Dear God, He’s Home!
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, being out of work, working in a home office, or being in the military . . . whatever the 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, the military pulling out of many areas and returning home, and businesses downsizing or setting up virtual offices in homes, the chances are pretty good you either are or know a woman with a stay-at-home man.
Whenever I mention the title of my book, wives smirk with raised eyebrows and knowingly remark, “Boy, do I have a story for you!” “I need this book.” “I know someone who could use this book.” Or “I’m going to need this book soon; write fast!”
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 at the end of March, so I’m excited to read your book and send it along to my mom afterward. 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!
The second part in this series will appear tomorrow. 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) by author and speaker Janet Thompson. Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and the author of sixteen books, including the Face-to-Face Bible study series and The Team That Jesus Built. Janet and her stay-at-home man, Dave, are enjoying this season of life in the rural mountains of Idaho.
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