My wife refuses to go back to work after giving birth

DEAR JANE: My wife is refusing to go back to work after giving birth – she says she wants to bond with the baby but I think she’s just being LAZY

  • In this week’s agony aunt column, best-selling author Jane Green gives advice to a husband who has grown tired of his wife refusing to get a job after giving birth
  • She also offers guidance to a bride whose mother is demanding that she wear her old dress for her big day
  • Do you have a question for Jane? Email [email protected] or ask it below 

Dear Jane,

My wife gave birth to our wonderful son two years ago – and has spent the time since taking care of him at home. She always talked about going back to work after six months of maternity leave, which turned into a year, which then turned into 18 months… and two years later here we are.

I understood initially, I really did. She wanted to bond with our son and didn’t want to feel like she had to rush back to work before she was ready. But now it feels like she really just can’t be bothered to actually get up and do anything. 

She sits with him watching TV all day, she doesn’t bother to do any chores around the house while she’s at home, and I feel like I’m the only one actually doing anything to contribute to the household.

Dear Jane, my wife is refusing to go back to work, two years after giving birth – and I can’t help but think she’s just being lazy

It would be one thing if she was actually doing things in the house, like getting groceries, cooking, cleaning, but it seems to me like she’s just embraced a life of sheer laziness and doesn’t want to give it up.

She claims that childcare is so expensive that it would cost us more to have her back in a job, but at this point the extra cost would be worth it to me just to see her get off her butt and take some action.

International best-selling author offers sage advice on readers’ most burning issues in her weekly Dear Jane agony aunt column

I know if I speak this candidly to her, she’s going to accuse me of being cruel – but I’m not sure how to get the message across properly without her seeing me as the villain?


Mr Motivator

Dear Mr Motivator,

Might it be possible that your wife is suffering from post-partum depression? I ask this because it seems that your wife post-childbirth is going through something more than, as you put it, sheer laziness. 

Given that she worked before she had your son, I assume she is a capable woman, probably quite used to juggling a number of things, which means that her current behavior is out of character.

I think it fair to say people don’t suddenly become lazy for no reason. Childbirth not only wreaks havoc with our hormones, it can also lead to severe depression, some characteristics of which are, well… being able to do little other than sit around the house watching television.

It is a seismic shift, to become a first-time mother. While some women take to it like ducks to water, others have a far harder time, and common symptoms of depression can include withdrawing from family and friends, overwhelming tiredness and loss of energy.

She might be struggling with fear that she’s not being a good mother, and all the associated guilt and shame that comes with that.

Whatever the case, it sounds to me very much like your wife needs help, and that what you perceive as laziness is actually something more going on, that she is quite possibly entirely unaware of. Which is of course the terrible thing with depression, the longer it goes on, the more normalized it becomes, and it is easy to forget that life doesn’t have to feel like this.

You are right to intervene. Lovingly telling her that you are worried she is not the woman she was before she gave birth, that she seems overwhelmed, and that you are concerned there is an underlying issue. 

Seeing her health care provider would be my first suggestion, for a complete blood panel. They can then work out a plan of action, whether it’s seeing a counsellor or taking medication.

This is far more normal than you might expect, and I imagine everyone, you, your son and your wife, will be delighted when she finds her way back to herself.

Dear Jane,

I’m getting married next year, which is an absolute dream, except for one nightmare detail: the dress. 

I’ve always known the style of dress that I want to wear and was so excited to get out there and find my perfect design. But when I told my mom about it, she literally begged me to wear the gown that she wore when she married my late dad, telling me how much it would mean to her to have a piece of their ceremony in my own.

I totally understand the significance of it and how much it would mean to her to see me in her dress, but it’s nothing like the style I wanted to wear. It’s frumpy, it doesn’t suit my body type, and it’s totally outdated – and not in a ‘cool’ retro way.

Dear Jane’s Sunday Service 

It is so easy to jump to conclusions about why people are acting out of character, and to find ourselves going straight to judgment. 

Always ask yourself what else might be going on, for however people present to us, rarely tells the whole story. Finding compassion rather judgment does wonders for our relationships, and indeed, life.

I suggested that I could maybe use the fabric from her dress to create my own design, but she burst into tears at the mere thought of me cutting up her gown.

I don’t want to hurt her feelings or make her feel like I don’t care… but surely my wedding should be the one day when I can be a little bit selfish?


Bridal Breakdown

Dear Bridal Breakdown,

Indeed your wedding is about you and your husband, and I think you can find a way to honor your father during that day, which doesn’t involve you wearing a hideous dress.

Sit your mother down and tell her that it is important to you that you honor your father – and their wedding ceremony (if you think this is true) – and have a list prepared of ways in which you can do this. 

You could have a photograph of your parents on their wedding day on a special table, play their wedding song or another special song, or incorporate the same flowers in your bouquet. 

These are all ways to give a nod to her special day, but as this is now your special day, the dress is out of bounds.

If her feelings are hurt, remind her of all the other ways you can honor your dad, and move the conversation along. 

You are not responsible for your mother’s hurt feelings at not acquiescing to an unreasonable demand.

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