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Parenting the Husband

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"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 Women Are Wiser setup.

A rather awful Double Standard; the notion of a girlish wife in need of control and protection by a fatherly husband rarely appears and carries a lot of Unfortunate Implications (and 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 is offense given to both sides— men are told that they're useless and incompetent 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.

There is also an uncommon misconception that in pre-70s shows. you were more likely to see the inversion, due to patriarchy being a thing. Truth is, a show having the wife be childish and her husband being her father is pretty much a Dead Unicorn Trope, and it was only as common back then as it is now. Part of this misconception might come from the popularity of I Love Lucy, one of the few 50s TV shows people can name off the top of their heads. But in reality, the husband/wife dynamic in I Love Lucy was just much a novelty back then as it is now with King of the Hill.

Not to be confused with Wife Husbandry, which is when an adult raises a child with the intent of eventually marrying them.


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    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.
    • Dragon Ball Super explores their homelife a little, with Chi-Chi forcing Goku to get a job as a farmer partly to set a good example for their son Goten and partly so they stop sponging off her father's money. In the first episode Mister Satan gives Goku a ludicrous amount of money as a reward for defeating Majin Buunote , which convinces Chi-Chi to let him dump his job and go back to training. However, later on she lies about having blown through the reward money in order to get Goku to go back to farming.
  • 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.
  • Subverted with Amir and Karluk in A Bride's Story. Amir thinks this is the case with her 12-year-old husband Karluk, and is initially fine with it. Karluk, however, grows weary of it pretty quickly and makes it very clear that she doesn't have to babysit him. Not only does it make her back off, but has the side effect of making her fall head over heels in love with him.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs has this as Marie’s relationship with her Reverse Harem, as Laser-Guided Karma for her selfishness. She pulled a Hijacked Destiny to get rich noble dating sim capture targets to fall in love with her, only for them to end up disinherited, having been overly spoiled Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense beforehand, and repeatedly raiding her cash reserves to buy her gifts to try and impress her, mistaking her tears over Perpetual Poverty for tears of joy, all while refusing to help make food and such. Eventually, she gives them each enough money to last a week and kicks them out for a month, which only Julius really learns from, while they each become more eccentric from their new jobs.

    Fan Works 

  • 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.)
  • Taken to a rather Squicky extreme in Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders: The Jerkass 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.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: One of aspects of the King Incognito involving Manchild Sylvester is that he turns out to be a married father of three under his real identity. Unsurprisingly, his wife is an "older sister" type and is stated to be one of the few people who can control him.
  • 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."
    • David's Wicked Stepfather, Mr. Murdstone has a darker version of this trope; essentially breaking his (much younger) wife and forcing her to become perfectly compliant to and dependent on him and his sister. He does this with both David's mother and his second 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.
  • Journey to Chaos plays this for laughs with Mr. and Mrs. Enaz. Ponix is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander whose wife gives him a list of things that he's not allowed to do when he is working, such as "eat beans in public". When it comes to his job as an ambassador, he is quite competent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 plays with this, on the surface Tim is very immature while Jill evokes Women Are Wiser but a number of episodes show that Jill can be a bit nagging and Tim is genuinely trying to help the family with his modifications around the house. In many cases Tim is quite competent when he wasn't trying so hard (the appliances he rewires tend to explode, but rebuilding hot rods and general home upgrading projects often turn out quite well).
  • 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 gives us a few examples:
    • Trudy sometimes comes across as being more a parent than a wife to her impulsive, impatient husband, Pete.
    • Gender-flipped in several cases where an Age-Gap Romance is in play:
      • Don and Megan have shades of this, with her at one point sarcastically addressing him as "Daddy".
      • Roger and Jane, especially given that she is more or less the same age as his daughter.
      • Henry and Betty, most notably when he has to calm things down between her and Sally.
  • 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 Manchild 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 5 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 mature and responsible girlfriend Ann, culminating when it comes out that the broken leg he'd 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 an apathetic Deadpan Snarker but becomes much more carefree and fun-loving under his influence. Neither of them is especially mature or responsible, and when Ben moves in with them he ends up having to teach them a number of "functioning adult" lessons (like doing dishes and not eating mac and cheese from a frisbee). But when someone does have to emerge as the adult voice of reason, it's usually Andy because he's more cheerful and optimistic while April can be too stubborn.
  • 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain", there is a very literal application of this trope. Harmon Gordon takes an experimental youth serum developed by his brother Raymond so that he can be the husband that his unfeeling wife Flora, who is 40 years younger than him, wants. However, he regresses to a toddler within hours. Raymond, who despises Flora for ruining Harmon's life, tells her that she will have to raise Harmon and take care of him if she wants access to his money. He threatens to throw her out on the street with nothing but the clothes on her back if she even hires a nanny or governess to take care of Harmon.
  • Kevin Can F**k Himself: The series is a Deconstructive Parody of sitcoms, and this is one of many sitcom tropes that comes under fire. Rather than being a lovable, well-intentioned manchild who is loved by his wife in spite of his shortcomings, the titular Kevin is a destructive, petty, self-centered asshole who always expects Allison to clean up his messes and causes great harm to other people. She has no time for herself and no friends of her own because his antics consume all of her time and energy and his selfishness crosses into outright emotional and financial abuse. After putting up with ten years of this nonsense, Allison truly loathes her husband and wants him dead.
  • The Big Bang Theory has Howard and Bernadette, early on having a number of jokes where Bernadette resembles Howards mom. When married Howard proved to be sloppy with money so Bernadette separated some accounts and put him on an allowance. But by the time their second child came around Howard decided he can't be like that anymore and made a conscious effort to handle things at home so Bernadette could get a break once in a while.

  • 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 life
    With all good things and a motherly wife?
    It's just another excuse so I can never grow up
    And I can pee in my pants like a two-week-old pup.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novel 

    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.
    • "The Tan Aquatic With Steve Zissou" gives a nod to this:
      Peter: Well, maybe you should've just had an abortion, Lois! Would that make you happy if I was never born?!
    • Lampshaded by Lois' mother in "Nanny Goats":
      Barbara: Lois, I've seen enough. You're completely overwhelmed, and you have four children.
  • Wilma and Fred from The Flintstones, however, this is downplayed, regardless, she does scold him for his behavior.
  • 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.
    Nicole: I have raised three kids...and one husband!
  • King of the Hill: 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.
  • Unmarried example in Sonic the Hedgehog (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 extension with his recklessness.
  • Daria: Helen often has to do this to Jake, due to the fact that Jake spends far too much time obsessing over his traumatic childhood to do any real parenting.
  • South Park: Randy Marsh is very much the sort of irresponsible Manchild who needs this... but half the time wife Sharon doesn't bother anymore. More often, it's his son Stan who gets sucked into the role of Straight Man to his dad's Crazy Scheme of the Week.
  • Hey Arnold!: While Suzie works hard taking care of the household chores and being the sole source of income, Oskar is lazy, gambles often, and whines for Suzie to make him a sandwich. By the events of The Jungle Movie Suzie's nowhere to be seen, apparently because she finally had enough and divorced Oskar.
    Suzie: You expect everyone else to take care of you!
    Oskar: Suzie, I don't expect everyone else to take care of me! Just you.
  • Rugrats. In the first movie, Stu is having trouble getting baby Dil settled down. While telling Didi how frustrated he is, he himself starts wailing out loud. Didi says, "Oh, for Pete's sake, Stu," and puts a binky in his mouth.
  • American Dad!: Hayley often acts more like Jeff's mother than his wife. She is said to give him baths, helps him learn his colors, needs others to watch him when she isn't around and once made him sit in a corner for 10 minutes (later upped to 20 when he talked back) because he insulted Francine.


Video Example(s):


Old Enough! SNL

Parodied in this skit from the May 14, 2022 episode.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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Main / ParentingTheHusband

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