My husband never envisioned himself as a stay-at-home dad.
Both he and I were raised in fairly “traditional” households, in which our fathers were the primary wage-earners, and our mothers stayed home full time for most of our formative years. Both of us knew that we’d like to be parents ourselves one day, and a couple of years into our marriage, we began discussing it more seriously. But when we sat down to hash out the logistics, we kept running into a few roadblocks.
I worked a traditional 9-5 job that I loved (and still do!) in my specialized field of study. My husband, on the other hand, worked 5 nights a week, and while he enjoyed some aspects of his job, it was much more high stress than mine, and with a lower salary to boot. It slowly began to dawn on us that we had some serious problems. If we continued with our current situation, my husband would hardly ever see our kids given his sleep schedule, leaving me to essentially take on all child-care and household duties solo. We discussed various scenarios but kept arriving at the same conclusion: it made the most sense for ME to become the primary wage-earner, and my husband to become a full-time stay-at-home dad.
Bear in mind that my husband had never changed a diaper before. Ever. Yikes.
Fast forward three and a half years; we now have two kids and my husband has completely blossomed into his role with ease. He is calm and incredibly patient with our kids, and sends me frequent updates with pictures and video throughout my workday that always makes me smile. He enjoys exploring with the kids in ways that I never would, like experimenting in the kitchen without being too worked up about the inevitable mess.
But what about me? What was it like to transition to the sole wage-earner of the family while my husband stays home with the kids?
Overall it’s been fantastic. I feel that I have a true work/life balance that is rare for a lot of moms. I enjoy my time at work, doing what I love with a fantastic group of colleagues, with the flexibility and support that a stay-at-home parent provides.
Of course, there are challenges. Even though my husband and I have a “role reversal” in our family life, I still end up doing many of the “mom” duties, such as coordinating medical visits and cleaning the house. I think this speaks to the incredibly ingrained expectations of gender in our society, and invites a larger conversation of labor division within a household and family. I am also aware of the privilege our family has because of my stable employment that allows us to live on one salary.
I can’t say that our arrangement will last forever, but for now, it works really well for our family. I hope that more families are given the opportunities to explore ways to exist that are non-traditional or outside the expected roles we’re supposed to play. Let’s all find ways to make our families uniquely “us”!