Tell Me About It: It's time for a serious talk about child-rearing

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Q: My husband and I both work, and are excited to start a family soon. My husband loves his career and it is probably the biggest element of his identity. I like my job, but would really like to be able to stay home for a few years with our children.

We have a few friends who have moved to a single income, with Mom home with Baby, and my husband has admitted he does not have much respect for it. He sees these female friends as "one-dimensional." He also seems to think the stay-at-home parent does not contribute equally to the household. As he pointed out when we recently visited another couple over the weekend, "(Husband) is just as involved with the kids as (Wife) is, so why does (Wife) get to call parenting her career while (Husband) has to go to an office five days a week?"

So, what do I do? I have no intention of leaving my husband, but I am feeling helpless about the prospect of convincing him this is a good idea.

- Confused in Calif.
A: (Husband) is just as involved"? I find his view flat-out offensive. I have no horse in this race, either - my husband was a stay-at-home dad for three and a half years, and we also used some paid care at the time, and we've both worked full time since our youngest was 2, so I'm not well-positioned not to get defensive about any choice.

Kids at home with parents have some advantages. Kids at high-quality day care have some advantages. Not all at-home parents are the same, nor are all day cares, nor are all kids. You find the combination that works for your home, budget, personalities, talents, careers, and your kids' natures - and then, if there are two parents involved, you back each other in your choices.

And you keep an open mind to any changing needs, since families are dynamic, not fixed.

And ideally you develop the sense not to judge other parents, unless they're plainly harmful.

(Husband) is not less of a parent than (Wife), but less involved? Absolutely - at least 40 hours a week less. If these were partners in a business venture, he'd have no trouble declaring the evenings-and-weekends partner "less involved."

But there's no ax to grind in that example, is there? This isn't just about your husband's faulty logic. It's about his contempt. Why doesn't his career-mindedness make him "one-dimensional"? At-home parents arguably have to summon a wider range of knowledge, skills, and creativity, daily.

Again - it depends on the people. There are drop-dead boring at-home parents and drop-dead boring office drones. Whatever.

So why is he so sure he's right?

I find it particularly galling that he'd draw conclusions about this family after a weekend visit. How smug.

I realize you want my advice and not my opinion of your husband, but one drives the other. So: Call him out on every bit of closed-mindedness he just displayed. There's no way it hasn't affected other parts of your marriage.

Or, read him my answer, declare me a biased, judgmental jerk, and start a conversation of substance about the many facets of child-rearing - and about finding room in this topic for what you value in life.

 


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