Joint Accounts

How Do I Motivate My Stay-at-Home Husband to Go Back to Work?

I’m grateful that he stayed home to care for our daughter, but now she’s in school — and we need the money

Kristin Wong
Published in
4 min readJul 29, 2019
Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

My daughter was born eight years ago, and I’ve been my family’s sole breadwinner ever since: My husband has stayed home to care for her. Now we could really use a second income. For a few years, I’ve been pushing him to go back to work — especially since our daughter now attends school with aftercare to support working parents. We live in an area with a high cost of living, and my salary barely covers our expenses, with nothing left to save for retirement or things like vacations. And forget about owning a home.

A few months ago, my husband finished a six-month coding bootcamp, but says he still doesn’t feel prepared to reenter the workforce. He wants to keep learning on his own until he feels like he’s a competitive candidate. He doesn’t even have a timeline for when he’s going to start applying for things. I know it’s a difficult transition, but how much more support should I give him? My resentment about this keeps building, and I don’t know what to do about it.


Breadwinner, But Feeling Broke

YYour frustration is perfectly reasonable. You’re carrying a huge financial load. And with nothing left over for other financial priorities or savings goals, of course resentment is brewing. You need help, and you’re not getting it from your husband.

At the same time, eight years is a long time to be out of the workforce, and it sounds like your husband’s reluctance to jump back in is stemming from some underlying emotional issues. Maybe he’s making excuses, but I bet those excuses aren’t due to laziness. He said he doesn’t feel like a “competitive candidate,” which suggests he’s lacking confidence. Being unemployed for nearly a decade will do that to you.

My point is, it might be hard for you to be patient right now, but it’s also hard for him to fathom being back in an office where he has to prove himself after being out of that environment for so long. You play an important role in all of this —…



Kristin Wong
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.