“As I get older, more of my friends are telling their wives to quit their jobs and be stay-at-home moms… Yes, being a stay-at-home mom has many benefits for the entire family. But I want better for my wife.”
So begins the essay, Why I Won’t Let My Wife Quit Her Job, that appeared in USA Today yesterday. Sean Dunbar thinks he’s supporting his wife by essentially forcing her to work when she doesn’t have to or want to. If a husband is making decisions for his wife instead of with her — there’s a problem.
He speaks glowingly of his wife’s accomplishments, having worked her way through college while pregnant. He says, “She graduated from East Carolina University with a 3.5 GPA, a 1-year-old child and a full-time job.” So essentially, she’s a bad ass. He fully recognizes this, yet somehow thinks she’s unable to make decisions for herself. He laments the arrival of a second pregnancy, when his wife, “accepted her position and just stopped trying.”
Dunbar says his wife started asking whether she could quit her job and stay home with the kids. He claims she could not wait to have the baby and be done with work. Understandable — she’s worked her ass off. He isn’t hearing it. He’s pushing her to work even though she wants to stay home with the kids because he’s “terrified she’ll lose her drive.” He says, “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?”
He wants “more” for his wife. Yet he’s completely stripping her of her autonomy by projecting his ideas of what a strong woman is onto her, instead of letting her decide what she wants for herself.
It’s almost as if Dunbar is trying to be a champion of the women’s movement, in the most displaced way, ever. He’s patting himself on the back so hard for making the right decisions for his wife. “Why I won’t let my wife quit her job?” Anyone who uses this kind of vocabulary is a narcissist at best – a control freak at worst. Just imagine if a woman had written this essay? She’d be accused of castrating her husband, immediately.
Feminism is about the ability to make choices. So is freedom. This husband seems to think he’s some kind of feminist icon in his own right for wanting his wife to work. Rather, he is removing her choices. By his own assertion, he’s disregarding what she wants. He’s treating her like a child who needs direction and that is not what a wife is. It’s not what a partner is. And it sure as hell isn’t what someone who managed to graduate with honors while caring for a one-year-old needs.
He claims to be worried about a role model for his daughter: “We don’t talk about her dreams of becoming a trophy wife or stay-at-home mom. I don’t want to pay for our daughter’s college tuition, just to see her walk away and let a man take care of her.” If he wants a strong role model for his daughter, he should look in the mirror and study the image he’s projecting. And while he’s at it, he really needs to stop infantilizing his wife.
A marriage is a partnership. If anyone finds themselves in a position where they are comfortably making big life decisions for someone else instead of with them — they better be looking at their small child. Not their wife.