Why we cringe a little when we hear “I want to bring my husband home”

We may have already sparked some feelings and strong opinions simply with the title of this post.

We knew as we went forward that we might well offend some, we might have others cheering to hear it being talked about at all, and find many somewhere in the middle.

This topic has been bugging both Ryan and I for a while. Each time we heard the phrase, it sat badly with us and we were both stewing over why exactly it bothered us so much.

After hashing it out a few times, I decided that maybe we should just turn it into a post, but here’s the thing: This is actually just the two of us, having a real conversation that we happened to record, sharing fairly unfiltered thoughts about it all. These aren’t deeply thought out points, nor has this been heavily edited. We haven’t really censored ourselves or worried too much about how others will react.

It’s just us, without all the answers, talking as a husband and wife that are in the throes of some of these very issues, struggling to learn how we balance our work and home as two people who love each, love the work that we do, love our kids and our home life, and value all the different roles and tasks that are required to keep our various plates spinning (and hopefully, more than that, to create a meaningful and satisfying life for our family).

This is only Part 1, it was too long for one post. The next part of this post will go up next Monday.

Here’s how our call went down…

Thoughts on “bringing husbands home”

Steph: In the blogging community (and beyond that, in the online community in general), I so frequently hear this idea of someone wanting to “bring my husband home”. And it really rubs me the wrong way.

Ryan: Like there’s something wrong with him being outside the home. I think that’s what bothers me most about it. I mean, I think it’s nice to be able to work from home (obviously, I do it), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being able to work away from home, either. There are pros and cons on each side of it. Let’s face it- sometimes I wish I could get the heck out of the house! Don’t get me wrong – I love you and I love the kids, but goodness gracious, sometimes I just need to get out of the house and away from the noise and distractions.

Steph: Yeah, it can be very frustrating to work from home. I find that, too, when I work in our home office and I’m trying to get stuff done, but the distractions and noise and just knowing that you’re all there with everything going on can make it really difficult some days.

Ryan: Of course, that’s the downside to your work being at home – it can be a little harder to get away from. It’s always just there, you can’t really leave it.

Steph: I think the other primary think I dislike about that term or idea is that it’s like the woman is his benefactor. Like she’s doing so great in her business that she’s going to rescue him and bring him home.

Ryan: Yes, I totally agree with you! Goodness! That’s exactly it. I have to tell you in all honestly, though, it doesn’t bother me as much when I hear it talked about in terms of a woman “coming home”, and I’m sure that’s my upbringing coming to the forefront.

Steph: You mean that it doesn’t bother you when a man wants to bring his wife home so that she can be with the kids?

Ryan: Right. Because the context is often different, like it’s implied that the woman wants to be home. She wants to be home and be with the kids because that’s where her heart is. And that may not be true in every situation, but that’s what I think when I hear that.

Steph: I don’t think it’s true that every woman absolutely wants to be home, but I think it’s true that when we hear the phrase “a woman coming home”, it’s usually in the context of a woman working outside of the home, and she’s burdened with the struggle of keeping up with her job, the demands of a home and the needs of her kids, and it’s actually a relief to be able to stop working.

But with a man, that’s not always true. They may or may not necessarily enjoy the particular job they have at that moment, but wouldn’t you say that most men don’t have a desire to actually stop working? They may not want to continue with the exact job for the rest of their lives, but for most, they still want to do something.

Ryan: I think that’s true. I certainly don’t know many who don’t want to work at all, and the ones I do know, I don’t have much respect for.  Most men seem like they want to do some kind of work.

The struggle with dissatisfaction and a blast to our pasts

Steph: One of the interesting things I’ve noticed in working online with other women is that it seems like when you have a situation where both spouses are at home and doing some sort of work-share, but the primary income generator is her work, her website, her main gig, they get to a point where he’s just supporting her and he becomes unhappy and dissatisfied with what he’s doing. Why do you think that is? I know that a lot of us entrepreneurially-minded women really enjoy having a work element to our days, but why does it seem easier for a woman to be more satisfied at home, but when men get in that situation it just doesn’t work?

Ryan: I think it has more to do with cultural norms than anything. A lot of us have grown up in a more traditional home where the husband works and provides and the wife stays home with the kids.  And if they have a business, the woman does things that are more supplementary, rather than her own thing. I don’t think it’s necessarily better, or that it speaks about nature or indicates any sort of deep truth (which is a whole other topic). I just think it’s what we’ve grown up with so a lot of us are more comfortable with that.

Steph: I do think that when you have a young family, it’s difficult for the mom to not be the primary caregiver. There’s definitely a season of life, especially with babies and toddlers, that mom is needed more in certain ways than dad is. It seems that things go better and kids are happier/more content when they have their mom around more. That doesn’t mean there aren’t stay-at-home dads doing an amazing job with their little ones, just that it seems to be easier overall to have mom be the one in those younger years.

Ryan: Part of it in our family is that I feel like I’ve really failed in that role. I find it hard to be the nurturing one, always carefully taking care of the daily, constant needs of our children. I’m not proud of that. I wonder if some of that might possibly be to do with nature and how we were created, though I probably lean towards not. But it does certainly come into our culture and upbringing. My sister was trained to do a lot of different things, but I really wasn’t trained in the same way. My sister was taught cooking and cleaning and expectations for baby sitting, but I wasn’t.

Steph: I think that’s common, for boys to not be trained in domestic duties (though I think that both boys and girls should absolutely be learning those skills). But, I would say there are plenty of women like me, who weren’t raised to be homemakers and moms. I was raised to do well in school, go to university and have a career. So when I found myself as a young wife and mom, I had to really learn that homemaking/mothering role. It’s hard, but I definitely think it can be learned, that it’s not just something innate that a woman possesses.

Ryan: I wasn’t saying that. I agree, and that’s why I feel that I’ve failed in those areas. Because when you wanted me to take over more of those responsibilities as we did more of a work-share routine, and I didn’t do it as well as you do, I felt like I’d really let you down and disappointed you.

Steph: But it’s important to remember that it took me years, like 4 or 5 years, to get a handle on that. To become a more decent cook, to get used to doing the deeper cleaning, to try to keep up with the laundry. It took me a long time and honestly, it was hard. And I got to grow into homeschooling the kids little by little, one child at a time. I didn’t jump into it with three kids and a toddler running around like you had to. All that said, it makes sense that it’s a hard transition for anyone, husband or wife, that has to learn skills and tasks that feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar. 

Ryan: Yeah, that’s true.

closeup of someone holding map

When the wife’s business is successful… how do you navigate where to go next?

Steph: To change the topic slightly, one thing I want to address specifically is this… so you have a woman who does have some sort of a business she started that’s becoming more successful. Now she’s bringing in more money than her husband. Where does a couple go from there? How do they make a decision about what that should look like, especially if (as a couple) they’re looking for that freedom/flexibiity that comes from him not being tied to a job?

Ryan: I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer to that. I think it really, really, really depends on each family and the roles that they’re comfortable in. I certainly hear of couples where the woman is someone kind of famous, like a bestselling author or something, and her husband seems quite content to be her editor, her confidant, her support, whatever. And that surprises me personally, but it seems to work for some couples. So I think that it’s really depends on the family, how it’s going to work.

But to go back to your question… I think they handle it the same way in general as if it was the man in the same position. I think they need to figure it out as a family – what are our values, what do we really want to do with our lives, what makes us both feel satisfied?

That’s the main question you and I are really trying to juggle right now. How can we both feel satisfied with our work, but still have balance in our home? And I think sometimes one person has to compromise on that, sometimes it just has to happen that way. For example, if you had satisfying work that earned us $100K per year and I had equally satisfying work that earned us only $20K per year and only one of us could work, I might not get to do the satisfying work. Because we might decide we needed the $100K, and that the $20K wasn’t working for us.

Steph: There could also be seasons; an ebb and flow between spouses. This past year I’ve done more of an equal work share with you than ever before in our marriage. I’m bringing in income like you are and we rely upon both of our incomes. But yet now I’m in the situation of preparing to have a new baby next summer, and that is a season where I’m not going to be able to do as much as usual, so for a while, more of it is naturally going to have to fall to you. And I think that’s ok. It’s just a natural thing for me to have to take a step back for a season.

I also know families who have spent time allowing the wife to really focus on her work for a season, especially if she’s gotten a book deal or has a huge project on her plate, but then eventually they get to a place where it’s time to change gears and have the husband go back to focusing more on his work. There are so many different ways that this can play out.

Ryan: Yeah. I agree. There’s definitely an ebb and flow.

to be continued… 

We clearly had FAR too much to say on this topic than we could cover in one post. The conversation we recorded of ourselves was over 40 minutes!

As you can see, it’s a nuanced and complicated issue. It’s not just that we dislike this phrase, or that we think a man should never come home to work on his wife’s business, or well… I guess you’ll just have to see where the rest of our conversation goes next week!

Next Monday we’ll continue and talk about: how we define exactly what “work” is, the importance of having work that feels personally satisfying and fulfilling, what it means for something to be “yours” not just “his” or “hers”, and an important key to avoiding resentment and bitterness that can build up over time.

But I think we’ve brought up a few interesting topics of discussion for now and we would LOVE to hear you chime in with your own thoughts in the comments! 

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