Mummy in Law wonders how we working legal mums have snared our house husbands. I could not possibly reveal my methods, but it involved a student union bar and a nomination form. He ended up being Vice President to my President, and he succeeded me as President when I went on to start my legal training, so I suppose we have always operated as a dynamic duo, moving between roles and problem solving together…But I can’t disclose all my methods: we’re just about to reach our tenth wedding anniversary and I wouldn’t want anybody to steal him away before I can collect my tin anniversary present (I think in the current climate its likely to be a can of Heinz’ best).
In truth it was for us a combination of serendipity and pragmatism. We couldn’t have afforded to do it the traditional way – but in fact this freed us up to the idea of a ‘role reversal’ – and it works well for us, subject to all the work-life balance issues that exist for any family with a working parent. Whilst I’d love to be at home more than I am, I’d probably have been miserable at home all the time, watching my career wither on the vine. As it is, we’re both pretty good at what we do: he is patient, moderately organised and far less highly strung as a parent than I am.
MIL asks if “these men [house husbands of legal wives] eventually become petty and emasculated, or are some men truly better suited to life at home”? My view is that for those who are suited to full time childcare, who are fulfilled by it and who are supported in their role there is little reason for them to become petty or emasculated. I say why should they? Our traditionally gendered roles are the social not essential. We find it hard to separate the parent from the gender and so an unhappy parent may experience anxiety about their masculinity / femininity. Being stuck at home with kids when you desperately want to be back at work or when you are unsupported by your busy fulfilled partner surely won’t do much for anybody’s self esteem, sense of identity or general wellbeing. All parents have experience of feeling, when you hit rock bottom, that you are a failure as a mother, ergo as a woman; a failure as a father, ergo as a man. You can intellectualise your way out of it, say it shouldn’t be so – but it is how we understand or articulate our place in the world, our role in the family. You can turn tradition upside down with a role reversal but it doesn’t suddenly eradicate the gendered world we live in.
Well, I’d best be off. Him indoors is nagging me to change a lightbulb and he’ll only get all emotional if I don’t sort it out for him. [kidding]