I am a working mother nearing 40. My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years and have 4 children ages 9, 7, 3 and 1. Throughout each pregnancy I’ve worked full-time and returned to work full-time within 3 months after each birth. I really want to be the primary care-giver for our children, but my husband won’t even consider me staying home, saying we would go bankrupt if I didn’t work and provide the health coverage for our family. We are careful about spending money, but our lifestyle is based on our combined income. I’ve tried talking with my husband about some of the options we have, and I’ve even written him a letter to let him know how serious I am, but every time I bring it up (it’s on my mind and heart constantly)he gets sarcastic and angry. I believe if he wanted me to be home with our children, we could make it work. But his heart’s not in it, so I’m left with a broken heart. I’ve lived with these feelings for over 9 years, and it’s not gotten any easier. I’m so tired of saying goodbye to my children every day, not to mention all the things that are left undone at the end of each day. Do you have any ideas or suggestions for me?
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My big suggestion is that you see if your husband will accompany you to marriage therapy (surprise!), because I think this is a marriage issue that will not go away. Your husband is certainly entitled to his opinion regarding whether you work or not, but he is not entitled to dictate what you do. If he does do this, instead of compromising with you in some way so that you feel that you ‘win’ the argument too, the risk is high that you end up resenting him, the love dies in the fact of his rigidity and you are left with a shell of a marriage held together by kids more than by affection. Not a good scene. He (and you too) may think that this is a ‘zero sum’ game – where one party wins and the other loses. This is not necessarily the case. There are probably multiple solutions that are possible, and it may take a third party to help you identify them. A third party counselor can also help insure that both of you are heard. This is an important issue to pursue, I think, because in some ways it will help you to better understand the limitations and flexibilities of the man you are living with. It will come down to him finding a way to compromise with you, you finding a way to compromise yourself, or you finding that if he won’t compromise, neither will you (and then you’re out of there…). Good luck in finding a middle path.