Growing up in a single-parent home, I never really had the opportunity to see first-hand the differences between what moms and dads do in a family, but I sure got a ton of messages from TV shows and pop culture. We all know the stereotypes; moms are the pirmary caregivers who stay at home with the kids and dads are career-oriented and expected to bumble their way through anything parenting related. In contrast, my husband grew up in a very traditional family with two parents who married and never divorced. His dad worked outside of the home and his mom was basically a housewife.
By the time we had kids, we had to figure out how to blend our expectations. For me, career is just as important as family; I see them as a balancing act. To my astonishment, my husband naturally stepped up to the parenting plate and has taken on so many traditionally female roles with effortless grace that he will become a full-time stay-at-home-dad in the spring when our third baby arrives.
Talk about changing times, huh?
Our two sons look up to my husband as their most influential male role model and I could not be more proud of the example that my husband set for them. He is no stranger to cleaning our house or doing laundry. He cooks amazing dinners and knows how to get out more than a dozen different kinds of stains. Recently, on a particularly cold and yucky day when we were all stuck inside and growing bored, he pulled out the sewing machine and taught our sons how to make their own draft snakes to place in their bedroom windows (above).
I mean, talk about mom porn. My husband even dusts, for crying out loud.
But he also shares his manly side with our sons, too. I’ve heard him explain his tattoos to our sons as an expression of his creativity and passions. There have been mock shaving lessons in the giant bathroom mirror with pretend razors. Many discussions about proper care and maintenance of boy parts have been had.
But, more importantly to me, my husband has taken great care to demonstrate to our kids what kindness and respect toward women looks like. He speaks to me with respectful words. Helping me around the house is not a way to show me that I am doing it wrong or to be competitive, but rather, to show our sons that there is no such thing as “women’s work,” it is “family work” in this house.
Now that our kids are ages 7 and 3, they are expected to pitch in and help, and they do so with zero cajoling because nothing about picking up your own laundry and putting in it a basket or clearing your own dishes from the table or helping make beds is out of the ordinary for anyone regardless of gender in our home. We all work together.
When we first began the discussion of having my husband be a stay-at-home-dad, I felt a little bit replaced and territorial. I am the mother, after all. Isn’t this all supposed to be my domain? Aren’t I the one who is supposed to be maternal and raise the babies? But then my husband pointed out that I had done my time in that realm with our first two babies and that now it is his turn. He, too, wants the opportunity to spend days bonding with our soon-to-be newborn and really; as a mother, I fully and completely understand that.
So, this spring, when our third child is welcomed into the world and we spend 12 weeks of maternity leave allowing my body to recover, we will venture in a new chapter where my husband will not only be a damn good housekeeper, just like me, but a SAHD, too.
I cannot think of a more powerful message to send to my sons about gender roles in parenthood than that.
Photo: Sarah Cottrell