Considering that unemployment is disproportionately affecting men, I thought I would share with you some parts of an e-mail thread at Berkeley Parents Network started by a pregnant mom whose husband is unemployed.
I am sorry, but I deleted the original letter written by the mom, who by the responses, sounds like she is married to an intelligent man who is not ambitious and has frequent bouts of unemployment. If I remember correctly, her letter sounded quite harsh and my initial thought was that she simply wanted to stay home with the baby. But like everyone else who commented in the thread it doesn’t sound like this couple has any other option but to have her work outside the home and make him “Mr. Mom” — for now.
Here were some of the responses:
I really saw myself in your posting, and I know you’re in a stressful situation. Mine was very similar, and my husband ended up taking care of our son until he was 2 1/2. Before our son was born, we never assumed that my husband would end up as the primary caregiver — but it ended up being the only feasible option, as he wasn’t working and daycare was expensive (and not much to our liking for infants). You might be surprised at how well your husband does as a parent, especially as he bonds more and more with the baby. As the woman, you probably feel as though you should be the one to stay home (I know I felt that). However, your situation is what it is, you’re the one with the job, and remember that you are doing an enormous amount for your baby by supporting him or her financially. Also, your child will end up having a strong bond both with you (that’s inevitable — you’re the mom!) and your husband, which is healthy. Our son is now four and he’s very close to both of us. I don’t feel that I was an absent parent by any means, and I know the day will come when my son recognizes how important it was that his mother had a job. Also, having one parent who doesn’t work (whether it’s the father or the mother) comes in very handy when you have a child. You just have to try to get past the very powerful assumption that the working person has to be the father. Anyway, wishing you happiness and the best of luck – it will be fine!
I’m pregnant with our second child and my husband has been unemployed for 3 years. Circumstances are a bit different, as he’s working on a novel and not actively seeking employment, but I can relate to your feelings about coming home after a long day to a house that’s not as clean as you’d like and to feeling the pressures of supporting a family financially along with the pressures of just being pregnant (and being a mommy). We have used a nanny part-time since our son was 1 yr old so he has time to write and the rest of the day, he is Mr. Mom. I’m very lucky to have a husband who loves spending time with his son, proactively cleans up, and responds well if I ask him to do something specific around the house. I also found it emotionally much easier to go back to work knowing that my infant was being cared for by someone who loves him just as much as me.
My first piece of advice would be to reconsider daycare, especially if your husband is open to staying at home even for a few months. You mention you don’t make enough to support three of you, but in my experience it’s cheaper than paying for full-time daycare. Crunch the numbers and you may even find that daycare is more than covering regular expenses plus a once a week housekeeper! Secondly, I recommend you let go as much as possible with housework standards. Ask yourself: Is this unsanitary or just messy? Is it worth an argument? Would it be better to just cuddle together and talk about our new baby for 20 min instead of scrubbing tile? My standards have definitely gotten lower post-kids but I’m dealing. Finally, don’t underestimate the issue of male pride. He’s likely going through emotions too that he may be unable to express in a constructive way. Go easy on his ego as best you can and stay focused on the positive aspects of your marriage. Good luck and best wishes for a healthy and happy pregnancy and birth.
Pregnant with Unemployed Husband – Again!
As is the nature of BPN, at least a couple letters were pretty harsh, and based on the original letter I wish I had, I thought a bit unfair to the husband.
Oh, NO! I read your posting with growing horror. I don’t want to add to your stress of being pregnant, but you are so right to be worried. I was married for fifteen years to a man who was basically unemployed for most of the time. His reason for under- or unemployment was that he wanted to be a writer, and indeed, he did write faithfully every day — he just didn’t publish. Ever. I wanted to marry him, admired him for his discipline and goals, and thought (idealistically) that it would be fine for me to work to support him if he would just help around the house and have a part-time job. But the part-time job soon fell out of the picture, he never showed much gumption about trying to be published, he was a good caretaker of our son but when the son went off to school he still wanted after-school care for him so that he would have more time to….? Write? Yes, but also read the paper at the library, putter around with music, etc. etc. I realized after a long time that he had invented his own dream world that I was now supporting, and it got heavier and heavier. I tried to get him to consider training for employment, supported him in a degree program (he dropped out), etc. until I finally gave up and divorced him. And THEN I had the pleasure of paying spousal support, since he had never worked and was having difficulty entering the job market… three years later, he’s still working part-time, using the rest of the day to… write. Even though this may not resemble your husband in every detail, believe me, in your loving kindness you have signed onto something that will benefit no one — not you, not your husband, and not your baby. I am led to say so particularly when you describe your attempts to get him to find a job. Do you end up checking ads or training opportunities for him? Red flag. He needs to find out what kind of employment would best suit him, get prepared for it, and go to work. You have seen that he is not cut out to be Mr. Mom (which I will admit is an arrangement that can work in some cases, but it wasn’t what I had and most likely would not be what you would have), and you are going to need some material HELP. Sorry if I sound harsh, but your posting just hit some very sensitive chords with me. Good luck in turning things around while you still can!
no longer idealistic….
How eerie. I was involved with a very similar guy for several years: intelligent, unambitious to the bone, apathetic about cleaning, paid his half from stocks, horrible resume – couldn’t get work. I too was a nag. I felt I had to be or nothing would get done. I’m sorry to say I think there’s no antidote for lack of ambition. It seems to be built-in to some people. It will be interesting to see if he changes with the birth of his child.
I wasn’t pregnant, however, and I do believe you have every right to complain. If he is to be Mr. Mom (which is unfortunately the default here unless he gets a job), he should be preparing all the meals, keeping up the house, and basically doing all the things a SAHM typically does, but maybe ramped up a bit since you have to deal with huge hormonal shifts, gestate his child for 9.5 months, remain employed, and deal with nausea.
We had a talk about what we each felt was acceptable time between chores. He felt fine with only cleaning the bathroom every several months. I felt the ideal was weekly. I said we should both compromise and have it done once a month and we agreed to that (his job was bathroom, mine was the rest of the house; laundry was separate and he did his own dishes). And quite honestly, I would check over the bathroom after he did it and pointed out all the things he left unclean and needed to fix. After so many months, he did it right the first time, hoping to avoid my wrath.
Come to some reasonable compromise on chores, making sure that you both agree to whatever the terms are. His buy-in is crucial, otherwise he will shine you on. Add a clause to your verbal agreement that if he doesn’t meet his half of the agreement, you will hire a housecleaner at his expense (which really, he should be providing anyway because you are a working, pregnant woman).
For those of you experiencing unemployment how have you divvied up chores and childcare?