My own marriage and the myth of the stay-at-home dad

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For those of you who don’t know what’s going on in my marriage, please read My First Day of Marriage Counseling, and maybe you will want to leave a comment about how if you were my husband, you’d divorce me for blogging about my marriage.

My husband, in fact, has brought up divorce for other reasons. I am not totally sure which ones, to be honest, but I think it is career related since I have a great career and his sort of stalled when he became a stay-at-home dad and then went to hell from there.

I know that there are a lot of stay-at-home dads. But while it may seem like there are a lot who are happy, I think it’s really just that every single one of the happy ones is blogging.

There are a lot of stay-at-home dads in my neighborhood. After all, I live in a town where you can buy a house for under $200,000, so living on one income is not that hard here. That’s part of the reason we moved to Madison.

So my friend who writes for a very huge and widely read publication needed some stay-at-home dads to interview. And I said, “I know a bunch. I’ll give you names.” But you know what? None of them would talk. And of course my husband would not talk, because stay-at-home parenting has been a disaster for us. And if you ask all the high-level women who have men at home with their kids, (there are tons) their husbands are not talking.

So I’m going to tell you the truth about stay-at-home dads: The happy ones are working part-time at something they love. This is not surprising because the majority of women with kids would rather work part-time than either stay-at home full-time or work full-time. Which explains why we’re done with the stay-at-home dad routine.

Not that I really know what my husband is doing, though, because we are barely talking. We are doing what I imagine lots of couples do when things fall apart: Acting totally normal at events where normal families show up as families, and then pretending we don’t know each other at home.

And I do feel a little like I don’t know him. Last night I accepted a LinkedIn invitation from a friend. I went immediately to see our common connections – my favorite thing to on LinkedIn — and, there was my husband.

I wasn’t shocked that she knew him. I was shocked by what he wrote for his profession. Stay-at-home dad, former online game producer.

Surely writing stay-at-home dad on a LinkedIn profile cannot be good. But that’s what he is, so what else is he going to write? I went to LinkedIn to investigate the stay-at-home situation. When I searched the string “stay at home”, I got 471 results. It makes sense, I guess, because the biggest problem people have when they leave work to take care of a kid is that they lose their contacts. So LinkedIn would be an obvious thing to do to make going back to work easier.

The list was mostly moms. The first guy I saw was not only a stay-at-home dad, but in his special skills section he lists “baby stuff”.

As the career expert in my household, I always think I’m ten steps ahead of my husband. But I didn’t know that somewhere in the back of his mind, while we’re at soccer games and swimming lessons, he has been wrestling with the question of what to write on LinkedIn, which is really the question of how to present himself professionally when he’s abandoned his profession. I feel very lucky that I’m the one who kept up a career.

So we are interviewing babysitters because my husband needs time to think, and you can’t think about the state of your life and what to do about it when you are taking care of kids.

While I was conducting an interview, my husband was scurrying around getting camp lunches ready for the next day. This is an endearing thing about my husband – he is the king of details, and I am terrible with them. Every time there is something wrong in the lunchbox, my son comes home and asks if I could please not pack his lunch anymore.

So my husband was running around the house and he bumped into me. A normal thing to do would be to say I’m sorry. But we are not talking to each other. And the babysitter saw that an opportunity to be normal was somehow missed.

I needed to say something to explain the weirdness, because good babysitters do not work in homes of messed up families. I thought a little story might make things feel like I have some control. So I said, “Um. My husband and I are, uh. Well. We are…”

And the babysitter said, “Oh, don’t worry. I know. I read your blog.”

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  1. Maureen Sharib
    Maureen Sharib says:

    This was a very brave post and thank you for sharing the gut stuff that people are dealing with and afraid to talk about.

    Maureen Sharib
    Telephone Names Sourcer

    • Mrmomss
      Mrmomss says:

      I was a school teacher when I married my wife who was in her 2nd year of medical school. We had children in the 4th year of medical school and the 2nd year of residency. I did everything from take the kids to school (daycare), clean the house, do the laundry, pack the lunches, pay the bills, made sure that the days ran smooth. I did this for 5 years. When she finished residency we moved back to where we were from. (2009). She decided she didn’t want me to work anymore so that she could focus on he career. I was nervous about that, because I had always gone to work. I thought being a stay at home dad would not be that bad since now I don’t have to report somewhere. Her parents were not very happy with our arrangement but it was our life. 2011 we bought a small walnut orchard thinking it would help me be a man again. It was fun because I have always enjoyed hard work. I was made sure she was first as I provided for kids making sure everybody was where they needed to be. I was also remodeling the home making updates as they were needed. We bought new vehicles, trailers, boats having fun with the money she was bringing home. We were not hurting financially. Our orchard was making money but not enough because we had planted more acreage and they were in baby trees. In four years the baby trees would of doubled our income. We were flying. 2014. Valentine day. I had prepared for the last couple of days for our family to go to the desert for family time. My wife came home 30 minutes early. I was excited because we we’re suppose to meet some friends down the road for the trip. She said she didn’t want to go anymore and this isn’t working. I said what is not working. She said our marriage. It had been ten years of me dedicating my life to her, to the children to everything we built as a family. She said I want a divorce, we spend money like water when we are together. She said she hated me. Time will tell. Nobody has filed for divorce yet. But she emptied our accounts in half. I had to move out of the house because she said I had to pay the mortgage. I have no employment. I have been mr. Mom. Her mother has now taken my role has shuffling the kids to practice when I don’t have the kids. I moved out with the kids to a small house and trying to survive. She said once we are in two house holds she will go to marriage counseling and after a couple of times I can join her. She does not talk to me only by text. Usually they are mean but with kid issues I get a ok as I inform her where the kids need to be. I am so hurt. I don’t know what to do, she has broken my heart. I am a Christian who talks to his pastor once a day. Especially during I this time of need. I have met a lot of other people who have been in these shoes. Except I am dad not mom. She called me her piggybank. I have applied for a couple of jobs that have opened up teacher position. I gave everything to this person, my heart on my sleeve. She decided she did not respect me anymore. When I see her, her eyes are so pissed at me. We are not legally separated but separated by her choice. What to do, I have never posted on line before, help.

      • InAustin
        InAustin says:

        Hi Mrmomss —

        I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for your situation, and I truly hope you find happiness somewhere. I stumbled across this site looking for recent statistics about success in the working-mom/stay-at-home-dad relationship. My husband and I are in a rough patch because, while he is very tender and loving and great at many child-related things, he still leaves all strategy and decision-making related to the household to me. So I feel like I have two full-time jobs, and it is exhausting. Anyway, I hope you are doing okay, and that your relationship with your kids will be preserved, despite whatever else happens.

    • Jack Holcomb
      Jack Holcomb says:

      We’ll here we go. It has been 6 months since I posted that message. Things have changed for the worse. 3 weeks later I was served with separation papers at my daughters softball practice. I was sitting there with the rest of the moms (me being dad) excuse me sir is your name ,,,,,,,,,,,,,I said yes, she said sorry to have to do this here, my mouth dropped, then I cried. The papers were so bad that I had to call my pastor. What Christian woman says those kind of things….I met with my elders and we discussed the next step. I had to file for divorce, it was the worst thing, and the hardest thing to sign…we are still in the middle of it. I have gone back to teaching and I will never stop for my children. My ranch is sold, and I am working on selling anything that reminds me of her. She treats me as though I was dead. She is now married to her mother, and as has never left her mothers side.

      I feel sorry for my children, she never makes there games and puts on a show for them. She constantly lies to them about me. My little girl (who is 9) tells me all the time what she says. She says dad I know the truth, love you, you are a good person and a great dad to us. She spoils them with gifts and I spoil them with hugs and kisses. I hope one day they will remember that. I always try and keep the crock pot going when they walk in the door. So they remember the smell at dads . She doesn’t cook so they eat out all the time, it makes it hard when dad wants to treat. So I cook. My biggest fear is dating again, but for right now I’m focusing on them.

  2. MarilynJean
    MarilynJean says:

    I agree. It takes a lot to put something so personal out there. I guess that is part of what makes your blog so successful and interesting. I sincerely wish you luck with this situation.

  3. Me2 the SQL
    Me2 the SQL says:

    First of all, you have my best wishes that your marriage works out the way you want, be that divorce or reconciliation. Been there, done that, lost the tee shirt in the settlement (like that joke about academia, the fighting was so bitter because there was so little at stake). I received tons of advice from everyone on the planet when my divorce was pending as I am sure you are. The only bit that was worth listening to was “Hire a good attorney and then listen to what they tell you.” Really spend the time to find an excellent attorney if that is the route your marriage takes. I have been constantly underwhelmed by the ones that don’t feel a need to actually contact their clients for such silly stuff as scheduling, oh let’s say, Court Dates.

    Maybe it won’t reach that point for you. I wouldn’t wish that mess on anyone. Good luck either way and thank you for posting about it. It is a bit of a role reversal to have the big career belong to the wife. Do you think you will be subjected to the ‘Spends too much time at work and not enough at home’ type comments that many working dads get hit with?

    PS, did you hire the sitter?

  4. phil
    phil says:

    I don’t know if I could be so open about such difficult problems on my blog. I do know that writing things out and thinking about them can help a person, so more power to you.

    One thought, can you (or do you) share these thoughts with your husband?

    good luck.

  5. Rebecca Thorman
    Rebecca Thorman says:

    Everyone needs to feel valued and worthwhile in what they do. I can’t possibly know your situation is beyond what you’ve written, but it would seem to me that being individually responsible for your happiness and then sharing that happiness with your spouse is one of the keys to a good relationship. It’s to your credit that you have done so well in your career. Your husband has the ability to make changes and go for what he wants too, right?

  6. Aaron Erickson
    Aaron Erickson says:


    I guess I would ask, point blank, do you still love the man?

    Are you doing the active listening that your marriage counselor, if they are competent, are training you in?

    Those kinds of things can help a lot. Divorce is a real pain in the ass – you really don’t want to go there. Especially as a main breadwinner.

  7. Brian Johnson
    Brian Johnson says:

    I’m sure everyone wishes nothing but the best for Penelope and her husband. I would love to see more of a dialogue on the stay-at-home-dad issue, than revisiting the divorce topic. I only know one personally. He did it for several years after job hopping for a while. As far as I could tell he enjoyed it and was happy, but when the right job situation came along I don’t think he hesitated to make the switch and jump back into a career. I’ve often wondered why that was if things were fine with the other arrangement.

    I’ve also contemplated staying at home with the kids but don’t feel like it would work for me. According to today’s post, this is more common than I’d have guessed.

    What are the real issues behind this? Is it societal expectations? Are the actual tasks involved with staying at home not mentally challenging enough? Is it the lack of a network outside of the home. Is it the complete loss of individuality that having a career offers? Does anyone out there know of long-term (3 yrs+) stay-at-home dad arrangements that have worked out?

    I hope the comments can move in this direction insted of piling on Penelope again like after her last outstanding post about her marriage.

    • Marie Holden
      Marie Holden says:

      My Husband has been a stay at home dad for 4 years, and it is working great for us. I’m an engineer and he studied computer science. We met twenty five years ago in university physics and he’s the about the smartest person I personally know. His career didn’t take off as well as mine so after our kids came along (1+ twins) it just made sense for him to stay home. I’m good at my job, and do well at it, but it is often stressful, and having his support gets me through the rough times. Our kids are great. It’s just normal for them. Dad is the patient one. They get so much run to be creative with him, where I think I’d be trying to keep the mess under control. Sometimes he feels under appreciated. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I can’t understand why the dishes aren’t done and supper’s not made. Other times it blows me away how he can replace plumbing or fix the furnace with the kids helping. We’re partners and friends and on this adventure together. I’m about to start a job where I’ll be on site for 7 days then home for 7. It’s work I’ve wanted to do for a long time and the only reason I can do it now is because he’s at home. We’re both looking forward to having a couple of hours a day together every second week while the kids are in school. He doesn’t work part time. But he is involved in community sport and other
      organizations,and is an asset there.

      The arrangement is working for us. It’s not something we’re trying to escape.

      Growing up, my father was a nurse. He also built our house. So maybe I’ve got a more flexible idea of gender roles. But saying someone is “less of a man” because of the work he does just doesn’t make sense to me. Whatever that work is (paid or not), how you do it determines the man you are. Or the woman.

  8. wayne
    wayne says:

    “So I'm going to tell you the truth about stay-at-home dads: The happy ones are working part-time at something they love.”

    Sorry (not really) to disagree. I was never happier than when I was a stay at home dad, and I didn’t have a part time gig. Working part time at something they love? I love my kids and family, and I worked at that full time. The problem is that society has tied our worth to our work. In a social setting, when asked “so what do you do?” (a question considered very rude in some European countries), once I told them they were pretty much done talking to me. They can’t relate to me, they don’t spend ANY time with their kids, and I spend ALL of my time with mine. How could they relate to someone with such a radically different value system? I didn’t really care what they thought because I was always the “poor” kid in school, so I never fit in anywhere anyway. It’s the isolation thats the killer. That and the fact that the wife stops treating you with respect even though your kids are well adjusted and reading at a 5th grade level in the 2nd grade. When your making 100k/year, she’s proud of you even if you only see your kids once a week and they barely know who you are. When your raising your children right you’re a loser that has put all the pressure of providing on her – even though she thought it was a great idea at first.

    You and your husband don’t really want a divorce, what you want is for the other one to change something about themself so you can be happy together. I pray you guys don’t divorced. It takes a village….

    Things like Columbine didn’t happen in the 50s. Even if you didn’t fit in at school you fit in at home. Now, with everyone focused on their career and ignoring the kids, if they don’t fit in at school they are lost – and no one notices until it is too late. IMO

    • jb
      jb says:

      Dito. Great stay at home father. I can’t wait for the day when these father raised little kids grow up to be adults. The world will see that we could do better. For the poor working Moms out there, that don’t connect with their own offspring. You can’t fix a broken momma.

    • Jolls
      Jolls says:

      Great reply. Stay at home dad for 2 and a half years now. Was a decision forced on us by the economy but what was our choice was TO MAKE IT WORK!!! I dont post my fears, self-judgements,problems or disappointments of my wife’s career decisions on-line we talk them out.

      I love love love this opportunity and I think we have arrived in this point in society was because women insisted and fought for this role as a provider. I’m all for it. The thing is women need to continue to fight by teaching their partners to learn to be a homemaker whatever you want to call it. Women need to fight to avoid placing themselves in the same shoes an unbalanced man wears when he thinks he rules the roost because he is the bread winner. America needs more full time parents. LETS MAKE IT WORK.

  9. Aaron Erickson
    Aaron Erickson says:

    As for the Stay at home dad issue, there is still a sexist notion that SAHD’s are not Real Men, as Real Men go to Work and Provide For Their Family while the Little Woman Stays At Home. It has been chipped away at in recent years, but for the most part, it still exists.

    Now, on the other hand, I can understand some resistance to the whole stay-at-home idea, independent of gender, based on what it does to your independent earning potential, but that probably isn’t really the topic of this post. That said, men, like women, probably get really antsy when they find themselves as a stay-at-home during the course of a falling apart marriage. I can’t imagine the idea that I might be dependent on someone who, presumably because of a divorce, does not happen to like me very much.

  10. Ace
    Ace says:

    Agreed Brian, more comments on the stay-at-home dad angle, less on the marrieage issues (though they are equally important, I feel they were covered ad naseum in the last post)

    I happen to be in an interesting situation – ~30 yrs old, engaged to a (big name) law school graduate (who has secured a big time firm job for ~175K starting soon)

    I make ~ 100K but am not happy with my job and have been job hopping (and likely to hop again).

    Based on my current career outlook (hazy at best), it is unlikely that I will match her salary anytime soon – So, all of a sudden I’m faced with this idea that I may become a prime candiate for staying at home (when we have kids mind you) – Very strange thoughts to be having for someone like myself (with an MBA) who is intensly career orientated (hence a reader of this blog)

    Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing people’s experiences / thoughts – It could be something I’m faced with in the not so distance future.

  11. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    For those who may be thinking of staying at home, before you make that decision, please read, “The Feminine Mistake”, by Leslie Bennetts. (I don’t know her but her study and writing are very thoughtful).

    I know this isn’t an earth shaking observation but our society values human beings (male and female) based on their income generating potential. It does not value those who volunteer to stay home and raise small children–as important as that is to furthering the aims of society.

    • Andrea
      Andrea says:

      I absolutely agree with your comment Leslie. I have 8 kids (blended family) 6 of whom still live at home, the youngest is 8. I would like nothing better than to stay home full time.

      It is interesting that while there is an expectation that I work and help support our family, there is still a huge double standard that I be the one doing all the cooking, cleaning & shopping. I feel like I have 2 full time jobs and I am exhausted.

      If I bring up the idea of staying home I am looked at like I have just grown 2 heads. When I was a single mother of 5 I didn’t have an issue working and caring for the 4 kids still at home, but now I have nearly doubled the mouths to feed and my workload.

      Women’s lib is great for those who want it, but I often feel that this “equality” for earning has been rammed down the throats of those of us who want to be home caring for our families and can’t.

      We could easily afford for me to be home its just that my husband has been raised to feel somehow put upon and stressed to carry the whole load himself. What happened to the strong men of the 50’s?

  12. wayne
    wayne says:

    here ya go, in a nutshell:
    When your raising your children right you're a loser that has put all the pressure of providing on her – even though she thought it was a great idea at first.

  13. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    I agree with the point Penelope’s making that men have to have something for themselves – I think all people do. What that is will differ for everyone. And that’s okay. Example: My mom stayed at home with us and homeschooled us, but her field was education. We became her career. It was something that she was already passionate about, so why not do it for her kids? For men with that passion and for whom pouring into the lives of their children is enough, more power to them. I don’t think it’s a gender-specific thing, to want to pour your life into something you’re passionate about. I think it’s a person-specific thing. It depends on what you ultimately want out of life. And if you want a career and a life at home with your family, it’s important to consider how you can achieve that and make sure you are satisfied. Kids don’t want to live with miserable stay-at-home parents. You owe it not just to yourself, but to your family to make sure you are honest with yourself and make strides to get to the right balance.

  14. wayne
    wayne says:

    Since I have gone back to work, my marriage is 100% better. I hate working for Corporate America, make far less than what I’m worth, and long to be home making a difference in my kids lives. My 2nd grader that read at a fifth grade level is now going into the 5th grade with a B- grade avg., and sometimes she makes D’s. But my marriage is healthy.

  15. MyNameIsMatt
    MyNameIsMatt says:

    Wyan wrote: “what you want is for the other one to change something about themself so you can be happy together.”

    Is it a case of one wanting something in the other to change, or is it a case of one wanting something about oneself to change? Actually, I get the sense from this and the last post that Penelope is fine with her situation, but her husband is the one wanting some change probably more for himself than Penelope.

    I don’t know. I don’t like psycho-analysizing people’s blog posts too much. Especially since I’m just some regular Joe.

    Anyway, great ending. Tragically fun. Here’s to making it through the hard times.

  16. jack
    jack says:

    I like the post, but I need to tell you something. Divorces result because one partner consistently finds fault in the other, when the real problem lies within themselves. Now I’m no marriage counselor, but rather than finding so much fault in your husband, try looking inside yourself and ask yourself what it is that you do love about him. Focus on the positive when you do this (even if you have to force yourself to do so) so that you can reach deep inside and get a sense of why you love him. And then put forth an honest effort to work things out (not to MAKE it work). I wish you the best.

  17. Brian
    Brian says:

    Hmm. Your writing contains many not-very-subtle hints at why your marriage may be failing. I don’t know how successful your husband was in his field, or what (hopefully) mutual decisions you may have made that resulted in him being the SAHD. But your writing implies that you think and deal with him as if he/his career was a failure, rather than graciously put aside to support you.

    “As the career expert in my household…”
    “…how to present himself professionally when he's abandoned his profession.”
    “I feel very lucky that I'm the one who kept up a career.”

    Do you see what you’re doing? You emasculate him, abandoning the (again, hopefully mutual) agreements that put him in his current position and virtually blaming him for failing. You’re telling him he’s worthless. And one of the biggest things that men need to know is that their wives respect and value them.
    Another one of the top needs men have is the friendship of their wife. If you’ve abandoned communication because it’s uncomfortable, you’re burning bridges even while you claim you want to save the marriage. Talk to him and be his friend even when it’s uncomfortable to you. It’s okay if it’s unilateral for a time. If you try and then he maintains his distance, the burden is on him to pick up the slack.

    The final thing I would say is that if your career is a higher priority to you than your marriage, then maybe your priorities need re-ordering. Marriage first, kids second, everything else can wait in line.

    I don’t mean to attack; just voicing my opinion.

    • Mike Davis
      Mike Davis says:

      @ Brian

      Thank you for writing what many have probably been thinking.

      I feel sorry for the guy. Why wouldn’t he put “Stay at Home Dad” on his LinkedIn profile? The person he loves and trusts has gone out of her way to publicly hold him up for scorn. Even the babysitter knew about it.

      It amazes me how someone so smart and successful can be so … uncaring.

  18. Eddie
    Eddie says:

    I paid close to $4K in child support this month. If you and your husband part ways, I wonder if Family Court will be as harsh on you as they are on most men. That’s the post I look forward too.

  19. Dave
    Dave says:

    Remember that old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? If someone other than your husband, but in the same position asked you for advice, what would you say? Since you are “the career expert in my household”, try stepping back and looking at your situation as if you were not involved. What does he want? Does he want a career outside of the home? Do you know? Does he know? It must be old cliche day, but if you don’t know where you are going, then any direction will do.

    It is both refreshing and disconcerting to see that the maven of “advice at the intersection of work and life” doesn’t have all the answers. I hope you continue to share your struggles with us and that you find a solution in time. I won’t attempt to speak for the rest of the blogosphere, but I certainly find this thought-provoking.

    Best wishes,

  20. Suze
    Suze says:

    This is an honest post. We like to believe the happy-ever-after tales, particularly when popular media is full of them. I applaud you, Penelope, for not hiding anything.

    I think this where blogging will make a difference — when most bloggers feel they can tell the truth as they know it we may get a more accurate representation of our society.

    I wish the best of luck, Penelope.

  21. Steve
    Steve says:

    You are somewhat famous now. Because of your blog, now people who don’t even know you personally know your deepest, darkest secrets. Some things are meant to be private, especially between a husband and wife. You can’t put that cat back in the bag!

    Careerism is a huge problem, especially here. Most of the people in the world work to live, but we Yanks live to work. We define ourselves by our jobs. The job consumes most of our time and energy and there isn’t much left for anything else. It is almost as bad for those who are successful as “success” is traditionally defined. They acheive success and look around and still aren’t happy. Now what?

    Housewives have it really tough also. My wife is a homemaker taking care of our almost 2 year old daughter. It is a very isolated way to live. How is it that one of the most important “jobs” in the world is looked down upon? Imagine how it must be for a man, and the traditional gender roles he is expected to live within. A commedian (George Carlin (?)) once said our basic choices are work and jail. Not only that, money or lack thereof conveys significant power.

    The stay at home Dad arrangement isn’t working out for your family. Let Dad go back to work doing something that utilizes his skills and iterests and things will be fine.

  22. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    OK, so maybe all the happy SAHD’s are blogging. But maybe that’s a causal factor, instead of an effect. My husband did the SAHD thing between jobs for about 2 months. I was never happier. My daughter has never been so happy. It nearly killed my husband. Yes, most of Boomers and even Gen X self-worth is defined by earning power, but happiness, P so eloquently argues, is a matter of belonging to community.

    If you are a SAHD, you don’t get to go have coffee with all the other SAHMs. You don’t go to MOPS, or volunteer, or anything else to get adult contact. If you’re a blogger, you blog, and that could do it. But that didn’t work for my husband.

    Now, I am the primary breadwinner, and working part-time isn’t an option. I think he and I both wish he could work part-time. But I think it’s the loss of a community network to belong to that’s so hard on many SAHD’s. There’s just no parallel to the outlets available to women in the same circumstance.

    Penelope, I agree with earlier commenters: you’ve got to find something to like and value about your husband, and you’ve got to find a way to articulate that to him, and call it to mind when you start tearing him down. You need to do this because it will change the way you think about him, and that will change the way you interact with him. It will not change him.

    Just, think of one thing you really like and really value about him, that is his, for him, and not about you. Not that he’s detail-oriented which is really good for you because you are not.

    Find something to admire. Then, admire it, verbally and sincerely.

    I’m praying for you both…sounds like this is a tremendously difficult time.

  23. Tim
    Tim says:

    “I know that there are a lot of stay-at-home dads. But while it may seem like there are a lot who are happy, I think it's really just that every single one of the happy ones is blogging.”

    You’re kidding, right? If he would only start blogging…!

    Penelope, since you’re advertising your marital problems to the world, I guess I can ask a few questions:

    Who is giving up the most in this relationship?
    Who has sacrificed more? Sounds like your husband has. Your work, it seems, takes more and more time away from the family, so the burden falls on him. Marriage is compromise. Your husband has given up a lot for your career, yet it sounds like your goals, your career, your wishes are of the utmost importance. What are you willing to give up for him?

    And this bit: “…but I think it is career related since I have a great career and his sort of stalled when he became a stay-at-home dad and then went to hell from there.” It sounds like you think he’s a total failure. No wonder he wants a divorce.

    “Surely writing stay-at-home dad on a LinkedIn profile cannot be good.” What are your values here? Careers over parenting?

    What’s most important to you? Your career or your family? What are you willing to sacrifice to keep your marriage and family together?
    You can’t have it all. Yes, you can still be the Brazen Careerist, but maybe not so brazen–or just not be the Brazen Careerist all the time.

    He may want the divorce, but I think–if there is still time to save the marriage–the ball is in your court. What are you going to do with it?

  24. John Sasina
    John Sasina says:

    Penelope —

    I love 98% of your blog. The direct and challenging look you give to career-related issues is always refreshing.

    These posts on your marriage are troubling. From what I read (and infer), I have to agree with Brian. A husband needs respect and love and friendship. Just as does a wife.

    None of us see the full picture here, but the picture you’re presenting is that you don’t in fact respect or support him, you think you’re ten steps ahead of him (Is that in every area of his life, or just in your capacity as the career expert in the family? Hmm…), and somehow this is directly related to his being a stay-at-home dad.

    You said: “My husband, in fact, has brought up divorce for other reasons. I am not totally sure which ones, to be honest, but I think it is career related since I have a great career and his sort of stalled when he became a stay-at-home dad and then went to hell from there.”

    You’re not totally sure which ones, but you THINK it has to do with his career because you’re doing great and he’s handling your kids?

    That looks ridiculously hard to believe. You really don’t know? I certainly don’t purport to know, but if I were in your shoes, I would sure as hell try to find out, and then try to do something about it.

    Again, none of us has the full picture here, but I’m afraid the more you frame this the way you are, the more believable it is that you in fact are at least dismissive (and I hope not abusive, as you wrote in your other post, though maybe your definition of abusive is different from others) to him.

    I certainly don’t have a problem with the actual subject matter here. It’s your right to write about it as you see fit. It’s your condescending manner that’s such a turn-off. That’s a disappointment, since the rest of what you write is so good and helpful and refreshing.

  25. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    Another $0.02: maybe the Millennials won’t have it this bad with whomever they decide should stay home and raise the kids. They are already so much more fluid about how they define community, and depend on such different tools to maintain that community. Wish it were so already, but clearly it isn’t.

    I know I hear many of my cohorts (Gen X) saying that “they [GenY] will feel differently” someday, when they have kids/get a real job/really grow up/whatever. (God, I am channeling my mother’s voice.) The reality will probably be some convergence…where stay-at-home parents have other community options, where work isn’t the be-all, end-all, and where the focus is on earning a living, so you can enjoy your life.

    Penelope, it’s easy to say that you’re on the bleeding edge of a changing culture, and maybe you are, but it seems like you’re on the verge of paying a really high price.

  26. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    scares me to death the fact that been a career expert you were not even able to effectively communicate with him…Gosh, time to re-think the blog rating

  27. Mike
    Mike says:

    Penelope – €“

    I am not going to pretend to know everything about relationships. I have been engaged once in the past and it did not work out.

    I have one observation about your blog. In your about me section you don’t mention your family or your husband. I am sure that itself doesn’t mean anything specific and I believe everything you have done in your career are all things you deserve.

    But if I was your husband it could incorrectly suggest a lack of recognition and respect for him and his support (emotional, family, etc) to you. I am sure that is not so but often breakdown’s in communication are about what we didn’t mean to say or suggest rather than we do say. I am first to admit that I think some things that I should say out loud.

    I may be off base and you may thank your husband and your family every time you speak but it was just an observation.


    P.S. I am engaged for a second time and I believe in my heart this will work out. She is older than my last financee and there is a great deal of understanding and respect between the both of us. When times are tough because we are so different we laugh and remember that our love is more important than silly differences in our interpretation.

  28. Chris Brogan...
    Chris Brogan... says:

    I couldn’t do it. Am I sexist? Maybe. It just wouldn’t work well for me. But, interesting post and interesting comments.

    I haven’t seen replies from you to your comments on this post. Do you normally engage them?

    • Lia
      Lia says:

      I don’t think it’s sexist as long as you don’t not want to do it because you think it’s women’s work or something.
      The fact is that some people, men and women, would not feel fulfilled or satisfied in life staying at home with the children. I’m not saying it can’t be fulfilling to do this, but for a lot of people it isn’t.
      (btw, I feel the same way. I would go absolutely crazy!!!)


  29. Valerie Parker
    Valerie Parker says:

    I’d like to see you on TV with your own talk show! You have to be one of the most well-written/spoken bloggers on the Internet dealing with how one’s career affects their personal life and vice versa. And you’re not just talk…you’re living the talk for real!

  30. Alamgir Kahn
    Alamgir Kahn says:

    I only recently started reading your blog when I stubmled on it–great writing about career coaching, BTW–do keep it up.

    Re the postings on your marriage, I’m curious to to know what your husband thinks about your blog postings? Have you talked about it? Does he like it? Does he not care? Does he not like it? Does he mind?

    While you may be sitting down at your ‘puter to blog and open up your heart and soul to your reader community (and it *is* appreciated) maybe its something that bites your hubby just a little bit, and it would seem, that at this stage, you need to do everything you can to IMPROVE your marraige–not make it worse.

    Best of luck.

  31. Chris Harmon
    Chris Harmon says:

    I was going to comment directly in here, but decided to blogpost about it… I’m not sure if my trackback worked, so here’s my comment:

    BTW – I REALLY agree with Alamgir’s comment about sitting down at your – €˜puter to (fill in the blank for me) – when you are neglecting your own home. Boy have I done that before… Maybe take some time off – I’d bet strengthening your marriage would strengthen you more than you would expect.

  32. Jon
    Jon says:

    I can’t tell you how many conversations that I get into where the other party finishes what I’m telling them before I can.

    What is amazing is that nearly every time, I think they’re clairvoyant before I figure out that they read my blog.

  33. scriblerus
    scriblerus says:


    No offense but you might take a look at yourself. Consider it this way. He doesn’t have a job, but he STILL wants to get away from the woman who is supporting him.

  34. Chris
    Chris says:

    Not to start a gender-based flame war, but why is it that the majority of male comments on this post are full of advice on what you should or shouldn’t be doing right now, while the women are offering you support in this painful time?

    Balancing work, kids, and a relationship is extremely difficult (I would argue almost impossible) in our society. All of us have our own unique struggles. I can’t pretend to know what is right or will work for you or your husband or your kids and I don’t think anyone else does either.

    So don’t let those guys who think they know how to fix you tell you what to do. Only you know what is right for you. Find your center and you will do the right thing.

  35. Chris Harmon
    Chris Harmon says:

    I might have come across as giving advice for what you need to do…. I know I’ve done that before. I didn’t mean to come across as any expert by any means.

    We ALL should have be supportive of each other (male or female) in our marriages – those married know how it is!

    I 100% agree that balancing work, kids, and a relationship is extremely difficult but not impossible, it just takes a lot of patience and understanding and giving and taking.

    My only hope was to say that I feel for you both, and maybe provide something to think about. If you don’t want it, that’s OK. I know sometimes I don’t make the right choices – and just wanted to share my thoughts. That’s why I blog… to share.

  36. sarah
    sarah says:

    I was going to write a comment about how sorry I feel for your husband, you obviously look down on him so much. You perhaps have an awesome career, but you wouldn’t have that if he hadn’t stayed at home. How can you disrespect him so much…

    But I won’t, because someone will doubtless just point out how I missed the sharp, witty humour the post is just riddled with. Just as humourous as the revelations of abuse were…

  37. Aaron Erickson
    Aaron Erickson says:

    For the love of God Sarah, we don’t need to go down that road of “if it weren’t for him, you would be nowhere”. Everyone knows that is just what housewifes/husbands say when they are trying to leverage their way into a better divorce settlement.

    And throwing the abuse word around is pretty frivolous usage of the word/concept.

    Even if you accept that there would be better ways for PT to handle her success versus her husbands (arguable), calling someone an abuser because they are not as supportive as they could be, or even because they disclose information you don’t think they should to the public, is just stupid and wrong.

  38. Meaghan
    Meaghan says:

    Blech. Whole lot of people getting their back up on behalf of Mr. P. — again. And, to my knowledge, he didn’t ask for the outpouring of support. There seem to be a whole lot of struggle (on behalf of Mr. P) about how you should treat him, how he should define himself, etc. How different would the discussion be if you were a male blogger and he was your stay-at-home mama?

    I know moms and dads both who stayed home — and it worked until it didn’t. Navigating work and home is a tense place – whether the career is great or not – whether the kids are great or not. Re-evaluating the current situation seems to be the only sane thing to do.

    You’re brave to open yourself to a group of would-be marriage counselors, Penelope.

  39. Jim
    Jim says:

    You are not sure why he is thinking about divorce? Don’t you want to know? Can’t you just ask: “Why are you so unhappy?” And then can you listen carefully, without interrupting, for as long as it takes him to answer? Maybe his answer is “I don’t know” and he walks away. Maybe you’ve already asked a hundred times over. All I know is that, unless you two learn to communicate, you have no chance at all.

  40. Tim
    Tim says:

    You're brave to open yourself to a group of would-be marriage counselors, Penelope.
    Posted by Meaghan

    Brave? I fear narcissistic might be the more
    approrpriate term here.

    “And the babysitter said, "Oh, don't worry. I know. I read your blog." Kind of chilling.

  41. Daniel Dessinger
    Daniel Dessinger says:

    Wow… I’m still trying to decide how I feel about these marriage posts. If it’s notoriety you’re looking for, I think you’ll get it.

    This is strictly from my perspective, and I could be worlds away from your husband on this:

    I would be extremely angry with my wife if she wrote about our marriage problems on her professional blog.

    Granted, I DO HAVE an anonymous blog out there in the universe where I vent about all sorts of things. But I do not attach my name to it at all, and I do not link to it from my other web properties.

    It’s become very cathartic, but only because of the guaranteed privacy. I have the chance to identify with other people in the world without incriminating myself, my wife, or my employer.

    You’re either very brave or very careless… But based on the extensive comments this post has bred, perhaps you’re onto something.

  42. aaron
    aaron says:


    I am in awe of the shiny bright light you’re aiming at your own life, and sharing the dark and sticky bits you find as well as the good and wise.

    My wife is a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling our three little ones. And at times she’s had her struggles…though she still claims to enjoy what she’s doing.

    I haven’t a clue what your day-to-day interaction is like with your husband, but my wife and I have done more than our fair share of marriage counseling. Bright light bulb went off (well, more “slowly came up from dim”) when we realized how much we’re both pretty busted and started dealing with ourselves.

    Can’t give what you don’t got. I have a hard time giving my wife grace and space because I give myself little. (and don’t even get me started with the kids) She’s similar. We have our ups and downs.

    Your husband has issues. And you ain’t it. Now, you might not be _helping_ him all that much, but you are not the source of his pain. He’s a big boy, and he makes choices.

    Just like you.

    (I say this glibly but I won’t bore you with how long it took me to accept that my wife wasn’t my problem…that is, either the cause of my unhappiness nor she a problem for me to fix.)

    There is help. You can make it. So can he. And (wise) help can help. (but it’ll still be damn hard)

    I might suggest this book
    Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives

    …my wife just finished it, recommended it to me. Not the be-all-end-all, but some very good stuff.

    Your mileage may vary.

    Best wishes

  43. cynicalaboutbloggers
    cynicalaboutbloggers says:

    Notoriety is exactly what Penelope is looking for. For her, it’s all about the page views – and this kind of “reality blogging” is what is currently selling. She even managed a plug for LinkedIn, who sponsor her. Gee, what a coincidence….not.

  44. Kent
    Kent says:

    I jumped off of the fast track and was a SAHD for six years – and generally enjoyed it. Although it is probably noteworthy that I held a rewarding part time professional job during that whole time. I agree that people did view me differently at first, but I think the fact that I felt good about myself and my role came through. By the end of the conversation, I felt most people at least respected my choice, even if they didn’t understand it.

    I will tell you that it was much harder on my wife, though. I don’t think it was a big issue at first, but as the years went on she became more and more resentful. Part of it was that she was jealous that she was missing out. Part of it was that I mostly just liked to play with the kids and wasn’t very good at the housework part. But I think a very big part was that I no longer fit into her picture of what she wanted from a husband. I’m guessing that when young girls are growing up and imagining their future, very few dream about being the primary breadwinner and supporting a part time or full time stay at home husband.

    So we talked it through and it took a while, but I was able to successfully return to the “normal” world, and my wife shifted down to part time. I can’t say that I am an happier at work now than I was back then, except for my wife is much happier, and you know what they say: “happy wife = happy life”. I think it takes two people to break away from a societal norm like this one. Its not enough that the husband is content. The wife needs to completely buy in too.

  45. willy
    willy says:

    Penelope, your guest bloggers add so much to your already excellent blog –

    I wonder if you and your husband would consider adding his voice to your blog? I’m not at all suggesting a he said/she said about your personal issues, but I’d love to hear in his words about his career journey and especially his stay-at-home-Dad experience.

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