My mother-in-law says her master’s degree holding son shouldn’t do housework

By Huyen Thu   June 16, 2024 | 03:07 pm PT
My mother-in-law told my husband and me that cleaning and washing dishes should be designated as women’s tasks.

I am 26 years old and work a standard office job, earning VND15 million (US$589) per month. My husband, 33, is a university lecturer, earning between VND30-45 million monthly from his salary and external projects. His earnings have only become stable over the past year. Previously, they fluctuated based on the projects he could secure, resulting in some months without income.

We married five years ago following a year-long courtship. Roughly two months before our wedding, I unexpectedly discovered my husband’s business debts. Upon inquiry, he revealed it was VND300 million. Since the debt was not substantial and we were committed to marriage, I accepted the situation, and we proceeded with our wedding. However, married life didn’t turn out as idyllic as I had anticipated.

Before marriage, we had agreed to equally divide household duties so neither of us would be burdened alone. However, this agreement was disrupted three months into our marriage during a visit from my mother-in-law. She declared that tasks like house cleaning and dishwashing are solely women’s responsibilities, asserting she did not raise a son with a master’s degree to perform such chores.

Having also graduated from university, I could not agree with her perspective and responded: "I didn’t attend university to become your son’s maid."

Still, since that incident, my husband has withdrawn from participating in household chores. Simultaneously, I learned that his actual debt was VND600 million, twice the amount he initially stated, which made me feel deeply deceived. I considered divorce but discovered I was six weeks pregnant. Believing that children should not be held accountable, I attempted to discuss my feelings with my husband, but he remained unresponsive.

During my pregnancy, my husband scarcely provided the support I had expected. I continued managing all the household tasks. As my pregnancy progressed, I asked him to assist with tasks like hanging laundry, which he did for a short period before complaining about his busy schedule. Additionally, he often slept undisturbed even when I struggled with severe morning sickness, often vomiting throughout the night.

At 41 weeks, I still had not delivered, leading to hospital monitoring and an attempted induction that ultimately failed, necessitating a cesarean section.

Reflecting on these experiences now, my mother-in-law still remarks that childbirth isn’t overly painful, although I endured significant pain from the induction, and my own mother was visibly distressed by my suffering.

When my daughter was less than six months old, my mother-in-law subtly hinted that I should have a son as my husband is an only child. Now, with my daughter being a year old, she stays with my mother-in-law in my husband’s hometown while my husband and I reside in the city, visiting her on weekends. Although my mother-in-law is diligent with childcare, I sense a lack of affection from my in-laws.

My husband and I have recently cleared his business debts. Though he returns home by 4 p.m., and I not until 6 p.m., he continues to avoid household duties. His only contribution is turning on the rice cooker, which leaves me feeling extremely frustrated and resentful.

I feel as though I have lost my identity, constantly caring for others with no one reciprocating that care. I plan to wait another year or two until my child is older and then consider divorcing my husband. My love for him has transformed into profound aversion, but I hesitate to divorce immediately as I am concerned about managing childcare on my own.

Is my thinking justified in this situation?

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