Blake Snow

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Dear Smooth Harold: New mom wants to renege promise to return to work

blake-press-fedora-dear-smooth-haroldSince first subscribing to the daily paper this summer, I’ve been exposed to more Dear Abby columns than a 1950s trophy wife. The last one I read was horribly political, so I decided to guide the advice-seeker myself. Here goes:

Dear Smooth Harold: My husband wanted to postpone having children until we were more financially secure. But I really wanted a baby, so he agreed, though only after I promised to return to work once the baby was born. That was a year ago. We now have a wonderful 2-month-old, and since “Avery” cam along, I realize how important it is for me to be at home with her. My husband disagrees. he says we need my salary in order to meet our financial obligations, and he is angry and upset that I won’t return to work. But I think there’s nothing as important as the nurturing a mother give her child. Who’s right?—R.F., Southern California

My reply:

Dear R.F.: Why on Earth would you ask me, a complete stranger, such an important question without knowing my background first? I could be a baby-snatcher for all you know, or completely against everything you believe in! But alas, perhaps you’re at your wits end and have no one to confide in. If that’s the case and you don’t feel comfortable anonymously researching different opinions online or posting to a message board, then I’ll indulge you. And I assure you I’m neither a baby-snatcher nor a posturing moral hypocrite.

First off, what do you mean by “financially secure?” If it’s as poorly defined as it is by most people—i.e. “more, more, more!”—then this is really just a smoke excuse. Sounds to me like your husband is panicky; insecure about his ability to provide for his family. Either way, if “financially secure” is anything but destitute, then go ahead and start having babies, provided you’re willing to sacrifice personal wants on behalf of the child.

To answer your question, you’re right. Sort of. First off, I’d tell your hubby, “Look babe, one of us needs to stay home with the children so they can feel loved and don’t become dregs on society later. I’d like to do it, but if you really want to, we can talk about it.” Provided he doesn’t want to be Mr. Mom, then follow that up with this: “Maybe if you had a better-paying job, we could afford our stretched lifestyle. So instead of me getting a second job, why don’t you man up and find better work. Either that or cut spending. Or both. I’m willing to lay off unnecessary purchases for the future of our child if you are.”

You might want to soften that up a bit, especially the “man up” part. But the important thing is you want to show your husband that you’re willing to sacrifice and hope that he will as well to make things work. Now obviously, you flip-flopped on your promise like Mitt Romney would universal healthcare—offer an olive branch, will ya?—but I suspect that’s not why your husband is mad. I suspect he is a lot like me early in my marriage.

Fresh out of college (Go, Cougars!), I was the co-owner of a humble little company. To give my business a fighting chance, I only paid myself and my partner (Hi, Robert!) a measly $1000 each per month. My wife made a lot more than me. When she decided it was time for a baby, I was a little reluctant, because I, like your husband, was insecure about providing for my family. Nevertheless, I shot and scored. My wife’s lower abdomen started to bulge. Shortly thereafter, we gave birth to a slimy underdeveloped mammal.

A few weeks later, I got panicky again and told my wife she needed to return to work. Her stern reply: “Smooth Harold—I can call you Smooth Harold, can’t I?—it is YOUR responsibility to provide for our family.” She was right. Since my wife and I are both Mormon, we believe that one parent needs to stay home with the children in their formative years, preferably the mother since they’re more nurturing than absent-minded husbands. Conversely, since it’s still a man’s world our there, husbands are usually more marketable when it comes to chasing paper (I said “usually,” feminists, stay off my back), so we both decided to play traditional roles.

That being the case, I did, in fact, man up after she put me in my place. We had to make sacrifices to make it work. We haven’t been able to do everything we wanted adventure- or purchase-wise. Nevertheless, we’ve lived very rich lives so far. Moreso after having kids than before. True story.

Now, the reason I said you are “sort of” right, is that you need to be willing to support your husband in his new role as sole provider of the family, if that’s what you really want. That might mean no behind-his-back shopping, no useless $300 video baby monitor, no wipe warmer, no full-size SUV or VAN when a single child or two can easily fit in the backseat of a car, and no ginormo house so you can keep up with the Joneses.

Got it? Enjoy.