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:
- That’s weird.
- Oh. It’s 2017, I shouldn’t think that’s weird.
- Why do I think it’s weird?
- Why don’t I (or my husband) stay home with the kids?
- We can’t afford to have one parent stay home.
- I stay home with the kids because my husband makes more money than I ever did.
- Wait, how much do YOU make if you don’t need two full time incomes.
- Maybe they come from money.
- 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?