This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for over two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
I lost my job back in 2013 due to a back injury and now I’m a stay-at-home dad. I love being at home with my kids, but it’s slowly killing me. I’ve never been without a job, and now, because of my injury, I can’t provide for my family like I used to. It’s a pride thing: I can no longer hunt, I can’t take on odd jobs, I can’t play with my boys—I feel like I’m not only less of a parent, but less of a man.
My wife works full time, and she’s very high-strung. Her anxiety levels are through the roof these days. After I was hurt, I filed for disability but I was denied. It takes about 14 to 16 months to get a disability hearing, and when I told her that, she got so angry with me. Ninety percent of the time, she thinks I don’t care about the state of our lives because I don’t react to bad news the way she does. But it’s not like anything would get any better if we were both freaking out.
The thing is, there’s a lot more expected of me now that I’m home all the time. When I was working, I never really stopped to consider what it takes to be a stay-at-home parent; it’s demanding. And I guess my wife isn’t really articulating her appreciation for everything I do for her, the kids, and the house. I don’t want a party, but it would be nice to be told once in a while.
People who knew us as a couple used to hate that we never argued, but in the past year and a half, we’ve been fighting like crazy. Every little thing sets her off. Ever since we had our second son, there has been no action at all. She doesn’t show any interest in me if I don’t beg and plead. For years, it’s always been me initiating. So, I don’t work, my partner won’t have sex with me, and I spend all day running after toddlers; call me “old school,” but I’m starting to feel like I’m the woman in this relationship.
It takes such a toll on me to spend all day taking care of the kids. I do everything for them—I cook, I clean, and I help them with homework. When she comes home, it’s more of the same; she’s tired from work, so I have to pick up the slack. I feel like I can’t complain or tell her to help out, because she’ll get angry and tell me to get a job, and I really can’t hear that right now; my ego can’t take it. I feel so beat down.
This coming month, we’re having a birthday party for one of my kids. This is a list of the things I have to do before the party: put in a new floor in the kitchen and hallways, clean out the fish tanks, re-paint every room, and steam clean the whole house. This is on top of the laundry and dishes, and things that I have to do for upkeep on a daily basis. It’s like I’m being punished.
My mom, God rest her soul, she was a white-knuckles type of person. She would have told me to suck it up and take care of my family in any way I can. I know that what I do at home is important—not just theoretically, but financially, too. If I weren’t home, we’d have to pay for daycare, which would effectively cancel out one of our salaries anyways. Even so, I can’t help but feel that my wife isn’t sexually attracted to me anymore because I’m not “the man”—I’m not out there, providing for our family; I’m at home watching the kids and playing house—basically, I’m a housewife. It’s hard to find a housewife sexy.
Read more Craigslist Confessionals here. To share your story with Helena, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at email@example.com.