husband

Why we cringe a little when we hear “I want to bring my husband home” (Part 2)

A couple weeks ago, we launched into a somewhat controversial topic, about the sentiment and phrase we commonly hear floating around the online world, “I want to bring my husband home.”

In Part 1, we started our initial conversation (and that’s just what this is – literally, an off-the-cuff, candid, recorded conversation between the two of us), so start there if you haven’t read that post yet, then continue on with this one.

Love the work you do? For that matter, what IS work, anyways?

Steph: I think one of the things it comes down to for me is whether both spouses are going to be able to do something that deeply fulfills and satisfies them. Are they both going to do something that they’re passionate about?

And it’s not that we all get to do work we’re passionate about, 100% of the time. Every job, every career, includes cruddy stuff we don’t love doing. That’s just life. I love writing and being more of a visionary and networking and coming up with big picture strategy, but I hate some of the finer details, the emails, the accounting and bookkeeping (ahem… right, Ryan?). But that’s just part of the work I’ve chosen to do. Sometimes I have to suck it up and do things that don’t feel fulfilling, so I can do what I love the rest of the time.

In terms of a husband and wife, I guess what I’m saying is that they both have to have responsibilities or roles (at least part of the time) that are satisfying to them on a deeper level.

Ryan: I wonder if there is a need to redefine work. What we mean when we say “work’? I know that in this world of globalization and wide spread high speed internet access, what we might consider the traditional definition of work is rapidly changing for a lot of people. But even our definition of work often equals “the thing that produces money”. And yet there are a lot of things that don’t directly produce an income but without them, you wouldn’t be alive to make anything at all.

For example, as a full-time homemaker, you cooked healthy meals for us every day, and that was not lesser or even supportive, as if I was doing the important thing and you were just trying to support me while putting food together. I would consider the work that you did as playing an equal part. Without that, I wouldn’t eat and I would die and you know that is a distinct possibility for me {Stephanie laughs knowingly}.

Or maybe I wouldn’t starve but I’d eat junk food or out at restaurants which would affect my health and my ability to produce income (and cost way more). I think earning an income in our world, this EntreFamily perspective, is merely one of the areas that you need to consider when you think of your work mix as a family.

Everybody’s working. Everybody needs to be productive. But some types of work bring home the bacon and other types ensure the bacon gets cooked and ends up on the table so we can eat it. They’re both necessary.

Perhaps the ideal question is “what is our work mix going to be as a family?” How are we going to be productive as a family; how are we contributing to the bigger goals that we share? In our family, sometimes we’ve worked on two separate things (KOTH & Resound School of Music), and sometimes we’ve worked more together on a specific business (like Ultimate Bundles & EntreFamily). But then there’s also making meals, doing math with the kids, cleaning up, maintaining the house and yard– all those kind of things. They’re all part of the work mix.

Steph: Yeah, I agree. They’re all roles that have to be filled within the family for it to function properly. None of them are lesser roles, just different. And truthfully, when we try to minimize the homemaking, cooking, child training tasks and place less importance on them, things fall apart to some degree. These roles are crucial to a home and family functioning smoothly and effectively .

Evaluating roles, together.

Steph: So basically you’re just saying that you think the way forward is to assess the roles in your family and what needs to be done, and then figure out what’s going to realistically work for you and who is most suited to do each role?

Ryan: And how does it match up with their passions? With their strengths? Who wants to do what? And of course, there are things that nobody is passionate about and nobody wants to do, so we can’t forget about those. I almost wonder if you and I have gone too far to the left and somehow don’t value homemaking as much as we used to. Like it’s somehow not as good as producing an income or running a business. Whereas it’s actually real, valuable, essential work.

Bottom line? It’s a matter of evaluating, as a family, what is your workload and how can you all be happily productive, together. I wholeheartedly believe that humans were created with a drive to accomplish something meaningful, but that can be done in so many different ways. Earning an income certainly isn’t the only way to accomplish that, for either a man or a woman.

Culturally, I think it’s harder for a man not to work because of societal pressure. Other people may think it’s weird. That’s true less and less these days, but still, a stay-at-home-dad may still be the brunt of some jokes. That might put pressure on dads to not want to do that. We also tend to embrace values we’re raised with (or throw them away altogether if we had a negative experience). But usually we embrace it and it’s hard to change that way of thinking. And I don’t know if it needs to be changed. If it’s not necessarily wrong, then why force yourself to change if it’s just going to make you miserable?

Compromise, service, and all those good things that make marriage work.

There’s also an element of compromise. You sort of touched on it earlier… that we don’t all get to do the things we love 100%. But I think we should try as best we can to make sure we both have the opportunity to do things that are rewarding for us.

Honestly, I think Amy and Tim (Ryan’s sister and her husband) have got a good set up in that sense. Tim loves what he does, loves working with his hands, he makes reasonable money and its enough to provide for their family. Amy also likes to work and her art is rewarding for them, although it wouldn’t pay the bills at this point. Because of Tim’s role, working full time, the pressure isn’t really on her to make money, so it frees her to pursue what she loves to get to a point where she can earn more money.

Steph: Right, it’s sort of an exchange. She’s working in the home  and with the kids mostly, so he can do his job. But him working full time and carrying that burden allows her to pursue her art. It is kind of a good compromise.

There needs to be a degree of compromise and figuring out what works for your family. We talked before about seasons, and sometimes you have a season where you choose to let one spouse focus on their endeavors, then you switch down the road.

Ryan: I agree with that. There’s also an element of service, where we each need to try to serve the other person. That’s foundational in marriage.

My concluding thoughts on this — I would say my opinion has maybe changed since start of conversation {Stephanie’s note – don’t you love when that happens?}. I don’t think it’s inherently wrong, wanting to “bring home your husband”. I would challenge the reasons why you want to do it. 

And if you’re not “bringing him home” so he can do rewarding, meaningful work, then you’re probably doing him a disservice. And maybe for him rewarding work is (though it’s less common for men) but maybe for him it’s being home with the kids, taking care of them, making lunches, etc. Maybe he finds significance in that.

Steph: Some men actually like cooking, Ryan. 🙂

Ryan: I know. 🙂  How about you, what do you think?

Steph: I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing either, but I agree that it comes down to your motivations and goals for bringing him home, like what you said. Is it because she makes more money, so he can just come home and be the babysitter?

Or is it because you’re genuinely excited to work as a team, from home, to have more flexibility as a family? Does he have a role that he wants to play and is excited to pursue in lieu of going off to a job each day? The reason matters so much more deeply, than “because I can, because I’m making more money, so shouldn’t he just come home to let me keep making more of it?”

Ryan: It’s one of those things where the money doesn’t matter that much. Of course it plays a part. Of course it’s one of the factors you consider. But that shouldn’t be the reason why you do it.

Steph: It has to be more profound and purposeful than that. It’s about what matters to you as a family. It’s more about the non-tangible things you’re pursuing, not just that the wife can make more money if she only had more time to pursue her business.

Ryan: I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with the husband coming home to help his wife IF that’s what was honestly rewarding for both of them. If she makes 100K and he makes 20K, then maybe it’s not sustainable the other way around, BUT you have to realize there will be challenges with that.

If he’s going to come home and be the stay-at-home dad, he may not have grown up like that, and culturally it’s likely not the norm where you’re from, then he might find those challenges really hard to deal with.

He may also find it hard to transition from doing focused, result-oriented work every day to the more multitask, less-concrete nature of the work done in the home. It’s a huge change, and one that could be quite discouraging for him. You should know that upfront, and allow that to factor into your decision.

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Not his or hers, but ours.

Steph: I think it can be done well. But my gut is that whatever you’re doing, it has to be yours. Both of yours. It can’t just be hers.

Ryan: I would disagree with that, Steph. Only a little bit. I don’t think that’s absolutely the way it has to go. Think about when I was starting Resound School of Music. Although you were involved and supportive, it didn’t have to be totally ours. But certainly it can be a better recipe for success if it’s something you can do together, something that’s yours combined.

Steph: I guess what I’m saying is you don’t want to get to a place, and this happens sometimes, where one spouse is the main person in the business and the other just feels like a helper or an assistant.

Ryan: Yes! That’s not healthy. For sure.

Steph: Really, that’s going to lead to long term issues in your relationship and marriage, and probably resentment and bitterness. Perhaps what I mean by it being yours is that you both need to have ownership over the decisions and how you live it all out.

Whether the business is truly joint or not, the collaborative process of figuring out how you’ll manage all the work in your home and business needs to be owned by you as a couple. It’s got to be a team effort. That’s the only way it really works.

Takeaways from our conversation

And with that, I think we’ll wrap up this conversation that could really go on forever (and with the length of this post compared to what we usually write, that was almost the case).

Here are a few thoughts we ultimately came away with:

  • Each spouse needs to play a role that feels genuinely valuable to them in the work mix of the family; one which provides a degree of satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment.
  • Far more than being about the money, this is about what you value as a family. Make your decisions intentionally and always together.
  • Marriage requires both compromise and a willingness to serve one another for it to work. When we selfishly put our spouse in a position that leaves them frustrated and unfulfilled on a regular basis, we’re creating an environment where resentment and bitterness can fester.
  • Our upbringing and our values, faith and beliefs impact how we feel about the roles we each play. Those feelings matter, and can’t just be brushed aside. Though big changes within our family roles and responsibilities can happen and are sometimes very fruitful, they can also be incredibly challenging and create tension, so they need to be carefully considered.
  • All work in the home, family and business is good and necessary work. Making money isn’t a measure of the worth of a task.
  • There are often seasons of the work that we do over the course of our lives together. Don’t be afraid to consider seasons where you change things up to accomplish a specific purpose.

And once again, we turn it over to you. Where do you land on this issue, after all of the back and forth and different elements brought forward in these posts?

Hand photo by josh baptist

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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).

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