Reader Conflicted SAHM writes,
I read your article on why men criticize their SAHM wives, and my situation is a bit different. My husband and I had some issues when the kids were younger but not near as many as since they have gotten older and are now all in school. I try to explain what I do all day...all the household things plus PTO work at 3 separate schools, ortho appointments, doctor's appointments for my son with Tourettes (60 min of driving one way), IEP appointments, tutoring, small part time job 2 hrs a day on school day. Yet, every night I hear, "Did you get paid for that? Why didn't you water the plants or collect eggs, etc?" Then as soon as I mention getting a full time job all four of the kids say NO and my husband shuts down.
Depression, loneliness at home, stress to get it all done and bring in some money...the cycle of my husband and I hanging on to each other in a raging storm but having to push the other under the water so we can take a breath ourselves. Love staying at home...Love my husband...do not love having to feel like I have to choose. What do you advise?
Well, just from that phrase "collecting eggs," and the fact that you have four kids and volunteer at all their schools, I am going to assume you are a natural caretaker and a very involved mom. Your husband seems to be putting you in a double bind by criticizing you for not getting paid but also shutting down when you mention getting a job.
I suggest that you examine the dynamic between you and your husband more closely. It seems like you may have subconsciously be drawn to a critical partner who withdraws under stress. Was either of your parents cold or critical when you were young? It also seems like he was subconsciously and/or consciously drawn to a woman who is going to listen to him complain but still care for him and his kids patiently. You may be a bit of an enabler, allowing him to critique what you do all day but then not asserting yourself by pointing out the no-win situation that he puts you into.
I suggest that you communicate more directly with your husband, and use "I" statements to tell him how you feel about his demoralizing comments. Also, I suggest an open discussion about why he withdraws when you mention getting a job. There are two possibilities that I see: either he really does want you to work, but knows you don't want to and he is avoiding World War III by just retreating when you ask about it, or he doesn't want you to work and complaining about you is a familiar pattern to him, from childhood and observing this dynamic between parents.
If your husband does in fact want you to work, you will have to have an open discussion about your own desires and goals. If he doesn't want you to work, then you can assert yourself and ask him respectfully not to diminish your daily efforts by asking if they were financially compensated. (I mean, he knows they weren't, so he's just making snarky remarks.)
Another issue that I see: you may be taking on more than you need to be. I would not be surprised if you had somewhat of a difficult childhood and/or felt ignored or unprioritized by a parent, and you are overcompensating by throwing yourself headlong into parenting in a manner that sounds stressful and overly ambitious. I can see why you drive your kids to their doctor's appointments, but is all the PTO work necessary? What do you enjoy doing, and is there any way to kill two birds with one stone and get paid for it? A person who has the wherewithal to raise chickens likely has other marketable skills. Personally I only know how to purchase eggs and chickens from the supermarket.
Good luck, and thanks for writing in. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Actually, I Order Them on Peapod.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.