I’m going to tell you right off the bat that this post is for people who have a spouse who makes money. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. But it’s gotta be about $55K, which is what you have to earn in order to feed and clothe a family. No extras. Just that.
If you have a spouse earning that much money, then you don’t have to work. You can stay home and take care of the kids. I am giving you permission, since society does not really do that anymore.
Here are ten reasons people tell me they need to get a job. But they are all bad reasons—every one of them—and if any of these is your reason, then you should just stay home with the kids. You’ll be happier.
I want to feel independent.
Once you have kids, there is no such thing as independence. The kids have two parents and the parents will always, for the rest of their lives, be parenting together. Also, making the money doesn’t make you independent. Because when a kid is sick, one parent will work and make money, and the other parent will go get the kid at school. On that day, the working parent is dependent on the sick-day parent. The idea of independence is a feminist chimera.
I want to be okay if we get a divorce.
If you live your life preparing for a divorce, you’ll get one. And there’s nothing to make you not okay like having to arrange your family holiday with your ex’s new spouse who just planned a trip to Mexico and your kids want to go. So very little is okay after a divorce. But also, if you can feel okay during a marriage then you can feel okay after a divorce. Feeling okay is a state of mind. So focus on having a good marriage instead of a preparing for a good divorce.
My spouse doesn’t want to have all the financial responsibility.
The marriages that work the best are when people divide the labor. One person is in charge of the kids and one is in charge of earning money. It’s very difficult to do either of those jobs. But it doesn’t make life easier to decide you’re going to do both jobs. A better decision is to do one of the jobs really well and leave the other to your spouse. Adult life is hard. But it’s not as hard if you divide up the work load.
When we got married I promised I’d keep working.
Deals change. People change. The hardest part about marriage is that people always change but almost never how you expect. Adapting is a gracious response to the natural shift in personal desires as time goes on. In other words: tell your spouse you are not keeping that promise. And say you’re sorry.
It would be wasting my education to not have a job.
You do not need to earn money to justify being educated. Education is something that makes life more full and interesting. You deserve that just because you’re who you are: curious, challenging, and thoughtful. You do not need to have a job in order to pay an imaginary education toll.
I want people to respect me.
A job doesn’t get you respect. Respect comes from inside you. And that respect could get you a good job if you wanted one. Because people who have good self-esteem get good jobs. But if you are just getting a job to get respect, then you probably wouldn’t need one after you found the respect from inside yourself. Moreover, people who look for external validation are at risk for depression.
I want to do something bigger than just raise kids.
This is one of the most commonly held, but completely false, reasons. Because if you are smart and bright then people have been telling you since you were little that you’re going to do something big. But what they didn’t tell you is that doing something big that people notice requires the type of singular, impassioned focus that is not child-friendly and not part-time. Doing something big requires a big commitment, and that’s probably why you are making a big commitment to your kids right now. Because you can see that.
I want to earn a little bit of money.
It’s part of being human to always want 20% more. It’s science. As soon as you earn 20% more, you’ll get used to it and you’ll want 20% more again. It’s a hamster wheel with no end in sight. Think about this: Imagine you are a cave person and you collected berries, and you said, “This is enough. Let’s stop working.” When there was a shortage of food, you’d die. But the person who always thinks she needs 20% more would live. That’s why always wanting to earn more money is in your DNA. And you need to override that with the logic of modern knowledge.
I want to be a good role model for my kids.
This statement presupposes that being a stay-at-home parent is not a good role model. Which is, of course, a despicable idea. Because it’s a dishonor to kids and family to say stay-at-home parenting is not useful. But also, taking care of kids is way more difficult and more meaningful than going to work. So do the hard task of showing your kids that making them important is being a good role model.
All my friends have jobs.
Get new friends. We shift friends all the time because, unlike family, friends are mostly about proximity and life timing. If you’re at the same place in life that your friends are, you’ll feel more stable and happy with your choices. So stop hanging around people who have huge jobs. They won’t see their kids and they’ll tell you all the time how their kids are doing great without much parental involvement, which will mean that you are unnecessary. Get friends who make the same types of life choices you make. Happiness is relative to the people around you. Get people who value what you value and you’ll be happier. Without the job.
Now you are going to ask, why is Penelope working? What is Penelope’s reason that she is working instead of being with her kids all day?
The answer is: I like working.
But it’s not a real answer because for the last week I didn’t like working, so I didn’t. No emails. No blog posts. Just turkeys and pancakes and pig litters and snowmen. And sex with a good attitude. Because I am much more easy-going about sex when I don’t have to pause in the middle of work to take off my clothes.
So I’m a big fat liar maybe. I don’t know why I’m working. And maybe my family would be happier if I didn’t work and used that extra time to reap all those mental health benefits from going to the gym every day.
But I really liked writing this post. I liked the process of listing all the bad reasons. And I liked the process of telling you that I haven’t found a good, honest reason to work.
I like talking to you. That’s why I work. Because I like talking to you and I like that you listen.