In our family, my husband is the breadwinner and I am our children’s primary caretaker. We didn’t casually slip into stereotypical gender roles or succumb to society’s expectations for husbands and wives, though. We discussed our household needs (money and cleaning/cooking/childcare) and declared our preferences.
I wanted to take care of the kids, keep the kitchen stocked with yummy food, and fold laundry, so we decided I should serve as the primary caretaker. My husband preferred to leave the house each morning and earn money for the family, so he serves as our primary wage earner.
I work part-time as a freelance writer, but we decided that my income would be viewed as supplemental and I shouldn’t take on so much paid work that it infringed on my abilities to manage the household – or my mental health.
For the first few years of our marriage, I worked a full-time paid job from home while fully managing the household as well. My husband also worked full-time. When we were newlyweds, we didn’t sit down and have a frank discussion about who would do what in the household; we just each shouldered our presupposed duties and carried on.
My mental burden was enormous. The stress I carried from changing diapers, managing the bank account, making doctors’ appointments, writing grocery lists, scrubbing the bathtub, and turning in a mandatory number of articles by each month’s deadline took an unhealthy toll on our family. I snapped at my husband if he dared to ask how my day was when I sat down at my computer to work during our baby’s nap time.
I left my full-time writing job in our third year of marriage because we relocated to another state. We had less money, but we had much less stress as well. For the first time as a married mother, I only had one job: Take care of the kids and the house. My husband continued with full-time paid employment. We both enjoyed the new arrangement and talked about the benefits of deliberately dividing the familial roles.
A couple of years later brought another move for our family, this time with the opportunity for me to use my college degree and seek paid employment. We knew I could earn more than entry-level wages. With my Bachelor’s Degree and years of experience, I was qualified to apply as a serious candidate for writing positions that paid around $50,000 per year.
But, working a job outside of our home meant I would have to physically leave our children every day. The three of them ranged in age from 6 to 1, and this mama was not ready to care about something other than our children’s well being for the majority of my waking hours. Plus, I have seven years’ experience in managing our household, and my husband still prefers paid employment to mopping the floor and seasoning post roasts.
So, we embrace traditional gender roles in my house for the good of all family members. The kids benefit from having a consistent caretaker and regular routine. My husband benefits from using his skills to earn money to pay our bills.
I benefit because I am not pressured to grow my career while simultaneously caring for the kids during these early, demanding years of childhood. Barring a catastrophic accident or events beyond our control, we will continue to support traditional gender roles in our family.