Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Should She Be "Forced" To Stay At Home With Special Needs Child?

Dear Tazi:

I have always been a go-getter and a career woman. I did not marry until I was well into my thirties, owned my own home, was debt-free except for my mortgage, and had a healthy savings account. My parents divorced when I was young and it sent my mother into a spiral of poverty that took her years to recover from financially, although I don't think she ever did emotionally. Because if this, I have always said that IF I married (not it is a big "if"!) I would remain financially independent of my husband, and I have. I pay the mortgage and the house remains in my name only. We have a joint checking account for bills as well as separate accounts for personal use. My pre-marriage savings account is mine alone, although we do have a joint savings account to which we both contribute. I know this sounds weird to a lot of people, but it works well for us and we never argue about money - unlike most couples we know - and I have the peace of mind of knowing that if something should happen to us as a couple I will not end up on assistance. (All this would not have been necessary if he had agreed to sign a pre-nup!)

All has worked well in our marriage until last month, when I found out that the baby I am carrying has Trisomy 21 (Down's Syndrome). Because I am older for a first time mother (I am now 41) my doctor wanted to check for it, and sure enough it appears that my child will have Down's Syndrome and all of the challenges that go along with it. While it is a huge shock and not what I expected, I am handling things in stride; my husband is not.

As soon as I was able I started looking into programs and early intervention to help give my baby the best life possible! I have joined a support group and am learning how to be a good mother to a special needs child, and I have even met the children of some of my group members - all are very sweet and well behaved, some are even participants in the Special Olympics! Taking charge of my situation by preparing for what comes next has helped me to focus my life, and I feel that continuing to work full-time will help me not only to provide for my child financially, but will make me a better mom by not forcing me to give up a career I love to stay at home with a baby.

My husband thinks it is "ridiculous" that I would even consider continuing to work full-time and is insisting that I quite my job and make "Junior" my life from this point forward. I have only just entered my third trimester, and my doctor says it is okay for me to continue working while pregnant. My husband wants me to give my two weeks notice now. We have had some heated discussions over this, and neither of us will budge. My husband has accused me of not wanting to give up financial control (to which I responded, "now who is being ridiculous!"). He has offered to take over the mortgage if I put his name on the house (I refused); he has tried to guilt me saying, "a baby needs his Mama, and a special needs baby needs her even more" (like I hadn't already realized this). He has even gone so far to suggest that I don't love our baby and that is why I am planning on "abandoning him" to care-takers while I work.

Tazi, I do not see leaving my child in the care of professionals trained to work with special needs children as abandoning him! It is not like I will be institutionalizing him! Plenty of parents send their children to day-care; this is simply a day-care that specializes in working with children who have Down's Syndrome! I have suggested that my husband quit his job and be a stay-at-home father, which just raised more issue - the fact that I make more money than he does, his idea that men are not as as capable with children as women, and again his idea that I somehow feel the need to financially dominate in the face of my fears of divorce.

I love my husband, and I do not want to divorce him - ever - but he can make decisions, too. Now that I have a baby on the way, I feel that is all the more reason to look out for my pre-marital financial interests. How can I make my husband see that I am not being selfish? That everything I have planned is for my baby's future?

Expecting A Special Boy

Dear Expecting A Special Boy:

I can understand your desire to remain financially independent from your husband, given your personal history; your mother's divorce left some deep scars when it imparted some deep wisdom upon you. Since it is too late for you and your husband to sign a pre-nuptial agreement you will have to work within the confines of your state laws. Some states have community property laws (most famously California, less well-known is Massachusetts); this means that all property becomes marital property, regardless of whether or not it was owned before or after you married, and will be split accordingly should the marriage be legally dissolved.

Since your husband is putting such pressure on you to retire to motherhood and depend on him for financial security - as well as grant him partial ownership of your domicile - you should talk to an attorney about your legal rights in this situation. If you live in a non-community property state your rights will be different than if you live in a community property state. You may discover that you can grant him a percentage of your house, as opposed to half ownership, which may ease his mind about which you love more - him or your property.

From what you describe, your husband is using your child to increase his own sense of worth in your relationship. This is an issue best handled in a marriage counselor's office. It could be that your husband solely concerned about your child and that he really is a complete doofus around babies, and if that is the case a counselor - and some parenting classes - will better help him adjust to the reality that he will not be as inept a parent as he thinks. If he is not attending the group therapy sessions that you are attending, he needs to start. The two of you are partners in a marriage and will be partners in parenting so it's time to start acting like partners and working together!

Even if you can do it all yourself!

After your child is born you will be medically required to take some time off of work. Can your husband take paternity leave during this time so the two of you can bond with your son together? This would really be the best for all involved, as each of you will be able to see how the other is managing emotionally and as a new parent. You will be able to learn from each other and make decisions as a couple. You may discover that you want to take a few years off from the office or work from home; your husband may see how your work fulfills you in a way that makes you a better mom while at the same time discovering that being a stay-at-home father is exactly whast he has always wanted to do with his life. You may even decide that your original plan is what works best for everyone,  including your son. Like they say, a baby changes everything. Be prepared!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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