I'm Mrs. Breadwinner, he's Mr Stay at Home Dad, and in 2017 that shouldn't feel weird

May 22 | Guest post by Kat MoneyProwess
Working mom and stay at home dad burp cloths by Etsy seller NewBeesShop

My husband stays at home all day to care for our daughter. He's also responsible for most of the cooking and cleaning. While I make the big bucks.

Even around Boston, stay at home dads are rare. And it's sad that stay at home dads are rare.

Now Derek still works outside the home on weekends, and sometimes inside the home, an hour here or there on his side business. So, we're technically DIKS (Dual Income with Kids)… but his work is "less important" than my work. It may not be less fulfilling. Less intellectually stimulating. Less of a contributor to culture or greater social good. But his work is significantly "less important" in a way that matters a lot:

…He brings in less money.

He couldn't earn enough to support us if he worked full time. You can't eat prestige or job fulfillment or cultural contributions.

Like olden days when the woman of a house took up part time employment, I even joke that it's nice he can earn his "pin money." (Book lovers, there's even a 1912 book available free on google books called "Pin-Money Suggestions" that gives women recommendations on how they can earn their extra scratch.)

"Mr and Mrs" has baked in gendered power dynamics

Most people forget that. I forget that fact too. Recently, I addressed a bunch of cards and had to write our return address. I wondered how best to write it… Do I put "Mr. and Mrs." (which I don't like) or do I just put "The LastNames"? My husband Derek suggested that since I now have a PhD, I put "Dr." So, to the etiquette articles I went! Not the stuffy old etiquette books from bygone eras that tell you to wear your nice gloves when going to the grocery store. But a modern article on proper title etiquette readily available on the internet. I found that Dr is a higher status than Mr. So, I now go first.

We're no longer Mr. and Mrs. Derek MoneyProwess. We're Dr. Kat and Mr. Derek MoneyProwess.

You can say men and women are equal now all you want, but they won't be truly equal until more of these cultural vestiges signaling a default male superiority go away. Note, if Derek and I were both doctors, then being MALE again trumps in status, and so he's listed first.

 

I'm Mrs — nay, Doctor — Breadwinner, and have a stay-at-home husband

We live in a big progressive city. And it is still weird and rare and shocking to people when they hear Derek stays home.

It is weird sometimes that I earn the cash and pay the rent and all the bills and buy all the groceries and make 90% of our financial decisions.

It shouldn't be weird

It's not usually weird to us. But when we encounter others then it gets weird. It's just our normal. As we're looked upon like aliens when we tell someone "Oh, no, Lu doesn't go to daycare, Derek watches her."

There's so many stigmas out there it is hard to start unpacking them all. I can see gears turning in people's heads when we first mention our work and child care arrangement. They never know quite what to say to us. A typical verbal response is "Oh…" (followed by a scrunched deep in thought facial expression).

Here's my quick take on likely initial thoughts:

  1. That's weird.
  2. Oh. It's 2017, I shouldn't think that's weird.
  3. Why do I think it's weird?
  4. Why don't I (or my husband) stay home with the kids?
  5. We can't afford to have one parent stay home.
  6. I stay home with the kids because my husband makes more money than I ever did.
  7. Wait, how much do YOU make if you don't need two full time incomes.
  8. Maybe they come from money.
  9. They don't look or dress like they have money.

I too am burdened by stigmas. I always feel the need to qualify "Oh, he doesn't just stay at home — he works too, but on weekends."

I don't really have a real resolution to this… only to say that I'm Mrs. Breadwinner, and in 2017 it shouldn't be seen as weird.

Let's talk about it: Who else is living that "working mom or stay at home dad" life? Do you get weird reactions?

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  1. Cool!

    We're Dr. (M.D.) and Mr. too. Mine works full-time, so that's less shocking to people, but it's becoming more and more common that the guy stay home, or he's the business manager for her clinic, or some other variation.

    I've written an article called "In Praise of Beta Husbands" for the Medical Post, which was reprinted on Medium: https://medium.com/@melissa.yuaninnes/dr-mr-beta-husbands-b1b95bc4704c

    Keep up the good work. I'll check out your website.

    1 agrees
  2. We're Dr and Mr as well. It was always a given that my husband would stay at home if we decided to have children. My husband stopped working when our son was born, which was lovely because we had the whole of my maternity leave together. It's worked wonderfully well for us, my husband is flourishing as a homemaker. Our parenting has developed naturally into an arrangement that he parents during the day and I parent at night, I nurse our 26 month old to sleep and he sleeps in the bed with me. It has been exhausting at times, but I wouldn't change it in any way if I had the chance to do it again. I've not noticed any weirdness from other people, but then we do a lot of other things that people think are odd so maybe I just don't register it.

    1 agrees
  3. This is our plan, too. My husband will stay home with our child (who is due today!), and I'll go back to work once my maternity leave is over. I'm the one with the stable job, the pension, and the health benefits, while he is the student finishing his Phd. He also really wants to stay home, and is looking forward to being a stay-at-home-dad, so we think it makes sense for emotional and financial reasons. I haven't had many odd looks from people when I've explained this, at least not from people around our age. We do live in a fairly progressive Canadian city, though. Most people have expressed a bit of envy that we don't have to find daycare and that our kiddo will get to stay home with Dad.

    1 agrees
  4. Yay Dr & Mr (here with different last names, which adds to the confusion for some reason 😉 My husband is a chef; (where we live) his income wouldn't cover childcare $$$ and he loves being primary stay-at-home caregiver to our toddler. I'm an academic, so my colleagues think it's great, but we live in the "suburbs" of a college town, so our neighbors cannot wrap their head around it. "Are you looking for work?" and "Are you on disability?" are their most common reactions. They seem most surprised that hubs is quintessentially "manly" beard & camo everything – like how can you look like "them" and run the household? But we love it, wouldn't have it any other way. Plus he loves the confused reactions he gets when he announces that he's subverting the patriarchy.

    6 agree
  5. My husband has been at home for 8 years while I grow my career. We're in Toronto, and don't usually get comments, but I do always notice the little things… like when we're out for dinner and the bill is placed directly in front of him and I have to reach over to grab it, or if I'm doing paperwork and filling out household income and a bank employee asks what my husband's profession is.

    Recently I was negotiating for a raise for a role that had expanded in responsibility and workload, and it wasn't happening; but I bet damn sure if I was a dude of the exact same age and experience with a stay-at-home wife and baby instead of stay-at-home husband and 4 cats that this particular employer would be singing a different tune. We haven't come as far as we may like to believe, but we have come far enough that this isn't 100% the norm, thank goodness. And we move on…

    3 agree
  6. We have this same situation (though I'm not a Dr) and get a lot of the same comments. Happy to see I'm not such a rarity, even though I get treated that way. For us it just made sense, I make significantly more than he did, and when we started doing the math, he was working to pay for childcare which just didn't make a whole lot of sense. Especially with a special needs kid. But it always weirds people out.

    I felt really bad for him though, because a lot of his "guy friends" treated him like he was lesser. Asking him when he was going to get back to work, or why he couldn't find a job to support me. But that wasn't the case at all. We've distanced ourselves from most of those people at this point, but it still was tough.

    3 agree
  7. Yep. We live in a relatively progressive area so rarely get outright sexist comments, but definitely get some clueless ones. Or just the little things, like the playgroup my husband went to which was all moms complaining about their husbands for an hour.

    In our case, my husband would make more than I do if he were working full time. We scrimp and budget, a lot, to get by on primarily my income. On the other hand, neither of us are miserable, which we would be if our roles were reversed, so that's a bonus.

    I really wish it wasn't unusual. I don't know why there aren't more stay at home dads. Many of my female friends talk as if being the primary caretaker would be a death-blow to their husband's manly ego. And these are feminist friends with feminist husbands… I don't get it.

    5 agree
  8. We've got the more-typical situation where my husband makes more money than I do, but for a number of years he telecommuted from home. And it drove us both nuts that all the delivery people and service people assumed that either I was at home or that my job was less important and more forgiving of taking time off.

    Although my husband was at home, and we made it clear when setting up the service or order that he was at home and that they were to call him, they ALWAYS called me. Even when my name and number were clearly the backup. It got bad enough that I quit making any arrangements because they never paid any attention to the notes that said my husband would be the one to contact for delivery, we gave them his number only, and if they asked for a secondary phone number, we said there wasn't one.

    2 agree
  9. My dad was a stay at home dad from when I was 3 until I was about 12. My whole childhood I was the only person I knew who had a SAHD, but it's great it's becoming more and and more common.

  10. We don't have this exact situation. We both work, I make more but only slightly. I bring in 53% of the combined income versus his 47%. I make most of the joint financial decisions because I'm just naturally better at handling "business" type stuff. The issue that we deal with that get weird reactions is when people find out that 90% of our finances are separate.
    We share the cost of the following items: mortgage, electric bill, heating oil, auto insurance, internet. That's all. Those five bills are split by income percentage lines 53/47. I pay them out of my personal checking account and he gives me his share in cash which I then use as my spending money. Everything else is separate. Cars, cell phones, medical bills, even groceries. When we do our weekly shopping we use one cart but then divide it up at the counter. The area we live in is rural and conservative and most people who discover our system think it's terrible. They think we have trust issues. They think all the money should just go into a pot. They think all the earnings are "ours." We think differently. I don't think my husband should pay for my StitchFix account, or my coffee that he doesn't drink, or my shave gel he doesn't use. I don't think I should pay for his gummy bear addiction, or his movies from the $5 bin, or his trip to the doctor. This is the system that works for us but it's really frustrating when people find your system to be weird or wrong.
    So, while the situations are different, this resonates with me and if we're ever in a position to do so I would love it if my husband could stay home and do all the cleaning and household stuff while I go to work. I hate cleaning, but I love working. He doesn't mind cleaning, but he hates working. It would be perfect!! So kudos to you guys and keep up the system that works best for you!

    5 agree
  11. "Oh…" (followed by a scrunched deep in thought facial expression). This!This!This!
    My husband once joked that we should live wherever the person in the couple that made more money wanted to live. Fast forward 10 years… and he's a SAHD and I'm working full time. Also Dr. and Mr. here, he quit his job when our son was 2 months. Thankfully I also have a very flexible work schedule, so he takes care of our son in the mornings (while I work) and I take care of him in the afternoons, then go back to work after our son sleeps while husband goes to practice music.
    Reactions in our corner of the world (capital of a developing country) are usually assuming he's looking for work, lazy or and can't be serious about liking our arrangement. Oh well, thankfully we are not asking other people's opinion.

    1 agrees
  12. Dr and Mr here as well! No kids yet but we have already decided that my husband will be part time or a SAHD. Thankfully his parents had a similar situation (dad was a barber so had a more flexible schedule) but i remember my mom acting like it was a huge deal that I was going to be a breadwinner. I did what I wanted for my career, my husband as well. Mine pays more- logically I'd work. I don't know why this is such a confusing concept for people but glad to know I'm not alone!

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