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Family adjusting to SAHM returning to work

(134 Posts)
Joysmum Fri 15-Aug-14 11:44:34

Being a SAHM suited me and our family. I missed out on my mum when I was growing up due to her long hours. My extended family have benefitted too as my MIL was seriously debilitated by a serious heart attack at a young age and then died 7 months later, followed by my FIL being diagnosed with dementia which ended his life 2 months ago. The trouble came some years ago when I decided I wanted a career of my own.

DH has been able to build a good career for himself because he could concentrate on doing that with no responsibilities or regular hours to keep at home. Him fulfilling his career aspirations gave good rewards.

He used to say he was doing all the long, unpredictable, unpaid hours for us...that was until last year when I asked him if he honestly believed if he didn't have us he'd be less committed to his job and work less? Mumsnet made me see the truth, before that I felt I ought to be grateful, that feeling resentful of being trapped in a life I didn't want was ungrateful. Of course then dawned on him I was right and those declarations stopped. He loves his job, it pays well, and makes him feel like he's achieved in life. He'd always said if I wanted him to change jobs he would, he knows I would never call his bluff.

Now, I want to work, I want a career of my own. I'm pushing hard and fast to accelerate the time it takes to get qualified, I'm actually working longer hours than him. Despite his assurances that he'd step up with the household responsibilities, he hasn't. It's not because of anything sinister, he just genuinely believed the amount of household responsibility he'd taken on since I started studying was actually more than half.

Things came to a head as I asked him to consider the hours he spent last week doing chores, and what hadn't been done in that time and how long those things would have taken (that's even ignoring the occasional chores like windows and cupboards) it's suddenly dawned on him that what he's been doing is not enough.

This week has been dreadful, he's been so down as his job has required long hours and he realises what a struggle it will be to continue being as committed at work as he has been and take up even just half the household responsibilities (although by rights he ought to be doing more given I'm doing more hours than him). This will also cut out any quality family time together like we were used to at weekends because that's when he'll need to do much of his share of chores.

We're now at that stage where it's got to dawn on him that he can't cope, that the only way to fit it all in is to either lose our quality family time, or for him to cut back on his unpaid additional hours. This of course means he's got to really face up to the fact that his excessive commitment to work really is for him, that we've just benefitted from what he wanted to do anyway. What affect this would cutting back have on his current job and continued career development?

I'm now wondering if the answer is for me to continue to put him first and just work part time from home when I'm qualified so I can do the majority of the chores, he remains flexible in his availability at work and we still get quality family time to play hard. A cleaner isn't an option. There's no reason financially for me to work, it's something I want to do. I never thought I'd be a SAHM, I always thought I'd have a good career.

He's really struggling emotionally this week (with the realisation of just how much his commitment to his career has impacted on my life and will continue to need) and I'm torn between feeling vindicated in my feelings (resentment, but then feeling selfish because of being judged 'lucky' by others who don't understand how much of myself I've given up, or the enrichment it's added to DH's life) and in worrying about the impact on our lives of me expecting him to take on at least half the responsibilities at home.

I'll also admit, I have a massive chip on my shoulder from social attitudes that I'm living off my husband, am not setting a good example to my DD and how 'lucky' I am being a SAHM. Ive resented it, don't feel fulfilled, feel trapped and have done for years. I'm a people pleaser though. I guess being stung by the attitudes of others and that resentment has made me want to aim for a well respected career so I can prove to myself, and others, that I'm very capable and can be a success and who has the self respect to not live off her husband! A well respected career that i enjoy and could do from home part time would fit in with my need to achieve, with his career aspirations and still allow for quality family time.

Mind you, I'll admit there's the petulant child side of me that wants him to find this hard, wants him and the world to truly appreciate how much of myself I've given up over the years, to value my input over the years. Him having to do the same now and compromise (although not give up) on his wants, will show the wider world the effects of him having to adjust and see how me compromising on my wants over the years has allowed our family to have a better quality of life.

It's just a rant really sad

rookiemater Fri 15-Aug-14 11:47:34

Sorry a very short question about a very long post - but why can't you have a cleaner? It doesn't seem as if finances are a barrier so if it's a shortcut to support both of you working then why not get one?

Oh and one more question - what age are your DCs?

Stripyhoglets Fri 15-Aug-14 12:09:22

When both parents work full time, then buying in some of the household help is the lifesaver really. It means there is time as a family and life isn't just work and chores which is soul destroying long term.

Heels99 Fri 15-Aug-14 12:11:58

Agree, you need a cleaner plus romeod to do ironing etc also gardener

TheFowlAndThePussycat Fri 15-Aug-14 12:20:03

Yep, you need a cleaner. We both work full-time, like you I work because I want to, we are very fortunate that I do not have to.

We tried rotas, setting aside dedicated time to chores etc, but it just ate into family time. Now we have a cleaner 3hrs per week our household chores basically consist of tidying, laundry & loading & unloading the dishwasher. Our garden is a mess but we don't care!

I couldn't go back now - we pay over the odds for this area but our cleaner is brilliant and really I'm paying for extra time with my family, which is priceless!

sunbathe Fri 15-Aug-14 12:26:53

Cleaner, hell I'd have a housekeeper and gardener too!

Seriously, why can't you have a cleaner? It does seem sensible in your circumstances.

elastamum Fri 15-Aug-14 12:33:39

I am a lone parent with a full on senior job. I have a housekeeper 3 mornings a week to do the stuff I don't have time for and don't want to do. It is impossible to do everything.

HE seems well aware of the problem so sit down and agree a solution that works for both of you

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 15-Aug-14 12:40:22

I also don't understand why a cleaner isn't an option. If this all hinges on there being no-one to do the domestic chores, it's easily solved with a few phone-calls and a bit of cash. If, however, you're saying that it's the lack of appreciation and the taking for granted that is the real problem... address that.

Annarose2014 Fri 15-Aug-14 12:40:31

Good God woman, you make it sound like you can't have any family life at the weekend cos it'll be spent doing "chores"!

What on earth are these chores? Do you live in a twelve bedroom manor? Why wouldn't you just pay for a window cleaner? Lord knows you can afford it. Why spend a Saturday breaking your back doing it?

You are seriously suggesting not working full time so you have time to do all the housework? Thats bananas!

Do online grocery shopping and throw a few quid at a local lad to mow the lawn. And if you flatly refuse to hire a cleaner (though I cannot imagine why), then lower your household standards. Hoover once a week, like the rest of us.

madamweasel Fri 15-Aug-14 12:42:10

Totally agree with above comments. Once you're earning the price of a cleaner/additional help will be small fry. Amongst my acquaintances, everyone with 2 career families have a cleaner/paid help. We even have a gardener (although no cleaner - yet - but soon!)

Chores are boring and time consuming and you don't have to feel guilty that you pay someone else to do it for you - I try to think that actually, I'm giving someone the opportunity to work flexible hours to suit their circumstances and earn to provide for their own family, at the same time as doing the best thing for my family.

My question about your post would be about the unpaid overtime your DH does. It sounds like you're unhappy about the amount of time he spends at work/working. I think this is a separate issue from the housework. The housework issue doesn't have to cause strife because it can be sorted by paid help. So if you take away housework as a problem, what are you left with? Happy fulfilled parents, or still dissatisfied with work/life balance?

FWIW, you have the absolute right to pursue any career of your choice, just as he does. Both of you need to do what you have to do to live happy and fulfilled lives, BUT there is a balance that you both have to agree on how much family time vs. work time.

I'd make time to sit and have a deep and meaningful conversation about where you're heading and how to get there together.

rollmeover Fri 15-Aug-14 12:43:38

Yup definately cleaner, online shop, window cleaner, send shirts out for ironing, occassional gardener will take some of the pressure off. I dont know how old the kids are but a few extra hours childcare somewhere?
For about £150-200 per month you will be able to buy some time.
You then need to draw up the rest of the chores and split them - depending on age of kids no reason why they cant dust, put a wash on, empty dishwasher every morning.
It will be hard though for your husband to wind down his hours - could you have an agreement that two nights a week (eother agreed in advance weekly or the same two days every week) he is home early and does dinner/does some housework/you go out.

I say all this but I am currently a SAhM and probably going to be is your position in about 5 years time when I will go back to retrain/work! grin

Annarose2014 Fri 15-Aug-14 12:49:21

And I'll be blunt - if you absolutely refuse to hire any help at all, and you refuse to countenance any reduction in these immense chores.......

Then you have already made your decision. One of you will have to be a martyr to the housework ahead of your personal dreams. Its that simple a choice.

kaykayblue Fri 15-Aug-14 12:50:16

there is absolutely nothing wrong in you wanting to have your own life outside of the home, and your own career.

This isn't the 1950's - you've clearly done your share of the stay at home lark, and you haven't enjoyed it. Your husband should be supporting you in achieving a fulfilling life outside of the house.

He has had it easy for a long time - yes he has worked long hours, but from the sounds of it, he has done that at least in part because he WANTS to - he enjoys the kudos of being the "hard worker" in the office, and the fact that he has the opportunity to "prove himself" as something other than a husband and father. He has only been able to do that because you have stayed at home and taken on the wholly less glamorous side of things.

It is bound to be a difficult adjustment period, but it sounds like an essential one. You should not give up on your own sense of self fulfilment just so your husband can continue to have an easy life.

I don't see anything wrong in being a SAHM, although having complete financial dependence on another person is not something that I could personally recommend to someone. Sometimes it works for a family, and the person staying at home is content and fulfilled, and there is no resentment between the earner and the carer. But I think in all honesty it is quite rare for the long term.

WaffleWiffle Fri 15-Aug-14 12:53:29

Thousands and thousands of families have both parents who work full time, often in demanding jobs. Or indeed single parents who have demanding careers and no one to share the chores with.

They all cope.

Returning to work after being a SAHM is hard in itself, there will be doubts and worries. But you and your husband can work it out.

Lowering your standards/expectations of domestic life needs to happen, or you get paid help (cleaner/housekeeper/ironing help etc), or you just all accept the extra work involved in family life.

CookieDoughKid Fri 15-Aug-14 13:00:16

My husband and dh work in excess of 40hours a week and we have two toddler dcs. We have a live in Aupair, gardener, cleaner. We outsource home help because otherwise, we would never spend anytime as a family. That was the only way I can work full time. Instead of it being a power play over domestics, just come up with practical solutions. My cleaner costs £10an hour and she is worth every penny. And I'm in the south east!

CookieDoughKid Fri 15-Aug-14 13:01:39

And you don't have to lower your standards. I'm extremely house proud. It can all be achieved! Be positive!

Miggsie Fri 15-Aug-14 13:06:50

DH and I both work - we have a cleaner and a window cleaner and DH irons his own shirts.

We both cook and do the dishwasher loading.

If you try to have 2 people in full time work and try to have the same standards as a SAHM in house cleanliness you're onto a loser.

I know instantly which of DD's friends mothers work and which are SAHM as soon as I walk in their houses and see the level of tidiness and evidence of dusting etc.
One SAHM has an immaculate house - because she has time to hoover 3 times a day. But really she's just filling her time. No one needs this level of hoovering. There are better things to do.

Cakebaker35 Fri 15-Aug-14 13:15:25

I'm interested in the bit where you talk about being a people pleaser and want to prove to others you can do it, didn't like being judged as a sahm etc. That's the first thing to shake off - if you want to return to work then great but only do it for you, not to prove anything to anyone. Same as being a sahm, if you want to then great but do it for your own reasons. Whichever route you choose, unfortunately there will always be people who judge you for your choices. So whatever you do, it must be for you and forget what others think.

And if you do go back to work, as others have said you need a cleaner or some help at home, and your dh must seriously address those unpaid hours which I think is a slightly different issue. Many of us have fallen into the trap of doing long hours for nothing because it's 'expected' only to find if you stop then the world doesn't stop revolving.

jonnyappleseed Fri 15-Aug-14 13:17:45

The cleaner comes x 2 a week and irons too. The kids have to empty the dishwasher, put their laundry in the right place, clean their own shoes occasionally. We get takeaway and ready meals a little more often than we used to. I have too much school uniform to cope with never running out. The weeding doesn't happen very often. School costumes get bought off Amazon... We don't fight about housework!

You need to find your own coping strategies and prioritise family time at the weekend.

CookieDoughKid Fri 15-Aug-14 13:19:09

I work and also the breadwinner and people are just as judgy. Can't win whatever you do!

heyday Fri 15-Aug-14 13:38:02

You have been a SAHM, you are resentful of that, partly because of other people's reaction to that and partly because you believe that your husband has had it so easy because you have been doing everything at home.
It's not a competition. You could not have managed without his income and he would not have been able to work so hard whilst caring for a family.
It's been a partnership even if neither of you value or accept that partnership.
It's time for you to either go back to work and in which case your life, as it is now, will change or you continue to stay at home and stop feeling so resentful.
I think you may be one of these women who is somewhat obsessed by housework: cupboards, walls, windows all have to be cleaned far in excess to what most people would consider to be normal. I presume that is why you will not consider a cleaner. Nobody will ever get the house clean enough by your standards.
You need to sort out where you are going. You seem to be putting excessive pressure on OH to do more just so he will finally appreciate you. If he has a breakdown your life will change beyond description.
Firstly, work out if you really want to return to work. If you do then you have to find ways to facilitate this but you need to also accept that you will have to make changes and compromises.

melissa83 Fri 15-Aug-14 13:38:22

I agree with annarose. We both work full time + and are very rarely doing chores in the evenings or weekends.

TheWordFactory Fri 15-Aug-14 13:42:41

OP, my DH loves his job and has committed a lot of time and energy to it. Yes, we reap the rewards, but he doesn't do it for us. He was doing it before we got toegther and he is ruthlessly ambitious.

When we had DC, he realised very quickly that he couldn't do his job, spend time with the family and do his share of the chores.

He knew full well that it would be unfair to expect me to do his share just because my work hours were shorter and more flexible.

So we bought in help. A lot of help.

What other solution is there?

melissa83 Fri 15-Aug-14 13:45:11

I dont understand what takes hours of help. If your both at work even with numerous children there is hardly anything at home to do. Well thats what I find anyway as long as you hoover, wash up, do a load of washing a day thats practically job done.

tribpot Fri 15-Aug-14 13:54:21

Surely the leg work he's put in through years of focusing on his career to the exclusion of all else has moved him to a position where he is better able to negotiate with his employer on work-life balance? Sure, that may come at a cost, as it does for all of us (and I say that as someone who has always been the main breadwinner for my family - still compromised significantly to accommodate their needs, as have many of the men I work alongside).

Will it compromise on his future promotion prospects? Well, he's had [x] years to push as hard as he wanted to, now he has to compromise. Welcome to the world.

Don't feel you need to sideline your ambition to make life easier for others. He clearly appreciates that there is more work between you than can be managed without compromise, and also recognises the need to compromise falls to him. Agree with him - he's right!

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