My Husband Thinks I’m Selfish For Wanting A Post-Baby Career

After watching my daughter grow through her first year of life, I thought it was normal and healthy to want my personhood back. As it turns out, it’s not. It’s completely selfish.

I used to work full-time from home as an internet content writer before I got pregnant. Then, during pregnancy, I did a little less writing and a little more commissioned fine art—I probably worked three to five hours a day. It worked for me; it was true to my ambitions and talents. My husband worked as a line cook. Although there were some things we would have changed if we could (mostly in the salary department), we were happy. I even felt balanced, like none of my roles took center stage. I was an artist, wife, friend and mother-to-be. I earned money for being creative, I went on dates, I hung out with friends and I sewed curtains for baby’s nursery. Balance.

I am a Type-A Stress Junkie, and I also tend to have excess energy. This suited me well as a new mother because there was suddenly so much to do and adjust to. Laundry? Check. Take baby for a walk in the front carrier? No problem. Nurse, read, play with, and venture across town with baby? Absolutely. But as I got used to being a SAHM, these tasks suddenly became second-nature. And when things become second-nature, they tend to get boring.

My husband got a promotion and suddenly had much more to learn and do at work. I watched with an envious eye, meanwhile trying to brainstorm ways to fill my day (ways that didn’t involve watching sitcom reruns for three hours in the morning and watching talk shows all afternoon). What was happening to me? I used to be someone who never had time to touch a TV remote. I used to scoff at my husband’s suggestion to play video games because I hated relaxation. Relaxation frustrates me. I want to splash paint on canvases and alphabetize my bookshelf and clean the crown moulding, not relax!

My husband’s personality is the exact opposite. If he could sit all day in a dark room and play video games, he would. He didn’t see his promotion as an exciting opportunity—he saw it as a nerve-wracking increase in accountability. He’s not a fan of taking work calls on his days off and being his employees’ favorite go-to guy. If it weren’t for the pay, I have no doubt he’d switch back to being a line cook. I can’t fathom wanting to climb down the ladder, but he’d rather not live the American Dream if it means becoming a workaholic.

So when Shaun and I were arguing the other night (while I was in the process of nursing baby down to sleep) and he said, “I wish I had your problem. I wish I was good at too many things and didn’t have time for all of them,” I was speechless.

He proceeded to call me “selfish” for wanting more time to work. He proclaimed that he had made so many sacrifices by working this stressful job, so why couldn’t I just make a sacrifice too? He also said it seems like “no one wants to take care of the baby.” No one? Really? So what have I been doing for nearly a year, exactly? Locking baby in the bedroom and drinking martinis?

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  • chickadee

    It sounds like your husband’s real issues are with his new job, not necessarily the fact that you want to work. I would be willing to bet that if you went back to work full-time with reliable care for the baby and HE were allowed to go back to his less stressful job, things might settle down a bit…as long as you can ignore the disapproval of your parents.

    I am really sorry, because I totally support women going to back to work when they need that mental occupation. I hope you guys can figure out the best way to make it work.

    • Sara

      I agree–it sounds like your husband is more upset about his situation and the fact that he hates his job than the fact that you want to work. He may also be dealing with some guilt about the fact that he doesn’t get to spend much time with your daughter and when he does see her, she seems to prefer you (that will go away, by the way) and be projecting his guilt onto you by saying that YOU should feel guilty for wanting to work outside the home.

      Personally, I work full-time both because we need the money and because my work fulfills and satisfies me. I’m happier when I’m working, and as they say, happy mom equals happy baby. I also happen to believe that it’s important for women to stay professionally viable so that they COULD support themselves and their children on short notice if needed. It’s not that I don’t think women should stay at home with their children, but I always advocate for doing so only after getting training or a college degree as well as some experience in a marketable field, and while staying abreast of professional development and trends in their fields. I’ve seen too many women bank on the fact that their husbands could support them, only to find themselves in terrible circumstances when that no longer turned out to be the case, either through the husband’s choice or not.

      But every family has to decide what works best for them. The problem here is that your husband doesn’t seem to be on the same page as you; I hope you can work it out soon.

  • mean

    I can relate to your guilt and frustration. You shouldn’t feel guilty that you need more than motherhood to fulfill you. Even SAHMs need other things in their lives to stay sane. It’s called being human. But it is hard not to feel guilty, when so much of the world around us still expects mothers (not fathers) to be completely fulfilled by nothing but motherhood. I think it’s important to keep telling yourself that your child will be happiest and most healthy when s/he has parents who are happy and fulfilled.

    I agree with chickadee who says the problem sounds more like your husband’s dissatisfaction with his career/life balance. He needs an outlet too. Maybe encourage him to do something outside of work and home, that gives him the boost he needs (like a sport he loves, some video game time, a night out with friends, etc.)

  • Rebecca

    My sister had the opposite problem. She wanted to stay at home, but my BIL harrassed her into going back to work because he said he was jealous. He said he didn’t think it was fair that she got to play with my nephew all day while he had to go to work. Now that’s childish. Don’t let your partner guilt you into staying home if it’s not what you want to do, and don’t guilt your partner into working a job he hates just for money. My husband is a web developer and has turned down management positions because it’s not what he wants to do. Maybe if you start bringing in more money he can go back to his old line cook position.

    • Melody

      My husband works a job he dislikes and while I don’t guilt him into it, he works because he has to make enough money to support us. It’s what responsible adults who aren’t independently wealthy do. I don’t know what your situation is but we HAVE to work whether we want to or not because it costs money to afford things like rent, food, medical expenses, etc. Sometimes it’s not as black and white as turning a good job down because it’s not ideal.

      Amanda’s situation sucks and is similar to mine so I definitely sympathize!

  • meteor_echo

    Your husband sounds like a selfish crybaby, actually. So, he works a job he dislikes, but he wants you to be tethered to yours and his child 24/7? WTF, dude.

  • Jessie

    I feel sorry for your husband. I agree with some previous posters that he’s more unhappy with his job than your desire to work. Can you support the family while he stays home? That might be a doable solution, but do you WANT to work full time and burden that responsibility?

  • bumbler

    Maybe just tough it out for another year. Babies are only babies for a very short time. What’s one more year of putting off your ambitions? If you have 40 years to do work, is it so bad to take a few off for the family? You did have the baby, I assume, so that you could raise it. Of course it can be mind numbingly boring and un ullfilling (so can any job), but staying at home for 2-3 years with a baby does NOT trap you into a life time of being nothing but a housewife and mother.

    • meteor_echo

      Sometimes, one more year of “putting your ambitions off” means they’ll go down the crapper. Also, NOT every woman wants to stay with the baby for two, much less three years. Some want to be actual persons and not to be defined by the whole motherhood thing. Some even have those nasty things called “hobbies” and even DARE to pursue them after procreating.

      Also, why are you suspiciously silent about the husband’s behavior? The guy is throwing a tantrum and wanting to essentially make his own wife miserable, and you’re silent about it? Really?

    • bumbler

      It’s true that taking time off can ruin a career path, but if that’s the case, why commit to raising a child in the first place? A child is not another hobby that you can keep on evenings and weekends (though many people are indeed on that schedule). Again, most hobbies can wait a year or two until the kid is old enough not to need 24/7 attention. It’s true that not everyone wants to stay home with a baby, so again I ask, why sign yourself up for that ride to begin with then?

      I think it’s a matter of perspective an priorities. I gave up lots of hobbies and free time to get through the commitment of going through college for 4 years….Shouldn’t I be able to muster the maturity to accept the commitment of sacrificing a year or two for a child’s infancy? Like I said before, it really is a short period of time we’re talking about here.

      Also, I never said this was a woman’s burden. Funny enough I am a stay at home dad going on year 3 of baby-raising. I think if you’re being ‘defined by mommyhood’ then perhaps your character lacks fortitude. Do you really need to ditch the baby just to escape the apparently horrifying reality that you’re now a mother? If no one can see how special and dynamic you are, then maybe you aren’t….to put it bluntly. Try harder. Getting a job won’t free you from the mommy label. You’ll just add “working” to the “mom”.

      And as far as the husband goes in the author’s situation, I wasn’t going to beat a dead horse, the other commenters have already had their way with him. He’s been set up as an easy target (however true), and I don’t waste my time on cheap shots. “ohh, he’s so horrible and wrong!” Feel better?

    • meteor_echo

      A child is not a hobby, true, but for some of us hobbies are like our children. Even if I wanted to breed (not going to happen), I would not abandon something important in favor of another person. Also, this “you are mature if you are able to sacrifice the stuff you like and become immersed into diaper changing” is a load of bullshit – I know too many people who did NOT lose their sense of self after they decided to have a kid. Why? Because the other parent was also being responsible. You might be a stay at home father who helps a lot – wonderful. But the guy in the article clearly isn’t.

      Funny that you’re feeling entitled enough to tell somebody to change their whole way of thinking when it’s not your situation.

    • blood

      1) one more year of “putting your ambitions off” can mean depression or a broken marriage! 2) My family life is a variation on Amanda’s situation – I have a freelance-ish job I absolutely love, my husband (the main breadwinner) has a boring, well-paid corporate job. He hates being separated from the baby; I love her, but will absolutely leave skid marks in the driveway on the day when I return to work (when she’s 7 months old, people). We somehow manage to balance it all – he takes care fo her every evening and weekend, and makes sure he doesn’t make me feel guilty about leaving home in the evening to my pilates class or a beautician. 3) And the funniest thing of all – I live in a country where saying you’re a feminist actually makes people think of you as a vegan lesbian who doesn’t shave her legs, but a husband who makes his wife stay home with the baby would be perceived as a complete nut. 4) I absolutely see to many divorces to not second the “I need to be professionally viable” concept.

    • blood

      obviously, this was in response to bumbler’s post:)

  • C.J.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting more out of life than just motherhood. Yes being a mother is the most important job a woman with a child has, just like fatherhood is the most important job that a man with a child has, but it doesn’t have to be the only job. There is more to raising a child than being with them 24/7. Kids don’t need to have their mother there every waking moment. Daycare can be good for them. This whole mommy guilt thing has gotten way out of hand. I don’t know why we all think our children are doomed if we aren’t constantly with them. Setting goals for yourself and following your dreams are important too. That sets an example for your child to make life as fulfilling as possible. You should never feel guilty about wanting your life to be fulfilling. Some people are happy being SAHM’s, some are not. Neither is the wrong choice as long as the choice is being made by the person living it. My friend had a similar problem with her husband because he wanted her to be the one responsible for the kids and the house. She finally told him she needed to work for her mental health, she needed to get out and do something else. He got over it when he realized how negatively staying home was affecting her. I have to agree with chickadee, this sounds like it is more your husbands problem with being unhappy in his job than anything to do with you.

    • Cassy

      Amen! Amen! Amen!

  • Diana

    Your husband sound like he’s Jealous of your staying home. He’d probably give his eye teeth to look after, and build a relationship with , your daughter instead of working at something soul destroying that he hates ( At the expense of a connection with his own child too) . If you both work part time ( Or you work and he quits and stays home) he may be a much happier man?

  • cady

    Expecting your entire life’s fulfillment from another person is a huge burden to place on a child (or a spouse — I’ve seen a lot of people who expect their spouses to fulfill all their needs). Parents who want to work in addition to having kids SHOULD. The more ways a person finds fulfillment, the less pressure that person puts on any one of those things to be his or her life’s satisfaction.

    I think Amanda and her husband need to have a sit-down about the realities of their situation. He is stressed by being the primary breadwinner and having to work a job he doesn’t like. She is stressed by feeling stagnant. They are both stressed by unrealistic expectations that a) children not raised by a stay-at-home parent will be irreparably damaged (I know a lot of very wonderful adults whose parents both worked), and b) the stay-at-home parent MUST be the mother. I’d bet if Amanda goes back to work so that her husband can move back to a lower-stress, lower-paying job, they will both be happier, and the baby will be absolutely fine.