Everyone's Mad at This Columnist Who Won't 'Let' His Wife Quit Her Job

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

Why I Won’t Let My Wife Quit Her Job” is the title, and that alone is enough to get people buzzing. I didn’t even click it the first time it rolled by in my feed, anticipating being annoyed by a chauvinist who “lets” his wife do things.

When I finally read the column, I found some decent sentiments in there, mixed in with a handful of poor language choices and a general attitude that triggers my spidey sense.

The columnist, Sean Dunbar, says he hates getting asked why his wife works when he makes enough money to support their family. He wants “better” for her, he says.

Let’s hear him out.

When he met his wife, she was in college. By her junior year, she was pregnant with their daughter, and offered to drop out of school so she could get a job. Dunbar knew what her college career meant to her, so he took the fall instead, leaving college to work multiple jobs, and then joined the Navy reserve to get the benefits. That doesn’t sound like a chauvinist.

She stayed in college, worked a full time job, and had the baby. After college, she continued to shine at her job, coming home happy and proud of her achievements.

When she got pregnant again, she started getting skipped over for promotions and opportunities at work, a situation many of us are familiar with. She started talking about staying home with the kids. Dunbar told her things would get better.

Here’s where the phrases start to creep in. “She started asking me whether she could quit her job.” Is this just a bad phrase, or was she asking permission?

By the time their son was born, his career was thriving, but the idea of his wife becoming a stay-at-home mom was still not an option. He didn’t want her to get stagnant, he said. He didn’t want her to have to start her career over again, he didn’t want her to feel resentful or inferior when she looked back at life later.

There are some nice sentiments in there from a guy who cares about his wife’s sense of self-worth. He said that she was at her happiest when she was doing well professionally, and he wants her to feel that strength. But there’s something about the way he discusses it that sounds more like a father talking about his daughter, and that’s what rubs me the wrong way. Even the way he talks about his daughter feels a little off to me.

“I don’t want her seeing mommy at home, thinking she needs to do the same because that’s what she grew up seeing.”

My mom was a psychiatric nurse; I didn’t think that was what I had to do because that’s what I grew up seeing.

“We don’t talk about her dreams of becoming a trophy wife or a stay-at-home mom.”

I’d like to think nobody’s daughter is dreaming of being a trophy wife. And some people—both men and women—actually do dream of staying home and raising their kids, and that’s just as legitimate as dreaming of being an astronaut, or a veterinarian, or other favorite occupations of dreaming children.

“I respect women who find being a stay-at-home mother to be fulfilling and satisfying. I just have different expectations for my wife and our daughter—what more can I say?”

I’m not sure he does respect them, and I’m not sure he has the right to have those expectations, or the assumption that this isn’t even an issue for his son.

So this, Sean Dunbar, is why people are picking on you. It’s the not “letting” your wife quit, it’s the expectation that she and your daughter do what you approve of, and most of all, it’s the fact that we don’t even really hear your wife’s voice in this article at all. You mention that she’s working a job from 7:00 – 4:00 these days and loves it, but you don’t explain whether it’s the job she loves or the fact that she can still spend so much time with the kids. You do say that she says she wants to stay home, though.

But you add that you’re “terrified she’ll lose her drive,” which I get.

It just feels like you’re making all these decisions on her behalf. Maybe you’re not, but that’s how you wrote it.

I want her to write her version of things, though. I want to know if she feels the same way he does, or if she’s just doing what he wants or modeling something she thinks her daughter needs to see, and if they wonder if their son will think that what he sees his dad doing is HIS only option.

Dunbar’s heart is in the right place, but perhaps not quite the right time. It’s 2015, and part of having options means making decisions for yourself, which his wife, daughter, and son should have the freedom to do. I hope he figures that out, ’cause he doesn’t seem like a bad guy. In the meantime, the internet will talk. (Just check out the comments.)

This article was originally published on