Role Reversal is Hard for Other People
One day a “friend” and I were having a drink and she thought it important to let me know what people were saying about Paul and our relationship. I hadn’t asked. Frankly I don’t generally care much what other people think about me, or Paul, or our relationship, but she was off to the races and clearly our role reversal was an issue.
She thought I should know that people thought Paul was taking advantage of me; he had it easy while I worked every day. It was laughable on so many levels. From where I was sitting she had simply seized an opportunity to tear me down in a “helpful” way. Considering she was a new mom, I was shocked she didn’t appreciate that in fact, he had the harder job. But perhaps the reality of what it takes to raise a kid well these days hadn’t sunk in yet.
How many conversations have I had over the years with young parents acknowledging that coming to work is often way easier than staying home with the kids? I respect stay-at-home parents for the incredibly challenging work they do every day. Sure, the rewards are huge, but it can still suck the life out of you.
The more I thought about that conversation, the sadder it made me.
Because the truth is that woman, and whomever else she was talking about (if indeed there was anybody else) was stuck in an old paradigm in which role reversal was unacceptable. The man must earn the money, and if he’s not there is definitely something wrong. It didn’t matter that it worked best for us; that I would not have been a good stay-at-home mom and that although it was hard we were fully aware that we were breaking new ground. The problem was not how Paul and I chose to lead our lives but rather their inability to see how freeing and revolutionary we were being. It made them (her) uncomfortable.
Shaking old roles and forging new ways for men and women to build a family is going to take time. Getting comfortable with the power shifts that happen will take lots of vulnerable conversations. Acknowledging that men can bring a sensitive perspective to a child as often as women will require generational experience. But it’s happening and I am glad for that. We each have to write our own guidebook and hopefully the one we (and more each day) are writing will help shine a light for families who want to break the old roles of how what a nuclear family is supposed to look like.
What stereotypes are you trying to break free from?