First off, a little disclaimer: no, this post is not about how I’m going to be a stay-at-home wife, though it has become a viable back-up plan. And no, I’m not implying that all men want a stay-at-home wife. But for certain couples in certain situations, I’m beginning to realize, it’s the dream.
Okay, with that out of the way, let me begin by saying how much of a shocker it is to me that I would ever associate being a stay-at-home anything with something positive. Sorry, all the stay-at-homes out there. It’s just that the way I grew up, and my former commitment issues, taught me that to be financially dependent on another person was the dumbest thing you could possibly do. And that your career mattered more than anything else. After all, anyone can get married and have kids, but can anyone become a lawyer? Make six figures? Actually, I never really cared about money back in my college days, as evidenced by my fairly useless double major in Romance Languages and International Studies. It was more important to me that my job mean everything to me. I wanted to change the world; I wanted a job that I would die for. I wanted everyone to look at me and respect me and think that I was changing the world. It was an incredibly young, naïve, and ultimately egotistical desire. What’s more, it came from a position of incredible privilege, where I didn’t have to worry about finances. Though I grew up poor, it had been a long time since I experienced that personally, and my mom shielded me from a lot of our financial struggles. I never appreciated how much money mattered and how much impact it had on a family’s wellbeing. All my life, I struggled to find emotional security in my relationships, without realizing that financial security was just as crucial.
Law school beat the naïveté out of me, brutally. It crushed my hopes and dreams and forced me to face the reality that the prestigious, high-power job I previously sought was merely a mirage. Even publication, which had been my dream since I was a kid, wasn’t the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow it once was. I realized that the books I was writing were good, good enough to be published, but probably weren’t going to make me a living, and would be forgotten in a year’s time. Was publication all that I wanted, or was it to publish a certain kind of book? I decided that publication for publication’s sake was stupid, and I would wait for the right book to come along, no matter how many years it took. Coming out of my second year of law school, I only knew a few things: 1) the cost of living in Norwalk is insane, and I refuse to live here on less than $200k family annual income 2) given that we are above $200k, in order for working to be worth the toll on my mental and physical health, I must make at least $60k and work no more than 40 hours a week. If you just threw up a little bit at my financial privilege, I reassure you that I 100% acknowledge how lucky I am, and that if we had less, I would have no problem moving out to Podunk, Iowa and becoming a sustainable farmer. If you just scoffed at my job requirements, I reassure you that I am well aware how few jobs like this exist in law, which brings me to my following conclusions.
My plan is to start my own solo practice out of law school. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, I will look into other fields perhaps. If all else fails, or if my health worsens, I have a fantastic back-up plan — stay-at-home wife! Unless you’ve had to take care of a house and family before, you probably don’t understand why this is such a great idea. Certainly, I had no idea what I was getting into when we got a house, a teenager, and a dog. Suddenly, it was like I had a million things to do all the time, and everyone always needed something from me. I sacrificed a lot of time at school to be there for my family, and somehow got the best grades thus far in law school fall semester, but I think it definitely came at the cost of my health. When we went on vacation a few weeks ago, it became clear how much work I was putting in at home every day. Our dog-sitter was over 6-7 hours a day taking care of the house and of Juno. Typically, I’d be running errands, driving Billy Bob around, and cooking dinner too, which adds up to a very full day. If you factor in things like being at home when the piano tuner comes, taking kids to the doctor and pets to the vet, and more, I start to wonder how any family gets by without a stay-at-home. I suppose you’d have to pay someone else to do all those things. Or, I guess, you just have to do all of it at night and on days off.
The absolute greatest part of having one spouse stay at home is the time you create. The older I get, the more I realize that money adds nothing to your life, as long as you have enough to live comfortably. But time? Time is everything. When I’m at home taking care of chores and cooking dinner and keeping Juno well-exercised, the moment Dan walks in the front door, we get to relax. We get to spend our weekends hiking and taking road trips. I get the satisfaction that our wooden floors are always spotless, despite Juno’s best attempts at shedding — I am extremely OCD about floors. We take away the stress of paying someone else to do the work that I could do faster and better. Most importantly, I get the joy of being the one to train Juno and spending quality time with my sister that I would never have otherwise. I’m not saying that staying at home is necessarily better than working, which certainly has its advantages. But it is actually pretty damn awesome, and I get why people do it now. And if I were to stay at home, I wouldn’t feel like a failure or like any less of a feminist and equal partner.