couples

"I gave up work for my husband. Big mistake."

My husband was a bit of an a-hole for the first few years of our marriage. Don’t worry. He knows he was.

Hi. This is Jo’s husband. Yes, I was a bit of an a-hole for the first few years of our marriage. I’m sorry.

Thanks hon.

So I put my decision to give my career up for my husband down to a brain snap of epic proportion because it turned out to be one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

Which is why I was so annoyed to read that a household study has stated that men are happier when their partners stay home. Obviously it must have been an anonymous survey because seriously, what man these days would admit to that, let alone really feel that way?

Professor Roger Wilkins from the annual Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia survey told The Australian, “When you look at men’s relationship satisfaction, it’s at at its highest when their wife is not in the workforce. Those traditional gender roles die hard.”

And that’s exactly what my significant other believed in our first, few fragile years. Shame he forgot to tell me about his insane expectations.

When I met my partner I had a career as a young and ambitious breakfast radio announcer with my sights set on world domination, like most twenty-somethings. He seemed to like this. He was ambitious too. He’d been married before and had two sons. Shortly after he met me, he embarked on some pretty adventurous business ventures. I thought of us as being a bit of a power couple. I thought we were such a good match and imagined both of us working and sharing home duties equally, including child raising.

It was midway during my first pregnancy that things started to change.

Here is a helpful video for all working mums called “How to get your kid ready for school in under five minutes!” And…go! Post continues after the video.

I was still working in breakfast radio and planned to take three months off, hire some help, and then get straight back to it. Also my husband was working from home at that stage and because I was normally home between 10am and 11am I thought it would be perfect. He could look after the baby until I got home and then I’d take over.

We really should have discussed this before hand.

I based my fantasy version of our life with baby very differently than he did. I assumed we’d be mutually supportive of each other’s careers and he assumed that when I had the baby I wouldn’t want to work anymore. Because that’s what happened with women, right? It’s biology.

I do shoulder some of the blame here. He is 12 years my senior and had a few outdated ideas. Don’t worry. I’ve fixed him now. But back to the nightmare he and I no longer speak of…

I had the baby and enjoyed my time with him. I also looked forward to returning to work. However, I was having doubts thanks to some very careful seeds that had been planted by my then-husband and some gentle suggestions that perhaps I rethink my plan to return to work.

“You don’t NEED to work,” he’d say over and over again. “I’m earning enough. Don’t you just want to stay home and relax?”

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“But I WANT to work,” I’d try to explain from my exhausted, vulnerable, easily influenced new mummy place in the world. “I like my job.”

The survey also found that harmony in the home is more important than income.

Then he'd say things like, "Do you really want someone else raising him?"

Damn. No. But I didn't want to quit work either.

So I returned to work and my partner very reluctantly looked after our baby until I would come home. He didn't do a good job at it. He would feed him and often forget to change his nappy. He was filled with resentment at having to do his share and felt it was affecting his ability to achieve his dream, his own business, which he had just started.

We talked and decided to hire some help. Two weeks before she started, I was fired. I deserved to be fired.

With my partner's voice in my head, I never managed to enjoy my return to the job I had dreamed about from a young age. I wasn't performing well and was self-sabotaging. But I was still devastated when it came to an end and was so so angry that my partner was relieved.

I started hunting around for work immediately and found some great opportunities, one in particular that I was desperate to accept. However, he didn't want me to. So I turned it down and resigned myself to a life as a stay-at-home-mum which would be fine, if that's what I wanted.

I was miserable.

I lasted about 18 months before I started doing some casual work and got the same song and dance from my beloved. He made it so unpleasant for me that I eventually gave up even trying. I was offered another full time position that I was desperate for and turned it down.

Bree from Desperate Housewives showed us how it's done.

Everything came to a head after the birth of my second child. I was sick of this shit. He knew who I was when he met me. Being with me meant being supportive of my choices. We had a huge fight and were yelling and screaming at each other when I said, "I have a right to work" and he said, "But I want you to not want to work."

We talked and talked and talked and he eventually accepted that I wanted to work and I eventually accepted that he wasn't happy about it. Fast-forward ten years and we look back at that time with disbelief. I can't believe I was so easily influenced and he can't believe he was such an a-hole. His position had a lot to do with how he was raised, with the help of a nanny, and a mum who worked very long hours.

As soon as he started supporting my career, he saw how happy it made me. We became stronger than ever and I now consider us the power couple of my dreams. And because I was fulfilled, I became more supportive of him. And so on, and so forth.

The men surveyed need to realise that their happiness isn't all that matters. They think they'd be happier with their partners at home but that's not often how it works out. If that's what she wants then it's probably great. If she doesn't, then watch out.

When I gave up work for my husband it was a big mistake. That's one thing we both agree on when we look back at that terrible time.

Would you ever give into pressure from your partner to work less or give up work altogether? How do you balance family life with both of you working?