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Husband Wants a Stay-at-home Wife

QUESTION: Until recently I stayed home with our daughters who are two and three-years-old. After that, I returned to work part-time. Now my husband says our home life is suffering and he wants me to quit. I love my family, and only want the best for them. I gave two weeks notice at work, but part of me does not want to quit. Am I putting my needs before my family's?

ANSWER: It is not a question of your needs versus your family's needs. Families exist to nurture the growth and development of ALL of its members. Your personal fulfillment is an integral piece of your family's happiness.

Your children benefited from your loving presence during the first two and three years of their lives. Furthermore, if you have provided a secure beginning, they are likely to gain from the stimulation of a quality daycare. In fact, they may enjoy interacting with other playmates their own age.

Do you think they are ready for part-time daycare or preschool? Since you spend most of the time with them, your husband relies on you to assess their needs. Be willing to make your own evaluation and express your opinion. It should not be a matter of "making your husband happy". It is a matter of appropriately balancing everyone's needs in the family. If you feel your children will not suffer, and may even benefit from a happier mother, as well an influx of energy from other interested and competent caregivers, say so!

Research reveals two important things. First, it is not in the best interest of the children to have a depressed mother. Naturally, a child needs stimulation and enthusiastic responses on a consistent basis, which can be impossible if the mother is unhappy. They can do much more for their children if given a "break". Secondly, studies show that children who have "working mothers" tend to have higher self-esteem. Ostensibly because working mothers feel happier with themselves and their good feelings spill over to family members.

As with any research, much depends on the parameters of your particular situation. Children who see their mothers rarely may suffer a lack of attention to their basic emotional needs. Women who feel overworked by both their jobs and family responsibilities may feel depleted instead of energized when they interact with their kids. It's important to strike a balance between children's needs and parental needs in any given family.

If you are a Mom who very much enjoys staying home with your preschoolers, by all means do it! But if your personal growth requires something else, it is your job to make your needs count as a family member. In your case, you are not seeking anything drastic. After all, your children are not infants and your "part-time" work hours are quite modest.

Set aside time to discuss your feelings with your husband. If you avoid having this discussion, you may make your husband "happy" in the short run, only to undermine lasting marital happiness if you end up feeling that you have over- sacrificed for your family.

Remember, too, that taking care of yourself sets a healthy example to your daughters about how to strike a balance as a woman and a mother!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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