When a married couple had a dispute about who's work was a priority, things got heated fast. The primary breadwinner took to Reddit's Am I the As*hole forum to ask if he acted like a jerk in that situation. But then the story got more complicated... and Redditors were all too eager to point out that these 'little things' might be indicative of something larger.
Background: Me (35m), my wife (34f), and our two kids (3 and 5) live in a VHCOL (very high cost of living) city. I made about 5x as much as my wife, so we do pretty well. If my income were the same as my wife's, we would not be able to afford to live in our city.
My job is pretty low stress, about 35ish hours a week with the only requirement that I be 'on call' for 1 week out each month. Normally nothing ever happens, so I do my usual routine with the understanding with my wife that if I am needed I will drop whatever we are doing and work until the work issue is resolved. This only ever happens once every quarter and only lasts a few hours.
My wife, on the other hand has a much more stressful job, her boss is incredibly demanding, and often demands random and inane things just as a power play with her subordinates. She usually works about 45-50 hours a week. As a result, I take care of most home stuff, drop off / pick up kids from daycare, cook meals, and generally keep the house clean.
The AITA Incident:
It was an on-call week after work hours when my wife got a text from her boss about fulfilling an emergency 'request' for a client. My wife complained to me that this request really could wait until tomorrow but she would rather get it done so she doesn't have to listen to her boss b*tch at her in the morning if it's not done.
I had no problem with it, but I reminded her that I am on-call so I might need to switch with her if something came up, she made a grunt of acknowledgement but nothing beyond that.
About 2 hours later I get an all-hands call to immediately come into the office. Normally I can resolve issues remotely, but we had an issue that prevented us from remoting in. I rush upstairs and told me wife I had to leave only for her to turn around and say, 'Sorry but my issue came up first, you are going to have to tell your work you can't.'
I was taken aback and told her that no, this issue isn't something I can skip for anything short of 'I am physically in the hospital and can't come in'. She got increasingly angry and started ranting at me, but I told her that I didn't have time for this, and that I am leaving, when I get back we can discuss this. She started crying, but I had no more time, so I left for the office.
On the way she called me to continue the argument and in the heat of the moment, I said, 'Look, I respect that you put a lot of time and energy into your work, but we cannot afford our house or lifestyle without my job, so when push comes to shove, my job has to come first otherwise we are going to be on the streets.' She hung up on me after that.
When I got home about 3 hours later (around 11 pm) the kids were crashed out on the living room couch with several bowls of cereal spilled around them. I went upstairs and my wife was locked in the bedroom and refused to talk. In the morning I found out from the kids that she spent the night crying in her room and didn't feed them dinner or tuck them in so they made cereal and had a sleepover in the living room.
Here's what Reddit had to say:
NTA (Not the as*hole). BUT, OP maybe you need to sit down with your wife and decide if her job is worth it. It sounds like it's crushing her and she had a major breakdown, unless she usually neglects the kids and falls apart. If you guys cut some costs, can she quit? Or find another job? This seems like it's bigger than one moment and one harsh conversation. - crystallz2000
NTA. But don’t let it make you feel free to get on a high horse and end up becoming TA.nI agree it is a red flag but not for the reason people may assume. If OPs wife behaves normally in general then I don’t think the wife is a monster. When you get an outsized response over something like this it often is an indicator of something deeper going on.
Instead it is a key indicator that your partner is struggling and needs some help. Maybe work stress is bigger than you realize. Maybe she is in a toxic environment with a toxic boss. Maybe she is really feeling inadequate as a partner because she doesn’t make as much and sounds like can’t be as engaged at home as much as she wants. I’d guess from her perspective there are some things that are not as balanced as OP thinks.
You stating your job is more important may have kicked off all of that underlying feeling and stress. Should she have left the kids to fend for themselves? No but instead of laying into her for that try to get at the root of the problem. - Crabby_Monkey
NTA. Your wife, however, needs to talk to a therapist. Her reaction is not normal nor is it healthy. She should also look for a new job as her current job is clearly interfering with not just her life but her emotional state. She knew you were on call- this was a known, pre-arranged agreement.
Her suddenly going back on it & also neglecting your children is not healthy. What if one of the kids choked on the cereal? What if one of them slammed their head into something which gave them a concussion? Not caring for the children is a serious issue & signs of a much larger problem. - HelenAngel
She neglected your very young children because she was having a tantrum. That is grounds for 'You get in therapy right fucking now or my next call will be to a divorce attorney because I will NOT stay married to someone who neglects my children for any reason.' - ProfPlumDidIt
Also, what is his job? Because I'm interested.