Growing up, my dad was the stay-at-home parent. With a significant age difference between my parents, he was on the downhill of his career and my mom was on the uphill. He happily and graciously supported my mom’s progressing career by carpooling, cooking, doing laundry and everything in between. Because that was my norm, I thought that was everyone’s norm until I got older and started meeting more people. Much to my dismay, I also started to learn the political and social implications of Mom versus Dad being at home. The idea that a man would not want his wife to work outside of the home, or more specifically make more money than him, was just weird to me as my dad was always so supportive of anything my mom wanted to do to grow professionally, whether applying for a promotion, a new job, or starting a night time masters program while having two small kids.
Fast forward to today, when I have my own husband and family. As we got married and moved to New Orleans a few years ago for my husband’s medical residency training, it was understood that I would need to put my two Masters degrees to good use, at least for the next few years. I remember accepting my first job and being so excited to start my career. I also remember slowly realizing that it was time for professional and financial growth (on a couple of occasions). Each time I told my husband I was ready to look for a new job, he was very supportive, specifically asking if my search would lead to an increase in pay. In his mind, if there was a pay increase, then it was worth the change. And each time I got my dream job of the moment’s offer and excitedly called him to discuss it with him, he was just as excited as I was. Perhaps more, to the point that he would tell close family and friends, and not so close family and friends, that he had a “sugar mama.”
I am blessed to have a husband who doesn’t necessarily believe in society’s traditional gender roles, at least in that sense, which has allowed me to flourish professionally, without fear. And, it makes me proud to be able to contribute so much because he is proud that I do. But along with this modern thought process, came some concerns and pressures I didn’t expect to have.
The year before last, we assessed our lives and decided it was time to expand our family. While I did a little research before, once I was pregnant, I closely looked at what type of time I would have off (or not have as I know is the case for a lot of women) with my job as I transitioned into motherhood. It was shocking that there was so little. As the birth of our child came closer, the idea that we would be missing our primary income for multiple weeks also became a more frequent thought. While we were fine due to our preparation, many of my friends didn’t have this same concern because their husbands were the primary breadwinner rather than them.
Now that our daughter is here, we are experiencing the joys (and germs) of daycare, and there are times that she is sick or the daycare is closed due to holidays. Because my husband is in training, he does not have job flexibility which means that I am the default whenever she is sick or daycare is closed. Of course I always welcome the extra cuddles, but in the back of my mind, I’m also concerned about how that looks to my boss and co-workers. Will it make them think I am not as committed as everyone else? Will that mean that if my company ever has to downsize, as so many do today, that my job will be at the top of the list because I don’t contribute as much? Because as it stands today, my family cannot survive without my financial contributions.
For us, life will not always look like this. Once my husband is done with his training, it will look very different and I remind myself of that when anxiety starts to creep in. But today, that is our reality and I am so thankful that my husband supports our norm, regardless of what society thinks of it.