Tuesday, February 20, 2007

White or Whole Wheat?

I’m not really surprised that I’m the breadwinner. If you told me that I’d end up this way back when I was in college, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. I've always been the ambitious sort. It's my creative mind and inquisitive nature that makes figuring things out and solving problems a welcome challenge. So with any job I've had, I get very passionate about doing things accurately and efficiently. My type A personality gets people to listen to me and take me seriously, so I am able to lead projects and people pretty well. And all that naturally makes bosses happy. And we all know what happens when you do a good job - you get more work. No good deed goes unpunished as it were. So I've been able to make my way up the corporate ladder kind of by default. Before I knew it, I was on a pretty high rung and lo and behold what started out as a job has become a career.

BT on the other hand, has never really been interested in a career. He had a very good job before Seamonkey came along, but he was never looking to build any empires. He was satisfied to never have to manage anyone, and was never interested in climbing up the corporate ladder even if it meant more prestige or more money. One might think I would be turned off by his lack of ambition, but weirdly enough he is a nice ying to my yang. He keeps me grounded and makes sure I do fun stuff too. He is also more of a nurturer than I am. He loves to cook big elaborate meals, preferably something he’s never tried before, and serve them to family and friends. He likes things clean and orderly (and may have an unnatural addiction to cleaning products and organizer bins). He is kind and extremely sensitive, and genuinely the most considerate person I know (how on earth he ever married me will always be a mystery (even he doesn’t know) but that’s fodder for another post). In any case, he clearly makes the better stay at home parent, and I am clearly more suited to working. That, and my paycheck was (much) bigger. So here we are.

I’ve been back to work for three weeks now. So far, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything at home. Seamonkey pretty much eats and sleeps all day, with a little play time thrown in. He hasn’t done anything monumental in my absence. I don’t totally resent BT being home at this point. He is often up and awake before I am. He warms up my car and makes my lunch, and reminds me of anything important I need to know for the day. Other than maybe some mismatched outfits, he does a purty darned good job of taking care of the boy. He also makes sure I get plenty of bonding time with the boy when I get home.

It’s always interesting when people ask me who is taking care of the baby while I’m at work. Depending upon the gender and age of the person, I get a whole range of reactions. Interestingly enough, the Fish just returned from maternity leave. She has a decently prominent position here, and I would guess that her salary is relatively close to mine (I hope not too close, but whatever). I haven’t met her husband but from what I hear he is also at a similar level. She has hired a nanny so that both of them can return to work. She asked me if I’d hired someone yet. Laughing, I said, “Yes, my husband”. Instead of calling me crazy in her snide back handed condescending way as I expected, she was actually trying to justify herself to me. I thought that was funny. So I just sat there and smirked at her and watched her squirm. (there I go, being all nasty and RUDE again – bring it, trolls). Truthfully, I could care less about her choices. Though I may not agree with her situation (I’m pretty sure they both don’t HAVE to work and her back peddling kind of confirms that), it’s her business, not mine.

I have been recently trying to connect with other Breadwinning moms. Other than my new friend Margie P, I haven’t found too many out there. I’ve done some internet research on the whole woman breadwinner thing, but all I find is a lot of crap. There are a lot of useless surveys and studies out there that overthink this concept to death. I wasn’t sure what to make of this article – I think it’s saying that most women who think they are breadwinners really aren’t, because either (1) it’s just temporary so don’t go having any sense of accomplishment, if your husband wasn’t such a failure you wouldn’t be in this position, and once he gets his act together you’ll be back to being inferior (2) good news – your husband thinks you’re his equal – bad news – equal means you have to do your share of housecleaning and child rearing while working full time or (3) you do have the gender role reversal thing going full force, but that not only makes you a radical feminist, the number of you out there are too statistically insignificant to matter to anyone. A better article is this one, and kind of sums up what I’ve been feeling as of late.

We are still finding our way with a routine, and with expectations of each other during this new phase of our lives. I find myself walking on eggshells if something is bothering me about what he’s done (or not done) at home. I would imagine it’s hard enough for a man to be in this situation. Although he is happy with our arrangement, it still isn’t a widely accepted practice, (especially with other men!) and I don’t want to ever insult him or make him feel inferior. It’s something I’ve always had difficulty balancing, now made worse by the necessity of the role reversal. I know he is generally proud of me but sometimes I’m a little too much for him. There have been times when I have expressed a particularly feminist opinion and he retorts “I am woman hear me roar” accompanied by a nice big eye roll. However, I feel like I need to (and should) say something if I’m not happy, otherwise it will just build up and I’ll eventually explode. I would just like to see more things being done over the course of the week so that our weekend time can be focused on family time. It’s stupid little things, like mail piles, and laundry baskets, and closet space and other things that in the scheme of things mean absolutely nothing. I try to ask myself if my expectations are unreasonable, but at this point, with seamonkey being so little and mostly stationary, I don’t think so. I’m thinking now is the time, because he is so little, and the weather is so cold, that more time could be spent getting bigger projects out of the way so when it gets warmer and the baby is more interactive, he can go out and do manly stuff with him all day long. It’s not like I’m totally unwilling to help either. I will gladly work together with him, but every weekend we are off doing something or other so there usually isn’t time. I don’t think BT is lazy or inconsiderate…I just, well, I don’t know what the issue is really. I guess the day can just get away from you. *Sigh* just venting I guess. Not complaining…we have things really good, and we are very lucky that one of us can stay home.

So give me some hope here… I’d be interested in knowing how you other SAH households have adjusted. Did you just naturally fall into a rhythm of who would do what, or was it somewhat difficult to come to agreement on things?


Maggie said...

I'm single so I don't have any experience with this, obviously. I know it's unusual for a mother to work while a dad stays home, but in the end what's the difference? I think it's the best of both worlds and it's the obvious fit for your family.

The Town Criers said...

We had some growing pains, but eased into a routine. I'm the SAHM and my job is the kids. My husband is the WOHD and his job is film festivals. Which means all housework falls into the valley between us. I pick up the larger load simply because he recognizes the fact that I am doing the larger load and appreciates it. I would be resentful if the expectation was placed on me, but because he recognizes that I'm doing more than my share, I don't mind doing it. Does that make sense? I'm the cook of the family--but he does all the dishes (yes, I let them pile up throughout the day unless it is getting ridiculous). I straighten up and form all of our systems, but he joins in with the organizing once I tell him how I want it done. He'll vacuum and clean--but I usually need to tell him to do it.

My husband wants to be the SAHP. I do too. It's unfortunate that we both can't be magically wealthy and make that happen :-) When I was out-earning him, it made more sense to go with the SAHD route. But during that infertility journey, his salary increased dramatically and suddenly it made more sense for me to stay at home. And I wanted it so badly all of a sudden.

I love what you said on my blog today about patience when the seamonkey is spitting out his peas. It's so true. The journey made me a more patient person. I took everything so seriously and felt this need to have everything in my control. Having everything outside my control made me learn how to roll with it. Cry from time to time, but roll with it.

jennyfward said...

Me: SAHM. Him: Career guy.

It is hard sometimes for me. I didn't work for a while before the girls came home so I was used to being the home organizer but now I can't do that. I get stressed out and I don't think C really gets that. But we are getting there. I miss going to the grocery store and cooking dinner. I miss being able to complete a task. I think your frustrations are understandable but reality is that even if the kid is sleeping there is soo much regular crap to get done and the day flashes by at lightening speed. And when the babies are awake I try to hold them as much as I can, they are only little once.

I have wanted to clean out my bathroom cabinet since we got home, I haven't even gotten to open it. The fridge, EWWW gross.

If you want something done why don't you negotiate a list of things to get accomplished during the week? Although, if C did that to me I would have a fit, but guys are different!

Good luck. You will get there!

Andrea said...

Oh, how I could have written this post. T. is going to be the SAHD when K. comes home. I make about 3 times as much, and his position allows him a lot more flexibility during the day. I may have to change jobs from what I do now, but I will probably always be the breadwinner. When we first started dating, he was working two jobs, and he made much more than me. Since then, I've been promoted twice, and he's cut back to one job that's less than 40 hours a week (he's on call all week, however). When K. comes home, he'll only work weekends.

Most days, I think I'll be okay with him being SAHD. There are other days when I am afraid I'll miss out on a connection with my son. Being a bit obsessive, I've read lots and lots and lots of books on bonding and attaching, and it freaks me out a bit to think K. might regard me as nothing more than a babysitter. As for the housework, we already struggle with the division, so I am not sure how adding a child is going to work.

My hubby and your hubby should get together and having a cleaning party- they sound SO much alike! :) You and I sound a lot alike as well. I will say that's a GOOD thing!

chou-chou said...

Very interesting!

I'm single now, but with my ex, it was this way. I earned a lot more than he, and he did a bunch of stuff around the house.

It was somewhat awkward though, mostly because I felt he was capable of so much more (not in terms of $, but in terms of achievement and having an actual career), and he felt that there was a power imbalance in the relationship because of money. Ugh. Had we had children together, we would be dealing with the same issues, I think.

Sounds like you and your hubby, on the other hand, are naturally balanced, and neither feels threatened by the relative strengths or weaknesses of the other.

I think you've got a great situation!!

p.s. "No good deed goes unpunished." Heh heh. It's funny 'cause it's true.

Anonymous said...

If it works for you, and I'm glad it's working for you, then go with it. You'll never be able to convince sexist/ultra traditional/whatever people that it's a good arrangement that makes sense (WHOever makes the most money, of whatever gender, should stay home). I just think it's wonderful that your baby is taken care of by a loving parent.

As for the little stuff...and maybe this plays into sexist stereotypes & I'm sorry if it does...but sometimes men don't see the same piles/messes we see. Trust me, mine doesn't, even when I point them out. So at that point, you decide what you can and can't tolerate.

mama k said...

First off, I think it is great that Seamonkey gets to spend his days with his daddy! If my DH had a lesser paying job, I know he wouldn't have minded being the SAH instead.
JMHO, but I didn't have a kid so I could pay someone else to raise him. (Meaning I feel like he should be with my husband or I MOST of the time.) As a society we tend to think we NEED way more than we really do thus making it hard for parents to justify giving up that double income. By the time you add up daycare and the expenses associated with working outside of the home, I personally wouldn't be bringing much $ home. And knowing that baby’s primary caregiver is a parent was worth more than anything to me.

To answer your question, as a SAH of 6 months I am still trying to figure out how to balance everything. My DH sometimes comes home to mail/laundry/dishes piled up and looks at me like "What did you do all day?" (He knows better to SAY that though.) Taking care of a baby IS a full-time job. The housework is secondary IMO. That being said, I do consider it part of my job. FlyLady.com has helped me by getting me into routines. Would DH be offended if you sent that along to him as a recommendation from a friend?

In my experience, the more active/mobile baby gets, the easier it is for me to get stuff done. I can put him down to play by himself for brief periods of time now. He also likes being in the baby carrier while I work around the house. Regardless, he’s never been a baby that just lies there peacefully while I go about my day. (Most babies aren’t!)

Well before I take up a whole page, I’ll sign off. I’m sure you will find a system that works for your family soon. Be patient with eachother and appreciate the good stuff in the meantime! : )

christine said...

we haven't adopted yet, but when we do we are planning on dh being a stay at home dad. i get a variety of responses depending who the other person is. when i tell people at work or school, they claim that i have found the most wonderful man ever (and i have to agree with them). when i tell people at church, they react as if i am making the worst decision ever (and then i get the "well you'll change your mind after you give birth to your baby." i just want to snap back "well since i won't be giving birth, i guess i won't be changint my mind." whatever.)

ruth said...

While we don't have children, I was the bread winner for 5 years while my husband finished his PhD. In many ways I was very lucky because he did more than his share of the housework while we were in that situation. We had planned, that when we had kids that he would stay at home, mainly because I was earning more, that's no longer the case and so it looks like we will be doing the traditional SAHM thing, when the time comes...

I think each couple needs to find a balance that works for them.

Barely Sane said...

I'm 3 months into my mat leave and I dont have anything close to resembling a routine yet. There are days where Mr Mostly Sane comes home and I am so distraught that I got nothing done. He doesn't seem to mind... or so he says. Time just has a way of escaping me some days.

We thought of splitting the mat leave so Mr Mostly Sane could take half of it but his company has our extended medical/dental benefits and we dont want to lose that. So, I get all the time with Sweet Pea. I just make sure I hand her over when he gets home. But I dont think it matters which parent is the bread winner.

Jenni said...

Jeff and I take turns being the SAH parent, and we've definitely had some bumps in the road. Little things, like I bathe the kids and get their things ready for the next day, while Jeff cooks dinner. In my opinion, we are both working during this time. But, then, for some reason, I'm also expected to clean up after dinner because I didn't cook (this was our routine before the kids). Jeff sits and hangs with the kids while I'm on maid duty! I finally talked to him about this, and now we all clean together (even the kids).

I think it is definitely important to be open and honest about things, especially during the transition period. You are both learning a new way to live, and there are bound to be some kinks here and there. It also helps (at least in our house) to have a schedule for the day, including time set aside for chores that need to be done. Time can get away from you easily, but if you have that schedule to help keep you on track, things seem to go smoother.

Best of luck!

Karaoke Diva said...

I am in your shoes. I work full time and my DH is the SAHD because I made more $$$. We've had this arrangement since our son was born in 2004 and it works out great for us. DH has always been the cook and the one who took on a majority of the house chores. It started out because A) I am lazy and B) He is 8 years older than me and was already used to taking care of his own house when we moved in together 10 years ago.

I tell our son "Mama's job is to go to work and Daddy's job is to take care of you." DH is the only guy in a local (and very active) playgroup, but he has no problem with it. He's very secure in his "manhood" or whatever you want to call it. He does get irritated when people ask when he's going to get a REAL job. He has a real job! And his job is just as hard, if not harder, than my job.

If he is really accepting his new job, you guys will fall into your various responsibilities with ease. I would definitely recommend talking about what's bothering you before it blows up and becomes something more. Talk about your concerns and your expectations. That's the only way this reversal of traditional gender roles is going to work.

Not a Slacker said...

This is KaraokeDiva's Husband and I am so proud of your decision to have someone home to parent your child.
Your situtation isn't as uncommon as you think and if your husband needs someone to chat with or to read news about other people in his situtation I recommend http://athomedad.org and http://rebeldad.com for news and other information.

Thalia said...

I will most likely continue to work while my husband does more child care (although he wil prob not give up work completely). He already works from home about 50% of his time, and his job is not very demanding. Mine is very demanding and I earn more than three times what he does, so it would mean a complete change in our lifestyle if I was to give up work. We'll see what happens!

Third Mom said...

Hi! Thank you for the shoutout - and boy could I write a book.

I thought my husband and I had this nailed, but I have to say that over time the balance has shifted a little toward me doing more than I had planned. This is why when other parents who are embarking on this same journey ask me for advice, I usually suggest that they be very specific about who does what.

For example, over time all of the paperwork in our household has fallen to me, primarily a function of the fact that everything's computerized and my husband't not a strong computer user.

And then there are the school responsibilities - reams of paper, lots of activities. Non-weekly household tasks - like who will be responsible for cleaning the garage occasionally? Who will be responsible for car maintenance? And many more.

I think, too, that I wasn't prepared for the fact that my feelings about our arrangement would change. Over time, I've found that I frankly miss being able to be at home more, and that can lead to resentment. So we've worked hard to make sure we communicate about this, because there's no easy solution.

Thanks for writing about this, because I think there are more of us out there!

Rachael said...

Hi -- just found your blog. I fairly new to blogging, so still kind of shy about commenting, but your more recent post ("you guys are so lame") inspired me to speak-up. I too am the breadwinner in our house. We didn't set out for it to be that way, we just kind of fell into it and it works for us. I'm went to very expensive schools for a very long time to get to where I am in my profession (I'm an OB/GYN doc). I make a great living, but sometimes feel like an indentured servant to my student loans. I really don't have a choice, but to keep working til that's paid off (and I love my job). But with 3 kids at home and one on the way (we're adopting our 4th from Russia), having him at home keeps me sane. He does work a little from home (I think to keep him sane), but when I'm at work, he's taking care of everything at home. We thought he'd go back to work full time once all the kids are in school, but we're finding that as they get older and their activities increase, things get even more hectic, so we'll probably keep this up for a while. We partially solved the chores problem by hiring a housekeeper (although with 3 kids that only lasts for about 24 hours). But, it's well worth the expense. If it came down to it, and I had to pinch pennies, I'd eat beans and rice everyday before I'd give up my housekeeper!!

Sydneymum said...

I meant to comment on this post but never got around to it. I work and bring in the money, and my husband works part time (20hours) from home mainly to keep sane, but mainly spends time with our two boys .

...but we also have a nanny/housekeeper for 50 hours a week, because when we did this before with one child and no nanny, the little things he did not do drove me crazy and we kept getting cranky with each other.

So now I have the best of both worlds, the boys enjoy having fun with dad, he makes sure the kids are well looked after, and the nanny/housekeeper makes sure the food is cooked, the house is clean, the laundry is done and we never run out of toilet paper! I sometimes worry about this but not enough to switch around. I stayed home for 6 months with my older boy I recon I have the easier job!

This girls working with our partners staying at home with the kids must run in the family we are a family of 4 girls with 3 of us in exactly the same situation.

Sharon said...

I'm the breadwinner in our house...and, it's not easy. Not easy at all. Kudos to you for making it work, or figuring out a way to make it work. We're still defining our roles, figuring out what goes where and who does what. Good luck to you - it sounds like the pieces are all falling in the right place for you.