A Working History

He came home from the office one day and asked, "How would you feel about going back to work?"

With the kids both in school full time and her hobbies approaching obsession, she told him she wouldn't mind one bit.

"Good," he said, "because I can't take it much longer."

And that was how, in the summer of the tenth year of their marriage, she became the family breadwinner and he a stay-at-home dad. Their needs weren't many, just enough to pay the bills of a simple lifestyle, and they were happy.

Five years later nearly to the day, she came home from the office and asked, "How would you feel about going back to work?"

The kids have soccer and chess and the school play, and the house is always clean when you get home, he told her. He wanted to just leave things alone.

"But I lost my job today," she said, "downsizing."

"I'm sorry," he said.

"If I can't find something new, you'll have to go out and look too."

Months went by and they lived on her unemployment check. She looked online for jobs and submitted resumes and got a few interviews but nothing panned out. He inquired casually and not-so-secretly hoped she'd find something first. Home together throughout the day and she too anxious to enjoy her old hobbies, they fought more often than they ever had. He didn't see why they should fight and told her they were blessed and they should enjoy it while it lasted. She calmed down and their love life perked up and they went from frequent fighting to an ephemeral giddiness, and the mood in the house became so lighthearted as to confuse their kids, the kids wondering how their unemployed parents could be so happy and unconcerned. The kids became jealous of their friends and the oldest asked about getting a job and the parents said, "yes."

A couple of paychecks into his oldest child's working life, the father felt a little embarrassed about his kid being the family's only earner, so he hunkered down and applied for many, many jobs and took the first one he was offered that allowed for a decent living. His wife went back to her hobbies.

He was never out of work for an extended period again and she worked on and off. Both kids went to college thanks to debt and grants and campus jobs. When he came home one day and told her he was ready to retire, they joked about what their lives would be like and spoke about when they'd both been at home years before. They were both much younger then, she said, and he told her that he thought they were pretty lucky.


  1. Oh you know I think we all want to stay at home and just do our thing. Somehow they seemed far happier when they did. However real life like college etc. demands payment and forces us out again into the world. (Fortunately for me now Richard I am retired and I know my husband would love to do the same - but alas we need the money ^_^ )

    Loved the story, it portrayed real people with real lives.

  2. How embarrassing to have to rely on one's children, especially if they're young. And yet the real surprise is that one source of income was enough for the entire family at any time in their lives. That's lucky!

  3. A nicely written and believable slice of life Richard.
    We all need money to get by, but it's good when people realize that it's not the most important thing in our lives.

  4. Well done. Too bad money is so necessary.

  5. I don't know anyone who's lived off their kid's income, but I know a few couples who have had the interplay of work and not-work that you described. They stretch the single income by living simpler and smarter -- and probably with fewer toys -- than their contemporaries, but successfully.