Housebreaking Lazy Husbands

It's a familiar story for many couples: A husband says he's doing his share of the chores but his wife is convinced she's being stuck with the bulk of the housework.

"20/20" followed two couples to see who was really doing the work around the house, and then had an expert weigh in on how to improve the situation.

Nancy Arsenault of Stow, Mass., is a stay-at-home mom who has her hands full taking care of her four young kids. Her husband Scott works full time as an air traffic controller. When "20/20" went to visit her, Nancy always seemed to be out of breath. But Scott happened to be out on a bike ride.

Nancy said it's OK, but she's left doing all the housework. "I do cooking, cleaning, laundry, dressing, changing, decorating the house," said Nancy.

When Scott returned from his ride, he took a shower and surfed the Internet while Nancy made dinner and watched the kids.

"She thinks that I like to waste a lot of time. But I spend a lot of that time thinking," said Scott. Nancy said she would appreciate it if he would offer, for example, to fold some laundry while watching a football game.

"If I sit down and watch TV, I'm decompressing," said Scott. "I'm not folding laundry."

Scott says he is not lazy, and that Nancy is too impatient. When she asks him to do something, she'll get it started before he has a chance to finish, he said.

Napping or Cooking Dinner?

Some people might say that since Nancy is a stay-at-home mom, it's not surprising that she does most of the parenting and housework. But families where both parents work can also have issues about who should do the chores.

Fran Carpentier has a full-time job as a senior editor at Parade magazine and her husband, Ira, is a doctor. They each have demanding jobs, but most nights she cooks dinner while Ira heads to the den to nap. Ira says he is exhausted by working long hours at the hospital. "He falls asleep on the couch for like an hour," said Ben, their 10-year-old son.

"Once he walks in through the door, he goes into his own zone," said Fran. "He needs to decompress, and I can respect that, but I don't think anyone has to decompress that much, even if they've been in outer space for a month."

Fran also does most of the shopping, cleaning and cooking but while she's working at home, Ira rests. "He doesn't even refill the water container!" said Fran.

Ira insisted it isn't that bad, and says he helps around the house as the "fix-it guy." He also notes that sometimes he does some chores, but Fran often finishes the job and says he's not doing it correctly.

Fran said he enjoys it because he can read while the clothes are tumbling.

Expert Advice: Step One Is to Show Gratitude

Fed up with doing all the housework, Fran and Nancy volunteered their husbands to participate in a "20/20" report about lazy husbands.

"There is something that happens to a man once that ring goes on the finger," said Fran. "It's like Donna Reed. We're back 30 years."

"20/20" brought Joshua Coleman, the author of "Lazy Husbands," to help out.

Coleman had some tough talk for both Ira and Scott. "You can get a 10-minute nap, but you can't take a two-hour nap," he told Ira.

Coleman asked each couple if they show appreciation for what their spouse does. Ira and Fran said they seldom did. Scott also admitted he wasn't good at showing he appreciated Nancy.

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