Reader Lonely Guy writes,
I want to ask my wife to be a stay at home mom. I make enough money to pay all of our bills but we will have to sacrifice on some spending. I'm worried she will get upset, well really just straight mad. Our relationship has deteriorated because we work opposite...she works nights every weekend and I'm Monday-Friday days. We have nice things but I fear we are close to divorce because we never have time together. Any advice?
Your desire to spend more time with your wife is nice, but if you fear that she will get angry then I am assuming that she finds some value in her job. This isn't like just asking her to cut back hours, but to change her entire identity from a member of the workforce to a SAHM. I empathize with this perspective, since I also work mostly when the kids are asleep or in school, and this is a way that I maintain my career and my identity outside of parenthood, while also being present for my kids. Before you proceed, do some hard work empathizing with her view, and considering what her career means to her.
If she works nights on weekends, I am guessing she is a nurse, since many nurses work that shift. Maybe she finds meaning and fulfillment in working and caring for others (if she is a nurse), or in whatever she does. Maybe she enjoys contributing to the family's finances. Maybe she basically considers herself a SAHM already because she is with the kids literally the whole time they are awake for the entire week, and if she didn't have her two nights working, she feels she would lose her mind. Maybe she grew up poor and is proud of her ability to buy the things she wants and needs for her family, and she doesn't want to lose any income. There are a million reasons that working may be the right choice for her, so perhaps you can do some more outside the box thinking before you approach her, which will allow you to fully empathize with her.
It would also be very useful to think about how the marriage that you each grew up seeing may be affecting your perspectives here. Often, men who grow up with a SAHM mother or a mom who "only" worked to because she had to financially can be very disappointed when they have a wife whose desire to work is a key feature of her identity. Your wife may have had a working mom role model, or she may have had a SAHM mom role model that she felt wasn't there for her emotionally anyway. Maybe you each had divorced parents, and your mom left your dad for a dude she met at work, and her parents divorced because her mom wanted to find her own identity outside of wifehood. There are many reasons that you and your wife are viewing her work through such different lenses, and if you had a genuine conversation about these reasons, without you trying to push your agenda on her, you may end up far closer than if you coerced her or guilt tripped her into quitting against her will.
Once you've thought about your own subconscious reasons for wanting a SAHM wife, and once you've talked to her more openly about why her career is important to her, you can still present your case. But it is important to come to her with your feelings, rather than some "solution" you've unilaterally come up with, that you already know she'll hate. Start with "I miss spending time with you" and go from there.
Remember, your goal is more time together, but there are many ways to accomplish that. You can have a weekly date night during the week, and get a babysitter to watch the kids. You can cut back on some of the obligations and child-related activities you do during the weekends. You can get the kids into bed earlier on weeknight so you have from 8pm or earlier till 10pm or later to hang out, whether this means packing the next day's lunches together or watching TV or whatever floats your boat.Keep in mind that the problems you have now, whatever they may be, may be there even if she quits her job... but then, the problems may be compounded by her resentment over you "making" her quit. For example, if you feel your sex life is suffering because she's not around on weeknight and sleeps the next day, take a more objective look at the situation. She has you around Monday through Friday evening and isn't initiating sex then either, so what's the odds that another two nights per week would lead to a game change? (Of course, I don't know that this is a problem; it's an example of how a spouse may wish that a situational change may effect a relationship change, and this usually doesn't work out.)
Best of luck, and keep me updated. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Thinks It Always Strengthens a Marriage To Look Deeper At Your Own Motivations.
Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation, here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.