I have been married for 3+ decades. Raised with traditional values. When our children were born, I became a stay at home, mom and eventually homeschooled our kids. I helped, periodically, with our businesses.
Our kids are all becoming doctors, so they’ve been home, on and off, a little longer than the age of 18. Our businesses are successful. I have put a lot of time and effort into our family and into the home. However, my spouse has told me repeatedly over the decades that I contribute nothing to our home etc. and now, because I’ve been working around home, periodically with our businesses and nearing retirement age, my options to get finances from outside the home norm is very limited.
I know I am in a season of transition, however, the past few months I am starting to believe my husband is right…that I haven’t contributed much and that I am a financial drain. On one hand I’m very insulted, and then on the other hand I am questioning my value. So my question is are women who stay at home and raise their kids, help with businesses, volunteer in the community really a drain on family and society? I was raised to believe not so, but again, after 3+ decades of listening to “My life’s work is subjective at best and only if I make money, I am valuable” is starting to make sense … is he speaking fact? And the code I’ve lived by is false???
Not a good place to be… This has nothing to do with financial scarcity, I think the problem is we took different paths on worldviews and now it’s perhaps not healthy for any of us. Especially our adult children who, from their words, “Don’t like seeing their mother demeaned.” Is this good???
To say that your letter breaks our hearts is an understatement. We are big believers in marriage partnership, where the husband prioritizes finance and the wife prioritizes family, allowing both of them as well as their children to come as close to “having it all” as is possible. While, today, this often doesn’t happen because women have bought into the idea that only a paying career is meaningful (and because of immoral government actions that lead to inflation), your letter represents another type of failure.
Trying to be as just as possible, we are only listening to you and your husband might paint a different picture. What we can be sure about is that we are hearing pain and sadness in your voice. We are stating with unequivocal clarity that a woman who devotes herself to building a home and raising children is doing extremely valuable, if not the most valuable work for her family and for the community. It is tragic that you have been brought to question that.
However, one pitfall we have seen, and perhaps you fell into this, is that women are sometimes too much of a silent partner. You write of your husband’s attitude going back for decades, yet you are asking us this question now instead of twenty-five years ago. A man who doesn’t value the work his wife does in the home needs to be educated. You put up with unacceptable behavior for far too long.
However, your question is what to do at this point. Or, perhaps, you aren’t asking what to do but just seeking reassurance that your life has had great meaning—it has— and that you can hold your head proudly and rejoice in the children you have raised. Sadly, it doesn’t sound like there is much of a marriage in which to rejoice.
We offer two suggestions. It sounds to us like your grown children are recognizing this shortcoming of their father. Take the nobler course. Do not criticize your husband to your children or allow them to criticize him to you. He is their father and, as such, they may not listen to disrespect of him or speak disrespectfully to him. If they want to approach him themselves, or if they end up having a strained relationship with him, that is between them and him; you shouldn’t get involved.
Secondly, because you mistakenly allowed your husband to speak rudely to you for decades does not mean that you must continue to do so. Practice saying, “I disagree with you,” or “I guess that’s your opinion. I’m quite proud of our children,” in a calm voice and with a smile on your lips, as you refuse to be drawn into a further conversation. You should also discover how you wish to spend the extra time that you must now have as your children are grown. Explore different avenues that give you satisfaction and meaning. At the same time, continue to provide a home for your husband, even if he is unappreciative. Be sure to acknowledge his hard work that provides you with a comfortable life.
We wish he would learn from some of our resources of how in your kind of marriage, it is vital to understand that the money earned, even if chiefly by one person leaving home for work every morning, is really “Our Money” and the children, even if raised chiefly by one person at home, are really “Our Children”.
Alison, we hope your words serve as a warning to both husbands and wives that appreciating what the other contributes is vital to happiness. Marriage is a lifelong challenge that must continually be actively worked on. Problems that are ignored (other than as a strategic and carefully monitored decision) rarely disappear. It is far easier to nip harmful attitudes early on, rather than wait for them to become entrenched.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you think you might find a very wise someone, a man preferably, whom your husband respects or would respect, to serve as a conversation facilitator between you and your husband?
Reach for the stars,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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