"If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If it doesn't come back, it was never yours to begin with. But if it just sits on your couch, eats your food, watches your TV, and uses your phone, and doesn't seem to realize or care that you set it free, you either married it or gave birth to it."A modern, less "offensive" variation of the Henpecked Husband, where in a married couple, the husband is quite a child-like, slobbish jerk, and the wife is like a parent to him except that she can quite easily provide him sex. Sometimes, the wife may talk about feeling like she really does have one more child than the number of children they have, and guess who the extra is? Ironically, her job of child care may be made easier by the husband being able to connect to their children more effectively. Sometimes, though, the husband is perfectly angelic or a hard worker, or a mixture of the two, and the wife is simply motherly with no shallow motives, with him being most of all a Bumbling Dad with a penchant for causing wacky hijinks that she must resolve, this being part of a Closer to Earth setup. A rather awful Double Standard; the notion of a girlish wife in need of control and protection by a fatherly husband rarely appears today and is largely perceived as overtly sexist, (similarly, the Henpecked Husband scenario is considered nowadays to be a big Take That against the sole idea of a woman pulling the weight on the family— see the description above) but this one persists. There are Unfortunate Implications on both sides— men are told that they're useless and incompetent, at least in the realm of family life, and should really just let their wives take charge; women are told that they can't expect their husbands to act like grownups and should just resign themselves to having to carry their husband's weight responsibility-wise and being regarded as the boring killjoy of the family for it.
— A parodic twist on a well-known proverb
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball, Chi-Chi treats her husband Son Goku very much like this. However, it could be subverted, as the fact that Goku is a phenomenally powerful alien Martial Artist makes this relationship look more equitable than most other examples — Chi-Chi "takes care" of Goku at home, Goku "takes care of her in return"... by saving the world on a regular basis. To say nothing of when Goku actually does get de-aged to a child. Also Goku's home life isn't that explored in the story, what with him either dying or away fighting aliens, so Chi-Chi probably doesn't count on him doing chores around the house.
- Gender inverted in I Can't Understand What My Husband is Saying. Nozomu says the reason why he hasn't thought about having kids is because he's basically Rino's mother already.
- Baron and Baroness Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She buys the man toys, for God's sake, and coos over him as if he were a precocious, temperamental infant. (Which, admittedly, he totally acts like.)
- Though she's not really an adult in many ways either. Given that they seem to be de facto monarchs, perhaps neither of them has to be.
- This is one of the issues at hand in the film The Story Of Us.
- Taken to a rather Squicky extreme in Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders: The Jerk Ass critic in the first story, as a result of a spell gone wrong, turns into a baby, giving his infertile wife the son she could never conceive. Needless to say, when this movie was featured on MST3K, this did not go un-mocked.
Mike: Oh, good, now she has to raise her horrible husband!Crow: That's what most wives think they do, anyway.
- When the doctor in Blindness goes blind, his wife ends up treating him more like an infant than a spouse anymore, and it repulses him.
- Refreshingly averted in Neighbors; not only does Kelly help Mac with the schemes against the frat, but she's appalled when Mac admits he wants her to be the one who keeps him from doing crazy/stupid things, responding that just because she's the wife doesn't mean she doesn't have the urge to do crazy things too.
- In Suffragette, the protagonist's marriage is an average one for the time the film takes place in. When she returns from serving prison time for participating in a demonstration for women's rights, her first question to her husband is whether he has eaten enough - she doesn't consider him capable of feeding himself. And she's right; he answers that a (female) neighbour cooked for him and their son. He also proves himself utterly incapable of taking care of the son while the protagonist is away, to the point that the child is running around in pyjamas on the streets.
- A gender-reversed version of this occurs in Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, in which David's first wife is childlike and asks him to think of her as his "child-wife."
- In Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways, sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, Howl actually turns himself into a Deliberately Cute Child, and poor Sophie has to deal with both him and their son. While trying to do her job.
- In the Moomin books, Moominmamma to Moominpapa. In the comics she openly laments how hard it is to have a husband that never grows up.
- Justified, gender-reversed version in A Brother's Price, as sisters share a husband - some of the younger sisters may still be actual children when the older sisters marry.
- Most modern sitcoms. (50 or 60 years ago, however, you were more likely to see the reverse.)
- Desperate Housewives has Tom and Lynette Scavos. Lynette often has to play the bad guy and suffer through being the disciplinarian while Tom is the cool dad.
- Friends: There was an in-universe joke that Monica was the adult and Chandler the child, but the truth was that Chandler was equally likely to be the adult to Monica's child. It usually depended on what joke the episode was going for, and they actually had a very balanced relationship most of the time.
- Possibly the best example of this was Monica wanting to spend all the money Chandler saved on her "dream wedding," which she had planned since she was five. He refused because he wanted to keep it for their future.
- How I Met Your Mother has Lily and Marshall. There's even one scene where Ted and Marshall are standing in front of Lily with their heads bowed like little children getting punished and saying "Sorry,
- This one goes back and forth and around, though, as Lily is often shown to be immature and occasionally infantile as well as the others. Taken to an extreme in one particular episode where Lily is convinced that Marshall is ready to raise a child because he was able to take care of her when she was drunk and acting like a child. The same episode was also one of many to point out that Ted is basically already a dad without kids (or a wife, for that matter).
- It even expands to include Ted in an episode where he briefly moves in with Robin and Marshall and Lily realizes he owned all the useful stuff like towels and he bought all the food.
- In Brit Com 2point4 Children, the husband was rather needy, although emotionally rather than practically. The writer has said that Ben was the "point four" of the title.
- The Cosby Show, though Cliff Huxtable is not a Bumbling Dad, and this one possibly isn't an example of Closer to Earth; Clair Huxtable was more practical but not really morally superior, and in fact was sometimes *indrawn breath* wrong.
- Debra and Ray Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond fit this to a tee in the mid-to-later seasons of the show. Ray is actually more of a nebbish. In the earlier seasons of the show, Raymond was portrayed as being rather clever and witty, at one point even winning a national award for his writing skills. In the later seasons, he was seemingly dumbed down to make Debra look better by comparison, all so that the show could more easily shill Debra and use this trope.
- Home Improvement is a major offender. Although Tim Taylor could be competent when he wasn't trying so hard (especially when it came to taking home improvement projects Up to Eleven).
- Turk and Carla on Scrubs. When Carla first meets Turk's mom, she's creeped out by how similar they are.
- Modern Family:
- Phil and Claire. Zig-Zagged: Phil is definitely One of the Kids, but he's occasionally shown to be The Wonka when his self-confidence and goofy, likeable manner help him get ahead in life, and Claire's attempts to reign him in are shown to be neurotic and controlling as often as mature and responsible.
- Somewhat inverted with Jay and Gloria. As Jay has the advantage of experience (and Gloria a fiery Latin temper), Jay is usually the one to play the role of the mature adult and reign his wife in.
- Lily and Rufus on Gossip Girl.
- Mad Men: Because she's infertile, Trudy is more a parent than a wife to her impulsive, impatient husband, Pete.
- They Get Better. Actually end up being the most healthy couple on screen.
- Until season 6.
- They Get Better. Actually end up being the most healthy couple on screen.
- The Trope Maker: The Honeymooners.
- Two and a Half Men: Being fed up with this sort of situation is what causes Bridget to split up with Walden.
- Queen Anne in The Musketeers has fallen into this role with her Man Child husband King Louis.
- Another gender-flipped example in I Love Lucy - Ricky literally spanks Lucy on multiple occasions (and not for fun.)
- Played with to a lesser degree between Arthur and Guinevere on Merlin, in which the maternal and wise Guinevere often calms or cares for her temperamental husband. Sometimes Merlin got in on the act, and there's a scene between him and Guinevere in season five where Gwen pretty much hands responsibility of Arthur over to Merlin for the day.
Guinevere: You will look after him?Merlin: He doesn't always make it easy.Guinevere: I know.
- Zig-Zagged on Parks and Recreation with Andy. In the first season he is utterly dependent on his much more adult and responsible girlfriend Anne, culminating when it comes out that the broken leg he's used as an excuse to have her wait on him hand and foot actually healed some time ago. This could count as a Deconstruction since this is very much not depicted as a normal or healthy relationship for either of them. Then averted and sometimes mildly inverted when Andy dates (and later marries) April, who had been a Deadpan Snarker but becomes much more carefree and fun-loving under his influence. Neither of them is especially mature or responsible, but being significantly older, when someone does have to emerge as the adult voice of reason, it's usually Andy.
- That '70s Show: Kitty sometimes acts like this toward Red. This is most evident in "Red Sees Red", where Kitty actually threatens to quit her job to keep an eye on him and protect the kids from his wrath.
- In The Suite Life on Deck episode "Maddie On Deck", Maddie inadvertently gets engaged to an 8 year old. She learns that the only way to get out of the marriage was for Zack to duel him. After Zack loses Round 1, Maddie invokes this trope
Maddie: (pretending to call her parents) Hey mom, hey dad. Yeah, I'm not coming home; I'm spending the rest of my life raising my husband.
- Inverted in Lady Gaga's "Alejandro":
She's not broken/She's just a baby/But her boyfriend's like a dad, just like a dad
- "Yellar" by The Bogmen
I'm a habit-former, should I structure my lifeWith all good things and a motherly wife?It's just another excuse so I can never grow upAnd I can pee in my pants like a two-week-old pup.
- Believe it or not, the parents of the Toad family in Westmost house in Toad Town of Paper Mario manages to fit this trope. The wife mentions in one of her conversations that she feels like she has three children.
- Matsu to her somewhat slow but endearing hubby Toshiie in Sengoku Basara.
- Lilly and Keith in Deadly Premonition. Lilly often refers to Keith as her third son, and notes how some of his childish ways can be troublesome to deal with. However, she explains that her husband's sense of childlike joy and fun is actually part of what she loves most about him, and Keith, likewise, is very appreciative of the way she keeps him on the right track. They're also Not So Different, since Lilly is mischievous and fun-loving beneath her motherly exterior, and Keith is a business owner and devoted family man.
- Despite not being married, in Dumbing of Age Walky invokes this trope when he temporarily breaks up with Dorothy. Although it's clear that despite resenting how patronizing her behavior was, Walky doesn't really want to "grow up" and likes how dominant Dorothy is in the relationship. Likewise, while she has been embarrassed by him occasionally Dorothy definitely enjoys Walky's juvenile and submissive personality on some level.
- From the point of view of their wives, the husbands in Larry Leadhead who devote their lives to collecting and wargaming with model soldiers.
- The mandatory take by The Onion: Area Girlfriend, Boyfriend Achieve Perfect Mother-Son Relationship.
- This Blog discusses the topic more seriously, calling it the "Domestication Narrative"
- Family Guy: Lois and Peter Griffin. One episode even had a scene where he was refusing to brush his teeth and she would've had to do it for him if they hadn't heard burglars breaking in at that moment.
- Wilma and Fred from The Flintstones.
- Wanda in The Fairly Oddparents is often this to Cosmo, who even still wears diapers.
- The Simpsons: Homer Simpson:
Announcer: Attention, Marge Simpson: your son has been arrested.
Announcer: Attention, Marge Simpson: we've also arrested your older, balder, fatter son.
- Nicole and Richard from The Amazing World of Gumball. Justified due to Granny Jojo's style of parenting (i.e. scaring him to the point that he can't take care of himself), which may have been due to Richard's Dad leaving his family over forty years ago.
- King of the Hill: MAJOR inversion with Hank and Peggy Hill. Peggy's huge ego makes her act ridiculously childish to the point of sometimes acting like her pre-teen son when she doesn't get her way, forcing Hank to clean up the inevitable mess.
- Un married example in Sonic SatAM with Sonic and Sally. Though often depicted as rivaling egos, Sonic is usually far more childish and arrogant than Sally, who often needs to guide Sonic so he doesn't endanger himself (and at times the entire team by extention) with his recklessness. This chemistry is mostly kept in the comic adaptation.
- Daria: Helen often has to do this to Jake.
- South Park: Randy Marsh is very much the sort of irresponsible Man Child who needs this... but half the time wife Sharon doesn't bother any more. More often, it's son Stan who gets sucked into the role of Straight Man to his dad's Crazy Scheme of the Week.