Mar 172015 21 Responses

Partnership: When Dad Works and Mom Stays Home

Partnership is one of the cornerstones of a healthy marriage. When both spouses feel as though they are not alone in this life, but are jointly pursuing goals and aspirations, their marriage can flourish.

In response to an article on the importance of partnership, a reader asked this question:

“How do we feel a sense of partnership when the husband works and the wife stays home?”

I love this question. Some women do not. Without reading this article, some women want to shoot me because the headline is built off of the question. But I love it. (See: Marry a Partner, Not a Child)

(Side note: Like any question, I am assuming intent based on the questioner’s words. It’s possible I have misunderstood the question and maybe the questioner simply misspoke, but I’m going to answer based on how the question was asked.)

The question itself reveals two problems. It shows biases which are hindering the couple from experiencing the true benefits of partnership. The question reveals two assumptions which are creating the tension in the marriage.

The two incorrect assumptions are:

1. That when one spouses receives a paycheck for their job and the other does not, then only one spouse is earning money.

2. That work is the centerpiece of partnership, so if one person does not receive a pay check, they cannot be a true partner.

Both of these are faulty assumptions. (See: This Is Who You Want to Marry)

First, for a married couple, money is never hers and his. One or both of them might receive a paycheck. Separate checking accounts might be kept because it’s the best financial plan for the couple. But all the money belongs to both of the spouses because all of the money is earned by both of the spouses.

I cannot do my job without Jenny. It would be impossible for me to meet every responsibility required both at work and at home to keep our family going. I have to have her. Without her, I would have to drastically re-order my life. I could keep doing my job, but many other things would have to be sacrificed if I were a single parent.

The same is true for Jenny. She can’t do her job without me. Even though I know nothing about media buying and very little about advertising, I am vital to her business because I can assist her with other responsibilities which frees her to spend more time working on her business.

We both receive separate paychecks, but we both play an essential role in the money the other earns.

This is true for every couple. “When dad works and mom stays home” mom is still playing a key role in the money dad earns. The paycheck might be in his name, but it is their money. He has no right to assume he is making all of the money, because he is not. Together they have designed a life based on one paycheck, but they jointly share the responsibilities to make that life happen. (See: The Math of a Good Marriage)

One of the first steps to experiencing true partnership with your spouse if one stays home and one works outside of the home is to recognize the contribution the other person is making toward your career.

I often laugh when someone thanks me for my time when I’m with them at an odd hour. Whether it’s a hospital emergency, a death, or a marriage in distress, I’ll meet with someone late at night or on a weekend and they are very grateful for my time. I always tell them, “You shouldn’t thank me; you should thank Jenny.” Whenever work demands my time, she is left to pick up the slack with kids and every other responsibility.

When Jenny is required to visit a client out of town or have a conference call at dinner or stay up late to work invoices, I have to pick up the slack for her.

We might earn separate paychecks, but we earn them together.

The second misconception the questioner had regarding partnership is that it is primarily about work. It is not. Work is an important part because it is a place where we spend a lot of our time. However, partnership is not solely about work. It is about life.

Jenny is my partner in life, not just work. She plays an important role in my work. She listens, advises, gives her perspectives, shares what others have told her, and does many other things which help me in my job. But my job is just one aspect of my career. And my career is just one aspect of my life. She is my life-partner. We are partnering together to create the lives we want. (See: Does Having a Child with Down Syndrome Make Marriage Tougher)

Jobs and careers are important, but so are children, home, family, fun, dreams, aspirations, spiritual connection, and many other pursuits. Partnership does not have to be primarily about work. It is about joining together to create meaningful lives.

Even if Jenny never assisted me with work, we would still feel a deep sense of partnership.

We parent as partners. Parenting is not left to her. We are a team. While there might be specific roles one of us plays the lead on, there is not a single issue regarding our kids in which we aren’t both fully involved. Our children know we are a team when it comes to parenting. While they try to divide us (by asking one parent the same question they just asked the other parent) we keep a united front before them. Not only does it make us feel united, it also gives them the security of a stable home.

We dream as partners. Part of my job as her husband is to help her make some of her dreams come true. Many things cannot be accomplished alone. We need help. A spouse can be a constant source of encouragement, hope, and prodding. We can refuse to let our spouses give up on the things which are truly important to them. We can confront them when we feel as though they are settling for less than what is possible or using excuses. Consider: in a healthy marriage, someone is waking up every day wondering “How can I make your life better?”

We play as partners. It is not important for spouses to share every hobby. It might actually be beneficial for each spouse to have some separate pursuits. But it is also useful for spouses to share some hobbies. Too many marriages get stuck in the routine of work and raising kids and they lose the element of fun in their relationships. Having a shared hobby can invigorate a relationship. Jenny had never played tennis much before meeting me, but now we enjoy it together. I had never been hiking before meeting her, but now I often look for good hikes while planning vacation. (See: Playfulness–One Sign of a Healthy Marriage)

Partnership is an integral role of a good spouse. Without a good partner, life can feel overwhelming. The demands are too many and the responsibilities of family are too much to go it alone. Each spouse needs to be operating at a high level in order for a marriage to flourish.

21 Responses to Partnership: When Dad Works and Mom Stays Home
  1. […] I do not expect my children to be an equal partner in the family. They will not contribute as much a...

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