One of the more identity-warping aspects of parenthood is the way that it has pushed certain traditional gender roles into my marriage. I didn’t expect this: I grew up in the “girls can do anything” generation and married someone who had no interest in being a stereotypical breadwinner. But then BAM! societal structures whacked me in the face.
Some of it seems to make sense in the context of our family. My husband is older than me; he has a real job and I’m a grad student. Now that he’s working outside of academia, he makes a lot more than me. My status as a student means that my hours are flexible, my vacation is not tracked, and, well, it just makes sense for me to be the one who stays home when the kid is sick. To be the one who takes at-home days so that we can save money on daycare. If we have a second kid after I finish my PhD, it’ll be totally logical for me to be the one to take “leave” for a few months or maybe longer.
But… Would that calculation change if my husband’s new job offered paternity leave? (It doesn’t.) Would I have chosen to stay home as much as I did if daycare were more affordable?
What happens when we move somewhere where daycare costs even more? Where the waiting lists are months long? Who has to stay home then?
What happens if we have that second kid and I take some time off to parent—will I be losing forever the opportunity to have the kind of career I once imagined? Am I doomed to be the secondary breadwinner, looking at a life of trying to sell jewelry and fake nails to my friends?
My husband and I had a fight the other day about money. He’d started to say things that sounded like he thought of his salary as something he earned for himself and partially distributed to me for stuff, as opposed to something he earned for our family. It turned out we were taking our worries out on each other: he felt bad about spending less time with our son (he’s had to work weekends recently), while I was worried (jealous?) that I made so much less. It bothers me very much that we’ve been pushed in these directions.
Today is one of my at-home days, and I’m busy trying to fill the hours with dishes and knitting and crayons. Likely my husband will be working again this weekend. I feel unfulfilled, like I’m turning into the stereotype of a bored 1960’s housewife.
I’m not sure where to go from here.