“After Ken’s layoff, I’d wake up in the night trembling with fear and sneak out of bed to sit by the fireplace with my Bible. I’d read and read until finally peace came...and it always did...at least enough for that night.” –Deborah

The wife of a stay-at-home man is going to talk to God—a lot!

Maybe she’ll write a cathartic letter in her journal: Dear God....Another wife might begin her pleading or thankful prayers with “Dear God,”....Still other wives in times of desperation or frustration cry out, “Dear God, HE’S HOME!”

The various times my husband has been a “stay-at-home man,” I regularly expressed each of those “Dear Gods,” as do the wives who submitted stories for my book Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man. So if you have a stay-at-home man and he’s driving you crazy, don’t feel guilty if you haven’t always been joyous about this new closeness in your marriage relationship. And don’t feel alone. When I sent out a request for stories of women with a husband home due to retirement, illness, disability, out of work, home office, the military...whatever reason...the stories flowed into my inbox and my ears.

With unemployment at an all-time high, baby boomers reaching retirement age by the droves, military pulling out of many areas and returning home, businesses down-sizing or setting up virtual offices in homes, chances are pretty good you either are or know a woman with a stay-at-home man.

Myriad emotions and reactions erupt from both spouses when an otherwise out-of-the-home-every-day husband is suddenly home all day—every day. Many wives have their own label for this occurrence. In Honey, I’m Home for Good!, Mary Ann Cook calls it spouse-in-the-house syndrome. Then there’s retired-husband syndrome or military reintegration syndrome.

Every couple’s response to their unique syndrome evolves from how they’ve dealt with previous transitions in their relationship. Couples who stumbled and fumbled without finding workable resolutions in the past, will probably stumble and fumble through this new situation too. However, couples who have successfully developed and implemented coping techniques may be better equipped to adjust to a full time “stay-at-home man.” Even so, unexpected issues can blindside both spouses.

Game Changer

There’s no age qualifier for a husband suddenly being home 24/7. Sometimes it comes as a shock like a layoff or illness and other times it’s the natural progression of expected retirement or return from deployment. Whatever the reason, even when we know it’s coming, the reality of a hubby being home full-time is disarming. A woman recently wrote me:

My dad has just announced that he'll be retiring the end of March, so I'm excited to read your book and send it along to my mom afterwards. We didn't handle his retirement from the Marine Corps so well 20 years ago. I was just laughing about it with him on the phone today, but he has better laid plans to transition out this time around.

Planning is essential, if you have that luxury. Each time my husband has been home, it’s always been a surprise and no time to plan. It hit us both hard and we struggled through adapting to the transitions and changes we each experienced.

For Better or For Worse but Not For Lunch

The universal frustration expressed by wives of stay-at-home husbands: he’s invading “my space” and my work load is increasing while his is decreasing. The prospect of fixing lunch every day can push a wife over the top. John expresses the lament of many wives: