Should I pay my boyfriend to do chores around the house?
December 8, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Should I pay my boyfriend to do chores around the house and work as a “stay at home dad”? As a high earning, divorced mom, I met my current boyfriend, a great and kind person, who I love very much. We mostly have same values but our backgrounds are very different. Would really appreciate some input, as this situation is complex! More details!

As mentioned, I am an independent mum with a higher degree in a high earning business. For five years I’ve (alone) taken care of my (demanding) job and my four children. My boyfriend is a childhood friend so I know him quite well. He dropped out of school at 17. Growing up we were different, I studied hard and he partied hard. After 17, he never took any more education, and became more of a “handyman” working around in low paid jobs. Unfortunately, he was in a motorcycle accident and became slightly disabled.

He has three children (ages 16 – 21) from an earlier marriage. They live in our hometown. My boyfriend has now come to live in the town where I live and work, and this town is approx. 4 hours by plane. He will go and see his kids every four to six weeks and stay for around 1 - 2 weeks (living in a house I have in our hometown). His ex-wife does not have a job, and lives on unemployment benefits. My boyfriend will not be able to find a job where we live because of his disability. He had a small job in our hometown that he can do the period he is back. This money goes to his kids.

He moved in with me, and he helps with chores in the house (except cleaning and laundry), cooking, shopping and sometimes driving my kids. So the other day he mentioned that I should pay him a “salary” as he his helping me out and as he had to leave his part time job, he has lost his options of earning more money. He has lived with me only a few months. I am not sure what to think or do or how much etc. so at this point I don’t know what to say. I am asking for your input to get some clarity. I should mention that I pay for everything; food, cloths, entertainment and plane tickets back to our hometown.

The questions are; should I pay him a salary? And how much (some or all of his part time job)? I am the first to acknowledge that we all have different qualities on an equal level, but sometimes I feel we are from different planets. How do you other couples get by differences in background?

Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (67 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
No, you should not pay your boyfriend for doing his share of household upkeep. He lives there, just like you. He choose to move and give up his part time job. Again, no. Ridiculous.
posted by stormygrey at 10:00 AM on December 8, 2013 [97 favorites]

It sounds like he's living with you rent-free and you are already taking care of a bunch of his living expenses. How is that different from a salary? You could offer to stop paying for those things and to start asking for rent, and in exchange he could be your employee rather than your boyfriend.
posted by muddgirl at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2013 [59 favorites]

No. Bad precedent to set in a relationship. Perhaps if you were married and he was performing the stay-at-home-parent role, but dating? No. And he's not cleaning and doing laundry? Hell no. He can find a different kind of job that his disability allows him to do. As it is, he's getting free room and board for very little effort.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

What you are describing is a classic wage-earner/housewife relationship, only he is a crappy housewife. Traditionally, the wage earner provides financial support and the housewife manages the house and kids. But he doesn't do any cleaning or laundry. To me, he sounds like a freeloader. There is no way I would pay a "salary" if I were in your situation.
posted by medusa at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2013 [46 favorites]

It sounds like you are already quite generous. He moved in with you and that is where he lives. If he had his own place, who'd be paying him to take care of it? It's a ridiculous request.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Holy cow. You are completely supporting him, with plane tickets and a lifestyle in 2 different towns -- and you're doing the cleaning and laundry, too? I honestly think you are being used here. Certainly from a financial standpoint if not from a love standpoint, you're the best thing that's blown into his life in a while (or ever).
posted by Houstonian at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2013 [75 favorites] he paying you rent? For either of the housing situations you've provided? Seems like he's already been compensated in room and board. This is such a wacky request that is almost feels like a joke.

I'd argue that he not only does not get a salary, he should start doing some cleaning and laundry.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2013 [14 favorites]

Your boyfriend doesn't want a salary, he wants an allowance. And if you were like rich as fuck and he was like your (male) mistress or boytoy, then sure, you should give him one. But since you two are actually in a real relationship, then nope. Also, is he really not able to find a job in your town, or is he just not looking?
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:06 AM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

There are many reasonable ways to look at this topic I think, but here is mine: no. I was iffy on the "no" aspect of this question until I read that he had specifically asked for this in which case it's extra-no. My reasoning is that adults basically have a responsibility to support themselves and parents have a responsibility to support their children. Married couples also have some additional responsibilities towards each other and potentially legal responsibilities. He has children with another woman and he has legal responsibilities towards them and towards his ex. All of this predates you and is his issue to work with. The fact that he has minimal opportunities for income and that he lives in a different place from you (them? I'm unclear on this) and that he appears to not have other support networks for managing his responsibilities should not be your issue.

It is 100% fine if you decide to have a relationship with someone who you think is a wonderful person and with whom you have an unequal division of household expenses. To my mind it is not okay for you to fill in some of the support network stuff that people should be getting from their entire community. So if I were in your position I would help him file for and receive disability, I'd continue to maybe split household expenses if you are comfortable with that but I would not at all engage with the salary discussion because the baseline expectation is that two partners contribute more or less equally to a relationship/household/life together. It's fine that he has a disability and may have reduced earning/working potential, but if you could employ him, so could someone else. You should not be compensating for a part of his life that he should be managing. It is probably easy and not terribly limiting for you to sort of think of him as an additional dependent, but that is not a healthy relationship for two adults to have.

Be supportive if he wants to find ways for him to be more of a provider (and I'd make sure you understand his legal obligations vis a vis his family - if he's asking for under the table money to not have to have it affect his child support, run) but in more of a "I will help you find resources" way and in less of an "I will give you money" way.
posted by jessamyn at 10:07 AM on December 8, 2013 [38 favorites]

The fact that it was his idea is what makes this alarming. And he would have to be doing jobs that were above and beyond what he should be doing anyway.
posted by bleep at 10:07 AM on December 8, 2013 [15 favorites]

This sounds like a terrible idea.
posted by Slinga at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm still gobsmacked by the question.

He's doing a few hours of work in exchange for room, board, air travel, and lodging at two addresses. He ought to be thanking whichever stars landed him where he is.

I understand he has a disability, but you say he's "slightly" disabled. Surely there's some sort of fulfilling and paying work? I'm deeply skeptical of people who don't find some sort of fulfilling way to occupy themselves.
posted by mochapickle at 10:10 AM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

I vote no salary (to the loser who's using you).
posted by ambient2 at 10:12 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

The phrase "kept man" exists for that kind of arrangement. If you don't want your boyfriend to be your kept man, then you shouldn't have that kind of arrangement.
posted by holgate at 10:13 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

i would say no, for all of the good reasons posted above.

congrats on excelling in a good job while raising four kids all by yourself, this is close to being a superhero.

if you pay him, you will set up a rorschach: professional stud service with attendant household duties, or manservant with benefits?
posted by bruce at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

If your boyfriend lives with you, he should be sharing half the housework as a matter of course. I see no reason to pay him to do this. Nobody's paying you to do the tasks he doesn't share.

Re childcare, since they're not his kids, this is a little more tricky. I think that introducing a transactional employer/employee relationship between the two of you is not a great idea, and if you can afford to pay outside help, that would be preferable to paying him. Think of it this way: would it be ethical to sleep with the nanny? No, right? Therefore it also wouldn't be ethical to set up someone you're already dating as the nanny.

He's paying rent to live at your place, right? Because he should be.
posted by Sara C. at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm also curious whether this relationship has any future, if he sees occasional childcare tasks like driving your kids somewhere as something he ought to be paid to do. If he were these kids' stepfather, that sort of thing would be part of the arrangement.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on December 8, 2013 [13 favorites]

Slightly different approach here:

I wonder if what you're really struggling with is that you've cared for this man for a long time and wish/hope he could be your (equal) partner. Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. Perhaps the reason you're unable to easily sort this out is that you've surrendered your personal boundaries in order to keep him in your life?

My advice is to end this relationship - as kindly as possible - and look for someone who can truly be your equal. And don't bring them into your home until you're so sure it's permanent that you marry them - this is unfair to your kids.
posted by summerstorm at 10:18 AM on December 8, 2013 [23 favorites]

No salary, and the fact that he asked is a big red flag.
posted by corb at 10:19 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have two women friends who are the breadwinner in their homes. They "slid" into this arrangement, rather than having it be a mutually-agreed upon long-term family plan. Basically, in each case, the guy lost his job, and lost his mojo to go out and look for another since he was being molly-coddled by the wage-earning wife. I will tell you, those women are growing increasingly unhappy. Even though they earn a nice living -- as you do -- they are still under the constant stress/worry of being the sole provider.

What if you become disabled? What if you fall ill?

How are your kids (and his) feeling about this arrangement?

What sort of legalities come into play if you pay him, and at some point, the relationship goes belly-up, and you need to have him move out?

These are larger questions, somewhat outside the immediate scope of "should I pay him," but they might help guide your decision.

I don't think he should be paid, unless *perhaps* he is performing some very specialized, skilled task (making stained glass windows, I don't know) that will help him develop a business income in your locality.
posted by nacho fries at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

So the other day he mentioned that I should pay him a “salary” as he his helping me out and as he had to leave his part time job, he has lost his options of earning more money.

This is nuts. He "had" to leave his part time job? No. No, he didn't. When people choose to pack up and move to pursue a relationship, it is their responsibility to figure out how they will be supporting themselves. The fact that he didn't do this -- which is frankly mindblowing -- does not mean that you are now obligated to provide him with employment. This is the clearest case of DTMFA I've ever seen. Dude is exploiting you.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2013 [45 favorites]

He may be loving and kind and all of that, but he also seems to not have grown much beyond his high school days.

Perhaps... just perhaps, he should live where he has a job already and where his kids are?
Either that, or stay put where he is, to me the constantly shifting back and forth seems like the major impediment to finding a job in your town. I fully realize that finding a job period is difficult, and finding one when you have a disability is doubly hard, but there are organizations out there that offer some help with this. There is likely some type of job he can find and do, it won't be fun, but jobs generally aren't.
So, maybe? GED> training> job services>employment

But paying him a wage on top of every single other thing you are providing? Nooo, I don't think that is a particularly good idea
posted by edgeways at 10:33 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

It seems weird to call it a "salary". Lots of couples share their incomes, though, and if one is making substantially more, the other just has access to the bank account or whatever. If you don't trust him enough to do that, and if he asked for it as a wage, I'd think about what you're hoping for in the long term. Are you okay with the idea that he'll never work? THere must be some kind of work he could do if he really wanted to - is it important to you (or to him) that he try to figure out what that is?

If you don't mind him being the househusband, then giving him an allowance and/or access to a bank account would be normal, but a)it still strikes me as weird he'd call it a salary and b) you don't sound comfortable with the premise.
posted by mdn at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

So, let me preface this by saying that I'm a guy who stays at home, cleans, takes care of the kids, etc. That's my contribution to the household. There is nothing wrong with having one person stay at home and do all that.

There is something VERY wrong with a person doing that and expecting to get paid. He's either household help, or he's part of the family. He can't be both. If he's part of the household, then yes he's responsible for helping with it's upkeep, he could be doing that by earning money, taking care of the home and kids, or some combination of the two. That's just how households work. Everyone contributes something. If he wants to get paid for contributing that says to me he's less interested in being in a relationship with you and more interested in getting something from you.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:36 AM on December 8, 2013 [52 favorites]

Here's what I understand. You have a well-paying job and are a single mother of four children. Your boyfriend is disabled and has three (almost adult) children from an earlier marriage. His children live about 4 hours away from you.

Your boyfriend has moved in with you (and pays no rent). He plans to go to his children for about 2 weeks out of every 2 months, and stay (rent-free) in a house you own there. While there he has income which he gives to his children. While with you he has no income but does some proportion of the chores. (I don't think he should be doing ALL the chores, even when you're bringing in all the income. But I'm not clear how much work "cleaning" is.)

You pay for all the food, you pay all the expenses, you'll buy him plane tickets home, but he wants also a salary. Which is a weird way to put it.

Look, if you guys were married, then that would be rather different -- there are lots of ways to share family income.

When you guys discussed his moving in with you and giving up his job, what did you discuss about money? Can he not do a similar job as his old job where you are? Is it possible for him to get disability or some kind of welfare program?
posted by jeather at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

If I didn't dump this guy, I would give him a choice…he could either (a) keep the current arrangement where you pay for everything and he helps out happily or (b) you pay him a fair market salary out of which he pays you rent (at both locations), buys his own food, clothing, airline tickets, entertainment, etc.

That ought to put in perspective for him pretty darned quick.
posted by murrey at 10:38 AM on December 8, 2013 [20 favorites]

I read his request as seeking some sort of clarity, certainty, or formality in the way that he relies upon you finanically. I don't read this necessarily as him wanting to take any more advantage of you than he already is. I agree with the poster upthread who described him as wanting an allowance. That's how I see this too.

The fact is, you're already supporting him financially, and you and he both realize this. He's completely and utterly financially dependent upon you. If you and he do not want the relationship this way, you need to make a change that has nothing to do with you paying him a salary: he has to find a way to get money that doesn't come from you.

I don't know that I would want to be in a relationship where I was completely at someone's financial mercy and my only viable options would be to either accept things as they were or move out and go back to the part-time job I had four hours away. I think if I were in that situation, I might benefit from the financially dominant partner saying, "Okay, we'll work out the finances this way. I will pay for A, B, and C, and I'll also set aside $X that you will need to use to pay for your expenses, and since I realize you're unable to work, I'll set aside a little more money that you can use for whatever you want to use."

Now, I would still find this really stressful, and I would not want to be either you or your partner in that arrangement. But I think the idea of describing the transfer of money to him as a "salary" isn't really helpful because it doesn't reach the core of the problem. And it probably compounds it because you shouldn't pay people for the stuff they're supposed to do, to roughly paraphrase Chris Rock. And it's bad enough that he's so dependent on you; complicating the dynamic by making him your employee wouldn't be terrific, either.

So, the tl;dr version is: if you're inclined to pay his way give him an allowance that lets him cover his own expenses plus have at least some amount of money that he doesn't have to answer to you if he wants to spend it.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:38 AM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

To emphasize a little with her boyfriend here, regardless of how much she's providing him, he is in a precarious situation. If the relationship goes belly up, what then?

I'm going to assume you live in the UK based on the language here and I would wonder if there are more programs he could apply to in order to improve his financial stability and independence? Even if you are not the UK, most other countries have similar programs though from my experience the UK, Scandinavia are the most generous. He might not qualify for some of them though if he legally lives with you and is part of your household.

You could also offer to put some money aside for emergencies that he would have access to in an emergency for certain expenses. I would talk to a lawyer about doing this.
posted by melissam at 10:39 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

and lost his mojo to go out and look for another since he was being molly-coddled by the wage-earning wife

This. Support him if you wish, but I don't know what it is about some (some) men who feel that they should get an extra bonus for everything they do. Do a few chores? They should get paid. Have a job? Shouldn't do any chores. And often women/wives will indulge this because they really do feel all the stresses and difficulties in their man's life... while their man is mostly thinking of just himself. Thus a very unequal relationship, where the man wants to get away with half the responsibility and the woman wants to make sure nothing weighs too heavily on him, maybe because she's afraid of losing him or some other self-denying reason.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2013 [30 favorites]

Before I just say "no" I would like a little more information because I can possibly see a way to "maybe" depending:

1/ How old are your four children?

2/ Who looks after them during the 1 - 2 week periods he is with his own family?

3/ Does the "small job" in your current town cover his child support obligations?

3/ Is he getting disability or unemployment benefit where you now live?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2013

I'm not clear on what chores he is doing if not cleaning and laundry, which make up the bulk of what needs to be done in your average household.

Early in my marriage, I made all of the money and did all of the chores and all of the adult responsible things in my relationship. I had this vague idea that someday, the roles would reverse and my husband would take care of me, so that made our arrangement okay. Then eventually I realized: Why did I think that would happen? What incentive did he have to change anything about his situation? Everything he wanted was being provided to him with no effort on his part. At the time I thought our arrangement was okay and was working fine, but in retrospect it was a massively poor idea. It was a strain on me in a lot of ways and after some soul-searching I realized that not having any expectations of adulthood from my partner showed a very serious lack of respect for him on my part as well. Why did I not think him capable of keeping up an equal share in our partnership? Wasn't he an adult, just like I was?

There's a lot more to our story that probably doesn't apply to you, but suffice to say I would really do some thinking about whether this sort of relationship is the one you want to spend the rest of your life in. It doesn't have to be like this. The fact that he is even asking for a salary after you are providing 100% for a comfortable (and even lavish) lifestyle for him is so outrageous to be beyond the pale.
posted by something something at 10:46 AM on December 8, 2013 [20 favorites]

In addition to what everyone said above, I need to ask: if he weren't using your other house as a free hotel when he goes to go visit his kids, would you be using it as an income-generating rental property? Because if so, I mean, that's yet another big chunk of money that you are giving him. Honestly I think he should be looking for ways to contribute more, not ask for more from you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:05 AM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

I would give him money, but not tie it chores. Give him money for spending.

If you are fine with him not working or attempting to find employment, than giving him money is no different than many spouses that spend their money on gifts and material goods for their spouse, many times more valuable than a salary. We should not judge him as an "unworthy BF" based on this request - because you've already decided he is a good person overall, and we should respect such a personal decision.

Money is to share with loved ones.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:11 AM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm not generally against transactional arrangements for household chores - anything that keeps laundry from piling up and dust from accumulating is fine by me. But, agreed with everyone else that this sounds weird especially given that he asked for the "salary".
posted by downing street memo at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2013

P.s., unless there's something missing, seems like this guy's chosen to do a horseshit job of supporting his kids (at least one is under 18).

A red flag that's very red.
posted by ambient2 at 11:19 AM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

So the other day he mentioned that I should pay him a “salary” as he his helping me out

You did all this stuff without him for five years, and even now, considering he doesn't clean or do laundry, you're pretty much still doing everything. It's an expense you weren't looking for. You didn't want an inadequate maid, you wanted an adequate boyfriend.

N-thing big fat No and he should be thanking you morning, noon and night.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:28 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Has he saved you any money since moving in? Like, you used to pay a guy $40 a week to cut the grass but now you don't because boyfriend now does it. Your taxi bills were $200 a week but now it is cheaper (in time and money) to keep a car around for your boyfriend to occasionally drive your children. Have your overall costs gone down - did you maybe used to eat out a lot more but now he cooks nutritious home-cooked meals every night, and packs healthy lunches with lovely notes, and your food budget is way cheaper even though you are feeding an extra adult? When he is away for two weeks every other month do your costs at home go up because you are hiring someone to take on his workload at home? Is he paying for that person to do those tasks or are you? Or are you just doing the work you did before he came into the picture (less work than when he is around and causing the need for laundry and cleaning).

As your lives get more and more integrated how do you see the blending of the families working? If your children want to go on Holiday, do you pay their way, will you pay for him and his children to come too? What about secondary education? Can he invest in his children the way you can invest in yours? Will that cause strain between the two sets of children as they have very different opportunities in life? Much like judging a partner by how they treat the waitstaff - a more useful metric is how a father treats his own children and provides for them. If he can't get his act together after twenty years to step up for them (or even proactively arrange his life to see them on a weekly basis if not daily until they are 18) it is highly unlikely he will find you motivating enough to take on adulthood.

A lot of the relationship you describe sounds a lot like a parental-child relationship. Mommy is the responsible one that takes care of bills, and daily grunt-work, and utilises her past investment in education, her career, knowledge-building (like how to stretch a budget, how to do laundry properly), and housing to support a child. A child isn't an adult yet and can't support themselves and can only contribute a little physical labour towards the household because they have different priorities and feel a little entitled to slide a little. If you are the mommy and he is the "bad boy" that is a profoundly unsexy and unequal position for you to be in.

It sounds like you both came into this relationship without really defining your expectations. His previous partner was unemployed so he was equal to her (if a little superior due to his part time work) and she probably did the majority of the "female" tasks in the relationship without him truly valuing those tasks because they were "only" cleaning, laundry, etc. Now he is in a relationship where you are wearing the pants and instead of trying to work together as a team he is again looking to see how he can maximise what he "gets" and minimise what he "gives".

If you won't protect your money for yourself, think of it as protecting your money for your children. Do you really want to deny them things they deserve and you can afford because the money has instead been spent on your boyfriend staying a few weeks every couple of months back at your other house?

As an aside, what the heck are chores beyond cleaning and laundry? Except for the occasional chore like screwing in a lightbulb or mowing the grass I just can't think of any. And for sure cleaning and laundry are at least 80% of the daily chores that need to be done - so with him "helping" with the non-essential ones he is at best doing 10% of the daily chores while you are also the breadwinner? He sounds persuasive and charismatic and you sound like a generous person that is a little more empathetic then is good for you or your children.
posted by saucysault at 11:41 AM on December 8, 2013 [18 favorites]

Hahahahaha. No. If you've chosen to be with someone who has no prospects for an outside source of income, then you should share your spending money with him, as everyone needs some discretionary funds if they're not become totally degraded in the relationship. But paying him for his normal contributions to the household community? No.
posted by HotToddy at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

Whatever you do don't marry this man, at least not without an iron clad prenup. Also I would explore the laws in your jurisdiction regarding common law marriage and the like. The last thing you want it to be paying alimony until the end of time should you ever want out of this arrangement.
posted by whoaali at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2013 [12 favorites]

My wife is disabled. When I married, I knew from the get-go she may never ever work again.
She has the goal of working again, but I have let that be a hope, not a promise.
My income is probably much smaller than yours, and she does get benefits for her disability.

At first it was very rocky because there were things she needed/wanted that she needed some extra money for and she felt terribly dependent asking for it. We set up a joint account and a savings account for purchases, and she can use that money without me being right there paying for it.

In my case, I trust her very much, and she is very self conscious and responsible with money. Yes, sometimes she'll buy something just for her that is unnecessary, but nice. That is fine.

I wouldn't consider this a salary. I consider it partnership. She does the majority of the housework without question, and would have never asked for a 'salary.'

I just think in your case it may be a round about way to say 'I have wants but don't want to ask you to buy them for me.' Maybe bringing up a conversation on what he would spend money on if you gave him money could be insightful in what he is looking to do.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:25 PM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

When I was married, we looked at it as both of us having a full time job. His job was by choice, working outside the home. Mine was at home. That's why I didn't much care that he didn't do a lot of housework - that was my contribution, my job. He did do stuff around the house, but it was more -- putting in the backyard fence, mowing, bigger maintenance jobs. I didn't expect him to cook or do dishes, he'd done his time at his job all day. Yes, i expected him to take equal time taking care of our kid once he was home, but that seemed fair.

Putting aside that you're not married, it doesn't seem like this guy puts in an equal amount of time/effort into the running of the household, and yet he wants remuneration beyond the (already really generous, in my opinion) room and board and plane tickets. This seems ridiculous to me. It may not to you. But that might be one way to look at it. DOES he do a truly fair share to keep your joint family and home running happily and smoothly? If so, great, maybe he should get some money that's not earmarked for house hold bills or expenses. If not, will he step up and do so? And if not, why not?
posted by lemniskate at 12:46 PM on December 8, 2013

Having supported a boyfriend who never could seem to get his shit together to look for work, I sympathize with your situation. His request is way beyond the pale. You are already paying out money to keep him in what looks to be a very cushy lifestyle. Dump his sorry ass and find a more equitable partnership.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:03 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would give him money, but not tie it chores. Give him money for spending.

I would agree with this, if you assume a relationship with him. I think in many relationships people share income and it is good that each have some discretionary spending. Assuming you love him and want to support him and he equally tries to help out, through chores helping with the kids ect. Tying it to salary as a transaction seems bad though. He should be helping you because he wants to help you just like you help him. Together you should build the life that you want to live together.

If he looks at it as if he is doing work for you and therefore should get paid, then you could pay him an equitable wage and then charge him for rent, airfare ect, because from that point of view, clearly you sound like you are losing the most in terms of money.

Like I said though, if you want to have a relationship with him and help him, then giving him discretionary spending is good. Obviously he misses just having money of his own.
posted by Jaelma24 at 1:12 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're being very generous to a guy who seems pretty entitled. I worry you're getting taken advantage of, especially since he's financially dependent and has made some lousy life choices.
posted by discopolo at 1:17 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think you should give him a salary. But if you do not agree that he is using you, and are positive that he could not get a job, and is basically completely dependent on you and you are ok with that, then you could consider giving him the type of allowance a teenager would receive. Maybe a generous $20 a week so he can buy himself a treat once a week like a book or a trip to the movies. In no universe should you consider more.

But it does seem like you are being used. When he is your boyfriend, is that because the relationship is relatively new? I mean, is this the type of boyfriend who is actually a committed life partner who you have known for years but you just don't believe in marriage and would not actually want to marry someone? If you don't have that level of commitment, at which this would still all be questionable, please reconsider whether your needs are being met in this relationship, the kinds of needs his disability does not stop him from providing. If they are not, maybe it's the time to exit. You may need support as it's bound to be messy.
posted by cacao at 1:48 PM on December 8, 2013

I think if you do this, there will come a point where you begin to resent him. First, a man who truly is kind would do these things without requesting a salary for it (I had to read that several times.) Secondly, I feel like this is a new relationship and eventually, the inequalities WILL get to you. I've supported a do-nothing man before and I know one when I hear about one.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:09 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

The right long-term answer here is that you are equals. If he wants independent income, he should generate this from something independent of you. This will make your relationship into a partnership.

If you pay him for household services, then it is not independent income.

You cover his living expenses. If he wants more income above and beyond that -- which is laudable, of course, and something you should encourage -- then it needs to be outside your ecosystem. You can support him in this.

If, however, living with you is so demanding that he cannot sustain any kind of outside commitment, then perhaps his goal of independent income is unrealistic under current conditions. Either he should lower his commitment to the household so that he can allocate time to outside commitments (and the resulting revenue stream), or he should adjust his goals so that outside income is not an objective.

If he creates an outside commitment that generates income for himself, terrific. That will likely impact the level of services he provides to the household, and he can make his financial contribution to the running of things, just as you do. Proportional is fine of course.

I am all for partnership. I am all for partners supporting each other even if one of them can't make an equitable contribution for a period of time. But I cannot condone creating an inequitable relationship. You paying him for the things that partners do for each other is a terrible precedent. Better by far to support him in being your equal, and in taking on the burdens -- and freedoms -- that this represents.
posted by woot at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did he "have to leave his job" because he moved in with you?

Because I am totally "no" on this salary business. All the things he is doing, outside of chauffeuring your kids from time to time, are things that benefit him as well. Plus, he also has the additional benefit of having a rent-free place to stay when he visits his children, allowing all of his wages to go to them. He is already come out ahead.

I'm in school right now (career change), so not working, and my SO provides our sole income. There is no way in hell I would ask him to pay me to cook, clean, walk the dog, fix the TV antenna and all those other little things, and run errands.

What are we missing that makes your boyfriend think that you owe him an allowance?
posted by sm1tten at 3:25 PM on December 8, 2013

I knew a couple that did this, essentially reversing the traditional housewife – working husband model. It worked well for them. He liked to cook and didn't mind doing house work; she could afford to support him, and it was nice have all the cooking and most of the house work done without having to worry about it. They both seemed pretty happy with the arrangement. The main problem was the flack he got from other guys for being in such a non-traditional relationship. (She probably got some flack too, but I didn't hear that.)

She didn't pay him a "salary", but she did give him some kind of spending allowance – I think weekly, but I'm not sure how this worked – enough so he could buy his own clothes, grab lunch with friends (for instance, me), and, generally, maintain an independent social life and do some discretionary spending for himself.

So, yeah, this can work if you're both up for it and willing to tolerate the flack you'll get from other people for adopting non-traditional gender roles.

For this to work, and to make financial sense for you, he probably needs to take on more housework, cooking, childcare, etc., than he is now. In return, he gets more independence, which is pretty important.

It will make a difference whether your boyfriend enjoys doing these things and whether you're happy with how he does them or not. In my friends' case, this arrangement wasn't forced on them by one of them having a disability. It just kind evolved that way because of what they could earn at jobs they knew how to do and the kinds of things they liked and disliked doing. If your boyfriend feels forced into this kind relationship because of his disability and doesn't like what he's doing, this will work a lot less well.

I've seen this sort of househusband situation work out really, really well for a couple I know well. But you need to talk to your boyfriend about the nuts and bolts of how this is going to work, and how both of you feel about it, to decide if this is something that will work for the two of you.
posted by nangar at 3:39 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Co-signing with everyone who said that the boyfriend should not receive a salary for doing only some of the household chores.


> He has three children (ages 16 – 21) from an earlier marriage....His ex-wife does not have a job, and lives on unemployment benefits...
> ...
> So the other day he mentioned that I should pay him a “salary” as he is helping me out and as he had to leave his part time job, he has lost his options of earning more money.

I really don't like it that both these facts are concurrent.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:15 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

As a stay at home dad who does a bunch of chores... I would find this potential arraignment insane.

It's not a paid job. The features of authority and responsibility that go along with being paid to do something are incompatible with being a stay at home parent and homemaker.
posted by French Fry at 4:21 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

If your high-end job is consuming enough of your energy that you find it difficult to also be a fantastic mother to your children and you want them to have someone reliable for when you're not able to be with them, hire a nanny. A nanny will also clean and do laundry and cook and whatever else you agree upon when you hire her - or him.

Your boyfriend is crazy if he thinks you should pay him for anything when you already provide him with housing, utilities, food, etc.

Don't fall for this, please. You deserve better - and he deserves to learn how to support himself.
posted by aryma at 7:34 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

What chores is he doing if he's not doing laundry and cleaning? What else is there? No. This is ridiculous. If he's too disabled to work, he can bring home a disability cheque.
posted by windykites at 8:56 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

My understanding of a stay-at-home parent situation: one person goes out and makes the household's money. The other does the bulk of the household work (cleaning and laundry would be included in this), cares for the children during the day/evening (not just sometimes driving them), gets some spending money from the wage-earner... A stay-at-home parent is not one who is directly compensated via a paycheck.

This is a bad idea. Don't do it.
posted by RainyJay at 9:27 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

See: Seinfeld, The Maid

"Jerry hires a maid, Cindy (played by Angela Featherstone), whom he then starts sleeping with. ....Jerry begins to realize that because of their relationship, Cindy is no longer doing any work, but he's still paying her, which leads Kramer to comment 'Uh-oh - you're a John!' When Jerry confronts Cindy, she walks out on the job and the relationship."
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:34 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

A cursory read of your question this suggests to me that what he wants is to be a kept man (Mrtress?), complete with an allowance, which is totally fine as long as you're okay with the arrangement. Just don't be fooled into thinking that this is the standard "relationship" type of partnership.
posted by Shouraku at 9:37 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, you could cut off the boyfriend/girlfriend part and just employ him as a housekeeper/nanny.
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:38 PM on December 8, 2013

It sounds like he wants to be paid for something that is normal in a relationship (not to mention adulthood). With that in mind, paying him would seem a little like non-sex prostitution. It also seems like it would be enabling him--why should he look for gainful employment if he's getting a steady stream of cash for doing nothing more (actually less) than what everyone else does for free?

Again, these are things he supposed to do--things that normal people do in a relationship.

What's next? Holding out his hand for a tip when he brings in a grocery bag from the car? And how long until your $x a week doesn't last all week and he starts asking for a raise, or a bonus for that time he gave you a foot massage or whatever.

If you're familiar with Chris Rock, your guy wants, and is asking for, cookies.

It sounds like you're being played and if you start supporting him now, you're going to be doing it for a loooooong time.
posted by blueberry at 10:24 PM on December 8, 2013

@Salvatorparadise: If she employed him as housekeeper, she'd have to replace him because he doesn't clean or do laundry.

OP, we don't know your boyfriend like you do, but from your description of the dynamic it sounds like he's taking a lot and not giving you much. You don't mention anything he does that makes you happy. It sounds like he's become yet another responsibility, and you already have so many of those you are trying to figure of how to slot him in while maintaining everything else you do. That's not how a partnership should work.

Thought experiment: what happens if you say no salary, but that you'll do anything you can to support him resuming work? And then do it, including hiring outside help to watch kids, clean the house, do the laundry, etc. That puts the ball in his court. If he won't get off his ass and get a job (or apply for disability, or at least do some Mechanical Turk tasks) in order to have fun money, what kind of long-term partner/husband/partner will he be for you and your kids?
posted by SakuraK at 10:29 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have a lot to overcome here. You do ask, "how do you overcome a difference in background." I'm not so sure you have different backgrounds, you have each taken a different path since you knew each other in your teens.

Your BF decided to do whatever and has drifted aimlessly. You grew up, became educated and built a career. Now, here you are, each parents of multiple children, and for some reason, as part of your romantic relationship, you are also his sole supporter.

Just because someone is disabled, it doesn't mean that he or she is unable to work. Has he filed for disability payments? Has he looked into occupational therapy? Has he taken any initiative AT ALL to change his situation so that he can work and be a productive member of society?

If you weren't in this relationship, would you hire someone to do what he's doing? If so, would you let them live with you, give them airfare and a place to hang out for two weeks at a stretch? If so, will you hire me?

When you think back on what you hoped for yourself, did you envision a partner who was a stay-at-home parent? Is he in fact, parenting your children? Or, is he just driving Jennifer to ballet class twice a week?

GGGGG! (Good God Girl, Get a Grip!) I think you already know that even if he's the sweetest man on the planet and if you two really love each other, that there are SERIOUS flaws in this relationship/arrangement, and that it looks for all the world like you are being taken advantage of.

I would understand if he had been your partner, and he had been working, and contributing and had suffered a dibilitating accident. The difference is that the man who was productive up, until his disability, is a certain kind of person. That is someone who is used to providing for himself and for his family and who understands that there's no free lunch.

I'm curious as to what you found so attractive about this guy? Was it his shit ability to provide for his family? Was it his half-assed efforts to clean and do laundry?

What I suspect is that there are a few of things at work here:

1. You are going above and beyond to prove to the world that you don't buy into traditional gender roles and that you are perfectly comfortable being the main breadwinner.

2. You feel like if you just do X and Y and Z for your BF, that he'll get his shit together and he'll become like you, a working, productive member of society.

3. You're insecure. You believe that this guy is your last chance for love. With 4 kids and a career, you've discovered that a lot of good men out there are put off by your independance, or they aren't into kids, or whatever it was that you experienced that made you settle for your BF.

4. You feel guilty because you've built a fabulous life, and he's pissed his opportunities away.

Here's what I'd say about each:

1. I know a few marriages where the traditional gender roles are reversed. The husbands are SUPER involved in the kids school, activities and making sure the chores around the house are done so the main breadwinner can come home and enjoy the family.

2. Your boyfriend isn't an indolent,trifling, idle lump in a vacuum. He's an expert at getting people to make allowences for him. So, you set him up in a nice home (yours) and you make it possible for him to see his kids in another town and you've pretty much made his life so rich and comfortable that he's begun to take the situation for granted and is now asking for MONEY from you. If this was your child, what would you say? I hope you'd say, "I put a roof over your head, food in your belly and clothes on your back. Now hop to it and weed the hedgerow!"

3. There are plenty of great guys out there, they're wondering where that independant woman, who can rear her children and has a fulfilling career is. They're tired of dating bimbos, or gold-diggers and just want to find someone who is interesting. But they can't find you, because you're all tied up in this guy's continuing childhood.

4. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You made your decisions, he made his.

Personally, I'd say this to him, "You know Simon, I've been thinking about your proposal that I pay you. I'd rather hire someone to clean the house and do the laundry and all the little things around the house. I'd like to be dating a self-sufficient man who doesn't take me, and all that I provide for him for granted. Tell you what. Why don't you pack up your gear, I'll buy the last plane ticket I intend to buy for you and I'll send you back home. I've had the locks changed on the house there, because I'm going to rent it out for some income, so you can go back to the life you had. You seemed to like it enough to be doing it all this time. Thank you for showing me exactly what you think of me and our relationship. It's helped me clear my mind and to see that you're taking advantage of me. It was lovely for a time, so thank you for that. Now here's a suitcase, get your shit, the car arrives to take you to the airport in three hours."

Best money you'll ever spend.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:10 AM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]

I just had a conversation with someone about what a life together might look like. Like your boyfriend, I would kind of be in charge of holding down the fort, except I would also be able to contribute proportionally, if not equally, to the household finances.

The mere notion of getting paid for that is so outrageous I would kick my own ass to the curb for asking.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:30 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Be careful here. You're playing with fire to put someone whose loyalty is like a parking meter into the private space of your kids. It's 2013 and we live in a very open society, but I still wouldn't make my children witnesses to a pay-for-play arrangement. That would be so uncomfortable and troubling for them. Good luck!
posted by 99percentfake at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be extremely careful in sharing finances with this man in the future. If he feels entitled to a salary and you turn him down, he may get resentful and feel entitled to skim/seize/steal shared assets when the relationships goes sour.
posted by Ndwright at 2:14 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I had a rough couple years of unemployment (including a major hospital stay), during which my (fantastic, amazing) girlfriend supported me.

Two things: 1) She went above and beyond. She didn't have to do things like pay our rent and cover our groceries, but she had a good job and did so because she could afford to. But it's not, like, a standard issue thing, it was her being amazing.
2) She never paid me, even when I was doing a lot of chores around the house. My "job" was job hunting, but that's not a paying gig, obvs. That she made sure I was fed and housed was great enough.

Well, one more thing: She did end up resenting it, especially since I wasn't taking care of all of the chores. She was working a full time job, and it really ate at her, understandably. It also really ate at me — I wasn't pulling my weight, and that was really fucking depressing.

This sounds like something that's a longer-term issue, something that has no clear end point, and something that doesn't sound like he's taking responsibility for. That's not a recipe for domestic bliss.
posted by klangklangston at 2:48 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think 61 people have done a good job exploring the "No" side so I thought I might offer some more "Maybe" oriented thoughts.

First of all, folks seem intent on viewing this guy as a freeloader. If he's disabled and can't do a full-time gig, I think it's laudable that he's found a flexible part-time job that works for everyone and that he's doing his best to support his children. That's actually great. I also think it's a really good thing that spending time seeing his children is a priority for him.

Second of all, I think the question of his role in your household is something you need to mentally settle on before you make a decision, and that you need to discuss with him. In a 2-income household, people aim to share domestic tasks - shopping, cooking, childcare, cleaning, laundry, maintenance - more or less equally. In a 1-income, 2-adult household, the balance shifts but it isn't like it goes from 50/50 to 100/0. If him doing the bulk of things that are not cleaning or laundry works for you, there isn't anything wrong with that.

But crucially, in most 1-income, 2-adult households, we're talking about a self-identified family unit so even though only one partner is employed, the money earned belongs to the household; it's a shared resource. Questions of free food, free rent, etc do not enter into this equation. So I wonder if this is at heart really a question you need to work through about how you see this relationship.

Regardless, one option is to set a "family budget" and specifically earmark an amount for groceries, petrol, etc and then give each of you a monthly discretionary amount. You wouldn't need to reveal your full financial situation if you did that; it would simply be an assessment of specific household needs. It might help, especially if he's feeling a little like he's not being granted recognition or equitable financial autonomy in the current setup.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:28 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

You have 4 kids. Is he a role model you want for your kids? When 1 person in a committed relationship/ marriage stays home to tend children and home, they can be considered a full partner, sharing income and decisions. A 'salary' in a committed relationship/ marriage is such an odd idea, and for him to call it that makes me quite uneasy. He is receiving room, board, travel and related expenses, maybe health insurance. There are chores he sounds unwilling to do. It has a bad feel to me, so I'd be wary.
posted by theora55 at 7:49 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only thing I'm a little worried about is, a stay at home housewife is absolutely entitled to some form of cash for their contribution to the household, even if it is little more than pocket money. They are contributing to the household, and to do otherwise, kind of leaves them in a financial prison.
It's a bad dynamic to be in.
But... they really tend to be shouldering the majority of the parenting/household burden (and they still shouldn't be expected to shoulder all of it).

Thing is, the way you're presenting it, it doesn't quite sound like that.
posted by Elysum at 7:33 PM on December 12, 2013

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