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Breadwinner and Homemaker - how do I *prove* we are equal?(48 Posts)
Folks, I'm an MN noob so please be gentle.
DW and I have been married 10 happy years, and we have two DS's who are our pride and joy. We met and fell in love at work, and when DW fell pregnant she went on a career break, partly due to medical advice that she would need to rest a lot during pregnancy.
Anyway, DW has taken to being the doting Mummy to our DS's and has been the homemaker ever since. I am the breadwinner and I am very happy with this situation, because in my time, my mother kept the home, whilst my dad was out all the hours God sends working. I know the benefits that it brings to have the constant presence of at least one parent when growing up.
Now DS1 is at school, and DW has to deal with some less than sensitive comments from working mums dropping their kids off at school. Mostly she shrugs them off, but some of them are quite catty, especially when they organise nights out and dinner meetings.
Also, I know that DW misses her finanical independence, the sense of worth that a job brings, and in particular, having to ask me for money (though mostly we use shared accounts and cards).
If people ask me what she does, I always tell them she is on a career break whilst the kids are small, and I take no shame in this, and most people know that talking about 'stay at home Mums' in front of me is NOT a good idea.
Mostly we are the best of friends and we keep to ourselves. We make each other laugh and we take delight in following the acheivements of our DS's.
But when DW is feeling low, she says that I do not value what she does. I can understand how difficult it can be to look after the DS's all day, and for me to waltz in at the end of a day's work where I have been valued and had proper adult conversations. The problem is that anything I say is just a bunch of words. Actions speak much louder.
When I get home, I take the kids after tea, do bathtime and put them to bed. I always wash up after she's made our meal, and I try to help with other little things round the house. However if I do too much, DW thinks I am criticising her for doing something she should have done.
If you are familiar with the situation, can you think of anything I can do to prove that we are equals, and that her role is just as valued as mine?
She's not a flowers and chocolates type of DW by the way...
Have you both had a talk recently about how happy she is at home?
Is there any possibility for her to get a part time job if she wants the best of both worlds?
I know that DW misses her finanical independence, the sense of worth that a job brings, and in particular, having to ask me for money (though mostly we use shared accounts and cards).
change this for starters. she shouldn't have to ask you for money- you are not the banker. she earns the money that comes in just the same as you do and it is all joint. it should be all in one account that she can just use as needed.
you need to have an honest conversation and say what you have here. tell her that you don't intend to criticise by tidying up when you get home but ask her if she would rather you didn't or if she would appreciate you doing something else. ask her what would make her feel valued. if necessary give her space to go away and think about it. also ask if she is happy staying at home full time and if she would prefer to go back to work. perhaps you could reduce your work hours.
The problem is not that you don't value what she does or even that other people don't value it. It's that she doesn't value it herself. A lot of women make the mistake of thinking that they should be fully satisfied with the role of home-maker, that they should feel lucky to have the opportunity, and go on to find it doesn't live up to their expectations and they don't feel lucky at all. If she wants more independence, therefore, support it in a practical sense. Enable her to get a job if that would improve her self-worth.
Show her that post you just wrote. Nothing says 'I value you' quite like opening yourself up to some of the hellhounds you get on here. Some women need to get a grip and stop putting others down for the choices they make whether its to work or to stay at home like you said, both have a value and both should be valued by others.
But she does have financial independence, right??
Right now she's enabling you to work and have a family. Any paper money that comes into the family accounts is 'earned' as a result of both of you arranging your time so that one of you can maintain the required constant presence in an external place where they pay said person for doing stuff.
But it's not that person's money, it belongs to both of them.
So if she is ever having to ask you for money, that is a mockery of the whole thing. She should be as in control of the money as you are, her name on everything, equally able to access all monies. If she isn't - then no wonder she's not particularly happy about the situation and more able to bat off criticism.
How about asking her what you do that makes her think you do not value her role. There is clearly something making her feel this way, and we are not going to guess what it is, when all we have to go on are your words and not your actions.
It's not the money. It's her ambition, self-worth etc etc. There's 'SAH' and there's 'SAH'. I have a friend who swapped a previously high-flying, well-paid career for being a Professional Homemaker with Knobs On...... and I use the capitals because she organises the crap out of that role. Coffee mornings, playdates, committees, clubs, you name it, she does it. Gets a huge amount of satisfaction out of it and, even though her DCs are now secondary school age, has no intention of returning to the workplace. Others just get bogged down with the domestic stuff and they feel life is passing them by but don't feel entitled to say so.
When our kids were smaller we had a financial health check (I was working a few hours from week at home and my husband full time) and we looked at income replacement insurance in case of unemployment etc... surprisingly we needed to insure me for a greater amount per month than my husband, because when you looked at the cost of replacing what I did it was more than my husband earned.. this did put a value on what I was doing and made a difference to how I felt about myself and the role I was doing.
So she has to ask you for money, you describe her as on a career break, instead of the truth, which is that she's a SAHM, thus making it appear like you think it's only a legitimate, worthy and equal choice because one day soon she will return to paid employment (thus inferring that paid employment IS superior), you say you 'take no shame in that', which actually implies that you must actually think there is shame in it, otherwise why on earth would you bring the concept into it, you describe your working day as you having been valued by other adults, as though this is the only way and only group of people who can make someone feel valued, you describe you doing housework as you 'helping', as though you're giving the servant the night off (it's YOUR home and children, doing housework and so on is NOT you helping, it's you pulling your weight doing the basics any SAHM should expect of a partner). You think you are really enlightened and groovy and helpful and supportive, but it reads to me, as a feminist SAHM (not a housewife, mark it), as rather patronising and head-patting towards her. You probably think you are saying the right things, but I can totally see why your DW feels like you're not valuing her. You're making a show of appearing to value her, and what she does, but you're not coming across as actually genuinely believing it, or proving it through your actions.
Your Dw doesn't need you to prove you are equals. You ARE equals. Being a SAHM is real work, just unpaid.
Wow, OP comes on here asking for advice and you rip him to shreds Oxford bags. You sound very unpleasant!
How old are your DSs?
Could she go back to work part time?
Even if it's volunteer work.
Just to get 'back out there'
I couldn't be a SAHM.
I did 3 months and had to get back to work and the 'adult world'
She may love being at home and that's something you need to find out.
Do you make her feel like she 'has' to SAH as that's what you had and what you believe works best?
Arrange a night where you sit down and have an honest discussion about everything in your lives right now.
Lots of talking and even more listening is required.
You need to get to the bottom of it all.
Wow! What a response for a noob post. Some really helpful and thought provoking stuff on here.
@Applelicious: We talk a lot and plan together, but it is always hard to talk about returning to work. We talk about trying to set things up so that we can live with one salary, so that she can return to work when she wants to rather than having to.
@Diaduit, Castlemilk : There are some things my wife wants to pay for out of her own account, like professional things or things relating to ownership of the car. That's the situation where she doesn't like to ask. I already offered her to go onto the account where the salary goes in and the mortgage comes out, but she doesn't want that.
@cmt : that is actually a really good and actionable idea. When DS1 was born and DW had some health issues post pregnancy getting income replacement, it was a lot of money and so we only got income protection for me. Trying to fix this would do a lot to valorise her contribution to the family.
@OxfordBags : DW is on a career break. She left her career at a strategic point having done both training and research. We are both similarly qualified. I have colleagues at work who suspended their careers for 10 years+ and then came back. They had to work unpaid for several months to get their hands back in but the core skills were still there. I feel my role is to enable to to choose the timing and circumstance of when she wants to return to work. When I said I take no shame in it, I said so because unfortunately it is the prevailing attitude of other people around us that seem to take shame in it. Sadly you have no way to know this from your computer screen, but I take no shame in it because of my own experience in benefiting from the constant love and presence of my mother as I endured racial abuse coming to the UK in the 1970's. I hate the fact that we live in a broken society that the government says it wants to fix, yet the Government wants both parents to go to work so that they can pay their taxes. A mother should be able to make her choice and be valued by society which ever way she chooses. Out of respect to my wife, I do not talk about these issues to her friends and family, or my friends and family. It took a lot of courage for me to consider posting this on here, and I would ask that you consider that as a mark of sincerity. I am glad I did though as I have already received some helpful ideas.
I'm sorry but you're contradicting yourself. You say on the one hand that you want to facilitate her return to the workplace but it is very clear from your statements about the government wanting both parents to work (?), others casting shame, and your own upbringing that you think SAHM is the gold standard and that anything else is substandard. Whether you appreciate it or not, your DW is going to pick up your prejudice & feel under pressure to stay home with the kids.
If she is on a career break, I think it has reached a natural end
@Cogito : I can see how you are thinking, but who is to say that you can't take a break in your career of a length of your own choosing, and then return to work at a time of your choosing? She went to great lengths to protect her career so that it would not reach its natural end.
One of the people I work with felt that the right time to go back to work was after 17 years when her DS went to work, and I am pleased that it was her choice. I would not dream of telling her that her career had hit a natural end. When the excrement hits the air movement device at work, she's one of the people who you can count on.
The problem with the SAHM moniker is that there is no time-scale to it. Plus it makes me want to lobotomize anyone that uses it because it has only negative connotations.
I said the career break had reached a natural end.... not the career
Your DW doesn't feel fulfilled in the role of SAHM and you are holding it up as the ideal. I think that's the conflict here.
You sound like my OH. He is always 'doing me a favour' by changing LO's nappy, by playing with her or by tidying up his own cups and plates.
He almost tuts at me when he sees me sitting down for 1 minute after I've been up all night with DD.
Yet I was the one with the better job, now he's revelling in being the 'breadwinner' and thinks he's so much better than me now. If it wasn't for your DW you would be screwed.
SAHM only has negative connotations to people who are misogynist (inlcuding other women) and ignorant. If you feel that the correct title for what your wife is, and does, then you are either unconsciously agreeing with them, or colluding with them.
It does NOT have 'only' negative connotations, what bullshit! And how offensive of you to say that on a parenting site with a high rate of SAHPs, FFS!
There's also no problem with SAHMing having no time scale. Again, you reveal negative and prejudicial views about SAHMs whilst claiming otherwise.
*What you wife, is, or does, is negative and shameful.
Would you consider being a SAHD or taking a career break for a while to facilitate the end of her career break and the rejoining of her career?
OP your sentiments I think are honest, but like me and all other men we are conditioned by our society. Try not to take the more barbed posts too personally, it‘s invaluable to understand the principles behind the comments and learn from them.
Why is it "hard to talk about returning to work"?
Also I noticed the phrase "her role is just as valued as mine". I get that that can be a neutral phrase, but I do feel like because your mother stayed at home, you think that being at home is very much HER role, rather than just the role one parent is playing for the convenience of all. Would you feel alarmed at the idea of swapping? It sounds like it would be just as easy for you to take your turn out of work as it is for her, same work and all. Or how about you both go part time?
This is my first foray into Relationships and I'm finding the OP quite bizarre! There are a few inconsistencies which make me wonder whether this is genuine... Why would it be working mothers at the school drop off who are allegedly making negative comments... Surely the working mums are, erm, at work? Not many careers fit around school hours
Anyway assuming you are genuine, I agree wholeheartedly with what was said upthread, that its not you or anyone else who is responsible for your wife's self esteem; what matters is how she feels about her life. You can tell her til you're blue in the face that you value her being at home but if she wants something different, it isn't going to cut it. It may well be that what turned out as something enjoyable for her a few years back, has lost it's shine and she is no longer fulfilled. People develop and change, they aren't static beings. Fwiw when we had our first child I returned to work very quickly as we had no choice financially. Two children and considerably healthier finances later, when I could have afforded to stop work, it was the last thing id have wanted to do. I'd realised by then how fulfilling it was for me as a person to combine motherhood with my career. So it may be that you need an honest conversation with your wife. I'm guessing though, that as you make it very clear that in your mind having the wife staying at home is the 'gold standard', she may find it difficult to open up to you if she doesn't automatically conform to your way of thinking
Is DW busy with stuff (other than housework) is she out of the house everyday with friends / hobbies / interests? If she did have a fulfilling life that she loves the comments from others would be like water off a duck's back. Which makes me think she isn't really fulfilled but feels possibly she is doing what's best for the children (as probably you do). And isn't really happy in what can be a tedious and thankless role.
The fundamental thing is, you are not equal. Being a SAHP does not really compare to doing a job in any sort of valid value judgement. Sure, you could add up the cost of replacing the SAHP, but that's not really the point. You are both contributing to the family.
As a family, you should aim to be happy. I agree with the other poster who said the undercurrent from your wife is that she actually isn't happy with the current scenario. Try to find out why and support her.
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