This is a response/comment to a blog article by Penelope Trunk titled “My own marriage and the myth of the stay-at-home dad”.
My wife and I have been married for not too long (yet not that short) – coming up on five years. It’s been rocky for sure and we have gone back and forth on communicating well over the years… We have learned a lot about each other, but still have a lot more to go in understanding each other. Honestly, if you are married and you’re not – I would almost be scared you WEREN’T experiencing something like this. 10 years from now? Hopefully we will see.
I started only recently reading your blog, but was taken aback quite a bit about the “Brazen Careerist” title. I was definitely not sure if I cared for that outlook of being brazen over what I will say is “just a career”. Life is so much more than a job! In particular, my wife and family are more important. I’ve changed jobs to suit them – where I still am able to do what I do for a job, but not where it consumes my life. Maybe that is just my perspective.
Before I go further
I agree with your theory that “happy” stay-at-home dads are doing something part-time that they love. I would like to point out that this probably is outside of the raising kids. I think everyone needs something a little outside of what they spend most of their time doing (like me doing something outside of a computer as my day job has me doing software programming) – it retains your sanity from the monotony of it all. I’d comment about “that every single one of the happy ones is blogging”, but I don’t know a single person other than me who blogs. In my mind though, blogging could be that part-time outlet of creativity … that makes them happy.
My brother actually stays at home with their only son – but he has this entire motorcycle stunt riding team thing going on that keeps him more than part-time busy.
My wife spent the first four years at home raising our three kids. That was from the oldest (who is now almost 6) to only a few months of our youngest (now almost 2), and we also have the middle who recently turned 4. She had gone back and forth over wanting to work, and holding down various part-time jobs for a little while than quitting. I believe she needed some external outlet of her time – some way to find herself again outside the scope of being a mother and wife. She currently works (and has for a little over a year) a full-time job…
Back to commenting on your article
I’m sure I really will have no way to really know what your husband is feeling, and it’s obvious he’s not going to go out and post something about that either. What seems like what should be warning signs are you don’t know what he is doing and that you “feel a little like you don’t know him”. What really stands out (and I’m not that surprised given your blog title) is the statement “As the career expert in my household, I always think I’m ten steps ahead of my husband”. What qualifies you as a “career expert” to think you are ten steps ahead of him? You already stated you don’t feel like you know him and that you don’t know what he is doing.
Given my personality and nature, if my wife were to think she is ten steps ahead of me, I would close up like a shell and not give you the time of day, period. If she is so sure she is ahead of me, than just do it yourself. I have my own personality and my own ways – even if you feel you know them well enough to know my future actions. I literally put a wall to my emotions and feelings – I respond in minimal ways and words just to close out the situation. Sometimes I leave or find some other way to step out of the argument. I know this does NOT help the issue at all and we clearly don’t make any progress. I want to state how I have felt because I’m sure my wife didn’t know this was my reactive nature to her actions, until we learned about it in a marriage group.
A marriage needs Love AND Respect!
In that marriage group, much of our discussions are around a simple concept of love and respect. The usual suspects in talking about anyone’s marriage is do you love one another, but the other half which doesn’t get brought much that we have seen is the respect.
“Husbands must love their wives and wives must respect their husbands.”
We are going through a book (titled “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs” – who would have thought?). Here is a snippet:
“You may remember how the Beatles sang, ‘All you need is love.’ I absolutely disagree with that conclusion. Five out of ten marriages today are ending in divorce because love alone is not enough. Yes, love is vital, especially for the wife, but what we have missed is the husband’s need for respect. This Love and Respect message is about how the wife can fulfill her need to be loved by giving her husband what he needs — respect. And the husband can fulfill his need to be respected by giving his wife what she needs — love. Does this always work? No. But if one is married to a person of good will, I would bet the farm that it would work!”
For my wife and I it isn’t as clear cut as me loving her – she has said it is quite important also to feel respected, especially in all the wonderful things she brings to our marriage and our parenting. I also need quite my share of love along with respect. If y’all are of the reader nature (I am, my wife isn’t) – consider looking at that book.
Last thing I’d ask if ourselves if we were in the situation – what is more important, my career or my wife? SHE REWARDS MY LIFE FAR MORE THAN MY JOB EVER HAS!
Maybe I’m not lucky that I don’t “have a great career”, but when my wife was staying at home that WAS her career. It wasn’t “stalled” – it just isn’t what you are defining as a career. It seems you are focusing so much on everything career-related (as seems to be the goal of your blog and more in your life) and not-at-all putting it gently that he doesn’t have one.