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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Thinks Stay at Home Dad Needs to Get Up and Go

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "Roy" for 27 years. For the past 14, he has been a stay-at-home dad. He took on the primary job of raising our two kids, now ages 13 and 16, while my career soared. The problem is, we never agreed to this arrangement.

Roy left his job at a critical time out of anger and missed out on some major retraining. He kept saying he'd start his own business or get work, but he never did. He also never made up for the loss in skills. Instead, he stayed home, moped about, and now at 56 would have serious difficulty finding a job in his field if he wanted to. (I don't think he really wants to anymore.)

Roy is not happy or fulfilled being at home and does nothing to get going on anything else. I'm so frustrated with him I can no longer stand it. I'm ashamed that I let this happen. For the last few years I have told him repeatedly he has to get busy with a career, go back to school, something -- anything -- or else. But each deadline I set passes with no change. Should I leave him? -- MISERABLE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR MISERABLE: Not yet. Your husband may be chronically depressed, which is why he mopes around and has given up on establishing himself independent of you. Instead of giving Roy more ultimatums that are never enforced, encourage him to talk to a psychologist. It isn't as though he has spent the last 15 years being idle. If your children are living up to their potential, his time has been well spent being a nurturing parent.

While I understand your frustration at being the sole breadwinner, recognize that you are not alone in that role these days. Many women are the heads of households, and they are not dumping their husbands en masse. Also, if your situation hasn't met both your needs it would have been over by now.

So before making any hard-and-fast decision about leaving, consult an attorney and gain some insight about divorce laws in Minnesota, because regardless of what you decide, you could find yourself supporting Roy for an extended period of time.