The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
Most couples, while dating and engaged, discuss what they want from their lives. They discuss how many kids they want to have, what career they want to pursue, what their religious beliefs are, etc. These discussions are necessary and important, but what you say before you’re married and have children may be vastly different than what actually happens.
Consider these cases, both just about whether or not one parent should stay home after a child is born:
One Spouse Wants to Stay Home but Is Unable To
I have known since I was very young that I wanted to stay home to raise my kids once I had them. I talked about it with my husband while we dated, and he agreed, though I don’t think personally he cared one way or another if I stayed home or worked.
We had our first child three years into the marriage, and the timing wasn’t great. I was working full-time and was the sole breadwinner while my husband was pursuing a combined M.A./Ph.D.
I went back to work when my son was just 10 weeks old. My husband took a leave of absence from school so we wouldn’t have to put the baby in daycare. While I desperately wanted to stay home with my child, and my husband really didn’t want to take a leave of absence, so there we were.
It wasn’t fair, but there really weren’t any other options.
One Spouse Decides the Working Life Doesn’t Trump Staying Home with the Children
Of course, many people experience the flip side of this.
My officemate when I worked full-time, I’ll call her Susan, was married at 26. She and her husband had no desire to have children. They were both pursuing successful careers, when they decided, 10 years into their marriage, that maybe they should have kids.
She was 37 when she had her first child, a colicky baby who would only take naps if Susan walked her around the neighborhood. The baby screamed most of the day. I thought Susan would be glad to return to work, but the opposite was true. She wanted nothing more than to stay home with her baby.
When she had her second and last child two years later, she became a stay-at-home mom for the next five years.
Susan’s husband rolled with the punches and agreed that it would be best if Susan stayed home.
Their life resembled very little of the life that they discussed while dating.
But life is like that, isn’t it? People grow and change and make different decisions than they would when they’re younger.
In my view, if you want a successful marriage, you have to be willing to have lifestyle choice conversations before you get married AND also be willing to change as circumstances in life change.
It’s easy to have strong opinions about what your life will be like before a child comes. What takes maturity and strength is the willingness to be flexible when Life doesn’t quite go the way you planned.
My Questions for You
Knowing that life situations will change during your marriage, is it right to discuss how you want things to be after you have kids when you don’t have kids now? How would you react if your spouse suddenly decided she (or he) wanted to give up his career and stay home with the children?