I’ve tried to tackle this topic before and gave up. It just sounded like I was a victim so I trashed it. Marital role reversal and the decision to become a stay at home dad (SAHD) is not the easiest subject to discuss. This post is directed to someone who is thinking about becoming a SAHD or pursue a less traditional roles within the marriage.
How we got to the marital role reversal decision.
My wife and I have been competitive for as long as I can remember. It probably all started back in college playing Monopoly, Risk or our favorite college beer drinking game, asshole.
Our competitive tendencies manifested later in life in our career growth. The intention isn’t to one up the other, but to use each other as motivation to further our shared lifestyle.
For years we overtook each other with higher earnings and titles. I would earn more and then she would get promoted and out earn me. I’d switch jobs and see a 30% increase in income. We kept overtaking each other and it was fun.
This competition continued for nearly 15 years and is the primary contributing factor that we can make significant changes to our lifestyle, since we classify ourselves as baseline financially independent. We added several percentages to our income just by providing incentive to get the next promotion or simply asking our managers for a better raise.
Working in IT, I won the competition for the early years.
For the last five years, I conceded. Alas, I cannot compete any more.
She has gone further than I have any ambition or desire for. Even if I go a full-time independent consultant, my income will not compete.
You see, my wife has the comparative advantage in paid employment. She would happily leave her job to stay home with the kids. Financially speaking as a unit, we are much better off when I leave the office.
I am out-earned and love how far my wife has gone. Marital role reversal is now in effect.
It turns out this final competition has changed the fate of my own career. I always enjoyed my work, but I downright despised the corporate political games. Accepting my fate wasn’t always easy. It took me a while to see that cutting back on my career as an IT Director with a Fortune 20 company was the best thing for our young family. For everyone with kids, you know those little minions change your priorities. Someone’s career had to take a back seat for a while. I volunteered since my workplace was in constant distress.
Was this an overnight acceptance?
No way, It took me nearly two years to implement the decision.
I’m being overly dramatic, but I lived through each of the five stages of grief. You might wonder how my spouse making more money than me could result in grief since we are a team. I wonder about this to. I really love money, who wouldn’t want more of it.
After slowing down my career, our family is much happier. I am much happier. I enjoy spending time with the kids. Quality time. We spend mornings and afternoon’s together and every Friday is Daddy day. Not to say there isn’t the occasional day with sick kids or meltdowns, but that is life. I feel much more relaxed, patient and engaged in their learning then in the past. We are making fantastic memories together.
I think the primary issue was accepting that our family would be slightly different from most. Even though I am now self-employed and working part-time, we are still challenging the societal norms. In our subdivision of 180 homes, I only know one other stay at home dad, and his wife stays at home too. They are completely financially independent.
Growing up, I always thought that I would go on take the role as primary breadwinner. Not because that is what I dreamed of. I really couldn’t envision a different scenario playing out. Breaking the stereotype is a difficult hurdle to make. Maybe I am just being old-fashioned, I don’t know.
My desire to raise our kids outweighed my pride and ego over a business title.
The kids were miserable. They would go to daycare by 7 or 8 and get picked up by 5:30 or later. It didn’t take long to realize this was too much time for them to be at daycare. By the time they got home it was never-ending meltdowns.
I wanted to do better by our children, without hiring help.
Therefore, I left my job and had many uncomfortable conversations.
In the two years leading up to our turning point, I truly believed the competition was still on. She would ultimately break. She would come to her senses and stay at home with the kids. Or maybe, I would rise to the occasion and push harder, play corporate politics and beat her at her own game
I had the chess pieces in alignment. I just needed to execute my strategy.
Meanwhile, after the kids spend 10 hours in daycare they would come home in tears. They were not happy. We were not happy.
This is my damn career we are talking about! I have a master’s degree! I am pretty sure I can do more than dirty diapers.
Why doesn’t my wife want to stay home?
It’s the women’s job!
Yes, I am not proud to admit I thought all of this. My wife loves our kids but she also loves her career. She is good at it, really good. Much better than I will ever be. Why not give her the chance to see how far she can go?
If I decide to stay at home, we will finally buy that lake house in the mountains I have always talked about (and you have no interest in.)
Why don’t you stay at home and also take time to get your MBA in the evenings, doesn’t that sound great?
Why don’t you just cut back on your hours from 80 a week to 40? Eventually your boss will stop piling the work on you.
I can honestly say depression never really existed for me. What did exist what a complete lack of time for myself and a huge lack of sleep which started to make me unhappy. Then, anxiety took control.
What will people think about our decision?
What will family say?
How will I break the news to my co-workers and boss?
What happens if I am not good at spending this much time with the kids? More importantly, what if I screw something up?
Here I am over six months into the journey and our family is thriving. My business is thriving. Sure I could book more revenue, but it would cost me more time. Time away from the things I love most. I really couldn’t find a better balance in life.
My wife’s career is blossoming. She has made connections with the executives of her company and the board of directors. She constantly gets more direct reports from all over the world and more responsibility. They trust her. Why wouldn’t they, she is amazing.
Even without working half the year, our net worth growth has never increased more. I have more time to research investments and its starting to take off!
Take a chance!
It’s amazing what is possible when you get over what you think was supposed to happen. There is more than one trajectory in life. Be open to alternative possibilities. You may be shocked at what opens up, like the ability to be self-employed and spending quality time with your family.
This change has really shocked me. Before, I never liked to be left alone with the kids. Now I take them on all types of adventures during the week. Sure, sometimes I get strange looks or an off comment from a stranger. But who cares. I am afforded the opportunity of spending much more time with the people I love the most.