I always thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (even my kindergarten projects show “mommy” as my dream job), but as I entered adulthood, I found myself wanting the exact opposite.
On May 22, 2010, I walked down the aisle and said “I do” to the man of my dreams. We met in 2008 in a meet cute in Austria and ― to be cliché ― we just knew we were each other’s person.
Friends and family thought we were too young or not ready, but I’ve never been one to let someone else’s opinions dictate my life. And this was definitely not the first time (or last time) someone would disagree with my brazen take on femininity. Feminism doesn’t mean that I have to do what’s trendy; feminism means I have the choice to live my life as I see fit.
Getting married while I was finishing up my last year of college didn’t come without hard work. I worked at a day care, taught English classes and took grad school classes, while my husband worked long hours at a lumberyard.
After two years of this routine, we decided it was time for the next step, and I found myself due with our first child around our second wedding anniversary. Despite my dreams of living the stay-at-home-mom life, fear made me doubt myself. Could it really work? Would I be a good enough mom? Regardless of my fears, when I was 24, I finally earned my stay-at-home-mom badge.
Six years, two wild boys, one puppy and one more pregnancy later, I was rockin’ the stay-at-home-mom life. I home-schooled, I baked, I made forts, and I read story after story. Yet there was one more piece of me that was missing: my writing. Once everyone was asleep, I’d sneak out to the living room where I’d write. Writing has always been a passion of mine, but it’s something that helped me find “me” again after having kids. I wrote anything for anyone, and the first time someone paid me to write, I think I did a happy dance. Never mind that I wrote for a business-to-business company discussing the perks of outsourcing call centers. I was a legitimate writer!
As the years passed, I wrote thousands and tens of thousands of words until I had a very good problem: I had too much to write and not enough time. I continued to write during the “night shift,” surviving on coffee.
“I home-schooled, I baked, I made forts, and I read story after story. Yet there was one more piece of me that was missing.”
When the big 3-0 finally hit, I was three months pregnant with my baby girl, and I was quickly learning that my energy for writing until 1 a.m. was fading fast. I began to wonder if maybe ― just maybe ― my husband might be ready to take on my beloved job and let me bring home the bacon. Writing during the day (and not the middle of the night) seemed like a luxury, and I wanted it.
For years, my husband bopped around from job to job. None of these jobs were his passion, and he certainly never felt fulfilled. He’d do the 9-to-5 grind (or, the 3 a.m. to 1 p.m. grind) and then we’d have a little family time before he’d hit the sack totally exhausted from life. “There’s gotta be more than this,” he whispered one night as he fell asleep. It broke my heart to see him slave away each day and still be so unfulfilled.
In that moment, I cared about nothing other than getting him home and promoting him to stay-at-home dad. Little writing assignments weren’t going to cut it anymore. I needed a real, legit plan to write my husband home, and that’s just what I did. This was my cue.
He took a few vacation days, and I glued myself to the computer lining up writing jobs and assignments to transition our family to our new normal. When he realized that I was potentially giving him the early retirement of a lifetime at 34, he started to find that spark in life again.
Finally, in April 2018, just two weeks after I had my third baby, I closed my eyes and gulped when my husband confirmed that he put in his two weeks’ notice.
It took about three seconds for the fear and panic to set in. What were we doing? How can my husband take over the house duties, the child rearing and the home schooling? How can I sit at a desk while still healing from an episiotomy? Will my kids still love me the same way if I’m working at home and not playing all the time? Will they see me differently? What if I don’t make enough to support us all?
While I don’t wear a power suit and I rarely wear makeup, I do bring home the bacon, I have no qualms being the breadwinner for our family, and my kids still love me just the same. My husband has embraced being the pancake-making, bike-riding, diaper-changing stay-at-home dad.
“Will my kids still love me the same way if I’m working at home and not playing all the time? Will they see me differently? What if I don’t make enough to support us all?”
While neither of us thought our new arrangement was unusual, especially in today’s modern world, other people seemed to still have issues with it. My OB-GYN even told me that we were making “strange choices.” Another well-meaning family friend was so bold as to tell my husband that he needed a job because he’s the man. Side-eyes aside, nothing is holding us back from living the life we were meant to live.
I know we are not alone in building a home where a wife works and a dad stays home. I’m thankful I get to focus on my career after years of staying home with the kids, and I’ve never seen my husband happier than when he’s with the kids.
It’s a reversal of old-school, traditional gender roles, no doubt, and there were a few adjustments that needed to be made. My husband has learned to ask me for things, rather than the other way around. He was used to making the money and spending (within reason) money on himself, but when he wanted a new koa acoustic guitar, he struggled ― at first ― with the fact that he now had to ask for the things he used to just buy himself. Any disillusionment faded once that package from Sweetwater Guitar arrived ― with the new amp he wanted as a surprise addition to the order.
He’s become a stronger voice for women’s equality, and I see that in the way he’s raising our daughter. I feel grateful our kids have us as proof that stereotypes are silly and they can do what they want ― regardless of whether it’s considered “masculine” or “feminine.”
So what is it really like to be married to a stay-at-home dad? It’s messy, glorious, beautiful and raw. I’ve also learned that I am more dependent on him now than ever before. I need him to take care of the kids, make the meals and keep the house tidy so I can work during the daylight hours. Without him, I couldn’t do what I do. In this way, we are the ultimate team.
“I feel grateful our kids have us as proof that stereotypes are silly and they can do what they want ― regardless of whether it’s considered 'masculine' or 'feminine.'”
The kitchen may not be spotless (it’s never spotless), the laundry might not be folded right out of the dryer (but, hey, it’s all clean) and the floors haven’t been mopped in a while. He doesn’t quite have the timing down for making all the components of a meal finish at the same time, and he definitely doesn’t match the kids’ shorts with their shirts perfectly.
But what my sweet husband lacks in the housework department he more than makes up for in other ways. He plants flowers outside my window so I can see flowers while I type. He hung a hammock in our bedroom so I can read in peace. He regularly brings me snacks and espresso on demand. He wears the baby in the Ergo every day so she can nap, and he carts the boys to karate, Boy Scouts and swimming class. When it comes to teaching, he’s taught our first grader to read, ride his bike, play the guitar and perform multiplication ― take that, Common Core!
He’s doing everything I would have done for him, and that’s what partnership is. He lets me live out my dreams, and he’s figuring out the rest. And who knows what the future will hold. Maybe I’ll decide to stop working and he’ll find a career that ignites his fire. For now, though, our new arrangement is working well for us both, and we’ve never been happier.
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