A young woman I know sent me a TikTok recently, one of those short POV clips, showing a stay-at-home mom explaining to her husband why she isn’t bringing in an income—despite having a Masters degree.
I’m hearing this same theme over and over again: Millennial and Gen Y wives having to justify to their husbands why they’re not working or why they don’t want to work post-baby.
This is what fifty years of feminism has done.
It should be patently obvious why a woman wants to raise the babies she brings in to the world: That’s how she’s supposed to feel! It’s called being normal.
She should not have to explain either her desire to do so or the value of her doing so.
And yet she must—because all men have heard their entire lives is how women want to live their lives the way men live theirs. All men have heard is that it takes two incomes to survive. All men have heard is that women lose their identities if and when they stay home with their babies.
Why wouldn’t men need an explanation?
I have a client right now in this exact boat. She left a very high-paying job to stay home with her one- and three-year old boys. Her husband is a high earner too, so there’s no issue there. But while he supports her choice to do so, he doesn’t have a clue what her days are like, nor does he understand the needs of children.
Why would he know this? Where would he have learned this information?
Most modern men and women are in the dark about children’s needs. They just have no idea goes on in the first three to five years of a child’s life and why it’s so crucial for Mom to be home. So of course the average husband wonders why his wife got a degree if she’s “not going to use it.” That’s exactly how I’d expect a man to react—it doesn’t seem logical.
Full disclosure: The women in my family all have higher degrees—my mother had an MBA and was a stockbroker—and still ultimately chose to stay home. Never once did I associate here value as a woman or as a mother as being inextricably linked to her ability to earn money. One simply had nothing to do with the other.
So if you’re a wife in the same position as my client or the woman on the TikTok clip, here are some things you can say when you explain to your husband why you want, or have decided, to stay home:
- Getting an education is not about earning money, per se. It’s about becoming educated. I don’t get it. Would you rather have a less educated person raising our children?
- Babies need their mothers. What goes on in the early years cannot be quantified on a spreadsheet. It consists of a thousand small interactions that, with time and consistency, form the person our child will become. If a baby or toddler gets passed around from caregiver to caregiver throughout his young life, he will never learn that he’s worth any one person’s time and attention—and that will stay with him for life. The first five years are a critical period for language and attachment in the brain. It’s a time when your ordinary, day-to-day life has an inordinate impact on who you will become.
- It is an enormous amount of work to teach a baby and toddler how to eat and sleep. This alone, in the early years, is a full-time job. If we skimp on it or let that go, we will have loads of problems later. Sleep deprivation causes massive behavior problems and can even lead to ADHD diagnoses. I don’t want that for our family.
- I want to create a home, not just have a house where we sleep and shower. A house can’t become a home if we’re rarely in it.
Finally, keep in mind that staying home is a temporary state. It’s a blip in a very long life, and there are countless ways to work from home or work part-time or move in and out of the workforce as the needs of children change.
The main thing husbands will want to know is, How are we going to afford it? This is where you’ll need to get creative and dive into the weeds of your budget.
It is reasonable for your husband to appear unsupportive if he was under the impression you weren’t going to stay home, and you both therefore made financial decisions that depended upon two incomes. If that happened, this was a mistake. But what’s done is done.
If there’s one thing COVID lockdown proved, it’s that people can live on far less than they think when they have to. Necessity is the mother of invention. So, really, this isn’t about money. It’s ultimately about what we value.
Here’s a quick way to make a decision: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you do things differently?