Via Miriam at Everyday Mom, I read this NYTimes article about "breadwinner moms." Dunleavey’s not talking about single mothers who support their families, but about the women in what I call "reverse traditional families" — married couple families where the wife works outside the home and the husband is the unpaid primary caregiver.
I agree with Dunleavey that there’s a lot of "renegotiating expectations" in reverse traditional families. We have a set of societal defaults about what women should do and we have a set of societal defaults about what stay-at-home parents should do, and when there’s a stay-at-home parent who is not a woman, many of these expectations collide and everything’s up for grabs — as Dunleavey says, from who does the laundry to who manages the money. I’d add from who chaperones the field trip to who is on duty when the child starts puking at 2 am.
But I part from Dunleavey when she says "When I say uncomfortable, I’m trying to be polite. The women I know in these shoes are seething — with uncertainty, resentment, anxiety and frustration." I’m sure not seething.
We’ve been doing this for nearly 6 years, and I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t ups and downs. There are days I’m jealous of him for getting to play with the kids and there are days he’s jealous of me for getting to escape to a nice quiet office. When I was trying to change jobs, it would have been nice to have the security of another income. Sometimes when he spends a lot of time on his hobbies, I think it would be nice if he mopped the floor instead. I burn quietly when the preschool teacher effusively tells me how nice it is to see me for a change. But none of these really bug us for more than about a minute at a time. Maybe someday we’ll make a different choice. But this is working for us.
If one of the frustrating parts of being in a reverse traditional family is that there are no guidelines, one of the good things is also that there are no guidelines. So you can make it up as you go along and do things the way that work for you. Last week, I was jealous at the thought that T would get to bring cupcakes to D’s class for his birthday, and I wouldn’t. So I arranged to work from home, and we both brought the cupcakes.