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Do Not Ask Amy!!!

Why do I do it? Every time I read an advice column in the Washington Post I find myself fuming. I should just turn the page and never read another word. A couple of weeks ago Carolyn Hax suggested a woman let her pregnant teenage niece come live with her and her three young children. Being around those children should certainly convince the niece to have an abortion. Today, Ask Amy basically tells a woman to get up off her backside and find a job. Staying at home with kids does not contribute enough to the family.

My husband and I have been married for 12 years. He has always worked, and I’ve always been a dedicated homemaker. I consider this my “job.”
Recently my husband was laid off, and he accepted another position that pays significantly less. Now that my sons are in middle school, my husband wants me to consider working part time, because I “have so much free time during the day.”
I find this extremely disrespectful. I feel like he thinks I just lounge around all day.
How can we compromise on this issue, and how can I show him the importance of everything that I do? -- Already Employed Wife

DEAR WIFE: One way to compromise would be for you to get a part-time job to help support your family.

Excuse me. Exactly how much money do you think this woman is going to make at a part-time job? Nothing in her letter indicates they are not putting food on the table or a roof over their heads. What Amy should have recommended is that the husband and wife sit down and discuss the benefits and burdens of her taking on employment outside the home. How does the husband see this extra income being used?

Things to consider:
There are costs associated with working. The increased spending power of a second income is grossly overestimated. Families with two working parents eat out more. They buy more convenience foods which are more expensive. A woman's wardrobe for work is more expensive. If both parents are working you tend to pay for household services like housekeepers, dry cleaners, laundry, and yard work because you are both too tired to take care of them.

Will the wife's job compromise her job as a mother if she works outside the home? The prime time for teens and tweens to get into trouble is when they are unsupervised after school. They are too old for daycare and babysitters often don't exert much control over their behavior. The first hour after children get home from school is golden. That is when you can look at their faces and see how their day went. The look in their eyes tells you if there is something bothering them. Shuttling them around to after school activities is a window into their world that you lose if you are paying someone else to drive them.

With increased costs and possibly increased taxes, will the extra income be worth the burdens? The couple should discuss ways to cut expenses that might be equivalent to what the wife would make in a part-time job. Perhaps, the husband is just feeling envious that his wife gets to keep doing the job she loves--being a stay-at-home-mom --and he has to take a downgraded less satisfying position. This may be more about his professional unhappiness than about the family's need for more income.

Rather than belittling the work of being a wife and mother and telling this woman to go get a job, Amy should have recommended the couple sit down and find out what each thought the family would gain and what it would lose if the wife got a job.

It really makes one wonder what kind of family life these advice columnists have when they think staying at home with kids is insignificant and living with children is a good argument for abortion.


Barb, sfo said…
I had a part-time job for a year and a half (when I only had 2 kids and the younger one was in preschool).

We knew it wasn't worth it when our then-4th grader got sick on 9/11 of all days. It turned out to be mono (what 9-year-old gets THAT?) and once my husband's company reopened a few days after 9/11, we wound up arguing over who took a sick day to take care of the sick child, since we have no family nearby to impose upon for things like that.

As you said in your post, it just wasn't worth it. I do freelance writing now. It doesn't pay much but it works with my schedule, and if I have a sick kid or other emergency, I can do what is needed!
RAnn said…
Maybe we are coming at it from different perspectives, and often I find Amy's advice to be both dumb and immoral, but in this case, I have a hard time seeing your problem. Her husband asked, and Amy agreed, that she take a part-time job, not a full-time one. Now, I don't know where she lives, what's available etc., but most urban/suburban places have retail and/or food service jobs that would meet her need for extra cash without causing childcare issues. No, these aren't going to be high-paying jobs but they are likely to be close to home with flexible hours, and they aren't apt to require much in terms of wardrobe.
Denise said…
Rann, I am not saying that the woman should not take a job. However, I think Amy jumped to the husband's side without considering the woman's side at all. Rather than saying "Go get a job because you are not doing anything productive at home", the couple needs to sit down and figure out what they expect to be different if the woman works outside the home. How much money is this woman really going to add to their spending capacity after taking into account increased costs for child care, food, etc? What are the intangible costs like decreased parenting capacity? Are there budget cuts they can make that will offer the same result? I can understand how the woman felt hurt when her work at home was viewed as not really contributing to the family's well-being.

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