Today I birthed a baby—no not a real baby—but my seventeenth book, Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man, releases March 5th and the process of writing and getting a book published usually takes longer than 9 months and the labor pains go on and on…. But just like when you look into the face of your beautiful baby for the first time, when my “baby” arrived on my doorstep and I held it in my hands, all the stress of long writing days, late nights, deadlines, edits, selecting a cover and a name all faded away into the gratefulness that the Lord birthed another book through me that I pray will bless and mentor wives who now have a stay-at-home man.
The wife of a stay-at-home man is going to talk to God—a lot!
Maybe she’ll write a cathartic letter in her journal: Dear God,. . . . Another wife might begin her pleading or thankful prayers with “Dear God,”. . . . Still other wives in times of desperation or frustration cry out, “Dear God, HE’S HOME!”
The various times my husband has been a “Stay-at-Home Man,” I regularly expressed each of those “Dear Gods,” as do the wives who submitted stories for my book Dear God, He’s Home!. So if you have a stay-at-home man and he’s driving you crazy, don’t feel guilty if you haven’t always been joyous about this new closeness in your marriage relationship. And don’t feel alone. When I sent out a request for stories of women with a husband home due to retirement, illness, disability, out of work, home office, the military . . . whatever reason…the stories flowed into my inbox and my ears.
With unemployment at an all-time high, baby boomers reaching retirement age by the droves, military pulling out of many areas and returning home, businesses down-sizing or setting up virtual offices in homes, chances are pretty good you either are or know a woman with a stay-at-home man.
Myriad emotions and reactions erupt from both spouses when an otherwise out-of-the-home-every-day husband is suddenly home all day—every day. Many wives have their own label for this occurrence. In Honey, I’m Home for Good!, Mary Ann Cook calls it spouse-in-the-house syndrome.” Then there’s retired-husband syndrome” or military reintegration syndrome.
Every couple’s response to their unique syndrome evolves from how they’ve dealt with previous transitions in their relationship. Couples who stumbled and fumbled without finding workable resolutions in the past, will probably stumble and fumble through this new situation too. However, couples who have successfully developed and implemented coping techniques may be better equipped to adjust to a full time “stay-at-home man.” Even so, unexpected issues can blindside both spouses.
There’s no age qualifier for a husband suddenly being home 24/7. Sometimes it comes as a shock and other times it’s the natural progression of expected retirement or return from deployment. But even when we know it’s coming, the reality of a hubby being home full-time can still be shocking and disarming. A woman recently wrote me:
My dad has just announced that he’ll be retiring the end of March, so I’m excited to read your book and send it along to my mom afterwards. We didn’t handle his retirement from the Marine Corps so well 20 years ago. I was just laughing about it with him on the phone today, but he has better laid plans to transition out this time around.
Planning is essential, if you have that luxury. Each time my husband has been home, it’s always been a surprise and no time to plan. It hit us both hard and we struggled through adapting to the transitions and changes we each experienced.
For Better or For Worse but Not For Lunch
There’s a universal frustration expressed by wives of stay-at-home husbands: He’s invading “my space” and my work load is increasing while his is decreasing. The prospect of fixing lunch every day can push a wife over the top. John expresses the lament of many wives:
When I retired from the Navy (and was a stay at home retiree) my wife (after a few weeks) said, “I promised for better or worse, but I didn’t promise lunch every day. Go out and get another job. So I did…John
Not every husband can go out and get another job, at least not right away. Instead of feeling resentful or overwhelmed, we wives need to put into perspective issues like lunch or helping with household duties and discuss with our husbands in the same way we would discuss a major decision or planning a trip—talk it out.
Most husbands were used to eating lunch somewhere —maybe driving up to a takeout window, or sitting in a restaurant and ordering, or going to the lunchroom and eating the lunch we packed. They don’t know how to change that pattern unless we help redirect them to making their own lunches now or going out with the guys. One husband, who went from working in an office to working out of the home, still gets in his car and drives to lunch. It was what he always did and it feels right. I’m sure it feels right to his wife too!
You, and He, Need an Outlet
When Bob retired, he bought two snowmobiles. I didn’t like those smelly things, but I didn’t want him to go alone. I was so happy when he met other snowmobilers and I didn’t have to go anymore! Then he started making friends who play golf and I gained some space to do my gardening.—Michelle
A stay-at-home man can become a wife’s full-time job, as he tries to make her his new hobby! When does she retire from the household management or being a caregiver or parenting? Here are several creative ideas to help both of you adjust to, and even enjoy, this stay-at-home man season:
- Develop individual hobbies, and if possible, do one together.
- Both learn something you’ve always wanted to know how to do.
- Leave the house on your own at least once a week.
- Plan a weekly or monthly date together. Put it on your calendars.
- If still parenting, join a babysitting co-op, trade off babysitting with friends, or if finances permit, hire a sitter and go have fun.
- If you’re caring for a sick or disabled husband, ask a friend or family member to stay with him and do something for you—not just running errands and chores.
- Exercise daily.
- Serve as a volunteer for a charitable organization or a ministry.
- When a husband retires, the wife retires from one home chore. Her choice.
My Stay-at-Home Man Shares
My husband, Dave, selflessly understood that I would have to write vulnerably and honestly about our messes and our miracles. In the Epilogue of Dear God, He’s Home!, Dave offers this closing advice:
So I leave you with these final words: Living with your spouse in stay-at-home man seasons of life, while different, is no more challenging than any other season of married life. You just have to constantly die to self as God teaches us, consider your spouse more important than yourself, and work as a team. I like the wise council I gleaned from Promise Keepers years ago and ultimately conveyed to my son, sons-in-law, and men’s small group studies—marriage isn’t a 50/50 proposition as proposed by some, but 100/0. If you give 100% and expect zero in return, you’ll grow to love your spouse as Christ loved the church, and your marriage will thrive.
To read a snippet of Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man.
This article includes excerpts from Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man (March release, New Hope Publishers)—the third book in the “Dear God,” series by author and speaker Janet Thompson. Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and the author of seventeen books, including the Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Janet and her stay-at-home man, Dave, are enjoying this season of life in the rural mountains of Idaho.
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