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Parenting the Husband
Am I right, target audience?

"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 parodic twist on a well-known proverb

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.

Examples:

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.

Fan Works

Film
  • 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 MST 3 K, 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.

Literature
  • 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.

Live-Action TV
  • 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.
  • 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, Mom Lily" together.
    • 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 epsiode 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 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: Tim Taylor, although he 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 has Phil and Claire.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Music
  • 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

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation
  • 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.
  • 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
  • King of the Hill: MAJOR inversion with Hank and Peggy Hill. Peggy's huge ego makes her act ridiculously childish, forcing Hank to clean up the inevitable mess.
  • Un married example in Sonic Sat AM 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.
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