Author Topic: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD  (Read 1648 times)

Lentils4Lunch

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my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« on: March 17, 2017, 06:40:41 AM »
I need some advice on how to deal with my mom. She lives nearby and she's helpful with our kids, but she often makes comments that rub us the wrong way. My husband is a stay at home dad to our two kids, ages 5 and 2. He quit when the 2 year old was a baby. This is working well for us, we are still managing to save money and the day to day quality of life is better than before, when we were juggling daycare and work schedules. Maybe he'll go back to work in a few years, though probably not ever back to a traditional 9-5.

However, I can tell that a lot of people disapprove. My mom doesn't openly admit this, but she does make comments that appear harmless but really get under or skin. Here's an example:

My husband was talking to mom on the phone yesterday about something unrelated to this issue and she says "Oh, when you go back to work, I bet [my daughter] is really going to miss having you do all the laundry and cooking!" She says it in a very light-hearted way, so doesn't really warrant a response. But she makes a comment like this almost every time we see her. It always starts out the same way "Oh, when [husband] goes back to work... "

It makes me so angry. I don't know if she's trying to ever so subtly tell us what her expectations are. Or to let us know that she disapproves of the choices we've made? Or if she wants me to know she thinks my husband is a big slacker.

I'm trying to think of a polite comeback that shuts her down. Up to now, we've just ignored it, but I'm starting to think this warrants a response. Can someone help? She's my mother and I love her, but these comments are really getting to me.

Vindicated

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2017, 06:53:50 AM »
Was your Mom a SAHM by chance?  If so, you could use that comparison.
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rockstache

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2017, 06:56:31 AM »
If this was my mom I would pull her aside and say, "we have no plans for husband to go back to work. Please stop making any comments about it." End of conversation.

I think witty comebacks are good for acquaintances and coworkers. For family/close friends, they need to know straight out that what they have been doing or saying is not working or offensive. If she continues after you've mentioned it, then you have a different issue re: boundaries.

Lentils4Lunch

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2017, 06:57:18 AM »
Was your Mom a SAHM by chance?  If so, you could use that comparison.

Yes. She was. I don't think she sees the situation the same way, though, because of the reversal of the traditional gender roles.

Vindicated

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2017, 07:00:58 AM »
Was your Mom a SAHM by chance?  If so, you could use that comparison.

Yes. She was. I don't think she sees the situation the same way, though, because of the reversal of the traditional gender roles.

Well, I do like Rockstache's approach of just being straight-forward about it.  You really don't have to give her reasons, or ask for her approval for anything.

Good luck!
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Lentils4Lunch

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2017, 07:01:22 AM »
If this was my mom I would pull her aside and say, "we have no plans for husband to go back to work. Please stop making any comments about it." End of conversation.

I think witty comebacks are good for acquaintances and coworkers. For family/close friends, they need to know straight out that what they have been doing or saying is not working or offensive. If she continues after you've mentioned it, then you have a different issue re: boundaries.

This is right on. Ugh, I hate confrontation so much, though. I guess the problem is that I feel I owe her an explanation. Almost like I want to say to her "you know, we're doing a lot better financially than you think we are." But do I really owe her an explanation?

Frankies Girl

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2017, 07:08:04 AM »
If she has a history of being passive/aggressive, then you need to call her on this and set up some firm boundaries on things you will put up with. BUT if she is not passive/aggressive and just sort of clueless and says things without thinking about how they can be interpreted (and misinterpreted), then you probably should let it go and just let it roll off you.

But if she is being p/a:

You do not have to justify or explain or defend your family's choices for your spouse to be a stay at home parent, or any other decision as long as you are acting as a responsible adult. And your mother needs to respect that you ARE an adult.

Ask her - why she says whatever it is - when she says it. If she gets flustered or otherwise makes excuses, then tell her that you need her to stop bringing it up, because it feels judgemental and hurtful to you and your family's choices. Do this in a polite but firm manner. You've just asked her to stop doing something that is disagreeable to you and warned her that you are feeling hurt when she does do this. This is setting a boundary.

If she continues, then you need to remind her - when she does the p/a thing - that you asked her to stop and give her a warning (like: "I've already told you I don't like it when you bring up [husband] being a stay at home parent because it sounds like you are criticizing us. Don't do it again.") If she continues or otherwise tries to bully or push back, you will need to distance yourselves from here for a little while until you feel she can control herself around you. You tell her she's been warned about this subject, and you will need to leave/end phone call/whatever. And then do.

It is basically training a person that acts this way (passive/aggressive) that if they continue ignoring your boundaries, they will face consequences. They don't have to like them, or even think you're right or anything, but they do have to respect them. It may help to see it as teaching a 6 year old the consequences of ignoring a parental directive. Ignore when asked to stop doing something gets you a time out? You patiently and firmly enforce the boundaries (and the time outs for ignoring them) until that kid learns to listen and stop when asked.
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Megma

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2017, 07:23:46 AM »
If this was my mom I would pull her aside and say, "we have no plans for husband to go back to work. Please stop making any comments about it." End of conversation.

I think witty comebacks are good for acquaintances and coworkers. For family/close friends, they need to know straight out that what they have been doing or saying is not working or offensive. If she continues after you've mentioned it, then you have a different issue re: boundaries.

This is right on. Ugh, I hate confrontation so much, though. I guess the problem is that I feel I owe her an explanation. Almost like I want to say to her "you know, we're doing a lot better financially than you think we are." But do I really owe her an explanation?

If you're not confrontational you could say something a little gentler like, "It's actually working really well for us to have Husband stay home. He enjoys it and I like working." or "Husband isn't going back to work and this arrangement is really working well for us." "I would miss him being home and taking care of the house if he went back to work, so he's not going back. We like this arrangement a lot and are still able to save money."

Especially since your mom was a SAHM she probably has the outdated notion that men go to work to "provide" and women should be doing the laundry and child rearing. It's 2017 and that's not how it is any more but maybe she just doesn't realize this is a permanent arrangement for y'all? Have you point blank said "Husband isn't going back to work"? You might need to.

I can see my mom reacting in the same way if my fiance was staying home with the kids (hypothetically, we don't have any). But I AM confrontational so I'd probably flat out tell her that I make more money than him so it makes more sense for him to stay home. :-)
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KCM5

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2017, 07:43:50 AM »
I'm good at ignoring things people say. My husband is not.

So do these comments bother you guys enough to say anything? If they do, you need to tell her your plans - that husband may go back to work in the future, but he may not and you both are happy with that arrangement. Most likely she's just making assumption based on expected gender roles. All men want to work, right? HA!

Is it possible she's a bit jealous? I ask because I would love it if my husband stayed home! And I would make a terrible SAHM. Maybe 30 years ago I would have been a SAHM and resented the role.

Lentils4Lunch

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2017, 07:52:41 AM »
Yes, this is all about setting a boundary, isn't it? Next time she makes a comment, I think I will either 1) tell her to stop doing it or 2) ask her why she says it. I'm leaning towards option #1 because I think it does us both a favor by being as direct as possible and then getting it over with.

Seriously, I'm going to have to practice this. That's how much I dislike confrontation. But I know it's healthier to set the boundary instead of just letting the resentment and anger brew inside me. 

Laura33

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2017, 07:54:48 AM »
OK, so, I am guessing there is a lot of tone/backstory that says there's more here than meets the eye.  Because it sounds like she is just assuming he is going back to work, because in her world That's What Men Do, and so my natural response would just be to say "yeah, ma, you know he's not going back to work, right?" and not get worked up about it.  Sort of like if people assumed you were staying home, because it's more common that women do that -- you'd probably be a little annoyed at the stereotypical assumption but then just brush it off with a "well, actually . . ." and not make a big deal out of it.  But, like I said, it sounds like there's history here with your mom in particular -- I'm going to assume she tends to be passive-aggressive and indirect and so conveys judgment through tone and careful phrasing.  Am I on track here?  (Not that, umm, I have a mom who does this at all . . . ).

So assuming unstated judgment, I think there are a few approaches that can work.  One is the "reasonable grown-up conversation" approach:  "You know, mom, you keep saying that.  But you know DH is staying home with the kids, right?  We've told you that, right?  So why would you keep assuming something that's not going to happen?"  Then listen.  If needed, repeat that this is the way it is and it isn't going to change, and that it's not up for debate, and you hope she can respect your decisions.  Etc.

Or you can try to draw the parallel with her own life so that she is allied in interest with your DH, a/k/a invoking the mommy wars on your behalf:  "I had such an awesome childhood with a SAHM that we wanted our kids to have a SAH parent, and boy, DH just does an awesome job with them."  Serving up some indirectness of your own can help with this, a/k/a in response to some article or program, "I hate it when people devalue the worth of the SAHP -- you were such an influence on my life, and I am so grateful we can offer that to our kids as well."  And then there is always the highly passive aggressive fighting-fire-with-fire version: "I'd hate for him to feel like you don't see his role as important or valuable, because what he does is so important to me and the kids." [Note: I don't tend to do this well, but as long you can keep the irony out of your voice, this kind of subtlety can work extremely well, because it means *she* is the one who makes the connection between her life and DH's, and people are always more convinced by their own ideas (or the ones they think are their own ideas)]

The other option is to call her out on indirectness in general, but in a nice/funny way -- usually works best on non-emotionally-charged subjects, though.  I started this with my mom as a teen, when the indirectness just got under my skin, so I chose to respond by being overly direct and blunt.  That, umm, did not go so smoothly then.  But now that I have been able to add a little humor and emotional distance to it, it works better -- e.g., I get a long-winded email asking if someone is going to be around between X and Y, and will we be going anywhere near the airport, and if so would it be convenient to drop her off at the airport; me:  "you know, if you want a ride to the airport, you can just *ask* :-), and the answer is 'yes'."  If you guys have this kind of communication and relationship, it becomes much easier to work in a direct response on topics that actually matter.

Oh:  and these conversations are for you, not DH.  Your job is to protect him from passive-aggressive crap from your mom.

The thing is, you're probably not going to change her -- sounds like she has some specific gender roles in her head, but it's hard to say how much of that is just unconscious vs. actively signaling disapproval.  What you can do is bring that out into the open and give her a chance to see her assumptions in black and white, understand the impact on you guys, and try to catch/retrain herself to avoid that -- and then, if she keeps doing it, setting some respectful boundaries ("you know, mom, I'm tired of the passive-aggressive disapproval, so I'm just letting you know that if you keep harping on it, I'm done talking" -- and then hang up the phone, or (cheerfully) leave whenever that happens). 
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

Lentils4Lunch

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2017, 07:55:14 AM »
Ask her - why she says whatever it is - when she says it. If she gets flustered or otherwise makes excuses, then tell her that you need her to stop bringing it up, because it feels judgemental and hurtful to you and your family's choices. Do this in a polite but firm manner. You've just asked her to stop doing something that is disagreeable to you and warned her that you are feeling hurt when she does do this. This is setting a boundary.


Thanks Frankies Girl.

LiveLean

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2017, 10:22:46 AM »
I've worked from home since before our boys, now 14 and 11, were born. As a freelance writer, I can work however and wherever I want. So I've become very efficient, giving the impression to some that I'm either a full-time SAHD or unemployed, especially since living in Florida I'm in casual clothes all the time. When this topic comes up, I just play with people by mentioning one of the following:

1. I retired early. (Not far from the truth as we approach FIRE).
2. I'm a personal trainer and work early mornings. (This isn't so far-fetched because I do have credentials and work out early on my own, but don't train anyone.)
3. I work mostly evenings with West Coast clients. (Also somewhat true since I interview people in the evenings.)

I mention this because if your DH doesn't want to deal with these idiots, he can come up with a back story. Or start working part-time as time allows and tell people he's just very efficient at what he does so he can spend more time with the kids.
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SwordGuy

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2017, 10:58:13 AM »
I try to first start with an indirect hint that I don't like the behavior and set the boundaries that way.

Once I know that the person is either incapable or unwilling to respond appropriately to the hint, then continuing to hint is pointless.

At that point, it's time to be direct.

Direct means blunt.   Completely and thoroughly clear.  No hinting.  No, "Surely they'll figure out what I want..." wishful thinking.   Directly addressing the issue.

HOW you choose to be blunt depends upon the other person's motive.   If they mean well, then polite and direct is the (first) course of action.   If they do not mean well, then impolite and direct is appropriate.

My mom meant well.    Unfortunately, what she thought was "meaning well" was breaking up the relationship between me and the love of my life.  That was unacceptable.   I went thru the hints and the polite responses and nothing changed.  Time to change tactics.

For example, shortly after my darling and I started dating, my mom announced that my darling was not allowed to come to their home.   Given that they had never met I thought that was a bit extreme.  I mean, at least give the gal a chance!   That should be a clue to anyone that mom was not going to be rational about this.

I moved out of town and in with my darling.   We came back to my home town to visit some friends.  I didn't stop by to see my mom.    Someone told her I had been in town.  She calls me after the visit to chew me out for not coming by to visit.  I told her that we had travelled in my darling's car and for me to come to visit, I would have had to kick my darling out of her own car to go visit someplace she wasn't welcome.    I didn't do that because, and I quote, "I was raised better than that."   

That conversation came to an end.  It was hard for her to argue the point given that I HAD been raised better than that and mom had done that raising.

I get a phone call from her some time later.   "When are you coming home?"

"I live at home, mom."

That was a short phone call.  It ended right then and there.   But that was the boundary I was setting.  This was now my home, I lived her and so did the woman I loved.  Period.  End.   Like it or leave.

I get a series of phone calls over some months that were unacceptably late in the evening.  There was a time zone difference that my mom resolutely decided to ignore, despite repeated reminders.   I pick up the phone and say, in a very unfriendly tone of voice, "Who the HELL is calling my at this time of night?"

"It's your mother!  Don't talk to me in that tone of voice!"

"Well, if you don't call this late for no good reason, I won't!"

"Ok!"   End of conversation.

It took about 3 years before mom learned that I would enforce boundaries and mom backed off.  Her brother and her sister first had to tell her to stop being a horse's ass.   My dad first had to tell her if she didn't change they wouldn't have  a son anymore.   Some people just don't learn easy.

Did I enjoy those conversations?  No.  Not fun.   I took no joy in them.

But I can't imagine how bad it could have become if I had not firmly set those boundaries.

FYI, my darling and I have been together since 1980.   And everyone else in the family thinks she's the best. :)

Mom, to her dying day - literally - didn't like the lady I married.   But she had to admit she took good care of me, and I know that hurt.


mm1970

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2017, 11:06:53 AM »
Was your Mom a SAHM by chance?  If so, you could use that comparison.

Yes. She was. I don't think she sees the situation the same way, though, because of the reversal of the traditional gender roles.

Tell her to knock it off!

Both my mom and my SIL's mom were SAHMs.  (At least, my mom was until I was 12.)

For a long long time, my bro and my SILs lives were like this:
SIL had a full time job, working retail (cell phones), 12 hour days.  Most weekends, and a few other days a week.  Often 50-60 hours.
Bro was a truck driver, working 4 am to 11, 5 days a week.  A big week for him was 32 hours.

She had the health insurance.
She made $67k, he made $25k.

So, he did a lot of the stuff around the house.  He cooked.  He did laundry.  When he needed a "break", he'd bring the girls to my mom's house to hang out while he did other stuff.

My mom would say (when I was visiting) "your brother does SO MUCH for those girls.  SO MUCH.  And I NEVER see SIL with them"
Me: "Mom, when SIL is off work, she goes to HER mom's house to hang out and have fun.  Or she does stuff with the girls.  Why would she come here?"  And "she makes more money and works longer hours."  And "this is what a dad DOES these days."

Had a convo with SIL about it once, after my mom died.  Her mom did the same thing.  Little digs about how much she works.  SIL finally said "MOM, do you know how much  money I make?? I PAY THE BILLS."

Welcome to the 21st century ladies.

(There's at least one old guy at the gym in the am who just lets me know, sideways kinda, how horrible it is that I work and am not "at home with your children!!".  Whatever.  The guy has 3 pensions and 3 different health insurance plans, and he's in his 70s.  Welcome to the new world dude.)

CNM

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2017, 11:23:39 AM »
This is what I would do. 

Some random time- meaning, not right after she makes a statement like this, but some other, regular unexciting time- talk to your mom and say, "Mom, it hurts my feelings when you say things that implies that husband will go back to work.  It makes me feel like you disapprove of our situation.  I want to let you know that we are doing excellently and husband and I are happy and stable."

She'll say something like, "Oh!  I don't mean anything by it!"  and then you can say, "That's good to hear.  But it still makes me feel bad, so I'd appreciate it if you refrain from such things in the future." 
[Repeat process as necessary until she stops.]

If your mom responds by saying, "I don't think it's appropriate for Husband to not work."  or "I worry that you are too burdened by being the sole breadwinner."  Then you can have a more substantive conversation and get to the root of it.  Even if you all do not end up agreeing, you will still have set a boundary.

cacaoheart

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2017, 08:02:11 AM »

My husband was talking to mom on the phone yesterday about something unrelated to this issue and she says "Oh, when you go back to work, I bet [my daughter] is really going to miss having you do all the laundry and cooking!" She says it in a very light-hearted way, so doesn't really warrant a response. But she makes a comment like this almost every time we see her. It always starts out the same way "Oh, when [husband] goes back to work... "


Potential response: "Thank you for recognizing all that my husband does at home. I would really miss it if he went back to work, so he's staying home. Life is so much easier than when we both worked outside the home." ;-)

pbkmaine

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2017, 08:25:18 AM »
"Well, Mom, if he wants to go back to work, I will of course support him. But right now, we are both loving having him at home. I'd really like to see him start his own business when the kids are a bit older. I think he'd be great at it."

iowajes

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2017, 08:49:50 AM »
I'd tell her to stop it, or she won't be seeing your family anymore.

That kind of negativity isn't acceptable, and it isn't good for the kids.

Lentils4Lunch

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2017, 07:14:37 PM »
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses. I haven't seen my mom in a while, so the opportunity to say something hasn't yet come up, but we'll probably see them this weekend... So, wish me luck.

Goldielocks

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Re: my mom doesn't like that my husband is a SAHD
« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2017, 10:41:18 AM »
In hindsight, the thing that worked for my parents (my DH was SAHD, starting in 2002, when it was not as common)...

I said something like -- "You know Dad,  DH's values are a lot like yours, he thinks it is very important that a parent to stay at home with the kids instead of both of us working.  I am fine with both of us working." 

(yeah, it was my Dad who didn't "get" it, he wasn't unkind or anything, but for two years you could tell he was sort of baffled, waiting for his version of "normal" to kick in)

The other thing to point out, is -- would your DH go back to work eventually?  e.g., when the kids are 11 or something?  If so, say that.