It wasn’t long ago that men who played leading roles in caring for their children were mocked as “Mr. Mom.” Today, they’re proudly called Dad. And there are more than 7 million of them in the U.S. Meanwhile, moms pursuing meaningful careers outside of the home are increasingly respected for their smarts and their salaries. They’re bringing home the proverbial bacon and valued for it.
Clearly, “traditional” responsibilities have shifted. As have society’s attitudes, and even our own individual mindsets. Thank goodness (insert hallelujah hands emoji here). There are numerous contributing factors, including the economy and its impact on the job market, to what some dub a trend. For me – and interestingly, four of my closest friends – it’s a purposeful choice that works for us and our families. And just like any family situation, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of work and empathy, from everyone.
Decide What’s Most Important to You
I’ve learned a lot from my personal experience – me as the primary breadwinner and my husband as the primary parent. I’m still learning; so is he. But we haven’t regretted our decision because it helps us achieve what we decided together is most important to us: raising our children, hands-on and with full hearts.
At the time I decided to accept my current position, my husband owned his own business. Most days he was an hour or more away from home. Thankfully, we had a great nanny who was wonderful with our twins. But it was when I confided in her – asking her to weigh in on how “we” were going to manage life with my new job and the kids – rather than my husband because he wasn’t around, it hit me. Why weren’t “we,” me and my husband, figuring this out together?
It was a wake-up call for both us. For a while, my husband moved his office/business into our basement. Little by little he scaled back until it became clear that he would either need to put more time into the business or stop altogether. And keep in mind too, we were still paying our nanny. Anyone with small children knows it’s impossible to be productive with them underfoot.
So, there’s me: really great job that I really love and am really good at (and well-compensated for). And there was my husband: feeling like nothing was getting the best of what he could offer. We needed to decide and focus on what was most important for our family. We worked too hard to have our children to pay someone else to raise them. We want to watch our kids grow up and know we were intimately involved in shaping their lives. This realization crystallized our next move: he would be the primary parent and I would support our family financially.
This is my most fundamental life lesson – and it’s from here that my advice for others trying to navigate similar circumstances or those wondering if it could work for them springs.
The Family of the Future
The definition and innerworkings of the modern family will continue to evolve. We’ll see more stay-at-home dads. We’ll see stay-at-home moms too, but probably a little less. And of course, there will be increasingly more dual-income families. There is no standard, no traditional, no status quo, no “best” situation. The true “modern family” is diverse and blended. But what will remain common to all is the need for understanding and flexibility – at home and at work.