Q. My wife and I got married right after college and quickly welcomed our first child. I knew that having kids would take all of my wife’s attention; therefore, I did not want any more children.
But shortly after the first child came baby number two. At that point I got a vasectomy.
Over 20 years, I have built a very successful career, while my wife has chosen to take jobs that would allow her more time with the kids.
She has taken the lead with the kid’s activities, housework, cooking, etc., which I never asked her to do. She has held various low-paying, “do good”-type positions in the community.
She has a lot of skills and did not have to compromise her career for the children.
There are a lot of successful women doing it all. My wife has nothing to show for working year after year.
I am very resentful of her career choices and have expressed this many times. I think she is lazy and used the kids and house as an excuse.
Our kids are both in college now, and I am paying for all of it.
My wife now has decided to pursue a second degree so she can increase her skills. I told her that I would help her start a small business if she abandoned going back to school. She declined.
I do not feel obligated to pay for her education, which I could easily do. She is taking out student loans, but she will never be able to catch up to my salary.
Am I being unreasonable for not helping, and for feeling so resentful toward her?
A. Your anger over your wife’s choices seems to have affected your cognition.
She has maintained the household and has raised (your) children, and yet because she has been under-employed outside the home, she has “nothing to show for it?”
How about healthy children and a husband who doesn’t have to iron his own shirts?
According to an oft-quoted report by Salary.com, in 2021 a stay-at-home parent works over 100 hours a week and would earn an annual “...fair market salary equivalent of $184,820.”
The question is: Do you owe this amount to your “lazy” wife, or do you two have a zero balance, because she was living the life she chose? (From your account, you have done the same.)
You obviously feel trapped, stuck financially supporting a family that — according to you — takes your hard-earned assets and returns nothing.
Your wife should not be taking out student loans. These loans are the worst bet in the world and paying them back will deplete the gains she might see from her additional degree.
You two should immediately seek the help of a marriage counselor. Additionally, you could investigate a post-nuptial agreement to outline the financial terms by which you quite obviously define the relative success of your marriage.
Q. I’m sharing my family’s holiday strategy in case someone else thinks it’s workable for their family.
We have had our own disagreements and hurt feelings over the years. I remind everyone that the holidays are not about the hurt, but about celebrating together as a family and creating memories of togetherness. I tell them to keep their hurt and anger at home in “storage,” so that during family events they can focus on fun and celebrating togetherness.
At Thanksgiving dinner, we each share what/who we’re thankful for. At Christmas, we have the same requirement — to leave our “issues” at home.
I believe that we can choose to be above the squabbling for the holiday season and behave kindly toward one another.
CATHY S., IN CALIFORNIA
A. I think of this as an easy-to-follow instruction manual for a truly great holiday gift: a positive focus on relationship-building, versus trotting out old wounds.
Q. I’m responding to the letter from “Totally Confused Mom,” who has two adult daughters who won’t speak to her, claiming that they had terrible childhoods, and that one had suffered “trauma.”
You totally sided with these faux victims. There is an epidemic of young people who, facing any challenge or adversity, claim they were “traumatized,” and blame the parents.
I can’t believe you fell for this.
A. If parents don’t expose and prepare younger children for struggle, setbacks, and failure, then as young adults they might perceive challenges as trauma.
On the other hand, any parent who believes they’ve provided their children with an ideal childhood needs to dig a little deeper.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.