This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Akoto Ofori-Atta discuss a Prudie letter: “Reluctant Job Quitter.”
Akoto Ofori-Atta: Sigh. As is often the case with women writing in to you about their husbands, I feel so sad that this is even the question she thought she needed to ask.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: This doesn’t happen without a lot more going on, right?
Akoto: Absolutely does not. I have so many questions for this man. One of them: If you didn’t want to bring a child into the world while you’re feeling so miserable, was he looking for a new job the whole year they were trying to have a baby?!
Jenée: Ooh great question.
Akoto: It sounds like he just brought this up out of nowhere.
Jenée: My true gut feeling—not totally supported by the evidence but my gut feeling—is that he has cold feet about having kids, or even being with her.
Akoto: Yes, I think that’s plausible. And instead of doing the adult thing and ending it, he’s making all these crazy demands and trying to deny her a child.
Jenée: But I did have this tiny voice in the back of my head … perhaps the voice of a men’s right activist. Or of someone who would weigh in 48 hours later if I tweeted about this. And that voice was saying “if the genders were reversed and a woman didn’t have a kid with a man who wasn’t present because he worked so much, would you be as hard on her?” What do you think???
Akoto: Oooooh, interesting! Thinking about the reverse roles is worth considering, but in this case, I don’t know. It’s giving me control and jealousy vibes. She likes her job. He hates his. She’s about to get a promotion! And he’s all: Nope, sorry you have to give up this thing that makes you happy and then maybe I’ll have a kid with you.
Jenée: I also think even in that case, I’d be like, soooo why didn’t you mention this earlier and give your spouse a chance to think about it and make a change? And why don’t you trust that they will make a change when they say they will? Again, it would be one thing if he said “I’d really like you to reclaim your weekends when we have a kid.” You CAN do that, even in a demanding job.
Jenée: Everyone says you just become more efficient because you have to when you have kids.
Akoto: Also true. I also have never heard of any person make a crazy demand like this of their partner, and the crazy demands just stop there. You can totally see her quitting and getting a new job and him pulling something else out of the sky that will keep them from starting a family. Unreasonable requests are always followed by another!
Jenée: Part of me just wanted to say, “Just humor him and take a different job, have the baby, and then go back to doing whatever you want or getting a divorce once you have your baby.” Because, yeah, this isn’t the last of the unreasonable demands. What’s he gonna do when she has to spend 15 hours a week looking after an elderly parent or something?
Akoto: Oh, I’m totally with you. You gave her a VERY good list of questions she should be asking. And from the little taste she gave us, I don’t think this dude has what it takes to be kind and compromising for the long haul. It’s also the language she uses—my dreams are being held hostage by my husband! Not, we’re at an impasse, or we can’t agree or find resolution.
Jenée: Such a good point. Letter writer, on the off chance that you and your husband decided that Dear Prudence would be a just judge of whether he was unreasonable and that he agreed to listen to whatever I said, yes he is being unreasonable! Go to the IVF clinic, have your kid, adjust as needed, and live your life like everyone else in the world.
Akoto: Yes! And get a therapist!
Jenée: For sure.