I’m going to do everything I can to convince my daughter NOT to be a stay-at-home mom. Want to know why?

There are a lot of posts in my quiver, in my mind that I don’t write. Because… hard. You know the kind? A story you long to tell, a panegyric you need to scream out… but you don’t, because half, more, the people in your life will be grievously offended?

This is one such post.

I write it for Flora. And for your daughter, too.

We’re sitting in a coffee shop—on a park bench—on my beloved Common—in my kitchen. And you’re in agony.

Your marriage is ending—really, it’s over, it’s just a question of how, when—and you’re terrified.

You’re terrified of—well, everything, really, because all change, especially that kind of change, is terrifying—but you’re, particularly, specifically, terrified of…

What? I ask. Again. You always wait for me to ask, before you say, you say…

… you say money, you say economic consequences, you say financial vulnerability…

… you say if you took that out of the equation, you’d be able to think clearer, plan better, but you can’t. Of course you can’t. How can you take that out of the equation? It’s everything.

You say if you could be sure, if you knew, you’d be financially ok, your kids would be ok—you’d walk. You’d have left a long time ago. Or: you wouldn’t be so terrified at the thought of being left. You would be more rational about him leaving…

And I say… nothing. I make supportive friend noises, and tell you you’ll be all right. Say words like lawyers, child support payment guidelines, protection, blah-blah-blah. Meaningless, meaningless words, because I know, you know, how it will all play out.

We know that as you disentangle-separate-end, you will fight, bitterly, over his money.

It doesn’t matter that it was our money before.

Now it’s his. And it affects everything, 21st century pro-woman, pro-child laws be damned. The person who signs the cheques holds the power. Defines the rules of engagement. Has the most power.

That’s just the way it is.

I know this. You know this. We’ve seen this play out, in our lives, how many times? The circles we move in, dominated by attachment parenting-homeschooling-radical-homemaker-yes-I’m-a-stay-at-home-parent-and-proud-of-it people, however self-proclaimed in their lifestyle radicality, end up being so predictably hetero-conventional. He earns money. She “stays” home. It’s their—our!—money. We’re a team! A family! Everything is ours.

Until there’s no love, friendship, affection, respect, and only anger, resentment, betrayal, emptiness. Fury. Bitterness.

And then—ours? Ha. It’s mine.

You don’t understand. But I do. Because it’s not a male-female thing. Not a greedy-bad-selfish husband versus giving-good-selfless wife. It’s a breadwinner versus dependent dynamic. And it sucks that in our most intimate relationships who makes the money matters so much. But it does. Oh, it does.

In my family, it’s usually me—and it’s our money when things are good. But when I get angry? It’s mine and could you fucking stop wasting it?

(Sean pauses at this moment and looks at me. You sure you want to be writing this? he asks. I need to, I say. Can you take it? His eyes return to the screen.)

You’re listening, but she, she’s appalled. Do you see her? She’s there on the periphery, right there… And she screams: It’s ours, ours. We’re a team. Forever. He appreciates everything I do, everything I sacrifice.

Sure. For now. While things are good.

And now, you’re angry. Because you’re not stupid or naïve. And the decision to stop earning, to stop building a career, to become financially dependent on someone you love-trust-are-building-a-forever-life-with… you didn’t make it lightly. Or alone. You made it together. And so, for five, 10, 15, 20 years, that’s what you did… and now?

I want to tell you… I want to tell you that staying out of fear, financial or otherwise, is worse than leaving in uncertainty. I want to tell you to make your decision on the assumption that everything will be ok… but will it? I don’t know. I can’t tell you. The financial and emotional consequences of the dissolution of the worst and most dysfunctional of marriages are vast.

And really… yours isn’t so bad.

Still. I’ll tell you none of that. I’ll make my supportive friend noises. Give you contact details for lawyers and links to the child support guideline tables*** and mediators’ addresses.

And heave a great, grateful sigh of relief… that it’s my money.

That my decisions to stay and love and work and build and negotiate and change and continue and grow together—complicated though they are—they never include financial fear. Dependence on someone else writing a cheque. Paying the bills.

(Buying my compliance in the decisions he makes for our (his!) children.)

(This is really difficult to read, Sean says. I nod. I know. And yet… why? “I don’t need you. But I want you.” It shouldn’t be difficult. It should, actually, be glorious. I am free and independent, and I choose to be here, with you—when I could be, would be just fine without you. But I want you. I want this, us. But. Need? No. Not financially, anyway. And that’s all we’re talking about here, my beloved. Money.)

She —that woman over there, who is convinced that her partnership-lovership-marriage is forever? — is so angry with me. I don’t understand her, she says. Her partner. Their love. Their trust. How they’re rewriting the rules of conventional marriage… by living what looks like a conventional marriage (he at work, she at home) but what is actually radical homemaking** and how they’re going to save the world and raise a new generation of children who…

It’s a beautiful story. And why argue? She won’t listen to me anyway. And maybe, who knows? Maybe she will be one of the lucky one-in-two. After all, 57 per cent of the American women married between 1985 and 1989 were still married 15 years later. Only (only!) 43 per cent were divorced.* Maybe her guy is completely exempt from and unaffected by dominant social habits and mores. Maybe he really will believe it’s our money, and that the work she does in the house and garden, with the children and all those quotidian tasks that make his career possible is just as valuable as the work he does that brings in the money that pays the bills and buys all the things.

I haven’t seen a man—or woman, for that matter—for whom that holds true come end-game. But they could exist. They could be evolving.

But… “maybe” is not good enough for my Flora. Nor are those odds. I want her, whether she loves one partner forever or walks any other path, free. Loving and staying because she wants to. Not because she feels she has to. Staying and being in the relationship without giving up her power—her economic clout—because we live in a world in which money matters. And who makes the money matters.

Now you’re really angry with me, because… well. Because. I understand. Be angry. It’s fine. I deserve it. Your agony and fear terrify me, even though they don’t play out in the path I walk… because my Flora, my Flora, suppose my Flora walks your path? Suppose she chases a fairy tale… and wakes up in a cage?

I want her free. Independent. Making choices out of love, commitment, reflection, and yeah, reason, sure, reason. But, not fear. Never fear.



* “Marital Status & Living Arrangements: Most People Make Only One Trip Down the Aisle, But First Marriages Shorter, Census Bureau Reports.” Census.gov. Retrieved 2012-03-27. via Wikipedia

**Radical Homemakers is the title of a rather fascinating book by Shannon Hayes  … which is worth reading regardless of whether you hated every word I’ve written above or nodded furiously at each paragraph.

***Canadian Child Support Table Guidelines


On the delicate art of running away… and always coming back


I am still, hot, languid. Utterly relaxed. I am fully, completely obligation-free. I am—did I mention? Still. Zen. And no one is budging me, no one needs me.

I am bliss. But no, that’s not right. Not bliss. I am just… still. I am paused. I am not doing. I am barely being.

I am—I was, for I am now back, but more on that later—I am “run away.”

(You might think I should have written “I have run away.” But I haven’t done anything. I AM. I am run away.)


I’ve reached that terrifying age when, instead of wedding invitations and “We’re pregnant!” announcements, our friends are separating, divorcing. That one-in-two statistic? Playing out, in full force, among my friends, my loves. Sometimes, it makes sense (“How on earth did those two ever get together and stay together long enough to make two children?”). Sometimes, it hurts as much as if it were my own closest relationship being torn asunder (“But… but… you two are so… but I love you both! No!”).

Sometimes, they agonize over the decision, discuss, torment, suffer together for months and years before ending it.

But sometimes, he, or she, runs away, leaving the other partner, the family, in shock.

Runs away, and not metaphorically. He doesn’t come back from a business trip. He ends the marriage, the relationship, the family… by email.

Her friends rally around her. Condemn him (it’s not always him, of course; sometimes, it’s her. But in my life in recent years, it’s been mostly him). Show their unconditional love and support for her by unexamined anger and malice against him. “Rat-fuck bastard.” “Dickweed.” “Good men, sane men don’t do this.”

I go home and cry in my husband’s arms.

Because, you see—I get it. I get the desire to run away. And I get how, if the nature of this most intimate of relationships is such that you cannot articulate your (past-and-present) frustration, your (in-the-moment) unhappiness, your (intermittent-but-it’s-been-here-much-too-long) angst, your children-are-exhausting-the-house-is-killing-me-work-sucks-life-is-a-slog-right-now-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it feelings… if you cannot articulate all that to the person you come home to, sleep with… one day, you will snap. And run away, fully. And not come back.


In a life full of obligations, in a house full of three young children, I am mistress of the five-second, five-minute run away. I turn my back on the buttsacks ransacking the living room and screaming at each other, and give my attention fully, completely to the taste of chocolate. To that first, scalding, fabulous sip of coffee. I disappear into the bathroom. The bedroom. Put all the kids in the car… and then don’t get in for a while. Sell them to a neighbour and go for a walk alone. Lie very still in the sun while they run on the periphery of my vision, awareness…

Sometimes, I run away without actually physically moving. Just into my head, into my thoughts.

“Mom! You’ve spaced out again! Come back!”

I come back. I always come back.

But—I come back, willingly, only because I know how to run away… Does that make sense? I acknowledge my need to run away. And I fill it.

Five seconds. Five minutes. Easy.

Five hours—I need to plan for. Carve out. Insist on, when obligations get too intense. A full life—and a life with children, with family, with meaningful work, is always full, no matter what else you add on to it—is full of things that must be done. For me, running away for five hours here and there—that’s something that must be done too. It must happen.


Being present and being “in the moment” is all the rage in parent-lit and pop-psych right now. But it’s just as important to recognize, I think, that being sane requires being absent sometimes. And respecting, feeding that need in yourself.

If you don’t—if you deny it—when you snap—and you will snap—and you run away—you will not come back.


I am, for the first time since I’ve had children, run away for… seven days. For seven days, I am still. On pause. Totally obligation free. Absent-from-children-marriage-house-work. Present-in-self. And sometimes, even not really present-in-self. Just… fully, completely, gloriously run away. Absent.

(I was going to run away to write. Instead, I sleep. I am still.)


I come back.

I come back—so here’s the thing—I come back NOT re-energized, not full of pep-and-zeal-and-new-plans. Better. I come back with “still” within me. I infect my children, my husband, my neighbours with it.

Not this still: My life is still busy. My house is still a disaster (my four-year-old asks his six-year-old friend if their contractors are also “incompetent m@th#rf*ck%rs” and I turn brick red as my elder two children waggle their eyebrows at me… “Where did he learn that from, huh, Mom, huh, Mom?”). My existential angst is still here (always will be).

This still: When I need to be fully present—I am, and I can give that freely, un-resentfully. Gratefully, even. When being present becomes fucking exhausting, too much—that five second, five minute run away makes me… find that still. Pause.

And—most importantly, perhaps—lets me come back quickly.

Reminds me, also, of how critical that five hour run away is, and to not neglect it, no matter what.


I’ve always know this about myself. That I need to withdraw, disappear, be absent from whatever/whoever it is that most often demands my presence (attachment parents, take note). I’ve (usually) done this, guilt-free. Joyfully. Occasionally, with a degree of almost-wanton abandonment.

My life partner has known this about me too, even before I fully-truly articulating it for him.

But here’s the funny thing: despite seeing, honouring and facilitating my run-aways for me… he felt guilty about his desire, his need to do the same.

There is nothing unique about my desire and my practice of being run away (or yours). There is nothing unique about his guilt (or yours). Worse, there is nothing unique about our—and yours—inability to articulate this need… never mind to our closest loves, but even to ourselves.

And if you cannot articulate your (past-and-present) frustration, your (in-the-moment) unhappiness, your (intermittent-but-it’s-been-here-much-too-long) angst, your the-children-are-exhausting-the-house-is-killing-me-work-sucks-life-is-a-slog-right-now-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it feelings… if you cannot articulate all that to yourself… never mind the person you come home to, sleep with… one day, you will snap. And run away, fully. And not come back.

(“Didn’t you say something pretty much exactly like that already?”
“Indeed, I did. I say it again. I don’t want you to miss it.”)


I am back.

I will need to run away—I will run away—I will BE run away—again. For five seconds, five minutes, five hours. When finances and circumstances permit, five days, maybe more (but first, the Daddy gets to run away for a longer stretch; it is only fair).

Because I know how to run away, I will always come back.

How about you?

Art of Running Away NBTBxoxo


P.S. My friend Sarah at Left Brained Buddha turns almost 40 this week, and meditates on this age and stage in a lovely way. Have a read: This is Almost 40.