Excerpt: 'The Comeback'

The effect that staying at home has on a marriage really depends on your confidence. Everything about staying at home depends on your confidence, as you will see throughout this book. The biggest adjustment women face when they give up work?more even than losing an income?is that their confidence starts to decline. Being in the outside world, getting paid, and communicating with adults is healthy and energizing. Giving that up is tough on an ego. Some women feel diminished and inadequate. Some get lonely and depressed. They can be very, very busy and very, very bored. They can become hard to live with.

I'll give you my own example. Before I stayed at home I had been confident enough to move from country to country, go out on my own, basically do whatever I wanted to do. After I'd been home fulltime for a few months, I rarely went out socially in New York without Bill. It became harder and harder to walk into a room by myself. If we were invited to something as a couple and Bill couldn't make it, I didn't go. Having people ask me for Bill's opinions rather than my own definitely had something to do with it. I only started accepting invitations by myself once I was working on this book, and the first few times that I told people Bill couldn't come, I apologized for being "just me."

During this period of my life I never thought about what would happen in the future, just as I had never thought about getting married and having children?or even having a boyfriend?while I was writing my Winnie Mandela book. I lived entirely in the present. If you had asked me when I was a new mother what I thought I would be doing in ten years' time, I would have stared at you blankly. It never occurred to me that there was an end to this period. I wonder now, if I had known that I was merely at home for a few years, whether I would have been able to remain a more confident woman. There's no question that staying at home made me a more confident mother. Why, then, did I feel like such a wimp out in the world?

When Molly was two I became pregnant again, but we lost the baby late in the pregnancy. The following year I turned forty, Bill became a columnist at the New York Times, and I began to think about going back to work. Yet I didn't think of going back to the professional life I had had before. Instead I did a few things that fit in with my family. I did some?but not many?freelance pieces for magazines, newspapers, and Web sites. These were brief little pieces, tiny sound bites of writing that took no time at all. I'd write paragraphs reviewing a restaurant or a book, or previewing a movie. Occasionally I'd fill in for a London columnist who happened to be on vacation. I also read and edited a few manuscripts for friends, and I continued to live vicariously through Bill's job, acting as his editor when he wrote.

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