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A Modern Twist on a Traditional Mindset

From the very beginning, my husband and I shared a conservative and traditional way of looking at marriage. Both of our moms stayed at home and our fathers were the breadwinners. While we both understand that I should be home taking care of the kids, and he should be out in the world making money, […]

From the very beginning, my husband and I shared a conservative and traditional way of looking at marriage. Both of our moms stayed at home and our fathers were the breadwinners. While we both understand that I should be home taking care of the kids, and he should be out in the world making money, that’s not what’s happening.

We both valued traditional roles, but it simply worked out that I made more money in Big Law than he did running the family café with his brothers. It’s not my fault I found a job that paid a ton of money! It’s okay; he likes that I embrace traditional gender roles, but he is also grateful that I bring in the most money for our household.

There was always a worry in my husband’s mind that I would be some corporate mom. He knew I had high aspirations for my career, and he worried he wouldn’t be able to keep up. He wasn’t comfortable with the thought of having a wife with a high-powered career, but he finally let all that go and accepted that this was our life. I would make the money, for now, and he would be the one who was more available for the kids until they went to school.

Of course, it’s not like he’s home cleaning the house and taking care of the kids all day. He runs two restaurants, but his job gives him more flexibility, and he can be around more. He does at home what I can’t at the moment, and I bring home the bacon until we decide it doesn’t make sense for us anymore. We try to stay flexible.

We want to fill traditional gender roles, but we can’t. Our answer to the question of how to keep our relationship balanced is to keep a feeling of gratefulness for one another. He compensates for not being the primary breadwinner by being an amazing husband and father and thanking me always for my contribution. I show my appreciation in whatever ways I can. Neither of us holds a grudge.

I like being financially independent. I also like that the difference in our earning power keeps him on his toes. He knows I don’t need him to survive or pay my way in the world, so he tries a little harder. He never fucks up. By the same token, I’ll never compromise our relationship, because I appreciate all he brings to the equation.

Even though we’ve reworked the traditional gender roles, he never has to do anything he doesn’t want to. For example, he cooks often but doesn’t like to shop. I don’t have time for it, so we use a meal subscription service. HelloFresh means goodbye to arguments about how to get it done. I’ll also get my groceries delivered on the weekend or use food shopping as an excuse to have Mommy-first born time on the weekend. He loves riding in the car cart.

The keys are flexibility and releasing any expectations of certain behavior. Since I don’t expect him to do the housework, he’s willing to do it to help out (and because it has to get done). If I expected it, it would piss him off and breed resentment. Instead, I always say, “Thank you,” and I’m always appreciative. Don’t get me wrong, he still gets annoyed if the kids make a mess and, instead of cleaning, I get on my computer to answer the emails that incessantly pile up, but he gets over it very quickly. Bless his heart.

It’s all about mindset. If my husband made me go to work every day, I’d hold some anger toward him even if I liked my job. No one wants to feel as if they don’t have the right to make their own choices. I know women who are married to stay-at-home dads. They’re running into trouble in their marriages because they’re stressed out and make the assumption that their husbands owe them in the other areas of their lives. Without gratitude, resentment and anger can build up.

Excerpt from Diapers, Date Nights and Deadlines, a French Working Mom’s Guide to Success and Survival

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