My wife stays at home with our son, cooks and does grocery shopping. We share housecleaning duties. I am employed and handle the car, computer, finances, long-term planning, etc.

I try to perform my tasks at a level that satisfies both of our needs. I feel disrespected when my wife doesn't do the same. I'd like her to tidy up before I come home from work, have the meals close to ready (as opposed to an hour later or not at all), and for her to shop conscientiously enough that I don't have to remind her to get food I like or do my own shopping.

I have presented my desires frequently enough that she either doesn't want to listen or my standards are too high. What is your take?


Could be she feels disrespected, too. I offer this not as a knee-jerk, you-aren't- bowing-down-appropriately-to-the-goddess- who's-raising-your-child reaction, however. Instead, it's a response to your letter's notable absence of context.

You and your wife presumably had nine months together before Baby, and likely a good deal more. So you know pretty well how able, how fair, and ultimately how respectful she's inclined to be regarding divisions of labor. If she was always a grudging participant, then that's who she is.

That's when you need to work on your Plan B, examining your expectations. Is she doing a good job with your child, and are your complaints limited to an untidy house and late dinners? Or is her child-rearing neglectful as well?

The latter is a serious charge, demanding a serious remedy: role-reversal, parenting classes, high-quality part-time day care and/or family counseling, depending on the depth of the problem.

If it's the former and she's raising your son well, that demands a serious examination of your priorities. Someone not known for pulling her weight is doing right by your child - the most demanding and, arguably, consequential job in your household. Isn't that a cue to enumerate one's blessings and accept the mess, at least till your son is in school?

Sometimes, it helps just to rethink the assignments of chores. Maybe cooking, tidying and shopping aren't her thing; if she'd be more comfortable handling other responsibilities - car, finances, long-term planning - she might be more diligent in handling them, too.

But there are more considerations, of course. Is she doing her chores with a child in tow, while you perform your chores with both hands free? Is your son demanding or high-energy? Does your wife show any signs of depression? Any chance she's pregnant, and thus subject to first-trimester fatigue? Do you ever care for your son for extended stretches on your own, both to free your wife to shop and cook unencumbered and to help you answer your own question about whether your standards are too high?

Before opening mouth, know whereof you speak.