Sometimes, it seems like the road to hell is paved with well-intentioned gifts. Just ask anyone who has ever miscalculated with a present for a spouse.
As Kidspot reports, one anonymous dad recently found himself in hot water with his wife after preparing what he thought was a good birthday present.
As the dad wrote on Reddit, the family budget was too tight for them to afford a present for his wife’s birthday. So instead of purchasing something, he sent his wife to a friend’s house for the day while he and the children did chores and cleaned. When she returned, he presented the clean house as her birthday gift.
It didn’t go over well. The dad wrote:
She said, “thank you,” but I could tell she was upset. I pressed her a bit, and [she] accused me of seeing her as a maid because I think she should be grateful for something she thinks the kids and I should be doing regularly. I tried to explain that we were just trying to be nice and make things easier for her, and she just kept saying, “this is exactly the problem,” until she told me to just stop talking about it.
In follow-up posts, the dad clarified that they both do chores on a daily basis but don’t often have the chance to get the house as clean as she would like it to be. He also corrected the assumption that his wife is a stay-at-home mom, saying that they both work outside the home:
We are so busy that the house rarely gets cleaned fully, and she likes it clean. So I thought she would like it.
The dad wanted to know if he had erred by “giving” his wife a clean house for her birthday. And there were plenty of people ready to explain that he had.
Those defending the wife’s reaction pointed out that it doesn’t feel like a gift to get something that benefits you both and simply fulfills your shared chores. Some likened it to giving your wife a vacuum or cooking appliance for a birthday present.
“My wife explained this to me one time too. She was like, ‘We both work, why is the house being cleaned my gift? Does that mean every week when I do my house stuff it’s your gift?'” one commenter wrote. “My dad bought my mom a vacuum cleaner one year. Didn’t go over well for the same reason.”
One person pointed out that the dad should have put some thought into an affordable, symbolic gift rather than presenting his wife with a completed chore as a present:
That’s just not a good gift, man. She’s right — everyone should do their fair share of house work (and you should [definitely] drill down into this issue after this incident). You can get flowers for $6. You can make something creative for almost nothing. You can write a letter. You owe her a thoughtful gift and an apology.
Despite the dad’s insistence that he helps out with chores on a daily basis, many commenters suspected that the gift was a sign that he wasn’t doing his share of housework. One wrote:
That’s a really common complaint from women whose partners aren’t pulling their weight — that the times they do lend a hand they expect fawning and praise. Don’t be part of the problem, OP, and please don’t teach your children that Dad cleaning is a special occasion
However, not everyone agreed that the dad was in the wrong. In addition to those who confessed they didn’t mind vacuums or other “practical” gifts, there were a few who defended his effort to give his wife a clean house for her birthday.
One woman said that her husband and children had done something similar for her birthday — given her a relaxing day while they cleaned. Rather than being angry, she was grateful:
I didn’t see it as he thought of me as a maid. I saw it as a gesture that showed he couldn’t get me a physical present but still wanted to do SOMETHING. My kids worked hard to make sure I was happy, and were proud of themselves for all the work they put it. And I was happy because that meant everything was done and we could all relax and spend time together as a family.
“Why is it that everyone expects to be given something on their birthday anyway?” she added. “It’s not wrong to want presents/material things, but you shouldn’t make someone feel bad for not being able to afford it and doing something they thought you might appreciate instead.”
Another wife had a similar reaction and posited that the real failure on the dad’s part was not understanding what kind of gifts made his wife feel special:
I sound like this guy’s wife (based on his comments) in that I’d really like to have the house super clean, but because both my husband and I are always really busy, it never gets really clean […] If my husband did a thorough housecleaning for a present, I would actually be thrilled. Similarly if he paid someone to do a deep cleaning, I would also be thrilled. But, I’m also happy when I get pots or other kitchen appliances for presents. I like practical presents. So, maybe the issue isn’t that he’s an a**hole, but that he and his wife have different ideas of what makes a good present?
Having been in a similar situation, I agree with those who say that the dad isn’t in the wrong except when it comes to knowing his wife’s gift expectations.
Two months ago, I did exactly the same thing. I took advantage of the fact that my husband went away on a trip before his birthday and (with the help of the kids) cleaned the house from top to bottom. When he came home, we presented it to him as his birthday present.
Far from being angry, he was touched and called it one of the best birthday presents he’d ever received. So what differentiates me from the dad in this story?
The reason my husband was grateful was because he is the neat freak in the family. He accepts that our home’s normal state is one of mild clutter, but he definitely wishes it was cleaner. And he knows how much I loathe cleaning and recognized the amount of sacrifice that went into getting the house to his standard.
Finally, he’s practical. He’d recently bought himself a game and didn’t want any money spent on his birthday. Symbolic gifts are wasted on him. Our willingness to clean the house was far more valuable to him than any trinket we could have wrapped up and given him.
A clean house isn’t a bad present in itself. It was just a bad present for that particular wife and mom.
In the end, no one has to be “wrong.” But it does help to understand what your spouse really appreciates before you decide to make it a gift.