Planning a future for oneself is difficult enough. Planning a future for oneself and their family is another story. It's not always that partners are on the same page with regards to career and childcare expectations. And, when differences in opinions arise, the conversation can be a tricky one to navigate.
One FGB'er is feeling like she's stuck in a job she doesn't love and wants to find a new career, but that her husband wants her to be a stay-at-home mother (SAHM). It's an awkward situation with which she's now grappling.
"I am in my early 30s and at a job that means absolutely nothing to me — it's not in my major, I sit around all day and I feel like I'm not contributing anything to society," Fractured Fairytale writes on the community board. "It was a job I took due to circumstances not allowing me to stay at my old job. But I am now engaged to a wonderful man and, last night at dinner, the topic of me being restless at this place came up. I told him I would love to look back in the downtown area for something better paying. His response was, "Well, when we have kids (which we both know we would like and are in 100% agreement) wouldn't you stay home with them? If you don't, your entire check would literally go to childcare.'"
Fractured Fairytale says she was thrown off by a few reasons, including "the assumption [she] would be a SAHM," which she says she's "not OK with." She also says she feels "inadequate" because she "can't make the money [her husband] is making to contribute financially to [their] future family. She adds that it also feels like her husband wants her to stay in her "dead-end job" until she gets pregnant.
"We are getting married next summer and plan to start a family shortly after," she goes on. "Do I stay where I'm at and make the best of it? Do I go after a better-paying job? I don't want to feel like a free loader. Note: He has NEVER made me feel that way, I think it's more in my head. Thoughts?"
As always, the FGB community has come chiming in with wise words of advice. Here's what they have to say.
1. Come to an agreement sooner rather than later.
"Wow, I am so happy that you and your fiance are having this conversation before you are pregnant and not after," says Jennifer A. "Whether you stay at your job or look somewhere else, is actually irrelevant; what's more relevant here is that you both discuss what your future plans are and agree, in theory. If you do want to be a SAHM, understanding when you will have kids, what your salary will be while you are working in the home full time, and who will pay for what is an important thing to know. Staying home isn't not working; it's a full-time job. Understanding what your timeline is will also help you with your decision to keep your current job and/or move on to a new challenge. If you plan on kids right away, then yes, staying at your job might be the right decision for your future family. If you are looking at two to three years for kids, then look for a new challenge and embrace it."
Others also suggest that she talks to her husband in more depth about this topic before they get married and have children.
"It's probably good that this came up — sounds like there are unsaid expectations and assumptions being made that need to be talked out," says Stacey K. "Committing to another person is a big step and both parties need to chart the coarse forward together — otherwise growing resentment will pop up and it will break you apart. When marrying, both parties are equal partners. That isn't to say that one person is stronger in some arenas than another but where one person is weaker, the other is stronger and vice-versa so you are a strong unit together. You need to enter the relationship as a whole person and decide for yourself what is going to make you feel fulfilled in life. If that is a SAHM, that is great, but, if it's not, you have to be honest with yourself and decide what other alternatives there are. You could work part-time. You could work at a place that has daycare included or has DCRA-we used DCRA when my son was young."
2. Remember that being a SAHM or being a working parent are both tough jobs.
"As a mom who has worked a full-time job throughout the lives of all her kids (so far), I can tell you that there’s guilt and feelings of inadequacy there, too," says Victoria Conly. "I felt like a horrible mother because someone else is 'raising' my children. Or because I missed first words or first steps or other important milestones. That feeling is absolutely gut-wrenching. As is the feeling that comes with your child screaming 'Moooommmyyy!' as you leave them in the morning. And while your contribution may not be monetary it is NO LESS VALUABLE to your children and the overall health and well being of your family. (Sorry for the caps but I can’t stress that enough)."
Some women have added that they have been both SAHM and working parents. You can choose both.
"This is only the beginning of these conversations and concessions women make, but I will say having done it (being a SAHM), it’s not forever," says jkernohan. "I took off six years with my kids, which I wouldn’t change, and got my MBA and went back to work when they were older. My husband and I have taken turns on our careers — and their importance. My husband stayed in a job to be able to work from home after I went back to work for the kids. It’s a trade-off. It’s not forever. That’s what I would say to my younger self. Good luck."
3. Decide what makes you happy.
"What makes you happy right now?" asks Pvenneman. "Do you see yourself staying home when the children go back to school? Would you see yourself possibly making enough that not all of your money would go to childcare? A lot of jobs are thinking about work-life balance benefits to attract workers. I don't see the point of staying in a job that makes you miserable because you might be having children in a few years. It is OK to plan for the future. That is exciting. But live for today."
Others agree that doing what's right for you is important.
"My advice: Only stay at home if you want to," says Lady Fairygodboss 93. "You could compromise to stay at home for two and a half to three years, then put your child in daycare or have a nanny come to your home during the day. Also, I have a couple of friends who've had an au pair live with them, which is less expensive in many cases and the person lives with you to help out 24/7. Bottom line, only do what you want. Every parent should make some sacrifices for their child, and your future husband should want you to be happy. If you do decide to stay at home for the betterment of your child and your family income, I would advise having a clear understanding of how long you will do this, so you can return to your career. I'm a 55-year-old grandmother, and I married young. I gave up so much merely because my husband asked/expected me to. My sister did the same thing, and we both regret it. Do what fulfills you."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.