He wants me to work. I want to make babies and joy. Can it blend?
May 29, 2014 8:43 AM   Subscribe

My husband just told me that having an ambitious, driven wife is really important to him. I have worked like a dog all my life and now that my baby clock is ticking, I was looking forward to stopping and having children and focusing on a household. Is there any way to make us both happy?

We talked a little bit about this before we were married, but only in generalities. He said that he really liked how hard I went after things I wanted, but didn't specify he meant "careerwise." I said that having and raising children was very important to me, but didn't specify that I wanted to stop working in order to be a part of their early lives. I should state that between the two of us, we make OK money even if I were to leave my fulltime work and take a part-time or no job.

His marriage model - how his parents and the couples he knows and his ideal marriage would work - is of two working parents who both work until they retire together. My marriage model - the one my parents and the couples I know and my ideal marriage would work - is of two people who both work until it's child time, at which point the wife stops working fulltime and raises the kids, going back to work part time or fulltime once the kids are in school.

What to do? I'm getting resentful of what feels like him putting off my childbearing and not valuing it as work, and he's getting resentful about how I don't seem hardworking or want to improve my employment.
posted by sockmeamadeus to Human Relations (71 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Erg. If you can elaborate, how long have you been married? How long have you been working full-time? And what's your approx age (mid-20's? early 30's?)?
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you had a serious conversation about this recently? I'm reading a lot of assumptions based on conversations from awhile ago, but it's unclear if he's actually against the idea of you leaving the workforce once you give birth (which could be in awhile- pregnancy is long, after all, and you don't necessarily get pregnant right away).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I said that having and raising children was very important to me, but didn't specify that I wanted to stop working in order to be a part of their early lives.

Maybe you need to specify this. Why does he think that taking time to raise your kids when they are young is not "ambitious" or "driven?" It takes courage for a career-driven person to give that up to raise kids. It's not all roses and bonbons and soap operas. Is that his impression?
posted by cabingirl at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2014 [14 favorites]

This is probably something that you should have discussed before getting married. It could mean that your husband (at this point and time) does not consider the mother figure to be sexually attractive. He could also be worried about money and maintaining your standard of living, or even being able to retire. He may also resent being forced to work.

So you need to figure out why he is saying what he is saying.

That said, your biological drive is going to trump any and all arguments. It's a force of nature that no amount of talking is going to be able to tame.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:52 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is this about ideals, or about money? Could he be couching all this about loving how driven you are, when he's really concerned about the lifestyle you'll be able to have with only one breadwinner in the family? Furthermore, how are his career prospects? As someone who has a somewhat underpaid creative career, I'd start stressing out if my partner in a more lucrative field made noises about wanting to stay home with the kids.

I also would not really worry so much about this until it's all really happening. You may not actually get pregnant for a long time. You may feel up to working through most of your pregnancy. You may have a kid and decide you want to go back to work relatively soon, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 8:52 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

"ambitious, driven wife "
What does he mean exactly? Nobel prize winning research scientist? Top earning executive? NYT best selling author? Status, money, fame or some random combo of all three?
Because there are a lot of ambitious, driven mommies, who push their kids to excel.
Ok money doesn't go very far once you have kids. If he's got expectations that need two incomes--private schools, family vacations, college funds--you're going to need two incomes.
I think it's wise to have a serious talk about goals and plans, even if you're not "trying" for a baby right now. If you're in a career path that would be derailed by staying home with a baby, you might want investigate how to mitigate that--can you work at home, can you consult or freelance?
I got my dream job when I was 4 months pregnant, and nothing would have stopped me from going back to work--so my husband stayed with the baby.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:53 AM on May 29, 2014 [12 favorites]

Yeah, there are a lot of considerations you haven't mentioned, like: do you enjoy your work? Is it a kind of career where you can leave and then reenter later, or are you going to be seriously damaging your career by taking time off now? Why exactly is it so important for him that you work? Have you had an open discussion about why each of you see parenting in these ways?

It kind of seems like you've only considered the extremes -- full-time work for both or NO work for you. What if you worked part-time? What if you worked from home or found a job with flexible hours? What if HE cut back his hours as well?

It seems a little premature to jump to the hand-wringing "can this work? he's keeping me from having babies" thinking, when it sounds like you haven't even discussed any alternate arrangements. This is something you've got to talk through together, and be willing to compromise on.
posted by daisystomper at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm getting resentful of what feels like him putting off my childbearing and not valuing it as work

I think that's the rub - he doesn't view being a full-time parent as a job. He is 100% wrong about this, and I think his attitude on this will have to change in order for things to get better for you.
posted by jbickers at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2014 [28 favorites]

Are you sure he wants kids? Maybe this is his way of skirting around his lack of interest in babymaking right now?

You guys need to have a serious, DETAILED conversation where you both answer the following questions:
1. Do you want kids?
2. If yes, how soon do you want them?
3. How much maternity/paternity leave is a "good" amount?
4. When is the appropriate time for the parent(s) on leave to go back to work?
5. What are some ideas to handle (financially, emotionally) a possible scenario where the parent(s) on leave would rather be a full-time parent? How do we make that feasible both from a money and relationship perspective?
posted by joan_holloway at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2014 [10 favorites]

Good luck. Try to talk this through with him as others have said.

If between him working and your shared savings money is no problem then that is great for you.

If however money/standard of living, future prospects, etc are in question here is what I suggest.

Start living on just his income. Put all your earned money into savings. This will really show you how things would be going and also help you build up a bit of a nest egg.

As someone who has been in a relationship and suddenly have it unexpectedly drop to a single income family with a child, let me tell you, the stress abounds.
posted by PlutoniumX at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

What's his underlying rationale for this viewpoint? Is it so that the two people together can make more money in the long run, or so they have more things to talk about, or because, as someone mentioned above, he thinks raising kids is vacation time and it's unfair for only one person to be 'on vacation'?

I'm pretty clear on why you want to be home to raise kids, but not so clear on exactly what his values are other than that 'other people do it this way'.

It's helpful if you can really get at what his concerns are, and make sure that he really understands where you're coming from (he might not) in order to figure it out, and also to spell out in more concrete terms what you want (Three years? Five years?) and how you imagine rejoining the workforce (temp, part-time, full-time and picking up where you left off, etc.)

It sounds like the full conversation hasn't really taken place yet.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:57 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

In addition to talking to your husband, why not talk to a financial planner, together and separately? Getting someone else's perspective on "okay money" would probably be clarifying.

It's also worth having your own exit strategy. What happens, for instance, if you stop working and raise kids for seven or eight years and he decides he wants a divorce? How will such a serious break in your resume impact your ability to care for yourself and the kids? How will it impact your ability ever to retire? Hence a visit with a financial planner by yourself to discuss just these things. No one ever believes that they'll get divorced - and maybe you won't - but I have several woman friends who are raising children de facto by themselves because dad doesn't want to pay child support, and they are all broke as heck.
posted by Frowner at 9:02 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sorry for the lack of detail. We have only been married about two years, dated for a few years before that. We are in our early 30s. This is based on recent conversations and fights - he is not willing to try even accidentally for children (unprotected sex) while this is unresolved.

He has (what seems to me at least) a fairly lucrative career field, where he makes a lot of money now and can reasonably expect to be earning six figures in five-ten years. I work kind of a "keep on chugging" job, where it's maybe a lower-middle-class salary by itself but nothing special. In my field leaves of absence of five years are not insurmountable as long as you engage in some consulting or part-time work on the side, while maintaining your network.

His stated rationale for the viewpoint is largely about "fairness" - that it would't be fair for me to be not working while he was working. He enjoys the status and money of his job but does not seem to enjoy his actual job so much.

He also talks a lot very negatively about people who don't continue to work, even if it is not a fiscal problem - like people on disability or who retired early. He has stated that he has kind of a "Protestant work ethic", where if you are not working you are not a moral/good person.
posted by sockmeamadeus at 9:07 AM on May 29, 2014

I agree with others that from the way you phrased the question, it sounds like you haven't had an explicit conversation about family planning and that you're guessing what his feelings are based on comments he's made about your career that have not included the context of childrearing or pregnancy.

It sounds like: He said, "I am confused about why you are not pushing harder in your job." And you are taking this to mean, "I do not want you to have babies." But you have not said to him, "I am not pushing harder in my job because I want to leave it soon in order to raise our children." And so he has no idea that these two things are linked in your mind, and you are not allowing for the possibility that these things are not linked in his.

If that is the case, you absolutely need to have a conversation about these things -- careers AND babies -- with him. (Even if I'm misreading how the conversation has been going and you have in fact had a conversation in which you have explained that you are slowing down in your career because you want babies, you need to keep talking to him about that.)
posted by jaguar at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll also say that, from the way you phrase this question, you sound like you don't think being a stay at home parent is a full time job, yourself. I would be irritated, too, if my partner was already referring to leaving the workforce to parent our still hypothetical kids as "making babies and joy" and "I've worked like a dog all my life, and now that my baby clock is ticking...". You do sort of come off as someone who doesn't value hard work, and who sees childrearing as a vacation.

It might be easier to get him to come around if you talk more about the pragmatic side of all this, and also not sound too eager to quit your job right this second. I would also concentrate on the childrearing aspect of the whole thing rather than "keeping a home" and the like. I mean, someone is still going to have to vacuum and cook dinner regardless of who has gainful employment and whether you have children.
posted by Sara C. at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2014 [31 favorites]

His marriage model is of both his parents worked until they retired. Have you talked to his mom about that? Did she take time off or down-shift her career to give birth/raise him? Did he go to daycare/nannies right away? How does she feel about her choices and would she make different one? It is amazing how many guys I know that say "my mom never stopped working to have kids" but then when you talk to their mothers it turns out they took one or five years off and the men simply don't remember - they are extrapolating from their teen memories of their mom.

Look at this as a shared goal, you want to take time off, how much do both of you need to save in order to make that a reality? When it comes to child rearing how do his friends with two working parents and children structure their lives (do you even see them in the first couple years of the baby?) Do those couples have resources (family, money) that you don't that make both parents working a good solution FOR THEM?

On preview - having babies is a vacation? Sounds kinda close to thinking you are being a gold-digger too - eating bon-bons on the couch like Peggy Bundy. I think you guys need to talk to a third party because that is a pretty disrespectful viewpoint and he is not going to believe a word you say about it. He would probably respond better to a man telling him how the real world works and not his delusional thinking (at least you know that in his world view, forget "in sickness and health", if he has a stroke and can't make the money you can just toss him aside and get yourself someone with a "Protestant Work Ethic" that will drag themselves out of the hospital to work.)
posted by saucysault at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2014 [13 favorites]

On your update: If he sees staying home with children full-time as "not working," that's a problem. But it's also a problem if you assume that he has to keep working at a job he doesn't like. You both need to open up the options, here.
posted by jaguar at 9:13 AM on May 29, 2014 [13 favorites]

His stated rationale for the viewpoint is largely about "fairness" - that it would't be fair for me to be not working while he was working.

That's not a rationale, it's a complete misapprehension of what it is that stay-at-home parents do during the day while the other parent is at "work". A good place to start figuring out what's what is disabusing him of the notion that raising small children is some sort of vacation for you. Protestant Work Ethic or not, the very concept of "work" is defined by the effort, not the compensation.
posted by griphus at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2014 [27 favorites]

His stated rationale for the viewpoint is largely about "fairness" - that it would't be fair for me to be not working while he was working.

He needs to come to Jesus about what bearing and rearing small children is all about. It may well be unpaid. It is work! It is a 24/7/365 job, and if he views raising kids as "not working" then he can explain why people spend tens of thousands of dollars every year for other people to care for their kids when they go back to work.
posted by ambrosia at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2014 [23 favorites]

"it would't be fair for me to be not working while he was working" is a HUGE RED FLAG that says this man knows sweet FA about child rearing. Even if you did stay home, it sounds like he'd take a back-seat in parenting because he'd see that as "your job" and I would not want to have children that way.

Moving on, if you earn a "lower-middle-class salary" you might want to have a preliminary conversation about how many kids, how far apart, and cared for in what way -- day care? nanny? -- he would prefer. As phase two of that conversation, I'd gather the costs for that. The costs of two children full time in daycare often add up to more than a lower-middle-class salary.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:16 AM on May 29, 2014 [47 favorites]

OK. Ask him why it's legit to pay someone else to do the work of childcare in a daycare setting, but it suddenly isn't work at all if you're doing it for your own family.

...But seriously, this sounds suspiciously like the kind of dealbreaker you should have worked out before you got married.

There is hope. There are compromise positions. I do a ton of freelance and independent work in a media career, for example. So I'm bringing some money home, but at the same time I'm there when the kid pops a fever at school, to haul the kids to dance lessons, and so on. You get a lot of the advantages of both kinds of life that way.

The trade-offs for my being able to do that, though, are that I don't bring in as much money as I would in a full-time job, and my husband knows he has to step up and take time off or take over more child and house duties when I have to fly to another city for meetings or conferences or what have you, or when a deadline pops unexpectedly. Still, it's increasingly possible to get the best of both worlds, depending on what kind of work you do.
posted by Andrhia at 9:20 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

All I'll say is that my ex-fiancé was like this, and I now have two kids and am a single mom and in retrospect I would see this (stay home moms being "on vacation" and lazy) as a ginormous flashing red sign for my uterus to pack it's suitcases and run for the damn hills away from this person. Even if I were working full-time. It's a gross attitude.
posted by celtalitha at 9:23 AM on May 29, 2014 [49 favorites]

Have you discussed the possibility of him staying home to parent? It seems like that would solve the problem - he gets the "vacation" and someone is always home with the baby. It's also exactly as fair as you doing the same, so it should work all around.
posted by Willie0248 at 9:25 AM on May 29, 2014 [18 favorites]

First, I'm sorry--getting told that pursuing the path you really want to pursue in life would mean you're not ambitious / lazy / not a hard worker does not sound like fun.

This is a serious issue, and you both need to take it seriously. That means: you can't just try for a baby "accidentally" by having unprotected sex; he can't just refuse to have kids until you agree to his preference. Instead, you have a very respectful conversation where you each try as hard as you possibly can to explain your feelings but also to see the other person's point of view, and then to figure out what you two can do that works for both of you, given that you disagree. Then, after some time to reassure each other you love each other and are going to solve this together, you have another conversation. Then you have another one. If he remains focused on what's "fair" you may want to involve a marriage counselor.

And maybe he should talk to some full-time mothers, and maybe you should talk to some working mothers. It's always helpful to have more respect for people who make different choices than you would. I mean, you might stop working and find you hate it and really miss working and want to go back to full-time work. Or you might work full-time and he might find he can't take the time away from his job to help deal with unexpected parenting responsibilities and would really prefer that you work part-time to deal with these things. Life is long. Just make sure to be extra kind to each other in the meantime.
posted by _Silky_ at 9:26 AM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

There is also a middle-ground option to both of your marriage models, which is something like:

*One of you works out of the home
*The other of you works from home part-time doing free lance with part-time daycare for kids when necessary

I know a very successful, driven woman who does just this. Her five year old is about to go into kindergarten, and her youngest is mostly at home with her, except for a part-time preschool. And she manages to work -- sometimes she has to put in an 8 hour day at the computer on Saturday while her husband has the kids, but she does well for herself.

I'm not going to say that that's right for your situation, but depending on your field and/or what you want to do, it's something else to consider.
posted by zizzle at 9:28 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another thought: Raising a child is definitely work. Lots of work. Fun work, boring work, hard work. But it isn't a career. You don't get promotions, you don't get raises, you don't really get public recognition. With few exceptions you can't be a "professional mom" because your skills and understanding of being a mom are only applicable to your particular child(ren). You can work extra hard to make it fun and creative, you can build community with other moms, but at the end of the day, a large number of people will write you off as negligable, because you aren't "ambitious" in the traditional sense.

So to people who haven't thought about it, full-time parenting looks like not working, because it's not a career. But...if your child were in day care, you would pay someone to do the WORK of watching them. So it's the loss of career status maybe that bothers your husband. It's less prestigious to be a full-time parent. Maybe to him it only counts as work if you're making as much money as possible. Maybe he's never thought about how life works without career being at the center of it. (If he's an engineer or doctor or lawyer, then he's been immersed 24/7 in training for and thinking about his career for years!)

But he's wrong about parenting not being work. And he's wrong to frame it in terms of "fairness." If he's so concerned with work and fairness, does it bother him that he makes more money than you? Is he not aware that marriage is pretty much about working around the unfairness of life and circumstances? It will never be about what's "fair", but about what works best for both of you (eventually, all three or more of you) under the circumstances.
posted by daisystomper at 9:30 AM on May 29, 2014 [10 favorites]

I agree that his current idea of "fairness" is based on a total misunderstanding of the labor involved in childrearing and, perhaps even more to the point, the costs of daycare. If you have a modest salary, it may well be eaten up by good daycare if you have more than one kid. Daycare also lasts longer than you think; kindergarten in your area may be half-day and grade school days end much earlier than a typical workday does.
posted by kalapierson at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nth'ing that raising kids is work, and that if you don't do it yourself you're going to have to pay someone else to do it, i.e. daycare, nanny. Just like cooking is work, and you can do it yourself or outsource it (restaurant, takeout).

Have you looked into what daycare costs in your area, and how that compares to your salary?

He troubles me that your husband views this as a question of what's "fair" for him vis a vis you, instead of what makes the most sense for your household. If the issue is that he's unhappy in his current job but feels "stuck" because he's the primary breadwinner, and would feel even more stuck if you were to stay at home, then that should be part of the conversation, too. Dad being miserable at work and wishing he had more time with his kids would also not be good for the household.
posted by Asparagus at 9:32 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

"He has stated that he has kind of a "Protestant work ethic", where if you are not working you are not a moral/good person."

Oh, well, he's in luck, then: taking care of a little kid is something like 80 hours a week of work, so you guys will be going from 40 + 40 hours of work between the two of you to 40 + 80 = 120, for a 50% increase in morality/goodness!

(Figure the kid sleeps 12 hours a day and needs attention the other 12, that's 12 * 7 = 84 hours a week. OK, so maybe the younger ones sleep a little more and the older ones can entertain themselves a bit, and even when they need your attention they don't necessarily always need 100% of it, etc., etc. So, yay, you still may have energy to make meals.)
posted by bfields at 9:36 AM on May 29, 2014 [12 favorites]

He sounds selfish about this, but on the other hand, he's not actually preventing you from having a kid--he just wants you to also work outside the home, which a lot of mothers (most, in fact) do while still gleaning many of the myriad benefits of motherhood.

Honestly, you sound financially naive as well about how significant it is to be relying on one not-even-6-figure salary to cover you and kids. Either you're in a low COL area, which means that there aren't very many jobs to go around and if he loses his you might be looking at months to find another one, or you live in a moderate-to-high COL area and supporting 4 people on less than 6 figures is not "easy", it's stressful and tight. He also probably suspects that you're counting on that 6 figure job and never want to work again, even after the kids are elementary-school age.

In terms of him not wanting to be the only person who "works", yes, obviously childcare is work (I'm a nanny and have been a stay-at-home mother). However, perhaps what he means is that he doesn't want the responsibility of being the only person who contributes financially. It is a huge responsibility and brings a lot of stress with it.

And having sex without protection is not "accidentally" trying for children. It's pretty much what trying to have children means. He's not a mean meanie for wanting to make sure you're on the same page before you start trying to get pregnant. If I were him I would be irritated beyond measure by your attempt to convince me to forgo birth control by this kind of hand-wavey "but we really wouldn't be trying" kind of thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2014 [67 favorites]

I think you need to take into account that being the sole breadwinner is rough no matter how you slice it. If the shoe were on the other foot, how would you feel? Back in the day when I had a spouse, and they worked too, it felt like a group effort. When the spouse's joblessness hit and I was the only one that left the house every day, even though I loved my job, and we had enough money,it was rough.
posted by PJMoore at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

He has (what seems to me at least) a fairly lucrative career field, where he makes a lot of money now and can reasonably expect to be earning six figures in five-ten years. I work kind of a "keep on chugging" job, where it's maybe a lower-middle-class salary by itself but nothing special

I don't think you can use that as an excuse not to work, if your husband doesn't see being a SAHM as an equal contribution.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:52 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am confused about the lack of empathy for the husband here. If I were your husband, I would be terrified right now. Young rope rider is right: having unprotected sex *is* choosing to have a child, and you (both of you) are definitely not ready for that. Your husband is being sensible by not wanting to jump into it, and IMO you're being reckless by pushing for it.

The patriarchy hurts everybody, and one of the ways it hurts men is by forcing them into the sole provider role. This has all kinds of bad repercussions: they need to overvalue financial and job security considerations in their work, they end up committed to jobs they dislike, they miss out on a lot of the joys of parenthood, and they end up bearing sole responsibility for the financial health of their family. That's a lot to ask, and it can put them on a path to stress, resentment and unhappiness. You don't seem aware of that.

You and your husband are supposed to be life partners. That means you need to talk about what you want your life together to be like: your financial plans, your career goals, your plans for children. You need to listen to each other and to compromise. If you can't reach an agreement then you need to break up.

The last thing you should be doing right now is plunging into parenthood. You just aren't ready, and your husband is smart to know that.
posted by Susan PG at 9:56 AM on May 29, 2014 [53 favorites]

Is there a point upon which you would compromise? Is there one upon which he would compromise?

Just because you think that something is perfect in your head, it doesn't mean that there aren't other data points to consider.

I totally understand that your husband doesn't want to be the sole support of your family. Also, what if staying home with kids all day drives you batshit (MANY women don't realize this about themselves until they actually do it.)

Would you be willing to work part-time, or perhaps take a longer Maternity Leave, but with plans to return to work, to have your husband feel comfortable?

Is it that YOU want to stay home with kids, or that you want one of the parents to be home with the kids, because that's a very different thing.

I know it's an old saw, but these fundamental relationship issues are exactly what couples counseling is for. You need to work this out so that you both can feel good about the decision that you make.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:03 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Perhaps sit down with your husband and identify families you both know fairly well and try to identify role models. Discuss what you like about them and what they seem to have done to make it work (i.e., we look up to one of my cousins; other than them making gobs of money, they found a day care they liked and one modified her schedule so day care wasn't 5 days a week). Focus on positive attributes only. Obviously, you won't have the full picture but it gives you a common language and you aren't just talking in generalities, traditions, and having him just come back to full time mom=lack of drive. My husband and I found this VERY helpful in not only discussing when to time having a child but also starting to set up our attitudes and beliefs about raising a kid of our own.

Also, make a budget. How much would day care be vs. your work. Sometimes the pay difference isn't worth it. It sounds like your husband might be the type to like black and white figures like that.

Finally, do consider calling up a family therapist. Tell them you basically need someone to help mediate 3 or 4 family planning discussions so they are productive and don't become fights. Frame it that way for your husband as well.
posted by adorap0621 at 10:33 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah the Rx is to have a frank discussion.

I am wondering if he thinks you will just put your feet up and ride the gravy train.

Also consider how you two split the chores now. Are you a bit of a princess? Do you pull your weight? This might be informing his reluctance.

Plus he doesn't like his job that much, so he's already sacrificing a bit of happiness for 'us'. Maybe you need to talk about what would make him happier in his job?

I understand your baby-clock and frustration, and yet your husband is being pragmatic about the future too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:34 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

FWIW we have 1 year mat leave in Canada and many women are itching to come back after it is over and in fact I know two women who came back early.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:35 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The cost of two children in full-time daycare often add up to more than a lower-middle-class salary."

Exactly. This was the case for me, which had been discussed with my partner, who eventually (after much posturing and arguing) admitted flat out that he would rather me work and barely break even or actually pay to work (by spending my entire income or more on daycare) than feel like it was "not fair" for me to get to stay home and be lazy and him not. It had nothing to do with practicality, and everything to do with resentment and jealousy and weird ideas about gender roles.

I understand that it's ridiculously stressful to be the sole financial provider for multiple people. I also agree that this whole "accidentally try for children" line is total crap and pretty off-putting. But the husband's attitude here sound reeeeaaally familiar and common to me, and really icky.
posted by celtalitha at 10:36 AM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is not a question that lends itself to Internet message boards. Both of your models are perfectly reasonable, and it's up to you to figure out what will work best for the family on a pragmatic level.
posted by deadweightloss at 10:40 AM on May 29, 2014

To clarify the "accidentally trying" stuff: To be clear: my husband and I explicitly had conversations pre-marriage about family planning, in which we agreed that after the marriage, we would try for children in the conventional sense of no longer using protection, and if that didn't work within a couple of years, try more intensive fertility-aid measures. We both agreed that it was important to us. Since this disagreement has come up, he has withdrawn consent to that. I'm not trying to trick him into surprise accidental kids, I'm just upset that we're not even trying the mild, normal "it happens when it happens" version when the timescale we originally discussed would have us seeking fertility help at this point.
posted by sockmeamadeus at 10:45 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

His stated rationale for the viewpoint is largely about "fairness" - that it would't be fair for me to be not working while he was working.

This is true. It's not fair for you to be allowed to take a break from your career to do something that you enjoy (raising children) while he is expected to provide financially for you and the children whilst also not getting to do something that he might enjoy (raising children).

Would you be willing to keep working so that he can stay home with the kids?

I'm not one to go blaming the ills of the world on "the patriarchy", but the fact that men are generally expected to be the sole providers in single-income families is really crappy and your "ideal" of "the wife" staying home with the kids is kind of retrograde*.

I think it's entirely reasonable of him to want to "spread out" the unfairness by taking some of the heat off of him and having you both work and pay for daycare. Even if it ends up being a wash (or a loss) financially, you having a job that you can maintain means that if circumstances change for him, you'll both have the fallback plan of allowing him to take over the childcare duties and not paying for daycare. If you take a year (or more) off from your career, you might end up in a situation where he might lose his job, and you're lacking the job skills to be reemployed immediately. I wouldn't want to live under that kind of pressure (and I am a lady).

*obviously, this is a perfectly valid way to structure a family (if both parents are on board with it), but starting with the assumption that the woman's place is in the home is problematic.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2014 [18 favorites]

He has (what seems to me at least) a fairly lucrative career field, where he makes a lot of money now and can reasonably expect to be earning six figures in five-ten years. I work kind of a "keep on chugging" job, where it's maybe a lower-middle-class salary by itself but nothing special

I'm not a parent, but I know that kids are expensive as hell. And depending where you live, an expectation that he might start earning six figures in five to ten years might not mean that you can live comfortable on a single income with children. Adding to that the idea that you want him to be the single source of income in the family might be something he is stressing about.

Obviously, you really need to talk with him about this, as it sounds you're both making assumptions on the expectations and values of the other. I can understand that you're disappointed that your husband has changed course with regards to your initial plans for getting pregnant, but given that you two are obviously not on the same page right now, it seems like a wise decision for you both.
posted by inertia at 10:49 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Since this disagreement has come up, he has withdrawn consent to that.

I think that is wise. Resolving this before you get pregnant would be best for all involved.
posted by Asparagus at 10:50 AM on May 29, 2014 [28 favorites]

I'm just upset that we're not even trying the mild, normal "it happens when it happens" version when the timescale we originally discussed would have us seeking fertility help at this point.

If you're both not ready for children, you shouldn't be "trying" at all, schedules be damned. And there's really no such thing as "mild" unprotected sex- if you're not using protection and neither of you have no known fertility issues, chances are high you could get pregnant. It's worth taking the time to iron out all these issues before you get pregnant, and not assume it will all work out on its own once you get pregnant or once you give birth.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:52 AM on May 29, 2014 [19 favorites]

Either you're in a low COL area, which means that there aren't very many jobs to go around and if he loses his you might be looking at months to find another one, or you live in a moderate-to-high COL area and supporting 4 people on less than 6 figures is not "easy", it's stressful and tight. He also probably suspects that you're counting on that 6 figure job and never want to work again, even after the kids are elementary-school age.

This is very true. What you're describing may not be financially realistic and in fact it's not realistic for many families without some serious painful belt-tightening that may or may not be up your alley. If he's going to break 100k in five to ten years, does this mean he's making seventy or eighty or so now? That's not a lot for a whole family in many areas of this country, when people have two cars and etc etc.

Does the math on your plan work when housing and vacations and cars are added in?

It sounds like you're both feeling kind of raw about the topic and would benefit by trying to depersonalize it some. It sounds like you both have some resentments (may or may not be valid, but does it even matter?) and need to be listened to carefully.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:53 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

You seem to be solely blaming him for this impasse, but actually at any moment, you could just decide to have a kid and still work. He is fine with that. You are the one who is saying no to that.

You both seem focused on a "me vs you" competition. Who is getting the better deal, who violated the original agreement, etc. Perhaps if you take the initiative and treat it more like a team, he wil too.
posted by cheesecake at 11:01 AM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

What percentage of the child-raising is he willing to be in for if you are both working full time? Is it going to be "unfair" for him to have to take days off for doctor appointments or to get up in the middle of the night because he makes more money? Or does he expect you to do all the mothering, plus work full time?

FWIW, I am an attorney; I work about a 2/3 schedule (sometimes more sometimes less). My husband works full time and goes to school. I make 3x what he makes. I end up doing lots of the childcare because my schedule is flexible. He ends up doing a lot of the housework because he needs less sleep than me. We are lucky we can hire help all over the place when necessary. The second child is still nearly killing us some days.

We both got to take long maternity/paternity leaves with both kids. And while we both thought at one point we would like to stay at home and raise the kids, we both realized that working makes us better parents. Parenting full time is hard and stressful and for me emotionally and mentally exhausting. Being the sole breadwinner (which I have been, several times) is also hard and stressful and emotionally and mentally exhausting. So, as a compromise we've worked out this system of two kids, plus a full time working parent, plus a part time working parent, plus daycare, plus help from family. Some days I can't wait until both kids are in school.

But I agree that you need to get to the root of why he feels this way - is it the money? Is that he'd be jealous if you got to stay home? Is it that he doesn't want others to think he married someone who isn't ambitious, whatever that means? Does he think daycare is good for kids? What's the deal. Conversely, why do you want to stay home? Are you willing to make the sacrifices that would need to come with that? Do you guys agree on money stuff or do you treat it very differently?

It's a tough situation. A counsellor who can act as mediator might be helpful.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Here's what my husband and I have done, which has worked incredibly well for us. Perhaps you and your husband can discuss this option and see if it meets both of your needs.

We explicitly agreed that for us, fairness means that each of us works hard for mutually agreed on goals, and so long as we're each doing that, we each get 50% of the say in how we spend our money and in the other big life decisions. This meant that while I was working full time and he was in med school, for him working = doing well in med school. Ditto for me when I was in law school. And now, he's working full time and I'm working very part time and the rest of my time is spent raising our daughter, managing the house, arranging repairs and travel and all the other stuff that is important to a functioning household. As our daughter gets older, my responsibilities shift, and I work for money more and raising her less. Because my husband's job has so little flexibility, and raising a kid requires having a lot of flexibility, we agree that part of the work I do is "being flexible," meaning that if he gets called in, I provide childcare. If she gets sick, I stay home with her. If she needs a ride somewhere, the default driver is me. This counts as "working" for me because I am providing value to our family, and we both agree on that. If one of us had cancer, e.g., "working" would mean "getting treatment" because we all benefit from the sick family member getting well again. By redefining "working" to mean "bringing value to the family," we are able to appreciate the significant effort each of us brings to our family, regardless of the paycheck that indicates the value we've brought to someone else.

My husband appreciates -- explicitly -- how much effort I put into being a good mother: finding the right schools and camps and coaches, reading about parenting, arranging play dates and music lessons etc., that sort of thing. He admires me -- explicitly -- for also being a part-time lawyer and for working hard to balance that with being a mother. He thanks me -- explicitly -- for managing the house: calling in the appliance repair service, taking the cats to the vet, finding a house sitter, etc. Because we discuss what "work" I do (as a lawyer, a mother, a household manager) daily, he is aware that my "work" is not only the paid work but also the work I do that we all benefit from.

Perhaps having this explicit conversation, identifying mutual goals and values, you can find a way to both be happy -- you by adding value to the family, him by appreciating that value.
posted by Capri at 11:11 AM on May 29, 2014 [81 favorites]

I'm just upset that we're not even trying the mild, normal "it happens when it happens" version when the timescale we originally discussed would have us seeking fertility help at this point.

Because his understanding of your marriage has created a situation where he is not ready to have children with you now. He does have the right to choose.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:11 AM on May 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

Some food for thought:
-having two incomes diversifies risk
-being the sole breadwinner can cause a lot of stress and anxiety
-being the sole breadwinner can force one to stay in an unhappy/deadend career
-maybe he doesn't want you to be the primary caretaker of the children ("fairness" in income-earning as well as bonding with your children - he doesn't want to be the dad that works all day/night and comes home only to discipline the kids then say goodnight)
-maybe he feels you don't have enough of an emergency fund yet for being a one-income household
-maybe he's worried about losing you as an adult/intellectual peer (meaning maybe he pictures this arrangement as typical of a pinterest-and-ellen-loving-talk-only-about-kids-and-consumerism woman, and he's not interested in being married to that kind of person)
-maybe he's just scared about transitioning into this new phase of your relationship (and is thinking that if as many things stay the "same" as they are now, your relationship has a better chance of staying the same)

TL;DR you guys need to have a frank and open discussion about what your actual fears are. Not "June Cleaver" vs. "9-5" but actual hopes/fears about your actual lives. See a marriage counselor if needed to facilitate this discussion. And, yes, he's right, you shouldn't try to conceive before these issues are settled.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:18 AM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

If you are willing to consider both working full time, you should discuss what you are going to do when your child is sick or there are other responsibilities during the day. That happens way more often than you might expect, even with a super healthy child (which is of course not a guarantee at all - you might have a child who is sick a lot, or have a child with special needs). School called the other day because my kid had complained about a sore shoulder during gym. I thought they were probably fine, and they were, but I still had to go there because otherwise I would be a neglectful parent and that could have consequences. I often see that people who value careers a lot aren't all that tolerant of people who have to skip meetings or take a day off for seemingly stupid reasons like a child with a sore shoulder or a child with a lingering cold, so it's something to discuss at least.
posted by blub at 11:19 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Agreed that this is potentially deal-breaker territory, and that I would be worried about what the extent of his child-rearing/parenting contribution will be if you have children with him whether you are working outside the home or not.

If he is just worried about finances, you could break down the cost of putting an infant or two in daycare while you work your less-well-paying job, versus you staying home for 3-5 years and then resuming employment after that. However it sounds like he just doesn't value the homemaker ideal you have, and will not be happy in the relationship if his view of you changes from "career go-getter" to "Susie-homemaker".

If I were you I would do some serious considering of whether you really want to stay home full-time or not, independent of how your husband feels. I'm in Canada where it's the norm for professional women to take 9-12 months off, then use daycare until school age. Most women I talk to are happy to go back to their jobs around a year, and if not then by toddler-age, because losing the office relationships, career prestige/self esteem/financial freedom, structure and adjusting to being home fulltime is really hard, it can be isolating and the balance of chores and parenting can get skewed such that you are always working. Some women stop working and then when their children are making friends and not so dependent really struggle with what to do then and resent their partners and the way society rewards them for their efforts. I really wanted to stay home longer with my son (I took less than 4 months off due to financial reasons), and I really wish I could have in that first year, but now that he is older I am glad to be working. I miss him when we're apart but I don't think I'd be happy home with him all the time, I make the most of our evenings, weekends, and holidays and am at peace with it now.
posted by lafemma at 11:25 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll also say that these days --- it's incredibly hard to get BACK into the workforce after a leave of a few years. You need to have your hand in some kind of job-paying thing somewhere to better your chances --- even if it's part-time retail or doing hourly paid transcription work online or something. Unless you intend on going back to school or retraining into a new field or something for some of that time, this kind of time off will kill you professionally these days. So I would think carefully about that plan, and I'd probably be on your husband's side in this. (And I as a working mother who really could have used and under other circumstances would have taken most of 2012 off to sort through some special needs matters.)
posted by zizzle at 11:34 AM on May 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

As Capri notes above, there are many ways to work hard and bring value to a family, whether remunerated or not. The problem is your husband's contempt for non-remunerated caregiving. All the rest is just details and can be worked out through negotiation. You have way more resources and options than most people have, it sounds like. So it's doable.

But if having kids is important to you, and he is going to be contemptuous of the work that involves, you are wading into deal breaker territory. Even with day care, there is still a huge amount of care-giving that SOMEONE is going to have to do the other 100 hours a week that daycare doesn't cover. I'm seeing a future where you are the one doing all that work, and he is sitting back reading the paper, since he did "his" work for the day. Not good.
posted by ravioli at 11:50 AM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I see nothing to indicate your husband doesn't 'value' the work SAHMs do or that he doesn't consider child rearing itself to be work - just that he defines work as 'having a job that you go to for X hours and get paid X amount to do'. This was his experience as shaped by his family and friends, whereupon the mother raised children and still maintained outside work. Obviously, this disconnects with your experience where mothers raised children and did not maintain outside work.

You have a solid foundation: you both agree that you want children - you just haven't clarified the details. And a HUGE kudos to your husband for refusing to have unprotected sex until those details are worked out - clearly, the LAST thing you guys need right now is a child you are NOT prepared for. The fact that you're upset by his "changing the rules" about accidentally having a child (and the fact that you still want a child right now), despite not being on the same page about ANYTHING regarding having a child, tells me you're not being very practical or reasonable about this situation (but I understand the bioclock is ticking).

I'm also not sure if you realize how the situation is coming off. My (male, FWIW) perspective is such:

Your "dream job" is, essentially, to have children and be a stay-at-home-mom (or so is my impression). That's cool if that's your dream, but your dream requires SOMEONE (ie: your husband) to be the sole source of income/provider for your family. This is an incredible amount of pressure/responsibility and also requires ENORMOUS personal sacrifice on your husbands' part. If he hates his job (which you already suspect) and wants to find a new one? With just 1 income he won't have that luxury - he'll essentially be locked into a job (he potentially hates) for the foreseeable future once children enter the equation. If he wants to take a vacation/any time off? That'll be tough since you'll be trying to support a family on 1 income and it needs to be steady - also, with children there won't be money for vacations/luxuries - especially if you currently only make "OK money" (OK money for a couple does not equate to OK money for family/children - moreso when you subtract your income). If he wants to spend time with his children? With only his income, he'll be working as much as possible to provide for his family... he might get to see them an hour or two each night before bed.

I'm hoping you can start to see, from his perspective, that things are tipped in your favor and not very fair - he'll have to sacrifice a LOT while you are seemingly sacrificing NOTHING (from his perspective) - in fact you can't wait to stop "working like a dog" (your own words; which -does- imply that you being a SAHM is a break/vacation from that and thus not 'work' - though we can all agree raising kids is work). I could see how it comes across that he'll be doing all of the 'work' while you're doing precisely what you wanted - staying at home, not 'working' and raising children. And since he grew up around/with women who raised children -and- 'worked', your not wanting to do so probably just comes across as selfishness or poor work ethic (based on his upbringing/values).

FWIW, he's not denying you children. He's not saying he doesn't ever want children. He just can't wrap his head around why you can't (or don't want to) work and raise children when all the other women in his life have done so. It sounds like he may be coming from a place of logic and the key may be appealing to that side. So... when your bank account is down to just 1 income...How will you maintain your current standard of living? How will you afford children? What if your husband is injured or becomes incapable of work? What if his income alone simply isn't enough? Clearly there's huge benefits to having 2 incomes and unless you can settle some of his fears or make a better case as to why you should be able to stay home, I think this will continue to be an area where you guys just don't see eye-to-eye. Clear, direct communication is needed here - you both made serious assumptions about one another and how you view families. Air your expectations and be flexible. But also be prepared for this to be a deal-breaker - a 2 income family may be just as important to him as being a stay-at-home-mom is to you.
posted by stubbehtail at 1:24 PM on May 29, 2014 [15 favorites]

If he were saying that he's scared and worried about finances and the family's security in the next few years then that's one thing. But if he's just saying it's "not fair" then it sounds like he's being a bit controlling. Why does he get to decide what's fair for both of you? I'm not saying that you should be able to unilaterally decide that you are both having kids but if his only arguments are "it's not fair" and "that's how my parents did it" then I think he needs to process his feelings a little more. Also - is he talking much about your new family and his plans/hopes/dreams for it here or does he only talk about how it affects him?

It sounds like he's not happy with his life choices so he's saying you shouldn't "get" to make a choice that makes you happy. That's illogical. If he doesn't like his job then he needs to figure out a solution to that. His happiness level in his job isn't contingent on you having a job or not.

What if you become disabled? Would he respect you less if you couldn't work? These are some pretty heavy issues that I think might be best hashed out with a therapist before you decide to have children together.
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:15 PM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

This sounds like a dealbreaker-ey situation to me. Both of you have very different and entrenched ideas of what you want your marriage and parenthood to look like with regard to working outside the home. It sounds like both of you saw and heard what you wanted to before you were married and these issues were vaguely discussed. Now you're finding that your points of view and desires are very different.

As for his decision to be absolutely sure that this issue is resolved to mutual satisfaction before any children are conceived, I think it's both wise and a respectable position to take. This is a major disagreement and being intentional about parenthood should be commended. I've seen very similar situations unravel and end in divorce once kids were already in the picture and it's not pretty at all.
posted by quince at 2:29 PM on May 29, 2014

Re "fairness", one could easily make the case that being a parent is both harder and more important than doing any other type of "work". You need to get to the bottom of why he thinks "job" work is more important or worthy than childbearing and child-raising work.
posted by Dansaman at 3:26 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

"My husband just told me that having an ambitious, driven wife is really important to him."

"He makes a lot of money now and can reasonably expect to be earning a six figure salary in five-ten years."

Only if he's ambitious and driven, right? So apparently you both find it important to have an ambitious, driven spouse in terms of outside-the-home professional career and compensation, because you are absolutely counting on him being so in order to make your ideal marriage arrangement and your ideal personal scenario work. You are not even questioning it as a choice. Just a reasonable thing for you to expect will happen.

"Making babies" is not a job one person does in a marriage either; it's something two people do together, so that's on him too, not just you. (And you're already mad at him for not just "letting it happen", without seeing it as a serious responsibility he would be undertaking.)

So, from your initial description (admittedly just an intro, not your full thought on the matter) that leaves your "joy." I agree with other posters that the way you describe the rest of your ideal here -- a post-work-like-a-dog era for you in which you focus on "joy" while he keeps truckin' towards that 100K you expect sounds a little naive and also unfair, especially if it isn't also his ideal for himself or his marriage.

You both want kids, it seems. In any scenario everyone is going to be working like a dog. In what scenario does he too get to focus on joy? Where is his personal joy? Where is your shared joy? If you can't jointly *and* separately answer that in relation to each other...that would be hard to overcome and make blend.
posted by beanie at 3:34 PM on May 29, 2014 [20 favorites]

"That said, your biological drive is going to trump any and all arguments. It's a force of nature that no amount of talking is going to be able to tame."

This is demonstrably untrue. The OP has no reason to give up her desire to have kids, and no one is asking her to either BTW, but if she wanted to tame this drive, she could. Women are not wild womb storms of madness. Women direct, deflect, manipulate, encourage, celebrate, promote, rationally engage, medically manage, spiritually shape, financially plan for and otherwise master and tame this drive as they see fit every second of every day.
posted by beanie at 3:54 PM on May 29, 2014 [22 favorites]

To prefix: I'm a career oriented woman and we plan to have my husband stay at home if/when we have kids.

I think you need to have a conversation about this. To wit, there are separate important things:

1. How much work is the stay-at-home parent supposed to be doing each stage of the child's life? *All* the chores including cleaning/gardening/dishwashing/cooking? (Spoiler: This is not realistic or even possible when the children are younger.) Is the stay at home expected to keep house at the current level or at a better level?

2. Talk about the budget.

How much you do you spend each month? How much do you need to save towards retirement? How much do babies cost, realistically? How much time do you have for him to find a job if he loses his current one?

If you don't take time off, will you hire a nanny? How much would a nanny/daycare cost? If you stay at home, will you save money by eating out less? Spending time fixing up the house? Babysit other kids? Figure out the difference in your budget with and without a kid.

3. Understand that men are usually under *a lot* of pressure to be the breadwinner and to do so successfully. And that honestly, depending on where you are, 6-figures isn't a lot between taxes, house, car, retirement, etc.

Be sympathetic. While it's totally okay for you to say that you don't like your job and it doesn't make much, so you want to quit, this is not true for most men. Men are supposed to have jobs that support the family. And they are supposed to enjoy working hard. If they don't want either, it's often seen as "irresponsible" or "not masculine." However, that doesn't stop them from being miserable.

Hating your life and knowing that you have to go on doing the same thing every day is one of the most miserable feelings in the world.

Maybe he wants to start a business. Or retire early. Or has other life plans. Or maybe he just doesn't want to be the only one working in case the economy goes south. You have to talk to him about how he feels. Maybe he needs time to do something he actually enjoys--and that may mean earning a lot less and you have to downsize your lifestyle (and would you be okay with that?)--before he's willing to commit to that career path.

Basically, figure out what he wants from his life. Not just how he always pictured it--because we get taught that growing up--but actual qualities that he wants. Does he want a lot of money? Does he want to always travel? Those kinds of things.


Quite honestly, neither of your visions seem that realistic right now. If he's working hard at a job he dislikes in order to support you staying at home--which he's not 100% okay with--you are going to be running ragged taking care of the kids and the house and scheduling and the planning and wondering why he isn't helping you while he wonders why you can't even get "just" those things done. If you both work, you may make less than the cost of daycare/nanny and end up resentful of him for not letting you have your "vacation."

Hopefully you are not incompatible and can find a common ground.
posted by ethidda at 4:54 PM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just a note on the stress of being primary/sole provider - there is stress being the primary/sole carer too. My partner and I have done both (he was primary provider and I was primary carer for the first 11 months, then switched for two years, then switched back and I'll be primary carer for the first few years of school while I do my PhD in order to switch back again once I've done it). The stress of both sides is not about the duties as much as the pressure - primary provider is knowing that your life will drastically change if you quit/lose your job, primary carer is knowing that there is the chance of serious harm coming to your child if you screw up, and that you're responsible for the early learning and development, and their health, and their emotional engagement. Outsourcing it, in terms of childcare, can sometimes feel like 'giving the job to the professionals' I think and plays into the decisions.

So currently, because it's important to us that a parent is the primary carer, we make do. We still make mortgage repayments, we still own a car, sometimes eat out, all on below-average wage for our country and our area. But that requires BOTH of us to not only prioritise that parental role, but to deprioritise a lot of things like travel, like fancy expensive hobbies, like keeping up appearances with others. We're happy in our little home, there is no need to keep up. But we are always working towards a goal - at the moment he is working a job he hates (mostly) while I'm juggling primary care (not a strong skill of mine) and full-time PhD studies, specifically with the goal that when I am employed full-time again he will quit his current job and maybe study, maybe work part-time, but mostly be the primary carer. Even though our daughter is at school.

Yes, our plans cause much consternation among people - he should always be working, what's wrong with daycare/afterschool care, it doesn't seem fair, and so on. But that's how it works for us because we have made the decision as a family and are working towards that goal as a family.

(I do suggest he talks to his mum - a lot of people I know actually have completely the wrong idea about what their mothers did when they were young: "oh she worked the whole time" but when asked she actually provides a series of part-time/freelance/casual jobs and random childcare arrangements that allowed her to mostly be home.)

That said, we're in Oz, so the idea that you need 6 figures+ to make a family work is risible.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:38 PM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Fiftyish percent of all marriages end in divorce. You want to work like a dog? Be a divorced mom with a full-time job and mostly full-time responsibility. Oh, and an antagonistic ex who earns a lot more money than haggard old worn-out you and gets to be Fun Dad when he feels like it.

In American society, any woman who leaves the workforce to have children without a "Plan D" (divorce) in place should not really be having children.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 6:07 PM on May 29, 2014 [13 favorites]

Maybe you guys might want to see a marriage counselor for a few sessions, because I feel like this discussion really needs a third party/neutral person/referee to sort out the mess.

I concur with everyone else that said that leaving the workforce voluntarily for years is a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad idea these days. While your husband's 'tude is a bit much, I think it's reasonable to be deeply concerned about how the family will function financially if you take yourself out of the equation to enjoy life. Especially if he already hates his job. Also, what happens if he gets laid off or one of you gets sick or the kid gets sick? It's a level of trust of life and vulnerability that I just don't think is a good idea any more.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:18 PM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

geek anachronism's point about finding out what your mother actually did is really good. For me, thirty-odd years down the road, it would be easy to say "my mom stayed home with us when we were little", but the truth is that she had various, intermittent jobs that brought in money, including waitressing at a family restaurant and doing their payroll. Even though as kids we didn't know the difference, it's only fair to recognize that she contributed financially to our family in addition to being a full-time parent. Just a datapoint that the single-income family with a SAHM in the days of yore might be more of a myth than you realize.
posted by handful of rain at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

What to do? I'm getting resentful of what feels like him putting off my childbearing and not valuing it as work, and he's getting resentful about how I don't seem hardworking or want to improve my employment.

I think, and it sounds nearly unanimous here, that you two need to sit down and discuss all the specifics.

My take is a little different, though, in that I think you may be right and your husband might be trying to put off the child-bearing because he doesn't feel ready to have kids yet himself.

FWIW, I was a stay-at-home Mom (my kids are in college now), and my husband and I would 100% choose that route again, so obviously I disagree with other posters saying it can't be done or is a bad idea or whatever. I think it was the best decision we ever made, and our kids, now grown, have also expressed how grateful they are, which is an amazing and wondrous thing to experience as a Mom. But we also struggled with when to start our family, because of the biological clock issue.

Right now, you are financially secure, and that's a really comfortable place to be. Having kids shakes up that comfortable life. Ask your husband what having kids means, and he might not even be able to tell you, other than everyone says they 'will change your life completely'! And maybe he's in no hurry to change things. He has the luxury of putting parenting off until some shadowy future date when he figures he will magically be more ready.

But you have that ticking biological clock, and your body is telling you that you can't put childbearing off too long. I understand that; I have been where you are.

I recommend you drop the argument over how hard you have already worked, because your husband has likely worked 'like a dog' as well, and I think you are BOTH underestimating the (difficult, 24/7) work of parenting.

What you need to do instead is tackle this head-on as a team and attempt to set team goals you can both live with.

So get into the nitty-gritty details of parenting with each other! First, ask him point blank: if you decided you WERE going back to work after having the baby, would he honestly be ready to start trying right now, or would he still balk? It's okay to be scared, but he needs to own up to it if that's what's going on, so you can troubleshoot together how to assuage that fear.

How soon would he reasonably expect you would go back to work, anyway? If you want to breastfeed, does he recognize that means you need to feed the baby every few hours for however many months you plan to do that? Would you wait until the baby is sleeping through the night to go back to work, eating solid food, out of diapers? What in his opinion is a reasonable timetable (and why does he think that)? Counter with your own expectations. Suppose you both agree that you would take at least six months off. Would he be open to the two of you sitting down at the 5 month mark or so to discuss the possibility of extending that to a year provided the finances were in line with that?

Then, who does he see taking care of your kids once you return to work? Are you paying a nanny, daycare? Who is taking them to the doctor/caring for them when they are sick--because they WILL get sick, and daycare is not going to take in kids with the flu! If he sees you staying home in that situation, why is that? Because your job pays less than his or because that kind of stuff is 'the Mom's job'? If he does think it is 'your job', why doesn't he respect that constitutes work?

Examine both your preconceptions of how parenting is going to go, because it is possible to compromise BUT you have to have realistic expectations first or you really won't be ready for parenting, no matter what.

Good luck!
posted by misha at 8:39 PM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

My perspective comes from Sweden, where child care is shared more evenly between he parents than in the US and stay-at-home mothers are uncommon:

I would not feel good if my wife stayed home while I went to work, instead of both of us working outside jobs with the kids in daycare. My biggest concern would be that I'd become peripheral to a tighter-core family of just the wife and kids. That's how it went for my own father, and he has regretted it later.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 1:44 AM on May 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Thank goodness you have relised you have different expectations before getting pregnant! Can you imagine being three months pregnant and realising your husband wanted you to back to work right away while you planned to stay home?

I am confused by you describing your husband: "he really liked how hard I went after things I wanted... "careerwise." but you describe your job as a "keep on chugging" job, where it's maybe a lower-middle-class salary by itself but nothing special". Is this break for baby-making conversation about part of a larger worry of his that your career/income has stalled? If you didn't have children due to infertility would you change anything about you career, like upgrading your education? What about proposing that you go back to school (if there is a good ROI) while working, get pregnant and have the baby and stop working but keep going to school (part-time?). That way you aren't having a "vacation" but you are only dealing with school rather than work?
posted by saucysault at 6:04 AM on May 30, 2014

Alright, I talked to him about this last night, using a lot of the strategies and advice you guys thoughtfully gave (thanks everyone, you're great).

One thing that really helped was breaking down and talking specifically about childcare and household responsibilities if we were both working. It let us both realize that his expectation had apparently been that I would take on the majority of that as well. So it made sense a bit, from his perspective, why he wouldn't want me to stay home to do that, since he felt that I would already be doing most of that anyway.

You guys mentioning that he might feel stressed about being the sole source of income reminded me, and reminded me to remind him that a moderate portion of my regular income actually is not tied to in-office work, and that it's actually enough to pay the mortgage on a house in our price range in the area we are planning to move.

Another thing that helped was explicitly tying my lack of "ambition" in my job to my desire for childrearing. He was seeing them independently and judging future SAHM-hood on that basis - if lack of ambition in subsequently medium-earning job, then lack of ambition in parenting and subsequently medium-cared for children.

We are still not near a resolution but at least have figured out some of the big stuff, and are going to talk to a marriage counselor about working the other stuff out. So hopefully it will turn out okay, but if anyone has any ideas that might help going into that I would still love to hear them!
posted by sockmeamadeus at 7:00 AM on May 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

>>>One thing that really helped was breaking down and talking specifically about childcare and household responsibilities if we were both working. It let us both realize that his expectation had apparently been that I would take on the majority of that as well. So it made sense a bit, from his perspective, why he wouldn't want me to stay home to do that, since he felt that I would already be doing most of that anyway.

I'm sorry, what? He said that his expectation was that you would to work full-time AND take care of the majority of the childcare and housecleaning? Did I read that correctly? Did you hear him correctly?
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 8:47 AM on May 30, 2014 [42 favorites]

You didn't favorite it, but especially now that you've had a chat with your husband, go back and re-read the young rope-rider's comment above.

I think until you both sit down with a budget and actually plot out the scenarios in financial terms, you won't be able to argue for any single one of them. And I really worry that you can't afford to stop working, based on what you've said here.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:01 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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