Sloppy stay-at-home wife, grammar police, and suspicious photos on a husband's phone: Dear Prudence advises readers in a live…

Advice on manners and morals.
June 13 2011 3:41 PM

Sloppy Stay-at-Home Mom

Prudie advises a man whose wife is great at everything except keeping the house neat—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone.

Q. Frustrated with stay-at-home wife: I work full-time, and my wife stays home with our 18-month-old daughter. She is a wonderful, attentive mother and a good wife. She does the laundry, cooks dinner most nights, does the finances, prepares me a balanced lunch to take to work, and irons my clothes. I appreciate everything that she does. However, our house is generally a cluttered mess—clothes strewn about, books, papers, and various miscellany on the furniture. Sometimes the vacuum or a cup will sit in the middle of the floor for weeks. Before we had our daughter, she (justifiably) quit her previous job to stay home. Her housekeeping was the same then, too. I hate myself for it, but I resent her every time I trip over her shoes in the hallway or have to move a pile of books and mail to sit down on the couch. I have brought up the subject multiple times, but nothing changes. I feel stuck and am not sure what to do.

A: Since you didn't mention that you have a physical disability which prevents you from picking up a cup off the floor or putting the vacuum cleaner in the closet, I'm stuck trying to figure out why you can't spend some of your precious at-home time tidying up your house. Your wife may be a slob, but she's an iron-your-shirts, make-your-lunch kind of slob, and how generous of you to rate her "good" in the wife department. Here's a little experiment—tell your wife that you want her to have a day off to herself or be with friends. Then you watch your toddler for an entire Saturday, and see how much housework you get done. To relieve some of your wife's burden, maybe you should invest in a monthly cleaning service. Or you could start running the vacuum instead of running your mouth.

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Q. Men:  Why do many women completely fail to understand male sexuality, and why do they think it is cool not to try?

A:  Good point. And I enjoyed the accompanying photos of you looking at yourself in the mirror at the gym while holding your special part.

Q. Flirty husband: My husband and I have a very healthy and loving relationship. We have been married for almost a year now and have known each other for six years before we got married. We respect each other and are deeply in love. And this is why I am very confused about something that I have found out about my husband. I had borrowed his smartphone to download some images he had taken from his phone camera. While looking through his media folder, I found that he has images of other random women that he takes surreptitiously. These are photos and videos of random pretty women, in coffee shops, stores, on the street taken without their permission and knowledge. Since my curiosity was piqued, I looked around his phone some more and found that he and a couple of his friends exchange these pictures with complimentary messages about these women's looks. The images and language are pretty PG-13, but this is so juvenile! Also, for guys in their 30s, this is kinda creepy in my opinion. Am I right to be disturbed by this?

A: Let me go on the record that I'm all in favor of robust male sexuality and I don't believe all men are creeps. However, "understanding male sexuality" does not require one to accept that the man in one's life will engage in obnoxious, embarrassing behaviors. It's one thing for a men, even married men, to enjoy that daily life presents a bouquet of beautiful women. Looking (not gawking) is a simple, life-enhancing pleasure. Until the advent of the phone camera, it wasn't possible to record these happy experiences without running around on the streets obviously snapping photos. So now technology has enabled men to turn this little pleasure into the equivalent of swapping baseball cards. This sounds like a misdemeanor, not a felony, but it doesn't really pass the "Eww" test.  You weren't initially snooping, but having found the pictures, you were naturally curious. So hand him the phone and say, "Honey, I accidentally came upon this. I understand every man likes to look at pretty women. But what's this about?"

Q. My daughter loves children too much: My daughter and son-in-law have five children under the age of 10. She is a stay at home mom (childcare for five children will cost far more than what she can realistically earn), and he makes less than average wage. They probably would have starved to death a long time ago if it weren't for government assistance. I am at their house every day helping with housework and childcare. The other day I found out they were planning to try for a sixth (SIXTH!) child. I pleaded with my daughter not to do it, and she said it's her and her husband's decision. Well, it's MY business too when I've given up retirement to care for her children! Others say I need to practice tough love and stop assisting her. How can I do that when it's ultimately my innocent grandchildren who suffer? —Exhausted grandma.

A: It would be tempting to have a medical team come during the night and tie off the various tubes of this hyper-fertile pair. Your daughter-in-law is right that her reproductive decisions are her own. But since you and the taxpayers are keeping this nursery afloat, you need to sit down with the two of them and try to have a practical, rational discussion. Explain that because of your love for them and your grandchildren, and your knowledge of how precarious their financial lives are, you have given up your retirement to assist in the care of their kids. But you know you don't have the energy for a new baby, and frankly, the hours you are keeping now are exhausting you. Explain that you're going to have to draw up a new schedule—you want to continue to help, but you're going to have to be more judicious with your time. Then cut back significantly. Maybe, if they see what it's actually like to deal with five without daily care from you, they will reconsider getting to half a dozen. Of course you don't want to hurt your grandchildren, but if you remove some of the props that are holding up this household, they might realize they have more than enough children to contend with.

Q. Grammar Police: My sister's boyfriend (unfortunately in a serious relationship) has an annoying habit of correcting people's grammar in social settings. At first we just ignored his corrections because we didn't want to be rude to the guest of the family. Now it's becoming increasingly irritating. All of us are university educated, but when we have casual conversations we don't care much about having the perfect grammar. My sister's spoken to him about this, and he says he's just being helpful and teaching us the correct way of speaking. We find such response maddeningly insulting. We don't want to be rude to him, but we don't want to put up with his arrogant corrections, either. How do we get him to stop?

A: I think all of you should give him a big smile and show your appreciation for his attempts to improve you: "Thanks, Brett. Me no speak English too good." Or, "You're right, I'm always misusing the pluperfect. How mortifying!" Let's hope that either causes him to stop, or your sister sees what a prig she's involved with.

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