Musings from outside the mainstream.
STAY-AT-HOME MOM writes DEAR ABBY saying that she has been married to her husband for nine years and then quit three years ago to care for their two small children. There is some tension in the home regarding how much she spends and he says some pretty knuckled-headed things such as, “What do I get?” She feels degraded and asks, “Why does he do this to me?”
DEAR ABBY states he might feel “stressed or resentful” now that he’s the sole wage earner. And that STAY-AT-HOME MOM should respond to this by pointing out that his offspring “have a mother rather than a caregiver raising” his children.
Dear Abby’s advice to “STAY-AT-HOME MOM” misses a major point:
When roles shift and one parent becomes a primary domestic while the other remains the sole breadwinner, it’s not simply about taking care of the kids. The primary domestic cares for the entire home. A humungous aspect of this is managing a household budget. (See my column on the new vernacular for parenting.)
Our generation is not good about talking about finances and budgets with our partners. Plus, the parent who goes into the home often continues to spend as if they are still earning or single, which doesn’t mean they are being wasteful. However, an adjustment must be made by both parties to be sensitive to this change. In short, they must communicate and consult each other more often about money so one doesn’t feel like a wallet and the other doesn’t feel a lack of trust.
My guess is that they didn’t really discuss how roles would shift and he’s unable to articulate as to what he feels now that the relationship has changed. What does he get out of being a sole provider is a fair question if his concerns aren’t being addressed. She indicated that she’s frugal, but are there other issues in the home? I’ve heard of many, and witnessed a few marriages where the woman suddenly felt called to be in the home, and the change was kind of sprung on the guy.
Too many of today’s moms who wish to stay at home forget that the role they are attempting used to mean attending to children, home and husband. That means having good boundaries with your children so you’re not wore out at the end of the day. That might mean having a clean home, dinner ready at a reasonable time and having some energy left over at the end of her day for her husband. Are you providing this?
The guy is obviously blundering in how he is expressing himself. And, I’m not letting him off the hook if he’s just being controlling or passive-aggressive. He should use “I Statements,” not the childish “What’s in it for me?” Also, being the sole breadwinner does not mean there aren’t domestic responsibilities. He has to be able to shift gears from work and join the home in progress by taking the kids off her hands or doing some chores as well.
And finally, a primary domestic without an income should have discretionary income provided and they should not have to answer for how they spend it to anyone. And the sole breadwinner should have a similar amount with the same rules, but they should not have any more free license to spend joint funds, just because they “earn” it.
For the sole breadwinner/primary domestic relationship to work, both need to be communicating about budgets, goals and values to each other, and spend the bulk of the money with a shared vision. This has been lost and is a major problem in modern relationships.