When You Think Of Yourself As A Good Wife ... Do You Mean A Good Mother?

It's not accurate to call yourself a good wife for caring for your kids.

wife doing dishes Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Many women tell me in counseling that they are great wives, when in reality they mean they are doing all the things they would do for the kids even if they were single moms.

This post calls out this cognitive distortion, the same way that I call out men for saying that working (at the same career they trained for before even meeting their wives) in and of itself makes them a "good husband." 

Read on to learn why it is not accurate to call yourself a good wife for caring for your kids.


When women don’t want to engage in physical touch and/or sexual activity, their husbands usually implicitly or explicitly call into question their commitment and effort toward the marriage.

Many of these women hate criticism and quickly respond that they are in fact good wives, for doing things like:

  • Making dinner for the kids (sometimes this includes the husband, sometimes not, but tends to be based on what the kids like to eat; sometimes the adults in fact are expected to forage for themselves while she makes food for the kids)
  • Managing the kids’ schedules and signing them up for summer camp
  • Sending a gift to the man’s relatives for their birthdays, something that he never did before marriage and would not do after marriage
  • Planning holidays and getting gifts for the kids (and sometimes for the husband; usually nothing he wants as much as intimacy which is not on offer)
  • Scheduling photo shoots for Christmas card pictures and then sending out the cards
  • Allowing the man time to do hobbies when she watches the kids

This list certainly means that the woman is putting in time and effort to do things that she believes make her a good mother and that she associates with being in a happy family that fits in socially with other similar families that comprise the woman and/or kids’ social group.

This is being a good mother, as it is important to kids to fit in, at least at a baseline level, something which some men minimize and which I defend here.

RELATED: The 2 Things Every Good Wife Does For Her Husband

However, this "emotional labor" (a term that I dislike) is nothing that makes a woman a good wife.


If you read the above list carefully, you will see that in fact there is nothing on it that the woman would not also do after divorce (when in fact the man would have even more time to do his hobbies, for what it’s worth) — except send gifts to the man’s family, something which she could easily stop doing if she didn’t fear the family members disliking her.

Most men in fact ask their wives to stop sending gifts or calling their relatives if it’s such an onerous task, but because most women subconsciously recognize that this is the only thing on the list that could even be thought remotely to be "for" her husband, they refuse to stop for a variety of stated reasons, including that this is "just what people are supposed to do" and, more honestly, "I don’t want them not to like me."

What does make a woman a good wife?

For the large majority of men, it is engaging enthusiastically or at least receptively in physical intimacy, including both sex and nonsexual touch.


It is also whatever his secondary love language is, which may be words of affirmation or quality time, both of which tend to fade away when the romantic/sexual life fades away.

Very, very few men have gifts or acts of service as a secondary love language, but these are the ones that women most often protest that they do in order to be a good wife, despite their husbands generally not caring at all about these. I discuss why men don’t value acts of service in this video

By the way, most women who don’t engage in sex/touch are romantically distant as well and no longer even make their husband’s favorite cookies, but stick to the kids’ favorites, still using this as an example of giving him an act of service.

If you think that it is "bad" or "immature" that men care so much about physical touch, read this.


Denying the importance of this for a man is the same as if a man denied the importance to his wife of whatever she considers baseline in a relationship — like talking to her in the evenings about their days, or getting her a birthday present, or complimenting her or doing chores/projects that she values (remember, he doesn’t value them so this isn’t "for the family" but for her).

RELATED: 3 Rituals All The Best Spouses Do For Each Other Every Single Day

If you were raised to view sex and touch as inessential or, worse, disgusting, then this would be something to work on as it limits your ability to empathize and understand your husband’s perspective.

Remember, men get married to have sex all the time, and this is how they show love.


When people are emotionally tied to a way of viewing the world that helps them save face, it can be incredibly powerful to flip the script and challenge their worldviews; this is the basis of cognitive therapy.

In this case, the worldview that I am challenging is that being a good mother means you are a good wife.

The post-divorce thought experiment definitively indicates that it doesn’t, inasmuch as women would still be doing 99% of their current parenting tasks (although only in their time with the kids, and half the holidays, etc) if they were divorced, which is definitionally a situation where they are not being a good wife or a wife at all.

After divorce, the majority of women in fact become very upset if they are not allowed to make 100% of the choices for the kids’ summer plans or extracurriculars, although before divorce they stated that taking over the "emotional labor" of making these choices was a way they were being a "good wife."


Again, I also flip the script for men when they protest that they don’t have to engage with their wives emotionally or be romantic because they work and this makes them a "good husband."

This is inaccurate, and would only be the case if the man is working a second job only to foot his wife’s clothes shopping bill or some caricatured situation that I have never seen in practice.

For a high-earning lawyer, say, who started law school years before he met his wife (or made the decision to be a lawyer in college or before) to state that he works only to support his wife is nonsensical, as his career path was predicated on his own choices that predate her.

After divorce, such men keep working and provide for their kids, and are generally happy to be able to financially provide in this way, despite their wives being out of the equation.


RELATED: 6 Things Good Husbands Do To Make Their Wives Happy (According To My Wife)

Think deeply about what you are doing to only be a good wife, which means that your behavior would have to meet these criteria:

  1. It isn’t for the kids (unless you are a high-level thinker and understand that you having a good sex life with your husband is positive for the kids, as discussed here)
  2. It is something you would not do after divorce (or even after his death)
  3. He says he values it and would miss it if you stopped doing it in favor of things that he actually states he wants (this doesn’t count if you cry and say, "Do you mean that you don’t value the hours of thought and effort that I put into getting your mom a birthday gift? Do you mean you wouldn’t miss that?" or any other emotional blackmail). Example: "Would you rather we have more sex/touch and you do all the camp forms, or that I do the camp forms and we do not have sex or touch?"

Hopefully, this post gave you something to think about!

If you were able to read all of it, even if you felt defensive doing it, then you are someone who understands on a deep level that you may need to work on this area of your marriage.


Even if you don’t consider yourself a selfish person, you may in fact be a selfish spouse. Understanding this, for both genders, is the first step toward change and growth.

RELATED: 18 Ways To Be A Better Husband Every Single Day

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.