Back when my wife and I first got married, we were like most any young couple. Money was tight and we struggled a bit to make it at times. I was fresh out of college with a degree that only merited a $27k a year salary and my wife was still in school and waiting tables.
Then she eventually got out of school and things leveled off a bit. We climbed up the financial ladder a little more and had our first child. Life was okay, and for most people this was the time where you settle in and live your mediocre version of the “American Dream” with two cars parked out front and watching the kids grow up as the years pass by.
It didn’t take long for that white picket fence American dream to lose its luster and I started working for more. Over time I grew my personal business more and went to grad school to get another degree that would help me get what I so desired- a change.
Somewhere along the way my wife got left behind. All she’s ever known or comprehended is the typical American life and I don’t think she quite understood what it was I was battling for. Did I want a bigger house? No. Did I want a new car? Hardly… I wanted opportunity. Opportunity to do whatever it is I felt like doing.
Then baby #2 came along, a pleasant but shocking surprise. Suddenly I feared that I would have to settle in and give up on this idea I had of chasing after these grand ideas fancied up while daydreaming in my cubicle or on long commutes to and from work. But instead, I just told my wife to quit her job…
Virtually all of our friends and family saw this as a noble gesture. I was creating the true American dream for my family. My wife barefoot and pregnant at home while I went off to bang on the door of corporate America and make a healthy, honest living for my family and someday send my two kids off to a fancy college. I quietly let them think that and let my wife think the world of me for giving her something very few other moms we knew had the opportunity to do- be at home with the kids.
The pitfalls of being a stay at home mom
Initially my wife was elated to be a stay at home mom. She never cared for her job or the field she worked in and was more than happy to call it quits. But then the tides slowly began to turn. Over the last year we have become more and more distant as our lives continue to diverge.
At first she would simply be upset that while she was home all day with the kids, changing diapers, dealing with the crying, cleaning up messes, I was out having nice meals with the guys over lunch break. Eventually even studying for school or dealing with personal clients became an issue. The pressure of dealing with the kids just kept building up more and more. And sadly, I was all but oblivious.
Over time it seems to only continually get worse. When I was still in grad school, finding time to study and read became hell on earth. Between fussy babies and a depressed wife, I never wanted something to be over so bad in my life. But I kept pushing ahead with my selfish ambition to go get what I wanted.
Then I got out of school and I took a great paying job, only it required me to travel, something I have always wanted to do. And so I drive a wedge further between my wife and myself.
Things come to a head
This morning I was walking to work and my wife asked me what I did last night. I’m working in Philly right now and I had taken a long walk into South Philly to try the original Philly cheesesteaks at Pat’s King of Steaks and Genos.
She almost immediately started yelling at me. Saying she never has time to do anything for herself. That when I’m home all I do is work, or do projects, or this… or that… It is all 100% true. But the story has another side. I work because that is what I do. I work. Someone has to keep the house fixed up, someone has to mow the grass, and someone has to earn a living. But my wife doesn’t see it that way. She just sees her and two kids that feel like chains around her neck.
So I give up. I told her to find a job and go back to work. I can’t make her happy, only she can. I’m also tired of feeling this deep guilt for simply enjoying the life I earned. Yes, she is at home with the kids night after night while I’m out exploring big cities and having fun. And no, it isn’t fair. But what can I do? Just stop? Go back to some subpar mediocre cubicle hell to make my wife feel better about her life?
Yes, it is selfish. I am selfish. But I earned what I have. I spent eight years in college, I built my own business to pay for college, and I put in all the long hours and hell of studying, reading, writing and researching to get here.
I have decided I can’t talk to my wife about my life anymore. I’ll simply leave the fun parts out and keep conversation during the week strictly family related. It all has to remain secret, only shared in little corners around the internet with strangers, like I am right now.