Whole Parenting Family

7 Phrases NOT to Say to Your Husband When Raising Small Children

AA & me

photo by the talented Emily Rumsey–more where this outtake came from!

complete with my attempted replacement ones. Because I really really am working on being a better wife. And a more loving wife. And a more kind one, too. Because I could really use work on this, I thought about all the things I say to my husband that I really cringe when I hear them aloud.

I read an excellent book called The Power of Habit. Part of breaking a habit and shifting your behavior is replacing versus simply stopping cold turkey. Here’s my swap-out list of phrases not to say combined with those which are perhaps a sufficient replacement.

As a preface: My husband is a great guy. He’s a wonderful and present father. A doting and kind husband who never ever yells. And right now our marriage is in a good place. These lines might not work if you feel like you’re unevenly yoked or wanting to get insight from an outside counselor for deeper marital or personal challenges. I have great recs for one or three of those if you need them!

1) Didn’t you wash their hands and brush their teeth yet?

Using the accusing form of the verb: the one that says, you’re an idiot and I can’t believe you haven’t done a simple task that you should know you should do. It’s so easy to be demeaning to your spouse. It’s so horrible to say that, and maybe it’s just me. Small children are tyrants for your attention and having a spouse whom you feel also needs direction and attention can put you over the edge into insane-mom mode. My husband is a wonderful and attentive father and husband, so me being a jerk to him is just . . . rude. Instead I’m trying to say in a nice voice:

Would you mind doing a quick hand wash and teeth brushing? I’m going to finish getting their rooms ready for bed.


2) I’m exhausted and you have no idea how hard my day was.

Yes, it’s exhausting. Whether you’re dropping off for daycare//school or at home. Whether you’re eating fancy organic foodie food or drive thru. Small children are the great equalizer of exhaustion. And maybe my day was exceptionally hard. But telling him he has no idea how hard it was may (sarcasm) turn him off to wanting to be sympathetic and even empathetic. Catch more flies with honey, try: (and then try not to talk for 40 minutes about the same thing over and over because repetition isn’t kind on the listener)

I’m sorry I’m not in a great mood. It was a hard day. I would love to share about it later?

3) Why do I have to do everything if I want anything done right?

Yeah. You may have thought this. A lot. Or even a little. Parents have different strengths. I am a whiz at home & time organization for our little family of five. I’m terrible at reading and reading on repeat at bedtime because I just want them to go to sleep and AA is patient and the best repeat reader ever.

If I want the kids to wear certain clothes to church or to play in the muddy muddy muddy yard, I should just set those clothes out. If I want to run errands during lunch on a weekend, I should either kindly let him know what’s in the fridge that they’ll probably eat, or set it on the counter. If I don’t offer any guidance or opinion, how do I have the right to chastise him when he does it his way? If we disagree, okay, tie goes to the most fervent, but otherwise, if I didn’t tell him and he didn’t know, how can I pitch a martyr fit? Instead, I’m trying:

Sorry, I wasn’t clear about this. Would you mind doing it this way next time (and let it go this time, Nell. Just let it GO.)

4) Are you sure you did ______?

He may have completely forgotten to do _____. Or he may have hoped I forgot I asked him. But when I ask if he’s sure, I’m being passive aggressive and condescending. Either he did it, or he didn’t. Sometimes I try to make a “honey do” list of sorts and tape it up in the entrance of the kitchen area so he can check it himself. But if it’s something like locking up at night or checking windows when it rains, there has to be a more respectful way to remind:

Sorry to nag. It would give me peace of mind if you’d just double check that you did ______.

5) Welcome to my world.

When he’s wrangling all three kids in the bath so I can work on writing my devotional for Blessed is She, and someone is screaming, I’m tempted to call out, “Welcome to my world!” as in, suck it up and suffer, sucker! I have to deal with this kind of small child insanity 12-5 (as in, twelve hours a day, five days a week) so I have no pity and I’m not not not going to leave my iced chai tea latte and my hunched computer position to help you.

Well, that’s pretty selfish. How about:

Sorry! It sounds like the kids are having a hard time. I’ll be there in five to help out! (and then later, sighing, remark, you’re really great with the kids. I have these challenges with them during the day, too.)

6) Don’t you think it’s a little late to start reading a new book as it’s already past 8?

Bedtime in my mind is a fixed thing. A time when, if we lived in one of those stretched limos, the bullet-proof, sound-proof screen would zzzzzzzzzoooom up and me, the driver, and him, the passenger, would be cut off from our (presumably) sleeping children. So if AA takes any step that appears to elongate this bedtime, I kinda lose my you-know-what.

But I’m learning that a) using that condescending form of the verb is fair in front of the kids and b) maybe he knows what he’s doing and thinks that an extra story would help ease the transition of that bullet-proof, sound-proof screen. Also, second-guessing your co-parent constantly undermines their confidence in your confidence in them and if there’s really an issue to be discussed, this isn’t the way to open the topic. I’m trying:

Kiddos, it’s almost bedtime. Be good listeners and when Dada’s done reading, go RIGHT TO SLEEP.

7) So being in an office job is basically a vacation compared to what I do at home.

It’s not. And it’s not fair. And these are clearly hormones speaking. And it means I clearly need to schedule more child-free time. Because his job is intense and demanding and hard and being with small kids all day is too. It’s not a competition over who is suffering more.

My husband has been training really hard for the marathon coming up. I couldn’t be more proud of his steely determination and super speed. After 4 months of training, he is totally ready to kick it and rock his time. It also means he has been awakening hours earlier than usual to run grueling distances. I had a few hissy fits wherein I viewed his running as “so fun” and I’m not getting any special exercise time for me in. And then I realized I have access to all the time in the world for it and am not choosing to make//take the time. My conclusion is this:

I’m feeling like I need more child-free time. Can we schedule this, please?


  1. Ann on September 20, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you, Nell! I have thought two of these things so far today, and your post reminded me how much better I can and should be. Thank you for the kick in the panta! 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Only two? Girl, you’re winning 🙂

  2. Anne on September 21, 2015 at 10:15 am

    This is me…a lot. You mentioned The Power of Habit; another book that dovetails nicely is For Women Only. It’s a cheesy title, and some of the writing is cheesy too, but the message is anything but-how our husbands thrive on our respect for them especially when its demonstrated in our words. I’ll be remembering this list.

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 23, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks for the rec!

  3. Jessica on September 21, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for this list! Since this post is all about the language you’re using, I’d like to point out that you don’t need to preface #4 with “sorry to nag.” The idea that checking in with someone is “nagging” is often used to make women’s input less valuable (the stereotype that women nag, men remind/give orders). If you’re making a request over and over, or if you’re expressing doubt that your husband (or kids!) won’t get something done unless you’re constantly reminding them, sure, maybe apologize for nagging. But in a case like this, I think just saying “For my peace of mind, could you please confirm that you did X” is good enough.

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 23, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Excellent point–I usually DO nag, so I have to preface it with that, but many women may not!

  4. Elizabeth on September 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I try (and often fail) not to say many of these things on a daily basis. I especially need to remember to just LET IT GO. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my struggle, and I always appreciate the reminders, Nell. 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Hahaha we are in this together!

  5. Rosemary on September 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    SUCH a good post. Thank you for the reminder!! (And for the suggestions for what to say instead … that was very helpful!!)

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      It helps me to brace my brain against my instinctive not-nice-isms!

  6. mbmom7 on September 21, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    One thing you can say when he’s in charge of the kids and you are busy is just, “Would you like help?” in a nice tone of voice. He might be fine with a little screaming or whining from the kids if he’s trying to take of things while you are doing something else. Don’t assume he’s doing it wrong or that you are the only one who can fix things. He might feel insulted or hurt if you keep running to the (unneeded) rescue.

  7. Melissa Morris on September 21, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    Love all of these, both the phrase and the replacement.

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      You’re so kind.

  8. Michele on September 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Guilty as charged!! Thanks for this reminder, Nell. I’ll definitely be sharing this post!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 28, 2015 at 11:32 pm

      you can’t be more guilty than I am!!! 🙂

  9. Hello Weekend - Red and Honey on October 24, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    […] 7 Phrases NOT to Say to Your Husband While Raising Small Children | Whole Parenting Family […]