Dear Readers: Every year during this time I step away from my column to work on other creative projects. I hope you enjoy these “Best Of” Q&As from 10 years ago. Today’s topic is “Homeworking.”
Q. My wife wants to change careers and open a bakery. I know she will be successful, because she is successful in everything she has ever done.
My issue is that she expects me to work there as well. She told me I could, “Clean pans, bus tables and take out the trash.”
Amy, I have a home-based business and vowed years ago that I would never again work in restaurants unless (my) financial need dictated it. I cannot see myself taking out the trash or washing pans just because my wife wants to be a full-time baker.
The only time I even hinted at the fact that I didn’t want to work there, she called me lazy and unsupportive. (I typically work about 15 or 20 hours a week.)
How can I tell her that I don’t want to be involved in the day-to-day operation of her new business, and at the same time convey that I support her fully?
A. While getting relatives to work in the family business is a time-tested recipe for success, compelling a spouse to take out your business’ trash is a less-than-savory ingredient in a marriage.
Would you accuse your wife of being lazy or unsupportive if she didn’t want to sweep your office floor or tote your mass mailing to the post office for you?
I suggest you tell your wife that while you won’t be working at her business, you’d be happy to help her strategize and develop a business plan that doesn’t involve you being her (trash) bag man.
However, seeing as how you keep a less than part-time work schedule, you absolutely must pick up any slack — and trash — at home.
Q. My husband desperately wants to be a famous published author. I edited his book numerous times before it got “published” online, and now he is writing stories on the Web that he hopes to compile into a novel. He expects me to edit all of these stories.
Being his editor before was awful. Although he fixed what I suggested and I helped him make the writing tighter, he didn’t learn from it and the same mistakes occurred over and over again. He can’t seem to edit or analyze his own writing.
I pulled back from editing because of my demanding full-time job. I am still expected to read everything he writes, and I struggle.
First, I am confronted by all those mistakes. Second, I am confronted by his needy questions: “Did you like this?” “Did you like that?” “What did you think about that event?” “Was it good?”
He has participated in writing groups but left them. He took a writing class, but he had conflicts with the instructor — an award-winning author.
He yearns for my approval. He craves my adoring accolades. And he is driving me nuts.
A. Some spouses can write and edit together, but for many couples who are not Virginia and Leonard Woolf, these two roles don’t always mix well. Family members often do NOT make good first readers.
It is important for spouses to know that their partners are on their side. But it is also important for your husband to realize that demanding your praise makes you hostile toward his creative projects. You can say, “I am your biggest fan. But I don’t love every single thing you write. I can’t edit you because it leads to conflict. Also, I just don’t want to.”
Your husband should hire an editor/assistant to help him. Ideally, paying someone would compel him to take edits and suggestions seriously. Unfortunately, he wants to cut corners without improving his work; he also wants the fame along with the accolades from you.
In short, he sounds like every needy, unpublished and eager writer I know.
Your adoring accolades will mean nothing if you are not also honest. Without honesty, the empty praise will bring on more insecurity. If he can’t handle your honesty, you should decline these bids for praise.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.