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Please come and help me with your wise and considered thoughts on going from being two full-time WOHP to one full-time WOHM and one SAHD. There has been a marked increase in shouting and flouncing (almost entirely me) in the Issy household.

(35 Posts)
Issy Mon 15-Sep-08 12:47:30

In April DH retired (on medical grounds) from work, having always worked full-time in a stressful and responsible role. We suspected back then that there would be a honeymoon period followed by a tough adjustment as we went from two shoulder-to-shoulder, corporate-warrior, grumpy, tired, distracted parents to only one of the above and one parent who could focus thoughtfully and calmly on the children. The tough bit appears to have begun.

Just by way of background, DH's disability means that, although entirely independent and an extremely effective parent and house-manager, he can't really do the cleaning, laundry, cooking etc. and we have an au pair couple to do that. DH is nevertheless very busy, not least because he spends a very necessary four mornings a week at the gym/physiotherapy.

The benefits of this new modus vivendi for everyone - DH, the DDs, the au pairs, even the cat - are obvious. Most importantly DH's general health has improved enormously and we have even seen some improvement in his disability. Collaterally, the DDs clearly needed the extra attention that DH can now give them, the au pairs feel that they have joined a warm and vibrant family rather than a precarious military exercise and our cat enjoys the company. So everybody is happier .... except me. I've actually started to resent the thought of having to do my stimulating, well-paid, autonomous job for the next umpteen years; I'm infuriated when DH fails to master a piece of household or child-related administration and quietly distraught when he does; DH has morphed into Tanya Byron and is being a little <<gasp>> judgey about my battling-with-jet-lag-and-guilt style of parenting and, worst of all, sometimes when I come home I no longer feel like the cavalry but an inconvenient by-stander.

This is not a piece of DH-bashing. He is an exceptionally intelligent, sensitive and considerate man who is utterly committed to me and the DDs and is already close to achieving uber-husband and parent status. However, as DH has very justly observed, whether he is wilfully incompetent or trouncing the yummy mummies, I'm unhappy and he can't win.

WideWebWitch Mon 15-Sep-08 12:50:32

I think it's a tough one Issy. What is at the heart of your unhappiness? Is it that there is no longer and element of choice or something else? Tell us more. (btw, recently looked for your fantasising about being a sahm thread to resurrect it and didn't find it so started one of my own!)

WideWebWitch Mon 15-Sep-08 12:53:50

it's here, although I don't think I had exactly the same problem some interesting thoguhts on it

EffiePerine Mon 15-Sep-08 12:58:03

I have come to the conclusion that there is no ideal way to juggle family and work without stress. DH and I both work 4 days a week, both do one day's childcare (CM 3 days) and we still bicker about who does what, parenting styles and all the rest of it. Not sure what to advise other than to keep talking . Oh and enjoy the benefits from going out to work - DH works from home and after and initial 'thank God I don't have to go into the office' period rather resents my luxuries like a bus journey listening to my iPod hmm.

Issy Mon 15-Sep-08 12:58:09

Hi WWW! I think it's probably several things: 1. Losing the sense of camaraderie with DH around work. He has bent over backwards to understand what I do and will listen patiently as I drone on about corporate politics. Something he would never have done before. But it's not the same as being 'in there' with me. Also, his retirement, has made a life without work very real. Not that I would willingly embrace his medical condition so that I didn't have to schlepp to the office. 2. I'm no longer the lynch-pin of the family. DH used to say that when I went on a business trip it felt as if family life 'went on hold'. When I returned from New York last week, life had very clearly progressed quite nicely without me. 3. DH is a better parent than me. When he too was drained and stressed by work, I think we were level-pegging. In fact, I might even have been more patient and consistent. No more. And however hard I try, I'm clearly not as connected to the DDs as he now is.

OrmIrian Mon 15-Sep-08 12:58:37

Ha! Issy, snap! OK I am still only working full-time and DH is still working albeit only part-time but I will be full-time soon and DH will be doing much of the childcare. He has started having a go at me for the way I do things - mornings are a bit chaotic but we get there in the end - DH is so ratty with everyone and he keeps saying things like 'I don't know why you do X this way. FGS, it's so disorganised' and he's really irritable with me.And he still fails to remember things that need doing, and tuts when I remind him hmm I am quite looking forward to shedding the load but not if, as well as the reduction in income, we have a vile-tempered intolerant DH round the place.

And I also resent the idea that I am the main earner by such a huge margin. Always have earned more but not that much. It's quite panic-making.

EffiePerine Mon 15-Sep-08 12:59:47

Doesn;t the 'better parent' thing switch though? DH is better than me at some things but I am better at others...

(plus DS likes me best at the moment - most of the time - but he is a boy. I imagine DDs are tricky in this regard)

Soapbox Mon 15-Sep-08 13:00:19

Issy - you are articulating everything I believe is true, about the strain that being a sole breadwinner has on that person.

It is an incredible responsibility. To look forward over the years and see that this is it! No dreams of giving it all up, especially when you've had the day from hell. No way out of it!

As a family we have made no where near the change that your family has, but even with a reduced role (70%) I can feel DH at times being resentful! Especially over the school holidays where I had a few more weeks off than he had. He loves being with the children too and to see and hear of all the fun we were having, whilst he was battling it out in the office, is grating at best, infuriating at worst.

We worked hard at involving him where we could - I kept the children up later in the evening than usual so that we could go swimming or to the cinema in the evening when he got home from work, or sometimes just playing in the garden. Waiting to eat together in the evening rather than giving the children tea at 5pm as usual, also helped. Of course, our children being a bit older than your's are helps with all of this.

It sounds as if everyone else is pretty much sorted in the new arrangements - so perhaps now it is time for a sit down with your DH to agree how things might work better for you?

cmotdibbler Mon 15-Sep-08 13:02:28

Its kind of one of those womanly issues isn't it though ? The baby comes out with guilt in its hand ?

And to some extent, it must feel like this to male partners of SAHMs, that the home doesn't really 'need' them, but that since their partners job is running the home, when they don't fulfill their objectives they are infuriated. Not for more reason really, than they have to go out and leave the children and work for someone, bear the financial stress of ensuring an income for everyone, and still think about all the other things.

And it DH was home, I'd def to some extent, resent doing my (fab, much loved, interesting and exciting)job. I'm not cut out to be a SAHM in anyway, but I do feel a little guilty about that, and if he did a great job of being a SAHD, it would prob make that far worse.

Sympathy on the jetlag parenting too - before DS I'd come back from long haul and crash, now I come home and hit the ground running in an effort to atone for being away.

Sparkletastic Mon 15-Sep-08 13:07:27

They are your beloved DDs but they have also become DH's 'job' now in a more real sense - one that he is clearly good at. Distance yourself slightly from the situation and appreciate that you are equally good at your paid job. Congratulate yourself on your success and do the same for DH. You sound like you enjoy your job BUT you don't have to do it for the next 'umpteen' years - you can choose to do something else - it is not a life sentence. You sound like a wise woman and your DH sounds like a good man - give yourself a break and allow yourself some negative feelings whilst you adjust to this huge life change then say 'enough', give yourself a mental kick up the arse and focus on enjoying the positives OR come up with a new plan for earning a living that gives you more time at home.

OrmIrian Mon 15-Sep-08 13:09:03

And I agree that you are allowed an adjustment period. As sparkletastic says.

citronella Mon 15-Sep-08 13:10:57

It didn't work for me (among other things). I think this can maybe work for a short defined period of time but long term I think resentments, disappointments and lack of respect builds up.
It might work for you though wink

WideWebWitch Mon 15-Sep-08 13:29:13

Issy if you ask yourself the question "what would make this better/me happy?" do you know what the answer is?

I agree, being the main breadwinner is v stressful.

Issy Mon 15-Sep-08 13:42:29

That's a good positive way to think about it WWW. Hmmm. I think it's some of the things that Soapbox mentioned. I need to acknowledge and accept the immutable (I work, he stays at home; I go to New York, he goes to Lower Transition Assembly) and shape a more definite domestic role for myself that leaves me feeling involved but doesn't undermine DH. Anchovy's 'bang for your buck' philosophy is helpful here. Find the few things that make a real difference and go for them.

TheFallenMadonna Mon 15-Sep-08 13:49:24

I think that is spot on Issy. You need a niche.

We shall be going in the opposite direction from November (although not as high powered for me - no jet lag!) and I anticipate some considerable re-adjustment too.

WideWebWitch Mon 15-Sep-08 13:50:42

Issy, could you also identify the things that you find hardest about WOTH and see if you can change some of them? For me it's not seeing the children much + no time to talk to dh so having a day from home (as I have had the past few months) has helped and has meant I have often been able to work from home on the days when there's a meeting with the teacher etc. I know you won't always be able to do it/make the events that you want to make but I feel as though I've seen more of my children since I started this arrangment. And I've tried to go out with dh more often as we haven't been very good about it recently.

Issy Mon 15-Sep-08 13:55:45

WWW: I actually work two days a week from home already blush. But if I do venture from my home office to the kitchen when the girls are there, with potentially DH and two aupairs already in attendance, I really am surplus to requirements. I realise now that if I want to get involved after-school I need to have a clear role e.g. the girls take it in turns to spend one-on-one time with me, reading a story, doing their homework etc.

Anchovy Mon 15-Sep-08 14:01:42

Hi Issy.

Firstly, I think you are very self-aware, and I think that is a good thing. I think if you can recognise the way things are affecting you you can look at how to change your response.

I think this is all about you. The DCs are happy, DH sounds happy, hell the gloomy au pairs are happy. What I would be thinking about if it were me:

1. Am I a bit miffed that everything can function really well without me being the controller of it? (the answer would be "yes" in my case). I think that falls into the category of something I would have to acknowledge and suck it up.

2. Am I a bit scared that I am the sole breadwinner and everyone's financial happiness and security depends on me (again, for me, I think the answer would be "yes" - v scary idea). Again, I think I would have to acknowledge that it is scary and it is not wet to recognise it.

3. Am I scared that this is going to change the whole dynamic between me and DH (again, the answer would be "yes" as like you our whole relationship is built up on us doing the same things shoulder to shoulder. However counter-intuitive it may feel, I think I would need to revisit my relationship with DH to ensure it can "work" in a different way. And that would be hard and my relationship with DH is something that I am very lazy about, frankly, but I do think it actually would need me meeting it head on, and not just reacting to the new situation.

Also, I think that I would acknowledge that it might look quite different in 6-9 months, and then different againt in 2-3 years as the girls ages change and their needs and closeness changed - don't see this as a stable position but as a different but fluid position.

HonoriaGlossop Mon 15-Sep-08 14:20:29

I don't think you should ever think of yourself as surplus to requirements. You're not. You are the only mother they will ever have and your presence, even if only mooching about at lunchtime with DH and aupairs, is never going to be surplus to requirements. I agree that having a clear role like the reading or whatever will probably make YOU feel better and will be nice, but TBH just being there is valuable too, for your kids, IMHO and I don't think you should undervalue that aspect of it.

mistlethrush Mon 15-Sep-08 14:31:05

Don't forget - its dh's 'job' now (plus APs) to make it work when the girls are there - however, when you're working from home, wouldn't it be possible to have, for instance, lunch together - 30mins that you set aside - which you need to schedule and ensure that you can be there and that they will be there? And then studiously talk about what they've been doing, not work (would probably be a good break from stressful work and leave you in a better form for the afternoon's session) - if it was a determined time and they were expecting to see you, I would imagine that you would feel more as if there was a 'slot' for you.

I also think that you might discuss what role you want/need to play with your dh - so that there is a distinct role there for you whenever you are there. Otherwise I imagine that things will continue to work as they do when you're not there - which is the 'routine' unless everyone knows different. Eg you could suggest that, when you are at home, you would like to do reading with the girls at ... or whatever will suit you as a family.

Porpoise Mon 15-Sep-08 14:39:59

Issy, your posts make me smile in sympathy.

My situation is not the same as yours but has similarities. dh and I are both self-employed and share the childcare. Sometimes, I am working more and he is 'childcaring' more; sometimes vice versa.

When ds3 was about six months, dh was finding it hard to get work so I took a very full-on contract for a while. And I was surprised and shocked at how powerful my reactions/feelings became as dh became more and more central to the kids' daily lives and I became less so.

It took me ages to adjust. And to get my head round the fact that, for the kids, the 'being there at the beginning and end of the day' bit is quite different than the 'being present' bit BUT it's not less important.

SixSpotBurnet Mon 15-Sep-08 14:42:55

Issy, as you know I have been the WOHP while DH has been the SAHP since DS1 was 16 weeks old (ie nearly nine years now) and it is tough. It will be a big period of readjustment for you all.

You and DH will gradually get more comfortable with your changed roles. I suppose I have dealt with it by adopting what I imagine is often largely the "dad" role. It's me who has taught DS1 and DS2 to ride their bikes. It's almost always me who takes charge of our weekend outings and usually I take them out on my own, without DH. I also do things with them at weekends that DH is not a part of, such as going to church. In that way I feel I have carved out a big role for myself in their lives which doesn't revolve around cooking their tea and remember who has PE on which day (which, let's face it, is the dull stuff!).

Issy Mon 15-Sep-08 16:45:47

Thank you everyone. This is just what I needed - support, sympathy and a soupcon of trenchant advice. There is so much to think about here, I'm going to come back to this tomorrow (work is interrupting Mnet again with pesky deadlines and conference calls). I'm also going to talk to DH this evening - a bit of an imperative after the early morning flounce that inspired this thread!

PS. Anchovy: Gloomy au pairs have finished their year and returned home to be replaced by new au pairs who are so cheerfully efficient it would make take the edge off Mary Poppins' self-esteem.

Mercy Mon 15-Sep-08 17:01:23

I don't have any experience of your situation but I completely agree with Sixpot's post.

My mum was the breadwinner when I was a child and she did pretty much as Sixpot does. We loved having her all to ourselves at the weekends.

And of course you will never be surplus to requirements, you're Mum!

Sycamoretree Mon 15-Sep-08 17:03:34

Hi Issy, I'm in a similar situation, though we are a year down the road now with DH being a SAHD and me feeling cuffed to the big wage earning, coronary inducing job I find less and less appealing as the years go on. Our hand was also forced a little - but in completely different circumstances.

I've learned to let go. No, DH never did get a nice little social calendar going with the LO's. No, he didn't keep up the toddler groups - didn't keep up friendships with other mums that our nanny had made (and that we had continued on weekends etc). No, he generally opted out of the whole circuit SAHM's round here generally inhabit.

Instead, he beat his own path - with very little respect to daily routine, but with I suppose, an eye on what the kids and he would find most fun to do of a day. They help him in the garden, they help him with household chores. They go off to animal parks, they build impresive lego cities, but mostly, they are all pretty content and a lot happier than when we were both working.

As working mums, we tend to feel a bit of resentment because secretly or not so secretly, we want it all ways. I get so mad at DH if he dismisses a temperature or a rash, when I'm always straight down the GP. I want him to behave like a Nanny would - call me with ANY issue and allow me, the parent to decide course of action. Except he's NOT their nanny, he's their dad, and he's doing a great job really. He's cheap and reliable! I'm learning/have learnt to sup it up. You'll get there too - I promise. But it takes some readjusting! smile

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