Many husbands feel very keenly that it’s their job to support their family, but oftentimes, the wife enjoys working or has a successful career. This week’s question comes from a wife who is the family breadwinner and is struggling with resentment because her husband isn’t stepping up to the financial plate.

Q: What are your thoughts regarding a wife being the bread winner and a husband staying home with the children? I make significantly more money than my husband, so it appears to make sense financially for me to work. However, I am struggling with resentment and a lack of respect for my husband because he does not provide financially. I often feel stressed and overburdened, and I think that he should have the role of provider (even if he will always make less than I do). While I have several friends with role reversals in their marriage that appear to be flourishing, this is not the case for our family.

In your opinion, is it unwise for a wife to take on the role of breadwinner while her husband stays home with the children? Or do you think this unconventional arrangement is a healthy and viable option? What is the effect of role reversal in a marriage on the children?

A: I think you’re asking the wrong questions when considering whether or not you should work and your husband should become the primary parent at home with your children. You haven’t provided further details as to how old your kids are or how many you have, but that’s okay. My answer wouldn’t be any different!

By your own admittance, you’re feeling resentful, stressed and overburdened by working full-time while your husband also works full-time inside the home. However, if your husband was the primary breadwinner and you stayed home with the kids, I seriously doubt your resentment and stress and overburdened feelings would magically disappear. There are many, many stay-at-home moms who struggle with the same feelings you’ve expressed in your question, and many, many working mothers who struggle with those same feelings.

So let’s table the discussion as to whether it’s wise or healthy for a wife to take on the role or primary breadwinner with a house husband because that’s not what you should be considering. And kids will thrive when their parents are less stressed and overburdened, so it really doesn’t matter who’s working and who’s at home.

Questions I think you should be asking yourself:

  • If I didn’t have a husband and kids, would I still want to work at this job?
  • Am I willing to cut way back on our lifestyle so that one of us can stay home with the kids? Am I willing to cut way back if that person is my husband?
  • If I were the one staying home with our kids, would I want my husband to dismiss my contributions to the family as “not providing”?

In other words, am I willing to look at all the ways the parent at home contributes to the household and realize that the at-home parent is providing as much equal support to the family as the parent with a paycheck? Don’t assume that the parent at home isn’t a vital part of the family just because that at-home parent doesn’t deposit a paycheck. The at-home parent is as much as a provider as the working parent.

I think you’re asking the wrong questions when considering whether or not you should work and your husband should become the primary parent at home with your children.

Have you both considered the benefits having a parent at home full-time means for the kids? No daycare, no stresses about a sick child, no scrambling to find childcare on snow days, no having to squeeze in grocery shopping at night.

Finally, it would be good to make sure you both have clear expectations what that parent’s job would entail beyond taking care of the kids. Will the at-home parent do all the cooking and cleaning on a regular basis? Would that parent take care of the school papers and volunteer requests if applicable? Would that parent do the grocery shopping and other errands?

You have many conversations ahead of you as you navigate this road, and I encourage you to leave your preconceived ideas on the floor and honestly talk about some of these issues with your spouse. You can find your way through this together.