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Stay-at-home parent vulnerable to whims of spouse

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

Pressured stay-at-home parent vulnerable to wandering spouse

Anonymous: On an underappreciated drawback to becoming a stay-at-home parent: I was there 12 years ago in a great job making about 70 percent of what my husband was making. I was always the one taking off when the kids were sick, etc., so my career didn't advance like his. For about a year he pressured me about quitting to "support him" and devote more time to the kids, and I finally gave in.

With virtually no responsibilities at home, his career soared, and he is now making three times what he was 12 years ago. Then I found out he'd been cheating on me the entire marriage, and I filed for divorce, fully expecting to be supported by him. We live in a "no-fault divorce" state. After the divorce is final, I will have no claim to any future raises he gets. He testified in court that he did not want me to quit working and that I had refused to work for the last 12 years. The court ordered me to get a job, but with the market the way it is now, I might get hired making half what I used to make.

If you think your spouse wouldn't do this or you don't see any signs of cheating, think again. My husband's job and power attracted the women, lots of them. He didn't work out, go to the tanning bed, or even have great grooming.

If you're going to scale down your career or quit, I would at least recommend some kind of signed document by the spouse stating that he agrees and acknowledges the sacrifice you're making. Even if it's never used in court, it will make him fully aware of what he's asking you to do. My husband acted as if I should be forever grateful for not having to work outside the home, but he would have never done the same in a million years.

Dan: I am scandalized that so many men are willing to assume their female partners will be primary parents while the men continue to pursue careers much as they did before becoming parents. Until at-home fathers are almost as common as at-home mothers, all our talk about workplace fairness is empty lip service at best and Machiavellian deception at worst.

Physiology can play a role in feeding; hormones can play a role in bonding patterns. If we let these two facts dominate the discussion of who stays with kids and who returns to work, then there is no meaningful discussion and no real chance for mothers to pursue careers that fathers pursue.

Job security has been eroding for years and wage trajectories face huge uncertainty. Men who categorically refuse to consider at-home fathering may find it increasingly difficult to find willing partners; those who do may find it increasingly difficult to stick to the plan.

Who belongs in the delivery room? Not the neighborhood

South Carolina: On the jockeying for a place in the delivery room: A group of us 50- to 60-year-olds were discussing the current fashion of having entire families in the delivery room for the Big Event. We were all pretty much against it, but one mother of three had the best reaction: "I didn't even want to be there myself!"

Stay-at-home parent vulnerable to whims of spouse 03/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 22, 2010 10:04pm]
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