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Abby: Household division of labor causes tension

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: “Ron” and I have been married 20 years and have two children. Recently, he called me a “freeloader” and described my parenting as “half-a--ed.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard it from him.

I work part-time so I can have a flexible schedule and be home with our kids after school. Ron earns considerably more than I do, although I inherited money from my father that will provide security for our kids regardless of our incomes.

I think I’m a great mom. Our kids are healthy and well-adjusted. Although I don’t need my husband’s salary, I appreciate the good life his work affords us, and I do what I can to show it.

I do, however, expect Ron to participate in raising our kids and contribute to the running of our household. I think it’s important, and I have work responsibilities and volunteer in our community. Ron says I do far less than “most of my friends” (who don’t work), that he does a lot more around the house than the dads he knows and he resents it because he makes so much more money than I do.

How much is fair to expect him to do to help with our kids and home life? How can I get him to see how much hurt his name-calling and disrespect causes?

Not A Freeloader

Dear Not A Freeloader: Every marriage is unique, which is why your husband should not compare himself to other dads and you to their wives. I find it odd that the husband of a working wife — and mother — would resort to name-calling and accuse you of freeloading. Of course Ron should participate in his children’s lives. That’s what being a father is all about.

Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. Helping with housework sets a good example for the kids. If the two of you can’t work out a compromise without name-calling, you should at least agree to have a licensed marriage counselor mediate the discussion.

Dear Abby: How do I respond to a gift when I don’t know whether or not it’s a gag gift? My sister sent a present that looks to be expensive, but is not only awful, it’s also tacky and weird. She has a great sense of humor, but added no card or message that would give us a clue how to thank her.

Not Sure in New Jersey

Dear Not Sure: I recommend you use the old stand-by: “How sweet of you to remember (me, us, our special day, etc.). Thank you for being such a generous sister!”

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.