Dear Thelma: Bogged down by kids and angry at absent husband

"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.

I'm writing to you to seek a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. I have been married to my husband for six years now, and we are blessed with two beautiful children aged two and five.

Lately, I've been feeling quite depressed and emotional about my work, married life and children.

It feels like my daily activities in life are the same; it's like hitting the repeat button again and again.

I work as a marketing executive for a resort. As I'm quite close to the bosses, I am allowed to work from home, so I can take care of my children.

Thing started to fall apart this year. When my youngest daughter throws tantrums every day, it makes it difficult for me to bring the kids out for anything.

My husband works every day, seven days a week, 7am-9pm. Every time I wake up, he is already getting ready to go to work. And when he comes back from work, it's difficult for us to even have a decent conversation as he is either tired and falls asleep or he's on his phone playing games. Even without him at home daily, my income seems to be enough to support our family. There was this one time when I felt like asking him to stay home and take care of the kids while I go out to work and earn the money for our family.

I feel helpless. I'm been cooped up with lots of work as my colleagues aren't able to share the workload equally, and am tied up with both my children (one goes to kindergarten and the other stays home with me). As for my love life, I no longer get any romantic texts, date nights or anything.

It's also difficult for me to even ask my husband to take leave to spend time with me or the kids as he has lots of appointments even on weekends.

It's like I am starting to get tired of my life. I am only 26 years old this year. I am seeing my friends flying overseas, having tea at fancy restaurants, etc, but here I am, at home daily.

A few times, I did try to start a conversation with my husband about what I am feeling, but he seems to be taking no action.

It's hard to balance work, love and parenting.

I don't know what I should do. Sometimes I even feel that my husband no longer loves me. I tried to shake that thought out of my mind, but his actions seem to be louder than anything else. Help me...


First things first: you are working hard at your job, at being a mum but there's also you. Get a babysitter for an hour or two every week and use that time for yourself.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy: a walk, reading a novel in the park, painting your nails or having a massage. Do something that's purely for you.

Also, you need to lean in with friends. Make sure your circle includes close friends you can confide in as well as casual friends to meet for coffee or lunch.

Now, to the question of your relationship. From your description, it sounds as though your husband has left the marriage. He sleeps at home and that's about it.

It is important that he has downtime too, but it takes nothing to have supper together while watching your favourite film. And it takes a second to send a romantic text. To neglect even the most basic expressions of love is a serious matter.

From your musing that you can keep the kids without him, it sounds as if you're leaning towards leaving him. May I suggest you don't do anything hasty?

I say that because you were married awfully young. If your husband is the same age, you're both still maturing. It would be a shame to walk out on a relationship that might still make you happy, especially as you have two kids.

I would start from scratch to see what lies underneath the situation.

The first thing that struck me as odd were your husband's hours. Working a 98-hour week is extremely unusual. Are you sure he's working all the time?

My first move would be to see what this work consists of. I say so because there are selfish men who disappear to have dinners, golf games and other fun activities because they don't want to do their share of difficult parenting and boring housework.

If your husband is one of those men who act the bachelor, it will be a shock to you but at least you'll know where you stand.

There's also the possibility that he is overwhelmed, and decided just to disappear rather than deal with it. In that case, work is an excuse too but one that comes from fear.

You don't mention whether he likes his children. Is he a good father? Does he love them, play with them, enjoy being with them?

I ask because some men are so frightened of doing the wrong thing that they just panic when they become parents. They are too shy to say, so they back away and become estranged from the very people they love so much. If that's your husband, he needs encouragement.

I suggest you think this all over to see what seems most likely to you.

If he has a brother, a sister, a cousin or other relative that you both like and trust, it may also be useful to confide in them to see if they can shed some light on the issue.

Then examine the foundation of your relationship. Where are you in terms of compatibility of character and life goals? For a successful marriage, it's important that you share a vision of the future and that you can be happy together.

Finally, think about other problems you've had in your relationship. How did you communicate with him then? What approaches helped you find solutions? Try to learn from the past.

When you've done all that, I suggest you talk to him once more. It may be useful to switch from, "we need to hug more" to asking him what he imagines your relationship to be like three years from now and 10 years from now.

If you do both want to get back to being happy, suggest solid actions and goals, like, "We have dinner every second Friday, and even the biggest client can't interfere."

If all that still doesn't work, then talk to a mental health professional, someone with at least a Masters Degree in psychology or counselling. Go through all your options, don't make any snap decisions and remember to look after your own health in this difficult time.