When you met your wife was she passionate about her work? Did she tell you that she wanted a family and a career? Was it exciting and interesting to talk with her about your individual and mutual goals?
Then, you had a child. She was just going to take a little time off until he or she was ready for daycare. Now, your child or children are enrolled in school full-time and your wife still hasn’t returned to the work force. All of the financial responsibility is on your shoulders and you’re wondering, “What happened to the fiercely independent career woman I married?”
You’re not the only one. This is a trap a lot of men fall into, not realizing it until it’s too late. There are primarily 2 kinds of women who comprise this phenomenon:
1) The Sucker-Maker. This woman never wanted to support herself. She played at working as a plan B, trying this and that, until plan A (that would be you) gave her a way out. Having a child was her reason to stop working. Conveniently, society applauds women who give up their careers to stay home with their children. She’s probably a loving parent, but she’s not over-involved like the Professional Mom, who will be described next. The telltale sign: Who goes to most of the parent-teacher meetings and soccer/baseball/lacrosse games because she needs a break? Does she go to your office when you need a break?
Her real goal has always been to have someone take care of her financial and material needs. Ironically, this is also the type of woman who complains bitterly about you working too much and not spending enough time with her or the kid(s). Just to get you off her back, she may take a very part-time job answering phones, being a “designer,” or volunteer work, but she has no real career aspirations beyond being a dilettante.
2) The Professional Mom. She really did mean to go back to work, but the kids have so many activities, they need her and maybe she’ll go back to work once they’re in college. Meanwhile, she’s a one-woman livery service, events coordinator and parent committee member to an over-scheduled child(ren).
When the kids finally go off to school, she doesn’t know what to do with herself or what happened to her marriage. Her sole identity is “Mom” and she spent the last 15+ years relating to her husband only as a co-parent and household administrator, not as a lover. If she re-enters the work force, she’s surprised to discover how much things have changed. Most women have a very tough adjustment period when they emerge from the cocoon of professional mommy-hood.
There are 3 basic excuses (or some variation) these women use to avoid returning to work. Familiarizing yourself with them may be useful in helping your wife stand on her own two feet again.
1) The Lie: “I just want to wait until he or she is in the first grade.” This morphs into, “I need to be there for her when she gets out of school,” or “Who will drive her to soccer practice/band practice/dance camp/swimming lessons/chess club/the mall/etc.?” or “Who will take care of the house?” She’ll create a laundry list of childcare responsibilities that prohibit her from working.
The Reality: Once the kids are in school full-time there is absolutely no reason for your wife not to return to work, especially if you only have one child. I truly believe that the over-scheduled child was created to give these women something to do other than work and to use as an excuse not to work. No child needs to be involved in so many activities that he requires around the clock chauffeur services. As for the very small percentage of moms out there with little prodigies on their hands, get involved with other parents and create a carpool system–it’s called effective time management and networking–something you should be modeling for your child anyway.
2) The Lie: “I can’t find good childcare” or “All the nannies I interviewed are crazy.” Obviously, I’m referring to families with economic means. Childcare isn’t cheap and some families truly don’t have the option of paid childcare. They have to stay home with the kids, which brings me to the topic of responsible planned parenting, but that’s for another blog.
The Reality: “It’s hard to find good childcare” is a cop out. Yes, it can be challenging, but good daycare programs, nannies, sitters, aux pairs, community centers and church groups exist. You just have to work at finding them.
3) The Lie: “There aren’t any jobs out there that will pay me for my level of education and experience.” Or, if you do manage to get her out the door and into an office, she begins to self-sabotage, “My boss and co-workers are mean.” “Customers and co-workers are disrespectful.” “My boss doesn’t recognize my talents.”
The Reality: “Ooooh…Work is hard. People are mean.” Being gainfully employed is stressful and requires coping with other people’s crap sometimes. That’s life. If it really is too rough out there for your delicate flower, then welcome to the wonderful world of telecommuting or she can create her own business.
She can’t find a job that’s important enough for her? Guess what. Most people don’t start off at the top, especially not when you’ve been on extended mommy hiatus. You have to work your way back up. This is why there’s maternity leave. You’re out for a limited period of time, but your job is safe and waiting for you, so you can pick up where you left off. Also, if she really does have such an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, she’ll sabotage her interviews–forget about being hired.
What Can You Do?
If logic, reason and pleading don’t cut through these excuses or she comes up with new and improved ones, then you need to face it: Your wife simply doesn’t want to work. If she’s pushed into finding a job or you find one for her, she’ll most likely sabotage it or find reasons to quit.
Tomorrow I’ll post the follow-up to this blog, The Real Reason Your Wife Doesn’t Want to Work.
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
Shoveling bull by me.
Super Mom by Mandeye on flickr.