off” the kids to him makes it seem like he views it as a burden on his part to have to take care of his kids.

    Maybe I am overly sensitive to this, but women do a lot more unpaid labor around taking care of children and the household, in addition to their full-time jobs, and perhaps that isn’t something that OP has considered in why his wife is feeling this way.

    1. Snark*

      OP specifically asked that we not diagnose his marriage. And even if we take it as given that there’s a labor imbalance, and they need to work on that, there’s still the issue that he absolutely must work some evenings and there’s not really a good way out of that.

      1. Jessica*

        And his task is to make it clear to his job that his availability in the evenings is limited, and work out a schedule that doesn’t place an extra burden on his wife. If that means he loses out on some work kudos, so be it. That is the reality of the options available to him.

        No, there isn’t a good way to give him the work flexibility he needs. As someone I know once said, “We’re not operating in a world of first choices here.” He needs to come to grips with that.

        1. Snark*

          “If that means he loses out on some work kudos, so be it.”

          I think you’re minimizing what is on the line. His boss made it clear that these events are a mandatory expectation of his position.

          1. Student*

            At the same time, he’s minimizing what’s on the line for his wife. She has a job that she’s trying to do part of after hours. He’s openly dismissive of her understanding normal work commitments because of her job, but from my experience in academia it requires long hours to be successful. She’s expressing her needs, and he’s just responding with the equivalent of, “No, me first.”

      2. Katie the Fed*

        The problem is something has to give, and it sounds like it’s going to be his wife’s sanity. It’s not reasonable to expect to work all waking hours while the wife ALSO has a full time job and childcare/household responsibilities. I think the only real solution here is him scaling back the hours he does the evening work.

        1. Snark*

          That’s hardly the only solution. They could leave the kid in daycare for a full day instead of her picking them up early, for one.

          And he already has scaled back the evening obligations. He currently atttends two a month. My wife works late WAY more than that and I make it work just fine, even with my own evening work.

          1. KellyK*

            That’s you. I didn’t see any mention of your being pregnant, but even if you are, no two pregnancies are different. What you’re willing and able to handle isn’t necessarily what the OP’s wife is willing and able to handle.

              1. KellyK*

                Then why bring up that you do (in your view) more than her? We get that he has to work evenings. The fact that it’s a requirement of his job doesn’t magically remove the conflict with his wife’s job, their childcare needs, and her pregnancy.

                1. Snark*

                  I bring it up to underline that the conflict isn’t necessarily insurmountable, even if we take it as a given that the evening obligations are nonnegotiable.

            1. KellyK*

              I meant to say “no two pregnancies are the same” or “every pregnancy is different,” not an amalgamation of both.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        There is no way to reasonably provide advice to the OP without addressing this. People are answering the questions he asked and saying that the issue isn’t his wife not understanding that he needs to work evenings, but that they need to come up with a solution that will make his required evening work more tenable for their family.

      4. KellyK*

        He asked for how to balance things. Insisting that his wife take on more and more isn’t balance. We should not assume marital problems or make assumptions about the labor balance that aren’t in the letter, but an *essential* part of balancing is sitting down with his wife, identifying the things they *both* need to fulfill their job and personal responsibilities and maintain their sanity, and figuring out how to make those happen. Looking at the current balance of paid work, childcare, and housework is a part of that. What that looks like is on him and his wife to determine, but I don’t see a scenario in which he gets to require more work from his wife without finding a way to offset that somewhere else.

        1. Snark*

          “Insisting that his wife take on more and more isn’t balance”

          I’m not insisting that. I’m pointing out that, whatever else they do to balance the scale, the evening obligations really can’t be taken out of his pan.

          1. KellyK*

            Every time you say his wife just needs to suck it up, that seems to be what you’re recommending.

            Yes, his work has evening obligations. We know that some of them are 100% non-negotiable requirements. We *don’t* know whether some of them could either stop being requirements for a few months while his family deals with pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby, or whether he could take a morning or afternoon off on days he has evening commitments.

            1. Snark*

              Well, glad we cleared that up.

              I actually really like the notion of making it a temporary ask, when the newborn comes, because that fourth trimester is a stone-cold bitch. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that he ask to never do that again.

      5. Temperance*

        You keep saying this, but I haven’t seen any suggestions on your part on how to navigate this other than his wife just sucking it up.

        1. Snark*

          I suggest you read a few of my posts, because I’ve provided 5 specific, actionable suggestions throughout this thread, including one I keep restating because nobody seems to notice it’s the obvious solution.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            See, I did not read “early” to mean that the wife picks up the child “earlier than the daycare’s available hours that we have paid for would otherwise require” but as “early relative to when I (OP) get home.”

            If the problem literally boils down to the wife not having enough time for herself or for her work solely because she randomly leaves earlier than she needs to and picks the child up from daycare even though more daycare hours are easily available, then…. how did they get to the shouting? The OP and his wife know the daycare hours, right?

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              It might be that she *does* leave early and picks up their kid well before she needs to, in which case, let’s assume there is a valid reason for that. Let’s assume she isn’t inventing trouble. Maybe it is because otherwise she literally would not see her child for more than the duration of a bedtime routine, and that’s not tenable to her. Or maybe they both have a limit on how many daycare hours they are comfortable with for their child. Both of those might be reasonable things to have decided. In which case, then, OP and wife need to re-evaluate their childcare situation – maybe they’d feel an au pair works better, for example. Or maybe they can trade off days when the child gets picked up early – maybe OP can work out one day a week he can leave to get the child; maybe they do in fact need to reevaluate their jobs.

              1. Snark*

                “Maybe it is because otherwise she literally would not see her child for more than the duration of a bedtime routine, and that’s not tenable to her.”

                Yeah, we just simul-posted that. But if something’s gotta give, if his evening obligations are on the block, a lot of important, highly valued things are also – including picking up the kid before 6 or so. And that bites, no question – I miss my kid terribly and I spend way less time with him than I’d prefer.

                We totally agree here, and you fleshed out a lot of the negotiation they’ve got to have.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Yes, the key is they have to negotiate, and right now it reads as if she is making a demand about his work that won’t fly and he is digging in his heels. Probably two people feeling stressed and overwhelmed. And the reality is, you have to constantly renegotiate when you have kids. And quite often, frankly, someone’s work *does* actually have to suffer, at least in the short term, in the early years. Whose work that is, and how it suffers, should be something they decide deliberately and not allow to happen through stressed-out ultimatums or mistake.

                  But if they have some extra money, there are other possibilities to consider (extra babysitting help, in-home childcare, grocery deliveries, housecleaners). It requires flexibility, some creative thinking. And probably a large glass of wine before the discussion begins.

                2. Snark*

                  It’s a constant negotiation. And one that requires that each party give the other the full benefit of the doubt and compassion. This shit is hard.

            2. Snark*

              Well, my guess is he heads straight home most days – so, he gets back at 5:45 or so, based on his 45 minute commute? And she spends “a couple of” hours with the kid, so I’m reading that as, what, 2-3 hours. And she’s an academic, so my read is she teaches a couple hours a day and has office hours, then heads home and picks the kid up midafternoonish. Most daycares close at 5:30-6, some are open till 7.

              She may feel badly that the kid has to go to daycare at all, and feels obligated to spend that time with him, which I TOTALLY sympathize with.

  70. LoremIpsum*

    There have been a number of discussions on AAM about the increasing expectations to attend / staff outside events and functions outside of the “normal” 8-hour day. Is your organization giving you ample time to plan for these? If they were more proactive about scheduling and maybe having a rotation, you would have more time to arrange for outside help and mitigate your demands and stress levels.

    I realize these are professional expectations for your position and your sector…but companies just take and take.

    1. NotThatGardner*

      This is a good suggestion though — asking for enough notice to plan in advance, so that OP’s wife doesn’t feel thrust upon to watch their kid solo at the last minute. *Not* that that’s what is currently going on, but if they are able to sit down and say “okay, so x, y, and z nights this month I need to go to work events, but y is optional and could probably be skipped – what do you think, [wife]?” that might help her get some sense of control or input, too.

  71. Mes*

    My husband spends every Saturday cleaning the whole house and batch cooking meals for the week. Your wife will probably be a lot happier if you do something similar.

  72. Manders*

    OP, you said your wife was picking your child up early–does that just mean “earlier than I can get out of work” or does the daycare have a later pickup option?

    You said that your wife has to bring work home with her. That’s pretty normal for academia, and if she’s working toward tenure right now, it might get worse before it gets better for her. It might be helpful for the two of you to reframe this issue; you and your wife *both* have to do work outside of normal work hours. For every hour you spend working outside your normal work hours, your wife should also be able to have the same amount of time to work on grading and writing without also watching a kid.

    Also, I don’t know how common it is these days, but when I was this age my academic parents used their network to put together a babysitting co-op. I don’t fully understand how the payment structure worked–sometimes other parents watched us, sometimes older teenagers whose parents were professors were the babysitters–but it was a way families in academia could trade favors while saving some cash.

    Fortunately, kids do get more independent as they get older, so a kid who’s really needy at age 2 might be able to play by themselves while mom grades in a few years. You don’t have to come up with a way to permanently restructure your life, you just need to find a way to make it through the next few years.

  73. Nephron*

    Not a parent, but it seems the issue is the amount of time your wife is spending caring for the child is more than she is able to handle either due to being tired, or time spent working. She is doing childcare from early afternoon until you get home, and now you are asking for into the evening on top of that. (She may also be looking at the prospect of this work increasing with the birth of the 2nd child and figuring she needs to draw the line now or else end up being primary caregiver for both kids.)
    You are focusing on filling the hours you usually fill in the evening, but a solution might be filling hours outside of the evenings you will be working so the hours she spends during your events caring for your son are not additional hours.
    Two is rather young, but are there activities he could be signed up for? She has a flexible schedule so maybe getting the kid into Saturday events will give her a few more hours a week. Or, there might be little league, swim team, or some type of early education program either in the community(library, YMCA) or at her campus? In hindsight my parents probably loved having my sisters and I gone for swim team every evening and many Saturdays even if that was not the ideal time for their breaks. The goal could be to decrease hours she is spending on childcare instead of specifically filling the hours of those evenings.

  74. chocoholic*

    I did not read all the comments, but my husband used to work some very long hours out of the house when our kids were small. One thing that he was able to do sometimes (not all the time, but enough of the time) was to come home and help me feed and get the kids to bed and then go back to work for a few hours. I don’t know if that is an option, but it is something that worked for us. At that time, money was really tight and we did not have extra money for a paid babysitter a few times a week, but him being able to provide a second set of hands during the hardest part of the day was really priceless and probably made a huge difference in the amount of resentment I felt toward his having to work so much.

  75. Getting There*

    Something is amiss with a person who is stressed at the thought of caring for his or her *own baby* for an evening. In this case, I think the issues lie deep within the wife, and until she gets some help, or can otherwise figure out why this causes her such stress, the problem isn’t going to get resolved. The LW needs to be able to attend to their professional responsibilities without having to stress about the *other fully capable adult parent* not being willing to handle stuff at home.

    My husband had little experience with babies when our son was born. When I finally returned to work, and we would work different hours, it was his responsibility to take care of our son. He didn’t do things exactly as I would have, but he never balked at it. That’s the deal when a couple decides to bring a baby into the mix.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I think you are being a bit unfair to the wife; her job requires her to bring home work in the evenings. She is also pregnant, has no issue with caring for the child several hours by herself in the afternoon, and cooks dinner many, potentially most, evenings.

      That does not mean the solution is the one she is asking for but… can you not see where she is coming from?

    2. AW*

      We know why it’s causing the wife stress, it’s because she’s also working in the evenings from home. She isn’t just taking care of the kid, she’s taking care of the kid while trying to work.

    3. CMDRBNA*

      I think you are being very ungenerous to the wife here. She’s alone with the kid for several hours a day, then has to work at home on top of working a full-time job, and being pregnant? That is a lot. The wife also has professional responsibilities she needs to attend to. This also isn’t AN evening, it sounds like it’s a couple of times a month.

      Regardless, it’s clearly not working for the LW or his wife, and they need a solution. “Be less stressed” isn’t actually a helpful response.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Hold up here. Wife ALSO has a full time job, word to do at home, childcare AND household responsibilities, not to mention the incredibly hard and exhausting work of gestating another human. The pregnancy alone is exhausting – I almost throat punched my husband a few weeks ago when he asked “what’s the plan for dinner.”

      Meanwhile the OP doesn’t seem to have much of the child-raising pressure at all right now, and/or cooking. THat’s a majorly unfair burden on the wife.

    5. Temperance*

      This is not a really productive comment, and it’s pretty unkind towards LW’s wife, who works many hours and is pregnant while handling a lot of childcare.

    6. KellyK*

      I’m not seeing where you’re getting that the wife is unwilling to care for the child. She does it all the time.

    7. Another bureaucrat*

      Two year olds are great, but they ARE stressful. I love my daughter so much it hurts, but she is a walking death wish. She think it’s fun to hide, she’s tall enough to grab things off the counters (which is new! and which we discovered when she grabbed scissors !) and she likes climbing and digging in the dog’s food. I am so happy to see her in the evenings, but there is an extra level of stress when I get home and know that I’m facing dinner-prep and child care for 3 hours by myself. It’s 3 hours of constant attention to a small running creature.

    8. Thlayli*

      I think you read a different letter to the one I did. She’s not stressed at the thought of minding her own baby for a single evening. She’s stressed because she is being asked to work all day, mind a baby and toddler by herself, cook a dinner, put kids to bed by herself, clean the house and then do hours of work in the evening to catch up on the work she missed while minding her kids, twice a month maybe more, and the only reason she is being required to do all this with no help is because her husband doesn’t want to have an embarrassing conversation with his boss.

  76. Murphy*

    You say you have to do these things for work, and I believe you. If that’s the case, then I don’t think there’s a work-related solution to this problem.

    As a working mom of a 4 month old, it is hard. It’s hard even when my husband is there. I get home first, so I take care of her until he gets home…and then he cooks dinner, so I’m still taking care of her. (And in my case since she’s so young, I often cannot even put her down at all.) I wouldn’t be happy if my husband had to be gone several evenings a month. We’d find a way to work something out, but if the default was that I regularly work a full day and then take care of my child all evening by myself, and I brought work home with me, we’d have to find another solution. I’d be too exhausted.

  77. Nonprofit Em*

    I also work in nonprofit and I think it’s worth talking to your boss to decide if evening or weekend work is a deal breaker. Saying you need to keep it to 2 times per month and prioritizing which events you absolutely must be at. Then talk to your wife about what the expectations are and how you can help her for those nights you will be gone. Maybe make dinner the night before so she doesn’t have to make it when she’s trying to juggle the kiddo(s), skip bath time for the kid, or anything else to make the night easier for her. I also agree that getting some help would be good, especially with baby #2 on the way. We also don’t have family near and having someone as a backup in case you need someone can be a real weight off your shoulders (care dot com or sitter city dot come are good resources).

  78. Chickia*

    I agree that 2 or more evenings a month are completely reasonable as a job expectation. That said, maybe this job is not the best fit for your family? But assuming that you keep your job, and that there are already LOTS of suggestions here about paid childcare . . . (and I’m a working mom so I understand the reluctance about evening babysitters: if you are away from your kids all day, then evenings are the only time with them — so hiring a babysitter is something I pretty much don’t do – I understand the guilt, and the feeling that that time is REALLY important to little kids!) so other ideas:

    1 – Is flex time an option? Taking an afternoon off early (or a day off) to balance out when you are working late and you pick up child & entertain him for that time & give your wife a break & some time alone to do what she wants. This can work on weekends too — who does the majority of child care on weekends? you or your wife or do you do everything together? Who takes the kid to birthday parties, swim lessons, soccer, or whatever? How about some special Daddy & child time — at the children’s museum, park, or whatever?
    2 – can you (or together as a family) do anything to make that evening time less stressful? Have a meal delivered so she’s not cooking that evening, you do some meal planning, have a friend come over and bring dinner & help . . . think about what really is causing the stress. yes, a 2 year old, but also being pregnant, tired, have her own work to do, and house stuff to do as well (I assume)
    3 – pay attention to what ELSE she’s doing. who does all the laundry, grocery shopping, picking up kids toys, changing sheets, meal planning, kitchen cleanup, bathroom cleaning, packing lunches, paying bills & taxes & stuff, and ALL the other stuff that goes into keeping a household running? And be honest with yourself. I will tell you that my life changed when we got a housekeeper to come in every 2 weeks to clean floors & bathrooms & change the beds. It doesn’t change the daily cleanup chores, but it means that I no longer spend my weekends cleaning the house, grocery shopping, and stressing about the following week. Also, my husband started getting up earlier and cooking us all breakfast and packing the kids lunches, which means that now I get up with everyone else instead of 45 min earlier. It makes a HUGE difference to my quality of life! He also does a lot of the grocery shopping and dinner cooking too. So now once the kids are in bed it’s dishwasher & laundry. Sometimes kitchen cleanup even happens at actual dinner time! (the joys of having kids old enough to help!)
    4 – remember that this is ultimately a short term issue. Yes, it’s years down the road, but those years will go by really quickly . . . really! These dynamics and needs change and you need to adjust to them, but they will continue to change as time goes on.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I would love you to give me some life advice as we prepare to have our first baby. You seem to have this figured out!

      1. motherofdragons*

        Right?? There was some really good stuff in this comment, and throughout this thread. Definitely bookmarking it for a more thorough read later.

        1. Chickia*

          haha! you guys are funny! I will give you some advice though:

          1 – it will seem like everyone else has this all figured out while you are floundering/barely keeping your head up/slowly dying/not keeping up with everyone else while in the meantime they all have perfectly coiffed children who never throw flour over your entire living room, draw with sharpie on your new couch, or squeeze your favorite $25/tube hand lotion all over your bed, floor, and wall. (yes this all happened, she is lucky she survived to 8!) Also everyone else throws perfectly themed parties that belong on a pintarest board complete with handmade from scratch crafts, playdoh, and treats. also they make all their own organic baby food. TOTALLY NOT TRUE! everyone with young kids is running on a treadmill doing the best they can. give yourself grace,cut yourself slack, and just do the best you can. Also, curbside pickup, meal delivery, a bakery, and breakfast-f0r-dinner is your friend.
          2 – relax your standards on cleanliness/neatness or you will drive yourself crazy. bins for toys. picking up means throwing stuff in bins, really.
          3 – realize that your work will suffer. and if you have a great job with great co-workers, they will understand and help you, and it will be fine. and maybe it’s OK to take it easy for a while and not be on the fast track?
          4 – do not let your children or anyone else guilt you into being sorry you are not a stay-at-home mom. working is FINE, your kids will be FINE, you will be FINE. but also, realize that you lose a lot of time with them . . . which is why I didn’t do much when they were little — guilt? yes, but also, I really did miss them! I wanted to know what was up with them! and they go to bed early (7 when they were little: mine needed lots of sleep to act like non-nutburgers! still do). so, you don’t get a lot of time in the evenings by the time you get home from work, pick them up, etc. do what you can (adjust work hours???) to pick up early, spend the time with them that you can listening to them, playing with them, connecting with them. it’s so easy to get in to the routine of caregiving: dinner/bath/bed and not actually enjoy the time and connection you are making.
          4 – remember that you are in a partnership and ask for what you need. more help with kid? more help with cleaning, shopping, planning, meals? dad does bath/story? dad does drop off or pickup? more daddy/kid time so you get some YOU time? ASK, don’t seethe. and get help – housekeeper, lawn guy, meal delivery . . .
          5 – remember, little kids are their own thing – you just have to get through the baby stage (enjoyably I hope with one of those awesome babies who’s always smiling and sleeps all night!). but you might get one that’s up 4 times a night and will only sleep on you . . . you get what you get. you might get a toddler that is “high energy” and needs to be always moving . . . or one that sits quietly and you can take to a nice restaurant at 2yrs old and everyone says “what a well behaved child!!!”. you get what you get — adjust your plans and expectations accordingly. we didn’t go to restaurants until recently. except maybe a buffet. but not a nice one! remember it doesn’t last forever — and no matter what you family or friends say about what you “should” do or what *they* were able to do, or what is “normal”, normal for YOUR family is what works for you and your kids.
          6 – the little kid years go by REALLY fast. seriously REALLY fast. you are not changing your life forever, just for a few years. one day you blink, look up, and realize that your kids are 6&8 and they are capable and kind of take care of themselves a lot! this is do-able! and people are asking YOU how you do it, and you miss the little toddler hugs & kisses, and now your biggest issue is not getting sucked into too much stuff (because after toddler years comes elem school, which means PTA, gymnastics, swimming, school field trips, parent night, girl scouts, and everything else). So you have to learn how to say no or you will end up on the PTA, treasurer of the pool club, and scout leader . . . (saying no a LOT more this year I SWEAR). so when that time comes — say yes to stuff that lets you interact with your kids and their friends (scouts, coaching, school field trips, having friends over), and no to stuff that’s just more work without being involved in person with them (treasurer, a lot of PTA stuff).

          just my $.02

          1. motherofdragons*

            Those 2 cents are worth a whole lot more for this first-time-mom-to-be. Thank you for being so generous with your wisdom!

    2. E*

      +100 to hiring a housekeeper! As working mom (with a husband who worked 4 pm-2 am for years, currently days, but still away nights at least once a week) I am certainly familiar with the stress of solo childcare- but not wanting to hire a evening babysitter after being away from your kids all day. Housekeeping, grocery delivery, and the very important regular weekend afternoon without the kiddos have kept me (and my marriage) happy.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      You ask if this is the right job for his family right now. Maybe it is because I’m in the legal profession but I’m also involved in a few non-profits and I know of no job that has 100% no evening/weekend commitments. They are not frequent, but they are expected and important. You have a ton of notice ahead of time (for mine). I don’t think we should suggest OP find a new job at this point because I think it is unlikely that OP will find one with less than twice/month evening requirements.

  79. Applesauced*

    It sounds like you *both* have to work evenings occasionally, she brings work home and you go to events/work late off-site.
    When you’re both home home she can work while you watch the kid(s), but when she’s there alone she’s balancing kid(s) and work from home at the same time.
    I don’t know if it’s time for a new job, but if you working late (even occasional) doesn’t work for your family you need to either find a job where you *don’t* work late or find a way (probably with paid help) to keep your wife from needing to watch kids while working from home.

  80. Katie the Fed*

    Does the work in the evenings have to be done at specific times? Like, could you tell your boss “I’m unavailable between 5pm and 8:30 but I can respond to emails for a short time after that.”

    I do think it’s ok to set limits on how much time you’re spending on work outside of the office, and during which hours. You have a family – and your family needs you. If your workplace legitimately can’t work with that, I think you need to look at more flexible options.

  81. rosieflower*

    Sit down with your wife, discuss this and come to a conclusion on who will be the primary person in charge of the children’s care. It is a fallacy that you can devote yourself 100% to work AND 100% to your family/wife/kids. You cannot keep asking to leave early or coming in late if your office culture looks down on it. If you don’t have this discussion with your wife now & come to a conclusion now, the stress (as you mentioned) will take its toll on you, your career and your marriage. The other option is for your to employ a caregiver for the children OR for either you or your wife to change jobs where a more flexible schedule is offered. Maybe you or your wife could work part-time? Get a job at their school? Become self-employed where the schedule is more flexible? Or embark on a new career path such as a real estate agent or a financial adviser or another position where the individual sets their own hours. Make this decision now so you don’t have to make decisions in divorce court or in the unemployment line.

    1. KellyK*

      There doesn’t have to be one primary person in charge of the children’s care, particularly when they’re both ambitious and have demanding careers. They need to sit down and figure out who’s responsible for what, yes, but it’s not all or nothing. It’s also worth pointing out that one or both of them is probably going to take a temporary hit to their careers as a natural consequence of having young children, but that it won’t be forever.

      1. KellyK*

        Actually, scratch that “one or both” bit. It will definitely be both of them. They need to figure out how to mitigate it, but neither of them is going to have the career that a childless person could have, or a person with a full time SAHP spouse could have.

  82. CAS*

    First of all, I appreciate that you’re approaching this as a family issue, and I encourage you to continue looking at it that way. This isn’t a “wife-is-being-unreasonable-for-having-other-things-to-do-besides-caregiving” issue. If your wife has to work at home, then childcare in the evenings is a barrier to her work as well. By looking at the issue in this way, it may be easier to find common ground and work from there.

    Paid care in the evenings is one solution, but it might not be the only option. I suggest that the two of you plan a time to sit down together and talk about this from a perspective of mutual solutions. This time should be separate from any arguments or existing conflicts. Start by allowing each of you a set amount of time to express concerns, fears, and worries without interruption. The listener’s job is to repeat back what s/he heard the other say without inserting opinion or judgment. Make sure you both feel your concerns have been heard and understood, and you both agree that your perspectives are valid. From a factual standpoint, talk about how often you believe you need to be available for evening events and how frequently or how long she must work at home in the evenings. What happens to both of you if you fail to accomplish what you should for your jobs? What is the mutual benefit if you both meet your empl0yers’ expectations?

    Then, brainstorm all of the options you can think of that might address the problem. All of them. This includes options you disagree about. Don’t get hung up on evaluating any option regardless of whether you agree or disagree about it. Keep listing options until you run out of them.

    Look at all the options and consider the pros and cons of each. Consider how they relate to what you have to accomplish mutually. Does the option present a mutual solution on its own? Can it be combined with another option to provide a mutual solution? Then you can look at all of the solutions that will work for both of you and arrive at consensus about what you’d like to try. And I think “try” is important here because it might take some trial and error to find a good combination.

    Come to agreement about solutions you’d like to try, and set a time to get together (maybe after a month) to evaluate how it’s working. Follow the same process for active listening. If it isn’t working for one of you, it’s not working mutually.

    Best wishes to you, OP.

    1. CM*

      Yes, this. We can all give you lots of suggestions, but ultimately this needs to be about the needs of you, your wife, and your child. You and your wife both need sleep, exercise, and downtime, and you both have obligations to meet for work, your child (and probably other friends and family members), your home, and whatever else you have going on in your life. I think you each need to figure out, both on your own and together, how to prioritize those needs and obligations, and then decide what to do together.

      One way that has helped me to do this without anyone getting defensive is for each person to say what their ideal scenario is. If you could truly do what you wanted, without considering the needs of anyone else or practical considerations like money, what would your days and weeks look like? How much time would you spend on your work, child care, your spouse, yourself, and others (like friends and your community)? What sorts of activities what you do during that time? (For example, maybe you love giving your kid a bath but dread mealtimes. Or maybe your wife is really missing going to the gym regularly.) That can help both of you understand what’s important to each of you. It helps you identify your needs while acknowledging that it’s impossible for you to get everything you want.

      If I were your wife, I would probably say that my ideal scenario would be for you to completely take over childcare every evening when you come home. I wouldn’t mind 3-4 nights away if you were the primary caretaker for the weekday hours you were home. But your wife may have different priorities.

      Also, some unsolicited marriage advice that I hope you won’t mind: It took us a long time to get there, but things got SO much better when we each tried to be 100% supportive of whatever the other person wanted to do, without evaluating what it was. Work obligation, guys’ night out, sleep late, go to church: all equally valid. The point is, if your default is, “Yes, how can we make that work?” instead of “But that’s not fair,” it starts a virtuous cycle where both of you feel supported and are more likely to be able to express your needs and have your needs met.

      1. CM*

        One other thing: this is a big issue and I would not expect to resolve it in one conversation. You might start the conversation, and feelings get hurt and you walk away, and you try again later. So I hope you won’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to find a solution you’re both happy with. And whatever solution you come up with will necessarily have to change over time, as your family changes. So this is an ongoing balance.

  83. Snark*

    In the interest of providing some concrete suggestions rather than continuing to speculate that OP doesn’t pull his weight around home….

    a) You say your wife picks your son up early from daycare every day. Would she consider maybe leaving him there until closer to your arrival at home, so she’s not burned out? She could use that time to get done the grading and lesson planning she brings home.

    b) Would cooking batch meals, planning meals and doing all shopping once a week, or coming up with a specific set of very quick, easy meals, be practical and possible?

    c) Would you be willing to match evenings, and give her a chance to go out with friends or have solitude 2-3 times a month, in compensation?

    d) Aside from suggestions made above, would cleaning help be feasible for you? That frees up a lot of time and headspace.

    1. stej*

      Will also add – freezer meals freezer meals freezer meals. Make them, use them, love them. They will save your butts on those nights neither of you guys can handle another thing to do.

      1. Murphy*

        We call them “emergency dinners.”

        (With “the baby woke up at 4am and wouldn’t go back to sleep, I had a long/rough day at work, and then traffic was terrible” constituting an “emergency.”)

        1. KellyK*

          Our weekly meal plan includes “F— it” meals. Like emergency meals, but more cynical. Chicken tenders and French fries, skillet meals, hot dogs. Anything that can live in the freezer, whether homemade or store-bought, and pulled out with minimal effort.

    2. KellyK*

      Those are all really good suggestions. To b) I’d like to add that Crock-Pots are the best thing ever. There are websites full of meals that are basically “Throw some stuff in the crock-pot, turn it on low, and go to work. Dinner will be there when you get home.” ( is my favorite.)

      This spares your wife from having to fit childcare and cooking and her own work into the same evening, and it usually takes 5-10 minutes to get dinner going in the morning, with anywhere from 0 to 20 minutes to finish it up in the evening, depending on whether the recipe requires additional ingredients (usually veggies) at the end, and whether you’re making rice or another side.

      1. Snark*

        I’m an Instant Pot partisan for lyfe, so gotta plug for it. I can have posole on the table with about 7 minutes of active work time, and I feel like a wizard.

    3. Snark*

      Another one: OP could approach his boss and ask for a childcare allowance. Around the time I got promoted, my wife started teaching middle school math, and life got reaaaal complicated. I asked nicely for a childcare allowance, and got $100 a month. Not much, granted, but it paid for the jump up to the 45-50 hour fee band.

      And a note about evenings out. My 3yo son LOVES “guy’s nights.” We leave at 4:30, go to a car dealership and look at Porsches for a while, visit the aircraft museum where I work, or visit a fire station. Then we go to the playground and flame off all the excitement. Then we go and get pizza or burgers, and he always gets to have fries. And then he falls asleep in the car, I carry him inside and put him in bed, and it’s just great. Yeah, toddlers are draining, but they’re also WICKED DAMN FUN. Go hang out with yours a couple times a month, it’s rad.

  84. chocoholic*

    Another idea might be for on the days you have to work in the evening, is there a way to go in late that morning? You could presumably prep whatever you will be eating for dinner in the morning before you leave and then at least dinner will be taken care of for your wife when she gets home. That is just something off of her plate that she won’t have to deal with later.

  85. KB*

    My SIL and BIL are in a similar boat. It sounds like your wife picks up the child early from daycare? If that is the case can she pick up your son later and go home right from work to have some alone time? I get the desire to see your child right away, but if you are paying for child care for all day and pick up the child early, why not pick up at the last possible time. I am also all about the neighborhood babysitter. I know it has been said, but you could have a teenager first babysit when you’re there, give your wife an hour or two free and you can cook, do laundry or have an hour or two free on your own. That way you get to know people and when comfortable have them watch your son alone and go on a date night or date day.

    My SIL works lots of evenings events (very late), and is allowed to leave early/ come in later when she has evening events. She will go home and get stuff done (laundry, etc), go to the gym, whatever she wants. She picks up her kids from child care at their time of pick-up (no earlier). Sometimes her husband can come home early and they spend an hour or two together before picking up their son. It has done wonders.

    I will also say maybe do a bit more about the house. I do prep for the week on Sundays and so does my SIL. This helps a lot. Even if you can make a couple meals ahead of time and have them ready a couple evenings a week for her that would probably help. Or on weekends if you aren’t busy maybe watch your son and tell her to do whatever she wants for a couple hours. How does she feel appreciated? I also think it is important that you have alone time (if you need it) because it also is not fair if she wants alone time, but expects you to work, watch the baby and have no time to yourself. Maybe set up a schedule so you each know beforehand what the next couple weeks hold.

  86. Emma*

    Is your wife truly refusing to parent solo a few days per month, or is her concern that she isn’t able to get her own work done when you are working in the evenings? Two very different problems. If she just doesn’t want to parent solo, I’m tempted to suggest you just tell her to suck it up since it’s fairly infrequent. If it becomes MORE frequent, then you’ll have to evaluate whether or not you can afford to hire a part-time mother’s helper, or if you want to consider looking for another job. Personally, if my partner had to work late a few times a month it would be no problem, but a few times per week would be a big deal, y’know?

    Also, if your wife is just exhausted from parenting, have you considered (or already have) giving her a few nights here and there to be Off Duty? Whether that means going out with her friends (or you if you can find a babysitter) or just drinking a glass of wine in the bathtub, she may be more willing to solo parent when you have to be at an event if she gets a chance to decompress. Her attitude may stem from exhaustion and burn-out.

  87. it_guy*

    I’ve been there, and I can tell you that it’s not easy! I’m a 30 year IT veteran and there have been times (sometimes a lot of times) that I had to work extra time. I have to admit that I’ve been terribly lucky with my spouse. I’ve got a couple of suggestions and 1 question.

    Can you work remotely? Can any of this be done at home while you are working ? This has two benefits, it gives you more time with the kiddo and it lets your spouse see that you are really doing ‘work stuff’ and not goofing around.

    The best suggestions I’ve got for you is to let your spouse know how much you appreciate them. Bring her flowers, and send her special notes because you can. Let her know that she is very important to the process, and it couldn’t be done without here help. Even if she knows this, keep telling her. The biggest problem is that she may feel that she’s not appreciated.
    The other suggestion is to make sure that she gets some ‘alone’ time where there are no demands on her time that she can do what she wants. This doesn’t have to be a baby sitter type of thing, just make sure that she has her own time.

    Bottom line is that it’s hard because of the kiddo, but if you keep the child’s need in mind on this stuff, you will have a better chance at this.

  88. Akcipitrokulo*

    You both have needs that are very reasonable… outside stresses are making them difficult. So much of what can be worked out depends on what both of you need to happen. Working on “fixing external thing” together might make that conversation easier… but that is straying from the question I know.

    Can you talk to your boss; explain that obviously you know it’s a requirement, but is it possible to make it up in getting a few hours back? Also to have some flexibility in WHICH late nights you do?

    Then it could give good info to ask your wife that, given you do need to occasionally, what use of these hours/ flexibility would make her life easier?

    It may be that “avoid Tuesdays and come home early when you’re going to be working and make dinner” or similar could work.

    I hope it works out for you!

  89. Menacia*

    Has your wife made any suggestions other than you can’t work the few evening events that you do? How does she feel about hiring someone as an extra pair of hands when you aren’t home? This problem will only be compounded when the second child comes along demanding more time from each of you. You are asking her to be understanding, she’s asking you for help…two very different needs. Have you asked your coworkers who have families how they manage? Perhaps hearing from others who work in a similar career might be valuable.

  90. Sfigato*

    This is a tough one. Having two parents working full time is hard, no two ways about it. The only way it works is if:
    1. One of the parents has a flexible schedule and can be the primary caregiver in most situations.
    2. You have a family member who can help you out
    3. You hire a nanny/evening babysitter to help out.

    Those are your options. I was going to say that it will get easier for your wife to care for your child as they get older – ages 0-3ish are tough to do solo, but it gets better. I used to dread when I was solo with my kid (because it was so hard, especially at the end of a long day), but now I look forward to it. Only you are having #2. So it is going to be even harder soon.

    I have a four-year-old. I’ve had to make career sacrifices so that my wife can have a more demanding (and higher paying) job. I leave work early, every day. I rarely go to happy hours. I can’t work overtime. When I have to travel for business it’s a big deal and my mother-in-law flies in to help with childcare. What has worked for me is finding a role where I am not expected to work out of office hours and where I have a boss who also has small children so she gets it. That, to me, is key – having a boss who also has to leave in the middle of the afternoon because their kid is puking, or who has to call in for an important meeting because their kid has lice. That kind of stuff can be held against you at some places.

    Barring hiring help or convincing your wife that she needs to suck it up and be solo with the kid(s) for an evening every week or two, you could talk to your boss and explain that it is difficult for you to be away the evening because you are the primary caregiver for your children. And if that means that maybe it isn’t the job for you, have a discussion with your wife about that – Either you work evenings and keep your job, or you get a new job. And if it would be difficult for you to find a different, more suitable job, that helps make the decision for you.

    1. CM*

      Just a note — I disagree that these are the only 3 options. My spouse and I both have demanding jobs and have managed to keep a fairly egalitarian split without extra help (other than an evening babysitter once every month or two for date nights). It’s hard, but it can be done without one parent being the primary caregiver if both parents are willing to make some career sacrifices. I don’t think it can be done if one or both jobs have no flexibility.

  91. anna green*

    Not sure if this is a possibility, but on the nights when you have to work, could she leave your child at daycare longer to either spend some time alone in the afternoon or get other things done, and then when she picks up the child, she is more refreshed and able to spend the evening with them?

    My husband and I both work full time and have two kids so I feel you. It’s hard. Especially if your wife is pregnant. Pregnancy sucks and is so tiring.

    I think you are correct in that you will need to work some nights to meet the requirements of your job. I think you and your wife need to talk about how that will work, so that she feels like part of the solution instead of just being told how it is (not that you are doing that necessarily, but she might feel that way). If you tell her this is a requirement of your job, what are some options? New job? Compromise with boss on how many nights? Change in childcare arrangement altogether? You guys need to talk this through and consider all the options.

    Also, why is she so against watching your child by herself? Has she always been that way? Is this a new thing due to pregnancy? Is she worried about what it’ll be like watching two kids? Does she need some nights to herself also? Talk through it and see what solutions come up.

    Having two working parents and little kids is super hard. Every day can be a struggle sometimes, you are not alone in that. But you guys can do this.

  92. CMDRBNA*

    LW, it kind of sounds like you and your wife are both sort of digging in on this, but also both of your expectations are kind of unreasonable. You mentioned that she has a “flexible schedule” but also that she’s expected to bring work home with her. Trying to work at home and supervise a toddler is nigh impossible. When is she supposed to be getting this work done? If she’s leaving to pick him up earlier, she needs to do the hand-off with you at night so she can get the rest of her job done.

    That being said, you’re also being expected to work in the evenings, and obviously someone has to be watching the kid at that time. As for being unable to convince your wife that you have to work in the evenings, it sounds like she’s choosing not to be convinced. I work in events and that often means nights/weekends, and that’s just…how it is? Someone refusing to believe that I have to work nights and weekends sometimes is making a sort of baffling choice.

    I’m not sure why you didn’t mention getting paid help, but…get paid help? I would think that being in a situation that requires a babysitter means the first step would be getting a babysitter.

    The conversation with your boss about only being available 9-5 is one you need to have with them if you truly need to step back. I think having two young kids and a working spouse is a pretty strong argument for saying, hey, I have to stick to a more defined schedule for the foreseeable future. How well that conversation is going to go and whether you’ll get pushback depends on your boss and your workplace, but you have to decide if you think it makes sense to have that conversation.

    I think this is not really about working the occasional night or weekend. I’d be willing to guess this is more about your wife feeling that the division of labor is pretty unbalanced. I know I would be peeved if I worked, spent a couple hours toddler wrangling, and then had to work at home in the evenings afterwards.

    I would really recommend getting this sorted before baby number 2 arrives. You may want to read the Captain Awkward columns about childcare and housework division, they’re eye-opening. I think this is something worth working through with a counselor. At the very least, have a calm conversation with your wife when you are both well-rested and preferably someone else is watching the toddler so you find a solution that works. Maybe the solution IS telling your boss you can’t do nights or weekends.

    I’d also recommend the book “How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids.” And taking a VERY honest look at the amount of time you and your wife are spending on housework and kids. Do you have way more free time on the weekends than she does? Do you still have time for hobbies? Does she?

    1. Snark*

      “I think having two young kids and a working spouse is a pretty strong argument for saying, hey, I have to stick to a more defined schedule for the foreseeable future”

      But….here’s the thing. OP’s boss has made it clear that evening obligations are part of his defined work schedule OP has coworkers in the same positon, and they work the evening events. I don’t disagree that the balance of labor is potentially out of whack, but whatever balance they find, I think 2-4 evenings a week has to stay firmly on his side of the scale. Telling the boss you’re unwilling to satisfy a stated expectation of senior people in the organization is a way to get fired, not a workable solution.

      I think the sacrifice they need to make is paying more for daycare and keeping the kid there for the full day. She’s burned out at night because she spends most of the afternoon with him.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        I said one of the decisions the OP needs to make is IF he needs to have that conversation with his boss or not IF he needs to step back from work and concentrate on his family or not and IF that’s an option, which only he knows. It’s very possible that stepping back or even just having the conversation isn’t in the cards for this particular workplace, but only the OP knows that.

        Yes, he has coworkers who do the same thing. Maybe they have a stay at home spouse. Maybe they have a babysitter or nanny. Maybe Grandma or Grandpa lives in the neighborhood and pitches in.

        Maybe it’s a question of, I can do 2 evenings a month max or 1 weekend a month max, but I’ll step up in other areas that fall within the 9-5 working hours to pick up slack from other coworkers who are covering for me at other events. There are a host of potential workarounds that OP’s workplace may let him do, but he won’t know unless he asks (and maybe it’s a workplace where even asking is a bad idea, but again, only OP knows that).

        If even having the conversation about needing flexibility is a nonstarter at his work, that sucks and they’ll have to come up with other options.

  93. kindnessisitsownreward*

    Sometimes helping with the other stuff—grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry, vacuuming–can help a lot. Those are things you can do at other times so that your wife can just concentrate on taking care of your child. Having a clean house and dinner ready when you come home relieves some of the “single parenting” stress.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is really true. The smallest things can help. The days I wake up and find the coffee pot already going = awesome. The days I leave for work early and come home to find my SO had thrown a meal together in the crockpot so neither of us had to cook when we got home = awesome. etc etc etc.

  94. First time commenter*

    This is a toughie. My husband has been unemployed for a year and half now, but when we both worked and had work stuff outside of normal hours we just figured it all shook out in the wash. But since you’re the only one doing stuff outside of work hours, that’s harder. Aside from the “can you throw money at the problem” suggestions above:

    First, I’d check with your boss and see if there’s flexibility in your schedule around the times you need to work evenings. If you can take an afternoon off to pick up the toddler and give her an afternoon off in return, that might work.

    If not, see if you can limit the evenings as much as possible, at least for now. As the kids get older and more manageable you’ll likely be able to shoulder more of the off-hours stuff later on.

    If not, well, you might need to consider a different position.

    I might also recommend a bit of marriage counseling. Kids are stressful under the best of conditions, and there’s likely more going on that just your evening work needs and a third party can help identify and work through some of those things.

  95. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    OP, I’ve been there and I feel your pain! There’s really no easy answer to this. I stress communication because it’s what worked best for my husband and I during those years. We have two kids who are 15 months apart and on top of that we share a vehicle so changes in the schedule usually meant one of us was driving to pick the other up with sleeping kids buckled into car seats (usually me picking up him!). I can assure you that it does get easier when your kids are old enough to be trusted home alone for short amounts of time, but as for right now? Talk with your wife. See what her expectations are and see if this is something that you can reasonably get your boss to commit to. For myself, I always wanted to have Tuesday nights for myself. My local library was open late that night and it was my weekly date with myself. My husband spoke with his boss and was promised that he’d look to others to fill in the Tuesday late shifts. My husband works in a field that is “open” every day of the year so my other demand was that he would always have Christmas day off. He’s kept that promise too. And I’m sure it’s been mentioned a time or two in the comments above, but invest in a good sitter. I liked teenagers because they were fairly responsible, trustworthy, and eager enough for cash that they were willing to reschedule their plans for a last minute request. I loved my sitters and am still friendly with them and their families many years later!!!

  96. Sarah*

    I don’t think you can just opt out of evening work if it’s an expected part of your job — it’s not fair to those who don’t happen to have kids or other care-taking responsibilities to say they just have to handle 100% of the evening/weekend duties associated with the job.

    At the same time, I have a lot of sympathy for your wife here. I am also in academia, and I think it is really easy for the partners of people in academia to assume “flexible schedule” means “able to drop everything to accommodate all scheduling issues.” We don’t even have kids yet, and still I’m the one responsible for every single vet appointment for our pet, running any number of errands that are best done during business hours, etc. I can’t even imagine how much worse that gets once pediatrician visits, daycare pick-ups, teacher conferences, etc. get factored into the mix! Yes, my schedule IS more flexible, but I still have a huge amount of work that needs to get done, my job is stressful, and even when work doesn’t have a specific deadline, I still NEED to do it or I’m not going to get tenure! This has definitely been a big negotiation in my relationship — I still end up doing more of the daytime tasks because it really doesn’t make sense for my husband to burn his very limited PTO on trips to the vet. But, in exchange, he has taken on other types of household duties that don’t need to happen during business hours. He is especially conscious of this when I’m at a busy period in the semester, and during those periods will end up doing a majority of the cooking/cleaning/etc. around the house.

    I am wondering if your wife is reacting in this way because of an overall imbalance in household duties. It sounds like she’s doing most of the “solo” childcare and cooking most of the meals, and I’m guessing that because of professional job vs. academia factors, she’s like me in that she’s on the hook for most doctor appointments and other stuff scheduled during the day. I think it would make sense to have a conversation where you both sit down