Forgoing Dink Status
November 8, 2002
Most people have a strong opinion on whether or not wives should work outside the home. For most young women, this dilemma remains dormant until their wombs become occupied with nine-month tenants of their own. But have you ever considered how our marriages and society might be impacted if women entered this covenant with the intent of being a stay-at-home wife? Regardless of what your plans for kids entail, there seems to be sufficient reason for couples to explore the often-overlooked option of forgoing DINK status (*Dual-Income-No-Kids) in favor of a wife’s full-time service at home.
Picture this: It’s 5:38 a.m. The relentless clamor of that small digital box again jolts you from your final attempt to capture more sleep. With only slightly more compassion, you nudge your husband who has somehow managed to remain comatose throughout the 38 minute standoff between you and the snooze button—but, no more. In under an hour you’re both out the door with a quick kiss and breakfast bars in hand.
Enter evening. Depending on how your workdays have unfolded, one or the other will likely get something started for dinner—more likely the woman. Following your meal, which in this instance consisted of tepid leftovers, you both retire to the living room. Two pages into your Sunset magazine, your mind wanders to tomorrow’s meeting. Naturally, that reminds you that you two will literally be out of underwear if you don’t do a load of whites tonight. And so, you get back off the couch and head to the laundry. On your way upstairs, you notice that the bed was never made. Although irrational by most standards, considering you hope to be back in those covers in less than two hours, you can’t help but drop the laundry and make the bed. Only then do you move back downstairs. The whites are now agitating amidst your last drops of bleach. You write a note to stop by Target tomorrow on your lunch break to pick up detergent, a birthday card for your nephew (whose birthday was actually yesterday) and toilet paper, another commodity running dangerously low.
You still haven’t heard much about your husband’s day. You hope your reappearance will change that. Ten minutes into his recount of a sales compensation plan gone south and the barrage of angry emails that followed, you’re again reminded of tomorrow’s meeting. You begin forming a mental list amidst polite nods. Before long, he catches on. Understandably annoyed, he concludes his thoughts and suggests that you get back to work. Apologetically, you head upstairs to your laptop, but not before throwing the whites into the dryer.
While not every dual-income household maintains this pace, certainly there are relatable tones for just about everybody in this demographic. Work keeps both partners away from home for a minimum of eight hours. That’s not to mention the mental and emotional energy that then hitches a ride home for further run-ins throughout the evening. When entering marriage, most simply accept the fact that we live in a fast-paced society in which people work outside the home. The sad result is that Christian couples no longer fare better than their secular counterparts. Half of these marriages fail. Of those that do survive, experience tells you that many operate far from God’s design.
What does this have to do with DINK status? Simply this: Amidst the increasing numbers of injured and broken marriages sits a burning question. Why is it that we have not examined what sort of role, if any, the wife’s absence from full-time home management has played in this unnerving epidemic? It would be ignorant to draw a direct correlation between women in the workplace and increasing divorce rates. It’s equally shortsighted to disregard the obvious and subtler results of this societal shift on the institution of marriage and the community at large.
As a woman who has now been married five years, I’ve sat on both sides of this fence. I’ve worked full time to support my husband while he finished the last semester of his undergraduate degree. I’ve worked full time alongside my husband during his master’s while he also clocked in 40 professional hours of his own. About halfway through his graduate program, I began feeling the inclination to leave the full-time professional world for a life at home. Six months later, I finally got the guts to do it. What follows are a few insights I’ve gained from my experience thus far.
[CLEAN UNDERWEAR—JUST THE BEGINNING]
Not long into our marriage—maybe a month—my husband became intimately acquainted with a new side of my demeanor. How his usually happy, even-keeled friend could disintegrate into a sobbing mess in under a minute to this day puzzles him. But back then, such meltdowns were beyond all reason—especially considering that the culprit in this particular case was not a horrible argument, but simply a pile of dirty clothes.
I trust many of you women are already identifying with the predicament I faced that evening. For the rest of you, I’ll move beyond cryptic prose and get to the point. It wasn’t about the dirty clothes. Sure, maybe that stack of boxers pushed me over the edge, but ultimately the tears flowed far beyond this mess.
I was a new wife. I felt pulled in countless directions. My day job was demanding. My evening hours were spent attempting to cook something other than Easy Mac while simultaneously trying to figure out how to relate to my new life-long roommate. He’s a great guy and frankly as low-maintenance as they come. Nonetheless, simply interacting at this new level of husband and wife took time and energy. So did setting up a house, paying bills, grocery shopping for two, scheduling social activities … and doing laundry. That night I succumbed to the pressure somewhere between burning chicken and re-learning how to fold T-shirts according to the male model.
It was in that moment that I first began to question whether or not I would be most effective as both a full-time professional and a full-time wife. Although the meltdowns decreased over time, my gut still indicated that home life and all that caring for it entailed suffered at the hands of my day job. It’s like the difference between TV dinners and fresh cuisine. If a man sits down and eats the first, he’ll be full. Still, few could defend that the first provides the nutrients, care and satisfaction that the latter does. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I found these principles to translate into every aspect of marriage and home life.[THE ART OF AVAILABILITY]
With each day that I strapped on pantyhose and headed to the office, my heart kept looking back toward situations I was encountering on a more organic level. Married friends started having babies. Weekend conversations with neighbors brought needs to the surface that, had I been home during the day, I could have helped out with. My prayer life resembled the news headlines—God, here’s what’s happening … more at six. Lunches with girlfriends seemed confined by the time-clock and consistently cut off just as the emotional need of conversation was being met.
Our modern pace has an amazing way of keeping us from those things that would benefit most from our care. Writing deadlines and editing projects can be scheduled with ease. Life is not that neat. A hurting friend who wants to talk to someone about her marriage needs an ear for more than a lunch hour. A new mom who is at her wits’ end benefits from the intuition and availability of her friend who comes to care for her infant while she takes a break. A husband’s esteem increases exponentially when his wife has time to make his lunch each morning and pray with him before he heads off to the office. Does life continue forward without such interventions? Yes. But look around. How many souls might benefit from the care that transpires from an available schedule and a heart willing to sacrifice?
[A WORD TO THE MEN]
To be fair, the notion of your wife leaving the professional world prior to kids is foreign. If you’re like most, it is not so much that you’re adamantly opposed to the idea. Rather, you just haven’t thought about it as an option. Nor do you necessarily understand the benefit of such a shift that would be a financial sacrifice for you both.
What I’m asking is that you consider what this sort of change might do for you—either now if you’re married or in the future once you’ve found your mate. Take some time to honestly assess how things are going. When you leave the office, does your home provide you with refuge and peace, or do you feel as though you’re simply stepping into another extension of the workplace in which both you and your frazzled partner are always behind? How might that change if your wife agreed to forgo her briefcase in exchange for the fulltime position of home manager?
Ultimately, it comes down to a choice. What do you value, and what are you willing to sacrifice? While the world has been eager to provide women with plenty of opportunities that move them beyond the home, what it has failed to do is fulfill the promise that such aspirations leave them with much more than a paycheck at the end of the day. The personal and societal implications of these “advancements” have left countless overlooked and unmet needs in its path. So women, I’ll leave you with this. How might your home life, your marriage and your areas of influence benefit if you were handed an extra 40 hours each week? Now could be a good time to find out.
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