As more women have joined the workforce, many are dedicated to growing their careers or running successful businesses. Those efforts often demand long hours, travel, and time away from home.
And while it’s no longer unusual for women to be the main breadwinner in their family, another U.S. social dynamic has occurred in the wake of those demands: A substantial increase in the number of dads staying home as the primary caregiver for the children.
Parents experiencing this change in the day-to-day household structure say it requires strong mutual support between spouses. Andreas Wilderer, author of Lean On: The Five Pillars Of Support For Women In Leadership, calls it, “The partnership pillar, beginning with empowering your partner.”
“It’s incumbent on stay-at-home dads to step up to the care-giving role in the same devoted way that their wives do as the financial provider,” says Wilderer. “Each must take care to empower the other.
“In a healthy relationship, the partners accept and appreciate each other’s roles, but some couples sink into disrespect and disdain. If the partners are redefining their roles in the family, they should anticipate a learning period and be careful not to get in the way of each other’s progress. They should build each other up rather than tear each other down.”
Four Ways Couples Can Support Each Other
Wilderer offers ways couples can support each other when the mother works and the father stays home to care for the children:
Look beyond your own interests
“To empower your partner, you must carefully consider his or her needs and wants,” Wilderer says. “Conflicts are common in any relationship, but having several of them can lead to destructive tension. Look for a true solution that isn’t selfish. By talking and sharing feelings, a compromise can work for both.”
Hand over the keys with trust.
“Adjusting to new roles can take time,” Wilderer says. “Egos and pride get in the way. Neither partner should micromanage or undercut the other’s responsibilities. With patience and understanding, each should adjust well to the model that they together agreed to adopt for the good of the family.”
Ignore the whispers, rise above negativity
Men and women can sense or hear criticism from outsiders when swapping traditional roles. “Many women today are gaining the confidence to break the glass ceiling in the workplace,” Wilderer says. “Yet they could use more of that confidence in their home lives as well, and their stay-at-home husbands can help them with that. Why should women feel guilty about their success? They are providing well for their families. Likewise, a man who has assumed the support role in the home may imagine that people are whispering he should be making a living for his family. But none of what people say matters when the husband and wife have total respect for each other and for their respective roles.”
Listen to each other’s ‘job frustrations’
The mother may have frustrations and stress from work that she wants to air to her husband when she gets home. Likewise, the partner who has been watching over the house and kids all day may want to vent. “The main focus for both should be listening; most of the time neither desires unsolicited advice,” Wilderer says. “They need compassion and understanding, a sympathetic ear. Each partner should treat the other’s heart with care and tenderness.”
“Loving partners bestow the gift of self-reliance generously on each other,” Wilderer says. “Each must be willing to step back, patiently and respectfully, to allow the other to build a sense of pride in a job well done.”