Mrs. Breadwinner and Stay at Home Dad Stigmas
I make the big bucks.
My husband stays at home all day to care for our daughter. He’s also responsible for most of the cooking and cleaning.
Even around Boston, stay at home dads are rare. It’s sad SAHDs are rare.
Mr & Mrs has baked in gendered power dynamics. Most people forget that. I forget that fact too. Recently, I addressed a bunch of cards and had to write our return address. I wondered how best to write it. Do I put Mr. and Mrs. (which I don’t like) or do I just put The LastNames? Derek suggested that since I now have a PhD, I put Dr. So, to the etiquette articles I went. Not stuffy old etiquette books from bygone eras that tell you to wear your nice gloves when going to the grocery store. But a modern article on proper title etiquette readily available on the internet. I found that Dr is a higher status than Mr. So, I now go first.
We’re no longer Mr. & Mrs. Derek MoneyProwess. We’re Dr. Kat and Mr. Derek MoneyProwess.
You can say men and women are equal now all you want, but they won’t be truly equal until more of these cultural vestiges signaling a default male superiority go away. Note, if Derek and I were both doctors, then being MALE again trumps in status, and so he’s listed first.
That’s why I love reading ManWhoHasItAll which takes common expressions, and swaps “male” for “female” to show this underlying bias.
Anyway, I’m Mrs., nay Dr. Breadwinner, and have a stay at home husband. We live in a big progressive city. And it is still weird and rare and shocking to people when they hear Derek stays home.
Now Derek still works outside the home. On weekends. And sometimes inside the home, an hour here or there on his side business. So, we’re technically DIKS (Dual Income w/Kids). But his work is less important than my work. It may not be less fulfilling. Less intellectually stimulating. Less of a contributor to culture or greater social good. But his work is significantly less important in a way that matters a lot.
He brings in less money.
He couldn’t earn enough to support us if he worked full time. You can’t eat prestige or job fulfillment or cultural contributions.
Like olden days when the woman of a house took up part time employment, I even joke that it’s nice he can earn his “pin money.” (Book lovers, there’s even a 1912 book available free on google books called Pin-Money Suggestions that gives women recommendations on how they can earn their extra scratch.)
But anyway, back to the point. It is weird sometimes that I earn the cash and pay the rent and all the bills and buy all the groceries and make 90% of our financial decisions. It shouldn’t be weird. It’s not usually weird to us. But when we encounter others then it gets weird. It’s just our normal. As we’re looked upon like aliens when we tell someone “Oh, no, Lu doesn’t go to daycare, Derek watches her.”
There’s so many stigmas out there it is hard to start unpacking them all. I can see gears turning in people’s heads. Here’s my quick take on their likely initial thoughts:
- That’s weird.
- Oh. It’s 2017, I shouldn’t think that’s weird.
- Why do I think it’s weird?
- Why don’t I (or my husband) stay home with the kids?
- We can’t afford to have one parent stay home.
- I stay home with the kids because my husband makes more money than I ever did.
- Wait, how much do YOU make if you don’t need two incomes.
- Maybe they come from money.
- They don’t look or dress like they have money.
I too am burdened by stigmas. I always feel the need to qualify “Oh, he doesn’t just stay at home – he works too, but on weekends.”
I don’t really have a resolution or conclusion here. Just a start of a point about how I’m Mrs. Breadwinner and in 2017 it shouldn’t be something to talk about.