Equal income doesn’t always lend itself to an equal division of labor for working parents. According to “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”, women devote nearly twice as much time to family care than men do. The book also discusses how men overestimate how much time they actually spend helping out and when they do take on childcare, it’s more enjoyable and interactive than what mothers do.
My situation is unique in that I’m neither a full-time working mom or a full-time stay-at-home Mom. Instead, I’m a freelancer who works around my daughter’s schedule which means a lot of work at night and on weekends. Despite struggling to keep the balance going, I love the flexibility my work provides and rely on my husband’s support to get my work done and support me in the process.
However, it didn’t come naturally for either of us. Sure, he’s a fantastic husband and father, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t take some work to find this balance we’ve worked so hard to create. In the beginning of my freelance journey, I felt the responsibility was on him to fully support my dreams and figure out what I needed. But somewhere in the middle of the process, I realized I had to figure out how to give myself support and determine what I needed before expecting anyone else to.
Steps Toward Spousal Support
Here are some tips and insights if you’re struggling to get your husband on board with your business or freelance lifestyle.
Respect your business first
No one else is going to respect your business, freelance service or amazing idea unless you do first. Approaching your husband or partner with anxieties, random goals, unrealistic expectations (I have no idea how, but I’m going to make six-figures my first year!) and telling them you want to drop a few thousand dollars on marketing and inventory is just setting yourself up for disappointment.
It’s important to think about how you would feel if the roles were completely reversed and your husband proposed the same idea. It’s also wise to evaluate your own track record. Are you always full of inspirational ideas that fizzle once you face the hard work involved? Do you spend a lot of money on businesses that never work out? Does your partner have a reason to believe this time will be different? Sometimes you need to set some proof in motion before asking everyone else to believe in you.
Put your ideas into motion by outlining how your business is actually going to work. If you’re starting a cupcake food truck, make a list of licenses and requirements in your area and draft a budget and marketing plan. Figure out alternatives like a cupcake food kiosk if a truck is out of reach. If you’re going freelance, work on marketing yourself and lining up one or two clients while keeping your day job to push forward.
If you already run a business, work out the kinks and figure out how you can scale up and what your future holds. As a writer, it took me years to figure out how to translate my skills into better paying work than just $50 blog posts and random magazine circulars. So it’s no wonder my husband had a hard time knowing how to support me when my work was so sporadic and I never knew what I needed from one week to the next.
Focus down on your work and figure out how to make it a viable career and not just a wandering lifestyle. I wanted more reliable work and discovered I could also market myself as a social media consultant, podcast editor and resume writer among other areas to earn a more consistent income. This gave me the confidence to know if one client disappeared, I could find three others to replace them.
“Be the change you want to see,” is often used to inspire others to change the world. It really means you need to change yourself first before expecting the entire world to change for you. If you want support from your husband or partner, then offer that support back. This is easier than it sounds, especially if you have months or years of resentment built up. You may not even realize you’re not fully vested in their dreams and success because you don’t feel you’re getting any support back.
Find out what your husband’s dreams and goals are and check-in with him about them regularly. Ask how you can help and set-up your lives to better embrace his needs. But don’t mistake this step for sacrificing your own needs and goals. The idea is you’re constantly tweaking the balance between your husband’s goals and your own. Some months he may need more support and you to pick-up the slack.
When my husband needs this, it’s definitely tiring and can get old. But I then ask for a handful of hours where I get to do nothing but work while he manages the house and our daughter.
It’s true I don’t earn nearly as much as my husband and there are times he feels the financial pressure of supporting our family. When I feel like my work isn’t being respected the way I want, I talk about the projects I’m working on and the financial rewards involved. I pick a time when we’re not tired and feeling defensive and talk about what I earned in the last month and what I’m on track to earn next. My husband holds down a full-time job and also freelances, and I let him know if he wants to work less, I can pick-up the slack if he gives me some more free hours while he plays with our daughter.
Once I’ve given him some feedback about my work with an offer to help him, he is quick to point out how much we save by my being at home most of the time, and not having to use childcare other than two mornings a week of preschool. And because one of my clients is a family travel website, I’m able to take my family on free press trips and score tickets to attractions on a fairly regular basis. We save a small fortune on family vacations and entertainment.
But it can take a few months to refine this process of sharing numbers and successes. If you don’t feel your husband takes your business or income seriously, let him know directly. Tell him you’d love if he took a more vested interest in your career like you do with his. Tell him you appreciate how hard he works and the financial support he gives the family. But remind him your income affords things like building up an emergency fund, paying part of the bills, occasional luxuries and extras the kids want like dance classes and soccer.
Ask yourself a brutally honest question. “What do I want from my husband or partner?”
Do you even know? If you want him to be a totally different person who is so blown away by your business that he can’t see straight—then you’re going to be disappointed. Don’t expect things to change overnight or to change the person you’re with. Instead figure out what you actually need.
Ask him to give you 8 extra hours a week to work on your business, without complaining that he’s so busy, and take the kids to a playground before giving them dinner and do the laundry. If your husband knows exactly what you want and need, you’re more likely to get it.
We’ve discussed some ways to draw your husband into your business world and ask for his respect. Now it’s time to respect yourself. Once you’ve laid some groundwork in place, let your husband know if he wants to continue enjoying the benefits of your income, that you need more support in the process. Be firm without complaining to show your confidence and determination.
Remember that at the end of the day, it’s up to you to push your business forward and take pride in your work. No one else is going to do it for you.
Let’s hear from you. Is this a familiar struggle? What tactics have you used to get spousal support for your business?
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