The Secret to Successful Working Motherhood: Get a Wife or Stick Up for Yourself

Speak up for what you really need -- at home and work.

About four weeks ago, I gave up an opportunity to start a competitive MBA program. The journey that led to this goal started some time back. Last year, I finally committed to it. I studied for and took the GMAT, wrote the business school essays, asked for recommendations – the whole kit and caboodle. Then I was accepted and paid the $2000 non-refundable deposit.

It was at this point my spouse told me “Don’t plan for extra help around the house while you do this. It will be on top of the things you are already doing. I may not be available to help you because things may be hectic at work for me.” Oops. We never discussed the new division of labor. I just assumed I would get help, because that’s what a woman would do.

So, after weeks of soul searching and cold sweats, it appeared there was no other solution: I had to give it up. With many hours of night classes weekly, another 10-13 hours of homework, my nearly fifty hour per week professional job, and three girls to mother, it was unrealistic to go back to school and manage working motherhood. If I did not want to fall apart in the next two years, it was a no-brainer.

My Mom has always given me the advice that if I am going to be a working mother, I should plan to have help – implying the “help” would be of the paid variety. (Not that she ever even had someone clean our house, or help in any other way, once – remember to lead by example, people!). I have resisted this as much as I could for two simple reasons: guilt and expense. (Thanks, Mom!) In fact, resisting it led, in part, to the decision I made about business school. Not that with the tuition we would have to pay, we could even afford the help, but that is another point entirely.

Now, a month has gone by and I’ve had the chance to really reflect. (Okay, maybe the correct word is “perseverate.”) The good news is it was the right decision. (Thank God, right?) Going back to school would have precluded the projects I am taking on at work. The new time constraints would essentially make me unavailable to my kids for the next two years, not to mention any time for hubby/friends/self/drinking wine. And the debt! We do not speak of the debt. And yes, I did think of all of these things before I applied, but I did not have the above information to contribute to the decision-making (see husband quote above).

What this experience has reinforced is that I am not married to a wife, but a husband. I explored the option of what it would entail to obtain a wife. It was really pretty complicated and in the end seemed like it would create more work. This led me to seriously think about adopting my husband’s psychology, which is clearly ingrained in him. If he can refuse daily household responsibilities, I should be able to as well. He doesn’t have guilt. Why should I?

A revolution took place in our house. We call her “Kristen.” Three days per week, Kristen picks up the kids and cooks dinner. By the time I get home, homework is done, children are present, dinner is ready. Kristen also folds and puts away laundry. All of this takes her a mere six hours per week. Can you imagine what it would be like to have six more hours per week? I can tell you : IT ROCKS! And the cost is way cheaper then therapy or marriage counseling.

This new way of life has extended to other areas as well. For example, when my husband voted for a stay-cation for Spring Break, I stuck up for myself and insisted on a real vacation so I didn’t have to prepare meals/clean up/shop/ wash clothes/wipe floors, etc. Amazingly, it was not until we had a conversation about the importance of going away for those reasons, that he understood why I was so opinionated on the matter and stopped suggesting stay-cating.

So, what started out as a not-so-great situation, ended up as a revolution. You need to make a choice, too. Do it for yourself, and do it for those kids watching you and learning what is “normal” or “acceptable.” Stick up for yourself!

3 thoughts on “The Secret to Successful Working Motherhood: Get a Wife or Stick Up for Yourself

  1. I love this article. I don’t know why men and women are wired so differently but it is true in so many relationships including my own. I am so glad you have no guilt about passing up the opportunity and hiring “help”. 6 hours a week would be awesome. I am getting ready to write an article on my new blog ( about what life for me would consist of with a whole week with no husband, children or dog. Crazy to think about it.


  2. I’m a mother of a 17-month-old and an MBA candidate at a top business school (some would say ‘the’ top business school), and I just spent an hour in an associate director’s office nearly in tears, because I couldn’t figure out how to ensure my son’s well-being, study, and make ends meet, all while my husband traveled 4 days a week for work and did not suitably take on ownership at home. I agree that it’d be nice to have a ‘wife’ who would help shoulder some of these chores, but I also think it’s important to have infrastructure to help working moms, like access to high-quality daycare, emergency care, places to nurse, etc. Every person on this planet owes his or her life to a woman who shed tears over losses of freedom and lack of appreciation for sacrifices that were assumed would be made. It’s a travesty to think that we owe nothing for those services and should continue to pay nothing for them going forward.

  3. The Kurious Kale says:

    rock on. you are an inspiration.

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