Dear Ellie: I’m caught between two difficult choices of my own making.
I started married life while pregnant with my first child. A year later, I had another baby and embraced career motherhood.
It was what my husband had hoped for, having been raised by a stay-at-home mom. To please him, and because it was new to me, I did it all — neighbourhood Moms’ groups, library storytelling time, pureeing my homemade baby foods.
Then the kids started Kindergarten. Free time for me!
I scanned local college brochures and went back to school part-time. My mom drove the kids to-and-from school and babysat them for a couple hours.
I graduated two years ago, got job working from home during the pandemic, and was recently promoted to join a group of colleagues back in the office. I love it!!
But instead of my husband being happy for me that I’m fulfilling my own dreams (while still being a caring mom to kids I adore!), he hardly asks about my day and isn’t interested in hearing about my colleagues, etc.
Dinner-table talk is becoming strained. He tells the kids about his day, repeats silly jokes so they’ll laugh, then watches TV. Since he doesn’t want to chat as we used to, I bathe the kids and do laundry. He only joins me for story time, then back to TV.
Now that I’m happy at work, how do I get my happy home life back?
You haven’t abandoned your children, nor your husband. Instead, he’s distanced from you. Perhaps he felt that his mother’s example in a previous generation was the only right way, or he worries about your meeting other people in the close atmosphere of a different work world from his own.
But it’s clear that you need to air the subject of his reaction to your job.
The need for a woman/mother at a particular stage of life, to find purpose and an independent contribution beyond homemaking and child care, has been visibly ongoing for many decades in North America.
Many husbands have supported their wives’ personal and intellectual growth. The ones who haven’t either don’t “get it,” or dislike that it takes attention away from them.
Tell him you’ve enhanced the picture of your life together by adding more colours. Say that you believe you can share a great relationship with fulfillment for both of you. If you still love him, say so emphatically.
As for the children, their serious needs — for their security, and physical/mental health — will always come first. But they’ll gain their own inner strengths and ambitions by witnessing yours.
Feedback regarding the woman waiting five years for a commitment from her boyfriend (Nov. 25):
Reader: “The key word in her describing her boyfriend is his “studio.” It’s a sad fact but if he’s a musician or artist, (Ellie: or independent entrepreneur) she’s probably “the other woman” to his art.
“Their work is as much a part of an artist or musician as their legs and although I’ve seen some give it up for a short time it inevitably comes back or leaves an enduring hole in their life.
“It’ll be painful but she must have a heart-to-heart with him and if necessary, call it a day and find someone who can give her what she needs.
“If it’s a hobby he might ease back for a few years but if it’s his livelihood that’s unlikely.”
Reader’s commentary: Regarding reactions of extended family to the adoption of children (Nov. 24):
“My wife and I had a similar experience when we attempted to adopt two kids. Family support is crucial during this adoption transition and you’ll be in the fight of your life to make this work.
“I had to cut some family off after our adoption failed because of stressors apparent at the very end.
“To the letter-writer: You and your spouse are the most important part of this equation.
“Support each other’s decisions; support each other. The kids are important but your relationship is MORE important. Without it, all of it falls apart.
“My wife and I are now three years past our failed adoption. The only reason we made it this far is because we always had each other’s back.
“It’s YOU vs. family, the children, the Childrens’ Aid, Society, foster care, education, teachers….”
Ellie’s tip of the day:
A mother/woman’s goals of purpose and personal contribution, can boost a couple’s relationship, not diminish it.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.