Before you lambast me for writing a sexist article, the points raised here applies to stay-at-home husbands too. It is dedicated to the legions of women (SAHW) and men (SAHH) who chose the brave and selfless path of pursuing a lowly paid employment with no guaranteed job security....and sometimes, an ungrateful and soul-destroying partner.
And hey, I write from the perspective of having been the main breadwinner and also the SAHW. I am very fortunate that for 30 years, I shared my life's journey with my children's father who is 'big' enough to allow me to be the main breadwinner (and achieve my ambitions) as well as kind and generous enough to support me in everything I do when I am a SAHM. He never made me feel bad for 'living off him' .... and I hope I had been as kind and considerate too when I was the main breadwinner.
Six things to keep a SAHW/SAHH happy, valued and loved - personal experience from the two wonderful men in my life who makes me the happiest woman in the world:
(1) Never think your world is more important than hers
Because it is not. A large part of your wellness depends on the home she keeps for you. A 78 year old study from Harvard showed that the key to a happy life is a good wife though the 700 participants in this long study started off by thinking that money and fame are the keys to happiness.
So don't just talk about your work, your busy day, your plans. Ask her about her day. It might be a small world of nappies, baby talk, price of basil, but never forget that her life is as valid as yours.
My Mr. Heart Surgeon puts as much gravity into my 'little' triathlon project as he does to cutting-edge cardiac surgery and that makes me feel good, when he calls during his lunch hour in his high-intensity day just to ask, "How did your run go? How many miles did you do?"
(2) Make time for her
Let's get real - you have to work. You don't have that much time to spend making your woman feel good. But hey, it is the quality that counts, not the quantity. You don't have to call her 10 times a day. You don't have to write her 10 texts a day - you don't have to write soppy texts. You don't have to send flowers. All you need is the intention.
Here's an example of SIX WORDS that made two people very happy. Just six words which took all of a few seconds to type:
(3) Do things together with her
It's always a good excuse to say "I need to chill out - I had a long, tiring day at work", plonk on the settee and play with the iPad. But hello, some of the things you do together - the small things - can be as relaxing and certainly more fulfilling than reading Facebook updates about your virtual friends. Click with your mate, not your mouse.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about learning how to make Irish coffee together one evening and that simple activity meant more to me than doing something grand like going on a holiday.
(4) Count your blessings
Simple, inviolate law of life:
Grateful people are happy people, ungrateful people are unhappy people.
Close your eyes and think about the woman who is at home making your house a home. Do you know how much love it takes to do that? No paid helper can ever create that. When I was working full-time, my children's father insisted that I came home to cook the children's supper and be there to put them to bed. My feminist friends were all up in arms about it, but there is a lot of wisdom to his stance. In Malay, it is called air tangan ibu - or the water from mother's hands. We call it labour of love in English.
Think about the times she held you and soothed away your tension. Think about the times she put her needs behind yours. Think about the times she held herself back to support you. Think about the hours, think about the money (hers, if she had chosen employment elsewhere), think about the hours of her life given over to you.
And note: If she leaves, there will be a huge hole in your life.
(5) Do something for her
It doesn't have to be a big deal that takes a lot of energy on your part. My children's father could not cook but he brings me cups of tea. He sometimes washes up. For me, that is contribution enough because it shows his appreciation for what I have given him. Here's a little exercise for you: what was the last thing you gave the woman who gives up her outside life for you?
(6) Remove unkind words from your vocabulary
Never ever say, "I hope you don't expect to live here for free" or anything along this line. Yes, I know. I have been there on the other side - I have been the exhausted breadwinner worried about balancing family income with expenditure and when I came home, the house was a mess and the children dirty. And it seemed that all he had been doing was playing with the kids: there were muddy football boots that I almost tripped over when I came in, bicycles in the hallway and everybody was still in sweaty clothes. Didn't he know how stressful life outside the home is? Did he just expect a free ride?
Never ever say that, man. Because you destroy someone's soul a little when you say unkind words such as these, and you don't make yourself feel better by making someone feel worse.
Thus, I believe that it takes a real man to do the six things on the list but when you do, you will have a very happy and fulfilled woman at home, doing her life's work with love.
First published in www.lifeGO.me