Friday, February 02, 2007

House Husband

The retired husband syndrome strikes a uncomfortably familiar chord. I have seen several men in my extended family in their 60s and 70s who have significantly increased the stress levels of their wives post retirement. These women are housewives and ran their households just as they thought fit. Now with a stay at home husband who provides non-stop performance appraisals and reviews , these women are at their wits end.

No longer is their way of thirty five years good enough. Their best judgment is almost always suspect. Often times, the children are grown-up, married and live separately so there is no one they can turn to for reassurance or comfort. Some of them confess that they long to spend time alone and would love for their husbands to return to work - ideally fulltime. They seek escape in volunteer work, prayer or sympathetic friends and relatives.

The men for their part seem keen on taking an active interest and contributing to the domesticity they were outsiders to all their lives. After decades of pursuing career growth, they have no interest in returning to the corporate world. They believe their rest is well deserved and that their wives would be overjoyed to have them back in the marriage. In a sense they want to make up for the lost years and extended absences. Suddenly they want to help in the kitchen, run errands that they are not required to and spend time talking with wives with who they have nothing in common any more.

The women had always been aware of the mental distance and the loss of emotional closeness with their husbands but it turns out the men were too busy being workaholic to notice anything was missing. Like the article says, they can't imagine their 24/7 presence could be so repulsive to their wives that it makes them physically ill.


The Jongleur said...

Thats true, and I have been previeged to see quite a few aquaintances harangue and nag their wives to no end post-retirement.

One good tonic would be to make sure that the retired fart takes up serious interest in something that does not cause him to sit at home all day and keep bitching to no end. It could even be something as basic as developing a reading habit, you will be surprised how many men in the retirement bracket have read something substantial beyond the daily newspaper.

PS: Wondering how the retired-couple (husband and wife retiring a few years of one another) syndrome works. Have never had a chance to personally observe that scenario!

cheti said...

Gaad ! You HAVE to portray the bleakest possible scenario as the norm !!!! Dont you ? ;)

I sure will watch out what I do - though its a long way to go !

Heartcrossings said...

Jongleur - I think men in their 60s and 70s viewed their primary purpose in life to be the provider for the family. They overextended themselves in that role while everything else suffered from neglect.

Upon retirement, they have no sense of identity left, their self-worth takes a beating because they are no longer going out into the world to earn money.

They have a need to validate and justify their existence and unfortunately they want to take control of the domestic turf to do so. One feels sorry for these men.

I totally agree about the reading habit and it seems difficult to pick up a new hobby at that late date unless there was always a latent desire to do something that they were not able to do while still working. I know of a man who signed up for sitar lessons after retirement and is enjoying it. The majority don't have a passion and the newspaper cannot fill 24 hours a day for the rest of their lives.

Cheti - I talk about the lowest common denominator scenario which is not the same as the bleakest or the worst case :) For the rosy picture of married life after retirement you've got Bollywood fare. Our movies tend to be Pollyanna in their optimism.

Vanessa said...

Thanks for your article. It is fact many of people who is staying in 60s and 70s, their child thought that their parents came a headache and then they neglected their parents. I am living in youth generation and I am feeling shy for this type of behavior. I can’t understand why we forget the roles and importance of our parents. How we can make a selfish person when we make our career life then we thorough out our parents from our life. But they have also a life. We have to give us some times.
And I want to say one thing the retired people have to busy with any job or any home base business or any good habit. They would not depend on their Childs.