This was not the plan.
For the majority of our relationship so far, I have earned more money than Ben. So, we figured, when we had kids, I’d keep working and he’d be primary care. Obviously, given the strange schedules we both have worked, this would not have meant 9-to-5 style homemakery. And, as a well brought-up feminist, I liked the warping of traditional gender roles.
And then, four months into my pregnancy, I lost my job, and couldn’t get a new one, and lost my insurance, and fell deeper into the identity crisis spiral that had begun a year or so before when my first career started to fail me. And then, our lovely little girl was born and everything just looked so different.
It’s not that I just couldn’t imagine being away from her, because there was that (hormones are hell). It’s not that I suddenly felt some deeper yearning for the domestic life. It honestly does just boil down to the fact that Ben has a higher earning potential than I do. To start with, there’s that whole messy gender pay gap business. But also, while I certainly have plenty of useful skills, his are more marketable. People don’t want to pay me for the things I can do, whereas people do want to hire people who can do what Ben does. Besides, he definitely has the better work ethic of the two of us. If I had paid leave, and V really begged to go to the zoo and the weather was awesome, well, I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough to actually go to work in the face of all that (have you seen her begging face? It’s a work of art).
Not only that, there are certain biological realities that happen in the wake of a baby’s birth that make it a lot more logical for the mother to be the one hanging around all day. I have mad respect for the ladies who go back to work and pump for bottles. While I do have a pump, we do not have what I would describe as a pleasant working relationship. And I worked just too damned hard at getting breastfeeding to work to abandon that for the added whammy of the health sacrifices of formula.
So when Ben found an offer for a full-time salaried job when V was five months old (in the throes of 8 times a day feedings and hormones that screamed don’t leave the baby), it just made more sense for me to stay home and for him to bring home a paycheck. And that’s how we ended up, oddly, surprisingly, confusingly, in the long-standing traditional gender roles. Well, from the outside, at least.
And I’m struggling with it. I don’t even know what to call myself. Stay-at-home-Mom is loaded with so much baggage I don’t even want to touch it. Homemaker seems so heels and pearls with a vacuum cleaner. Housewife feels like it doesn’t actually tell the story. Not to mention there’s that whole nagging thing in my head asking me, “Are you letting Women down by doing something we’ve all been told is so un-feminist?” How do I reconcile everything I’ve been taught, everything I’ve always believed about independence and self-sufficiency and fighting patriarchial forces with the choices we’re making? Especially when I don’t always feel like this even is a choice?