I often hear from people who don’t feel completely appreciated by their spouse. And, this complaint can come from both a husband and a wife. It is not limited to one particular sex or gender. However, I find that women tend to feel unappreciated a bit more since household and child rearing tasks often fall to them (or are expected to.) This can change the way that you feel about or see yourself. Or, worse about how your spouse sees you.
I might hear from a wife who says: “I don’t believe that my husband sees my total worth. I am better educated than he is. Before we had our children, I actually made more money than him. But after we had twins, the day care was so expensive that it just didn’t make sense for both of us to work only to use most of our pay check for a child care expenses while someone else was raising our children. I was willing to take a break from my career. I don’t regret doing that. What I regret is that this has changed the way that my husband sees me. He no longer consults me about our finances. He always assumes that we are going to visit or spend holidays with his own parents. He decides where we will go on vacation. If the kids are particularly grouchy when he gets home, he seems to act like it’s my fault. He used to talk to me about things that happened at work. Now he seems to act as if I couldn’t possible understand his career. He seems to think I’ve dumbed down since I’ve become a mother. I am seriously disturbed about this. I worry that he doesn’t respect me or see my worth so that he will eventually cheat. Or I worry that I will eventually get sick of not being appreciated and leave. Either way, I feel like our marriage is in trouble. How can I make him see my worth?”
Let Him Walk In Your Shoes: I understand your concern and I think it is legitimate. I’d suggest a couple of things. First of all, it’s very common for us to not have much of an idea of everything our spouse does. This doesn’t make us bad people. It just means that we can’t possibly guess at all the things that our spouse does on a daily basis until we’ve actually walked in their shoes. For example, my husband had a back issue in the past and this kept him from taking care of the lawn and cars – which are normally tasks that he takes care of without complaint. To be quite honest, I’ve never thanked him for doing this. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But when I had to mow the yard and take the cars to get serviced and do a million other things like take out the trash, rake leaves, and clean out drains, boy did I have a new appreciation for my husband. In the evening after I had to do many of these tasks myself, I made him his favorite meal and I gave him a very long back rub and a heart-felt thank you. And now I thank him when he takes care of things that I normally don’t think about. I don’t take these tasks for granted anymore. And I wasn’t a horrible wife for doing it before. I just didn’t know.
I suspect if you gave your husband a little walk in your shoes, he might have the same reaction that I did. Perhaps you can arrange to spend time with family or friends. Perhaps there’s an issue with one of your close friends or family members that could use your help. Ask your husband to watch the kids while you help out. I suspect that if you do, he will quickly learn all the tasks that you take care of. He will see how challenging your day to day tasks truly are. And he will learn that cranky children sometimes don’t have anything to do with that child’s’ caretaker or upbringing. If you do this enough, he will likely appreciate what you do so much more. And quite frankly, it is good for him to spend one on one time with your children.
Find An Outlet: Another thing that I would suggest is to give yourself some sort of outlet. Sure, you’re not going to an office, but you have to give yourself something that is only yours. A friend of mine launched an etsy store when she was a stay-at-home mom. It didn’t make her a lot of money at first. But it gave her something that was hers alone and she was able to release stress this way. Plus, she loved making her own money. Even if it wasn’t a lot. Eventually, her business grew. And now her kids are in school and she’s making decent money so that she doesn’t have to seek a job outside her home. This works very well for her family.
You don’t have to make money to find an outlet. Even if it’s just taking up a hobby that gets you out of the house and gives you a chance to express yourself outside of being someone’s parent or spouse. This will allow your spouse see that you still respect yourself enough to have a life outside of the kids. He will see that you still need and want an intellectual outlet.
Finally, you may have to speak up if something is bothering you. When he doesn’t consult you, then you might try something: “well don’t you want to hear my opinion on this? Isn’t this a joint decision? I may be home now but I’m still an equal part of the equation. Here is what I think.”
Sometimes, you have to be assertive to sort of ask for that respect back. You do have some say in your role. You don’t have to settle for feeling like a second-class citizen. Finally, some of this is how we see ourselves. Do not apologize for staying home. Know that you are doing the most important job in the world. If someone makes you feel less than your own worth, correct them. And hold your head high. When other people see that you are still bright, active and involved, then they will eventually get the hint and treat you that way.