New Hope (NH): What inspired you to write a book about living with a stay-at-home husband?
Janet Thompson (JT): In Dear God, He’s Home!, I chronicle the difficulties and joys my husband and I encountered during the various seasons of him being a stay-at-home man: multiple layoffs, illness, disability, and now, retirement. I understand the strain on a marriage of a husband suddenly being home 24/7, regardless of the reason. As in all my books, I give various perspectives from other women who are willing to share their stories to help others going through something similar.
NH: Tell us a little about your research. How did you encounter other couples with stay-at-home men? What struck you about their experiences?
JT: Whenever I mentioned the title of this book, wives would 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!”
When I sent out an email or Facebook request for stories of women with a husband home due to retirement, illness, disability, being out of work, moving to a home office, leaving the military . . . whatever reason . . . the stories flowed into my inbox and my ears.
I noticed that whatever circumstances brought a husband home, most couples admit they didn’t prepare for a time of being together 24/7! Regardless of the reason for this season, wives of stay-at-home men experience similar difficulties, hardships, and blessings.
NH: In your research and speaking with other couples who’ve had this experience, what would you say is the most common struggle that wives have as a result of gaining a stay-at-home man? What is the most common struggle that husbands have as a result of becoming a stay-at-home man?
JT: The most common struggle of wives with stay-at-home husbands: He’s invading “my space.” They recount the loss of my home, my space, my privacy, my domain, my downtime, a place to call my own. As if that weren’t enough, looking for something to do with all his newfound free time, the husband may decide to rearrange her routine, her kitchen—her life! One wife lamented that her CEO retired husband was “organizing” her kitchen and alphabetizing her spices. Another said it was like her going into his office, sitting in his chair, and rearranging his desk for him—naught.
The wife may also feel like her work load is increasing while his is decreasing, especially if she is still working or has to go back to work to support the family. The dismal prospect of him expecting lunch every day was lamented by the majority of wives.
At the same time, he’s trying to find his space in what used to be her space and that can lead to crowded space. Military families call this the “reentry phase” or reintegration—fitting back into “normal” home life and society. In Called To Serve, Lt. Col. Tony and Penny Monetti quote one returning solider who said he felt like “a background wall in his own home,” an apt word picture for any stay-at-home man.
The home balance of authority feels off kilter when a husband is home.
NH: In the book, you relate the story of a family whose grown children sent their parents a box of oats, which represented both frugality and God’s provision to them, after the dad became a stay-at-home man. This gesture meant a lot to the parents. You also have a chapter for couples in transition about finding support. But for those who are in the extended family or church family of couples who are making this transition, can you describe some ways that we can support them?
JT: I have provided questions at the end of each chapter which could be used by families, book clubs, and support groups. Many churches have support groups for various life situations, and this is one that is often overlooked. The support group could consist of wives with stay-at-home husbands or couples or the extended family.
Also my platform and passion is mentoring: Sharing life’s experiences and God’s faithfulness. Couples who have experienced and survived the stay-at-home transition can reach out to offer seasoned encouragement, tips, and prayer for couples currently going through it.
NH: Do you think that in recent years, you’re seeing an increase in stay-at-home men? If so, have you seen churches evolve to meet these changing needs?
JT: Yes, 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 downsizing or setting up virtual offices in homes, chances are pretty good you either are or know a woman with a stay-at-home man.
I haven’t seen this stay-at-home-husband relationship dynamic addressed by churches, and yet it can so easily lead to dissatisfaction in and even destruction of some marriages. Like so many things in life, we often don’t deal with problems until they become a crisis.
My goal in this book is to mentor and encourage couples to work through the inevitable transition issues before they become divisive in the marriage.
NH: What do you most hope the reader will take away from the book?
JT: I’m certainly not an expert with all the answers, but together we can mentor and help each other. Through laughter and tears, frustrations and fears, we’ll march arm-in-arm toward a common goal: keeping our marriages intact and our hearts right with God and our husbands, until we can say with thanksgiving and praise, “Dear God, He’s Home!”
NH: You just published a book! What’s next for Janet Thompson?
JT: Yes, this is my seventeenth book, and I actually can’t wait to get started on the next one! But I do have a full speaking docket ahead of me—one in which I will be sharing this book as well as training on The Team That Jesus Built, the Face-to-Face Bible study series and Woman to Woman Mentoring. To see where I’ll be and what I’m doing please visit: www.womantowomanmentoring.com