pojoslaw/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A North Carolina husband and occasional writer is the target of the Internet’s ire this week after penning a column about his wife’s struggle to choose between being a stay-at-home or working mom.
Sean Dunbar, who until recently lived in New Jersey, on Monday published a personal essay in the Asbury Park Press titled, “Why I Won’t Let My Wife Quit Her Job,” though Dunbar said he didn’t write the title. The column detailed his wife’s experience allegedly being criticized by friends for not staying at home full time, as well as alleged discrimination he said she endured at a previous job while pregnant with their second child.
“Many people in our circle repeatedly ask us why my wife works when I make decent money,” Dunbar wrote in the original column. “I absolutely hate being asked this question so often. No, I’m not cheap. I’m not jealous because I can’t stay home — and I don’t think it’s the wrong thing for a woman to do. Yes, being a stay-at-home mom has many benefits for the entire family. But I want better for my wife.”
Comments on the story and in subsequent reprints online have ranged from incredulous (“You ‘won’t LET your wife stay at home’ even though that’s what she wants? How about LETTING her make her own decisions, like the big, educated, grown-up that she is?”) to irate (“He’s a fool and I feel sorry for her. He said stay-at-home mom like it was a dirty word”).
Dunbar maintained that he is a victim of his editor’s red pen. Editors at The Asbury Park Press did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I didn’t write the title of the article,” he told ABC News. “And a lot of things that I wrote that better explained where I was coming from were taken out for space and editing reasons. I’m just a regular guy, I wrote something and I didn’t think it would be that scrutinized. But since it came out I’ve received death threats, a doctor on Fox News said that I have mommy issues. It’s been crazy.”
Regardless, Dunbar said, his wife’s decision to work has always been and remains her own.
“I wasn’t trying to start a feud,” he said. “I wrote and think that being a stay-at-home mom is just as honorable as a working mom. But it’s not up to me. It is my wife’s choice. I have never told her what to do.”
The intention of his essay, Dunbar added, was to shine a light on the alleged discrimination and pressure his wife faced, and that he witnessed, while she was pregnant in a competitive business environment, an experience that left her questioning her value in that role.
His wife has since found a job at another company that better caters to her needs and goals, Dunbar wrote in his column.
The idea of being supported at work should be the focus of the building online dialogue, according to Dina Bakst, co-president of A Better Balance, which promotes equality and expanded choices for men and women in the workplace.
“Sean Dunbar’s wife says it’s hard, but she loves her job because she can end her day at 4 and be there for her children,” said Bakst. “On the other hand, like so many women, she wanted to quit when she felt unsupported as an expecting mother.
“Let’s move beyond the tired debate about whether it’s ‘better’ for women to work or stay at home,” added Bakst, “and focus on the solutions that are possible to help women and men meeting the dual demands of work and family, such as high-quality flexible work options and paid family leave.”
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