When your spouse does not respect your contributions as a stay-at-home parent

Respect for the Stay-at-Home Parent

TDS Reader Solutions

The Problem

Here's a question for all you "one-income" successes. What do you do when the "working" partner doesn't respect the kind of work the at-home partner is doing? In other words, the "working" partner feels that he/she works harder and is more valuable because of the income-earning factor than is the home-based partner?
Frustrated in Indiana

Walk a Mile In My Shoes

I am a stay-at-home mother and am very lucky that my husband knows how hard it is. I used to be the "provider" while he was in school and he stayed home. Because he stayed home, he knew how much work was involved with running a household. My advice would be for the "working" partner to take a few days off from work to try his or her hand at running the household. The home partner could make a list of jobs that need to be completed. It is not as easy as one may think.

It's Mutual Respect

The bigger question may be the lack of respect in the marriage. I respect my wife greatly for being a stay-at-home wife and mother. Together we work as a team. She allows me to concentrate on earning a living for the family by running the house, and I allow her to concentrate on the home and family she cares for by providing the family income.
Walter P.
Plattsburgh NY

Respect for the Stay-at-Home Parent

The Cost of Working

On the subject of "A Little Respect," recently, for fun, I figured out my worth (money-wise) as a SAHM. I figured out the cost of childcare for our four children, convenience foods (because I wouldn't have time to cook from scratch), a second car (including gas and insurance), work clothes (I couldn't wear t-shirts and jeans every day), meals out (lunches, breakfast, and dinners because we don't have time to cook), etc.

I came up with a surprising figure. I would have to earn, before taxes, nearly $25,000 just to break even! That's just to pay for the above-mentioned "work expenses." That doesn't include any profit, and doesn't take into account the time spent away from my children, less time to do my REAL job (homemaker!), etc.

So next time the "paid" partner claims to be more important, just show them how much you are REALLY worth!

Could you earn $50 while junior naps? Here's 5 possible extra money sources to put your naptime plans in motion.

An Issue of Communication

Was this a choice that you both sat down together and discussed? Did you talk this over? Is money really tight right now and s/he feels lots of pressure to provide better? Are you caring for the children at home?

I hate to say it but I think this is a marriage and communication problem. As partners you should work together and help each other out always. I don't understand this attitude that s/he may be more important or worthy because s/he earns the money. If you are raising your children, then please remember that that is a VERY important job. If this is a recent thing, then maybe s/he is feeling some pressure at work that you haven't talked about. If money is really tight then maybe, s/he is feeling that they are not doing a good enough job for their family.

Please talk to each other more and discuss this problem. If s/he is treating you badly because you don't work, then you definitely need to talk and work something out. This will hurt your relationship if it is not worked out. S/he is obviously harboring hurt feelings and you two need to sit down and talk. Remember, you deserve respect. Everyone does. I can't imagine being married to someone who doesn't respect me.

Take a 'Leave of Absence'

As a stay-at-home mom, I have found the best way to get the respect I deserve is to leave my spouse at home for four days with my five chldren. I usualy go once a year and have found that it only takes about two hours for him to give me all the respect I could possibly need. What job could possibly be more iportant than raising your children and running your home? A full-time mother is a teacher, an accountant, an economics expert, part-time nurse, media screener, creative consultant, and so much more. In a perfect world, all full-time stay-at-home parents would get an immediate raise in salary!
Melanie (stay-at-home mother of five)

Not Always One Sided

If my husband didn't appreciate the work I do at home, I'd probably suggest that he trade me jobs for awhile and then we would both apprecitate each other's work more! Of course, this is probably not possible! Compliment his job and efforts. A person's "lack of respect attitude" may be a reaction to not feeling appreciated himself. Being appreciative of your partner usually starts a chain reaction and then he will show more appreciation for you.

I know some cases where a working husband does not appreciate his wife's at-home efforts, because she truly is not putting in the same amount of time as him. Does the at-home partner spend hours on the phone or in front of the television? I decided that in order for it to really be an equal partnership, I need to put in about the same number of hours as my husband does and only allow myself short breaks like I would receive in the workplace. It has been great. Not only does my husband appreciate more what I do, but also I get a LOT more done!
Content in Utah

A Plan for Respect

To frustrated in Indiana, I was really afraid of this when I quit my job to raise my son. I was a full-time attorney and made 150% of what my husband made. It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.

It was very difficult at first when I went from all that to NO salary, no money (because our budget had been cut so dramatically), virtually no domestic skills, and so much fatigue that made it difficult for me to remember my own name when the baby was little and not sleeping through the night.

I am now happy to say that all that has changed. This is what we did:

  1. Discussed our feelings. I told my husband that I was scared he would no longer respect me. He knew going in that any "comments" hinting that I did not contribute to the family would be unappreciated.
  2. From the start, we decided our family was a team. Together we had made a conscious decision to put OUR family first and this would be the best way to do it.
  3. Appreciate the wage-earner's efforts, as you want your's appreciated. Sometimes the wage earner downplays the other spouse's contribution because of the increased stress of being the sole wage earner and fear of not cutting it. When I understood this, I promised to quit saying, "I've worked and I've been home, managing a home is definitely more emotionally and physically taxing!"
  4. Meet weekly together as a family to discuss what each person is doing or has done. This adds to the team concept, but it also lets the other family members see how much you are doing in meal planning, budgeting, etc. If you manage your home and hold your "board meetings," your family will see you in a different light.
  5. Finally, respect yourself. After giving up my job, I soon learned that I was more afraid that I would not respect who I had become, rather than losing my husband's respect. People do treat me differently than when I wore suits and didn't have a diaper bag on my shoulder. But, in my heart, I would not trade it for the world.

At the end of my life, I don't care if anyone ever knows I was an attorney, but I hope they will look at my children and say that I was a MOTHER. With that attitude, I am happier, healthier, and don't look around constantly to make sure others are respecting me enough. As a final note, my husband just got an unexpected promotion and my brother asked me, "Isn't it hard to see him shine instead of you?" For the first time in our marriage, I am proud to say the thought had not even crossed my mind. "No!" I said, "our team got a promotion and I couldn't be happier!"
Litigation to Love

Related: The Best Sites for Finding Work at Home Jobs

Don't Forget Self-Respect

I struggled with this issue when I decided to quit my job so I could be at home with our now 17-month old daughter. But the biggest problem wasn't my husband respecting me, it was me respecting myself.

It will help both partners if you can sit down and on paper list all the advantages of one of you being at home. This can include everything from time to go to 2 or 3 different groceries to get the bargains, to eating at home more than eating out, to having time to hang the laundry outside (saving on the electric bill), not to mention the immeasurable benefits if you have children. In our area, quality daycare is expensive, and I determined I wasn't going to work just to pay child care.

Among my stay-at-home mom friends, we've discovered that in some ways it's very much easier to be the "working" partner, as in working outside the house. You get interaction with (usually) intelligent adults on a daily basis, you get recognition for your accomplishments, and you get to spend a large portion of your day being who you want to be, not being "the mommy" or "the daddy." There's a lack of intellectual stimulation associated with staying at home, no matter how good your circumstances are.

The bottom line is, you have to have respect for yourself and what you are doing. If you don't, then you can't expect anyone else, including your partner, to respect you. Maybe for a while you'll have to point out your accomplishments and the money you are saving, so that he or she will get the idea that you aren't sitting around watching soap operas and eating bonbons all day.

Reviewed January 2018

Take the Next Step

  • Watch this video if you're interested in becoming a work-at-home mom.
  • Learn smart ways to raise your family on one-income in this two-income world. The Dollar Stretcher's Guide for One-Income Families will give you ideas for reducing expenses and making money from home.
  • Don't allow debt to prevent you from providing for your family the way you would like. Find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle. Start today so you can give your family a better tomorrow.
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