Ask E. Jean: Is It Okay for My Husband to Stop Working?

Life & Love

Dear E. Jean: I am not a traditional woman. I like being the breadwinner and go-getter in our marriage. I make a very generous salary and take pleasure in my career, and I realize that my dilemma is a privileged one, E. Jean, but I struggle with feeling that I always “wear the pants.” A man taking care of me turns me on.

My husband is kind, generous, loyal, tender-hearted, and quite handsome. But he is also timid and not one to speak up or act quickly.

He’s good at what he does, but unlike me, he’s not career driven. He comes home from work feeling demoralized and burned-out, and he lives for the weekends. His financial contribution is such that it doesn’t really affect the quality of our lives.

We’ve now moved to our first home and started household projects, and my days off are absorbed with chores! I’m not doing the things that bring me pleasure and fulfillment. We don’t want kids and prefer the company of our dogs. I know my husband would love to not work, but I have always felt that would be extravagant and even demasculinizing in a childless household. But as I continue to spend my days off doing mindless tasks, I’m tempted to consider an arrangement where he does not work but maintains the household. We’ve talked about it. He likes the idea, but is it too risky, given my struggle with feeling like the pants wearer? What do you think? —Mrs. Pants

MRS. PANTS! YOU GENIUS! I love you! I love your idea! I love your husband! I love your dogs! I love your pants! After 25 years of letters from women who squander their talents scrubbing spaghetti sauce off the sofa because—and excuse me, I’m going to italicize the hell out of this—men can’t run the world unless women are there to soothe and feed them, you send a letter asking if you should run the world and allow your man to soothe and feed you (and “maintain the household”).

Yes. Do it. It will be great, fantastic, and challenging, and I have no doubt that both of you will be the happiest of mortals. But I warn you, Pants, old girl: Write down every one of your expectations on paper and together discuss each item, or you’ll be disappointed. He’s probably a cool guy and extremely attached to you, but he’ll want to pursue his own projects much of the time—sculpting, building furniture, discovering new asteroids, whatever—and if he’s not constantly walking the dogs, planting the herbaceous border around the garden, mopping the floor, and using an Hermès scarf to tie you to the shower rod for a night of passionate sex following a five-course dinner, I don’t want you questioning if you’re being taken care of. So get things straight from the get-go.

P.S.: If he’s a musician and is talking about “forming a band,” forget it.

Send questions to E. Jean at


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