Husband wants a stay-at-home wife

Until recently I stayed home with our daughters who are two and three-years-old. After that, I returned to work part-time. Now my husband says our home life is suffering and he wants me to quit. I love my family, and only want the best for them. I gave two weeks notice at work, but part of me does not want to quit. Am I putting my needs before my family's?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

It is not a question of your needs versus your family's needs. Families exist to nurture the growth and development of ALL of its members. Your personal fulfillment is an integral piece of your family's happiness.

Your children benefited from your loving presence during the first two and three years of their lives. Furthermore, if you have provided a secure beginning, they are likely to gain from the stimulation of a quality daycare. In fact, they may enjoy interacting with other playmates their own age.

Do you think they are ready for part-time daycare or preschool? Since you spend most of the time with them, your husband relies on you to assess their needs. Be willing to make your own evaluation and express your opinion. It should not be a matter of "making your husband happy". It is a matter of appropriately balancing everyone's needs in the family. If you feel your children will not suffer, and may even benefit from a happier mother, as well an influx of energy from other interested and competent caregivers, say so!

Research reveals two important things. First, it is not in the best interest of the children to have a depressed mother. Naturally, a child needs stimulation and enthusiastic responses on a consistent basis, which can be impossible if the mother is unhappy. They can do much more for their children if given a "break". Secondly, studies show that children who have "working mothers" tend to have higher self-esteem. Ostensibly because working mothers feel happier with themselves and their good feelings spill over to family members.

As with any research, much depends on the parameters of your particular situation. Children who see their mothers rarely may suffer a lack of attention to their basic emotional needs. Women who feel overworked by both their jobs and family responsibilities may feel depleted instead of energized when they interact with their kids. It's important to strike a balance between children's needs and parental needs in any given family.

If you are a Mom who very much enjoys staying home with your preschoolers, by all means do it! But if your personal growth requires something else, it is your job to make your needs count as a family member. In your case, you are not seeking anything drastic. After all, your children are not infants and your "part-time" work hours are quite modest.

Set aside time to discuss your feelings with your husband. Refer to "When Women become Mothers" for further discussion about obtaining a healthy balance within your family. If you avoid having this discussion, you may make your husband "happy" in the short run, only to undermine lasting marital happiness if you end up feeling that you have over- sacrificed for your family.

Remember, too, that taking care of yourself sets a healthy example to your daughters about how to strike a balance as a woman and a mother!

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