Wearing the Pants

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I really hate that phrase. But you hear it all the time.

"Who wears the pants in this relationship?"

I feel very lucky. Hubster and I have an amazing relationship. Most of what I do is due to the support and strength I draw from that relationship.

Both of us grew up surrounded by examples of very traditional gender roles. Husband goes to work, makes the money. Wife has the children, stays home, keeps house.

And while we both have deep-rooted appreciation for our mothers and their "stay-at-home" roles in our lives, we have done things differently.

While I technically have not "worked" (as in brought home a paycheck), I have spent the equivalent of two full-time jobs getting first my undergraduate degree and then my medical degree.

Hubster has always been 100% supportive of this.

Hubster has worked full-time, and gone to school part-time.

Our boys have spent a lot of time in daycare, a place neither Hubster nor I spent any time in as children. But given our time, we both take equal care of the boys. Hubster has changed just as many diapers as I have. He bathes the boys probably more often than I do. He gets up with them in the night. We both have stayed home from work to be with them when they are sick.

We both take out the gabage, do dishes, and put away laundry.

We have not done things "traditionally."

And even with that frame of reference, things are about to dramatically change. When I start my residency in June, I will have a paying job. One that pays the same as Hubster's current job. When we move to Iowa, Hubster will spend most of the first few months at home with our boys. And then he is going to graduate school.

Things are shifting. I will be the money-maker. Hubster will be the student. And we will both continue to be the joint care providers for our boys. (With the help of some daytime paid child care.)

I didn't go to medical school with the intention of being the main provider for our family. I went because I could, it was an amazing opportunity, and because it did offer the possibility that things would eventually be better for our family.

We both knew that these changes were going to occur. But sometimes the changes feel overwhelming. I worry that Hubster will feel usurped in his role as "provider." (Even though he constantly reassures me that he doesn't and won't.)

(I also worry about Hubster being in charge of meals while I'm working 80 hours a week. Because he really is NOT a good cook.)

How important are gender roles to you? If things were suddenly reversed, how do you think you or your significant other would cope? Is your image of you flexible enough to allow what is best for the family to occur, even with the chance of wounded pride to yourself?

So, when people ask, "Who wears the pants in this relationship?" I don't know what to say.

This relationship is a two way street, with mutual responsiblity and respect, with flexible roles, and people that are doing the best to adapt to whatever life gives them.


Bonnie said...

Way to go, BOTH of you!!!

Karen said...

For most of my adult life, I have wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. That life just appeals to me in ways that working don't. But that's just what works for me. But I also know that if I had to work or chose to at some point, I could handle that role as well.

I think it's really great that you are almost to your goal. And it's awesome that you and your husband support each other and are on the same page about everything from careers to laundry.