Danny and Susan Hawkins (he’s the stay-at-home dad; she’s a healthcare executive) and Amy Antonellis (she’s a law student; her fiancé is an auto mechanic) both enjoy healthy, happy family lives despite their nontraditional roles. Here’s how you can, too. From The Richer Sex.
• Women need to resist the urge to gatekeep. They need to trust their husbands to run the home, and show appreciation when men do.
• Women should talk up their partners’ strengths. Remind people what a terrific job your partner does at whatever he’s doing. Women shouldn’t shore up their husband’s egos to the point where they become exhausted or it seems false, and they shouldn’t diminish their own achievements. But pointing out what a great photographer or cook your husband is—making sure people know he excels in a realm of endeavor—can only help. Everybody likes to be praised. Everybody likes to be thanked. When he makes you dinner, thank him.
• For couples who struggle sexually, there’s nothing wrong with looking for realms in which the man can appear conventionally manly. Hunting, fishing: those are all good. The writer Aaron Traister diarized in Salon about how he was feeling bad about his wife’s breadwinning—”I became sullen and lethargic”—until he went outside one day and shoveled snow for a number of their neighbors. His young son helped. In some way he could hardly put his finger on, the sheer physical expression of his masculine strength made him feel—masculine. “It was at that moment that it occurred to me how much I like being a man,” he wrote. “I’m big and I’m strong and I can shovel snow and install air-conditioners for people who can’t shovel snow or install air-conditioners for themselves.” So men, get out the snow shovel. Take your wife for a drive. Working out can work wonders. Go chop some wood.
• Women need to remind themselves that their prestige does not derive from what their husbands do.
• Get a joint checking account. I was astonished at how many female breadwinners worried that their husbands felt emasculated by having to ask them for money. Why should your husband have to ask you for money? Of course that’s emasculating! Your earnings should go into a common account; you’re married; you’re a team. You should both have your own ATM cards. Repeat after me: You are a provider. So act like one.
• Men, stay flexible and interesting and always be moving forward. Women have a horror of stagnant men, and who can blame them? Men staying home with children need to make sure they adapt and stay interesting. Read the newspaper. Stop stewing and feeling dissatisfied. Take up a hobby. “Dave just constantly wants to be actively doing, and learning new things, he has his hand in all these various activities,” said Amy Antonellis of her fiancé. Similarly, Danny Hawkins is the kind of person who is always trying new ways of doing things, even just moving things around the house. “One of the things that makes Susan so good at her job is taking new information and changing her line of thought,” he said. “We both have the thought that you’re never perfect and you want to continue to improve.” Embrace change. Stay interesting.
• Also, men! When you cook? Cook for her, not at her. It doesn’t always have to be a performance. Sometimes, just make a salad.