My husband is the best, except for a few small things. One thing he does that drives me crazy is that, whenever I ask him to do something for me, he responds with a heavy sigh or roll of the eyes as if he is extremely put-out, before he agrees to do it. I swear I am not being unreasonable in my requests, although I have needed more help than usual lately since I’ve been sick a lot with my pregnancy. He tells me that I should just ignore it, because he does generally do the favor for me, and he doesn’t always mind as much as he looks like he minds. He acts like the reaction is practically involuntary. But I can’t help the fact that it gets to me sometimes — I wish he would just do these things without making me feel like a nag all the time. Worse, it makes me feel like he’s my teenage son or something. But I don’t want to police his facial expressions either. Any advice?
— Sigh Me a River
It’s such a little thing, an exhalation of breath, a circular orbit of the eyes. But everyone understands why sighing and eye-rolling is so maddening that it provokes thoughts of reaching for the frying pan. What your husband is doing isn’t OK, and it can’t be ignored. When your baby arrives, interacting with your little one will reinforce your husband’s understanding of what social creatures we are and how even the slightest change in facial expression conveys so much. But for now tell your husband that it’s a real problem that if you make a reasonable request he acts ticked off. Try this: Ask him permission to do to him what he does to you so that he can experience just how annoying it is. A few sighs and eye-rolls in response to, “Hon, could you pick up my shirts at the dry cleaner?” might be very instructive for him. If that doesn’t work, then call him out on his behavior. When you ask him to change a light bulb in the ceiling and you get his usual response, without rancor say, “This appears to be an imposition. The problem is that it’s hard for me to balance on a chair right now. Please tell me if I’m being too demanding or setting you off. Because when you roll your eyes or sigh, it makes me really want to back away from you.”
I’m a junior attorney in my late 20s. I work in a busy office that prides itself on work-life balance, and many of my co-workers have young children. Often, these co-workers leave at 4:30 or 5 on the dot to pick up their kids or attend their events, leaving me to stay late (up to several hours) to finish up work that needs to be done. It’s frustrating — just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t have a life outside of work. What’s weirder is that these co-workers often acknowledge that they’re being unfair but state that “when” I have kids I’ll get to leave early, too. Because I plan to remain child-free, at least for the foreseeable future, this is less than encouraging advice! How can I draw boundaries in this situation without seeming unreasonable? I love my job otherwise, and these people are all genuinely nice — they just seem to have a blind spot when it comes to this issue.
— I Have a Life, Too
It’s great that your company is sensitive to the needs of parents, but not if their family needs become your work burden. You say that because they leave early, they leave you to pick up their slack. That’s simply unfair, and you need to bring this up with a supervisor by way of “clarifying” how duties are divided. Keep in mind that, like Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg, many hardworking people leave the office early for family dinners, then once the kids are in bed, they return to the computer to finish the work day. It might well be that the parents do some shifting of duties outside your sight. So tread carefully when you explore whether you’re getting short shrift.
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