What to Expect When Your Husband Becomes the Primary Caregiver

Coming from a very traditional family who believed in strict gender roles, it felt almost like I was breaking a law when my husband took over as the primary caregiver.

From a young age, my mother and father made sure I knew it was my responsibility as a woman to cook and clean the house, while it would be the man’s job to provide. Despite their best efforts, I never agreed with their takes on gender roles and strived to become an educated and independent woman.

So when I found myself married in my 20s and pregnant after graduating with my bachelor’s degree, it’s safe to say I was a little nervous about the more “traditional” path my life was taking.

For one, I never expected to have kids so young, and I definitely was a little apprehensive about my role as a stay-at-home mom. I felt like I had let down the little girl with lofty career goals that did not include midnight feedings or diaper changes.

But then after four years of staying home (and taking on some part-time work during nap times) a new career opportunity for me changed things for our entire family.

Now, I always knew that I would go back to work after having kids, but I never pictured my husband taking over as primary caregiver. At first, it felt like I leveled up and achieved this unattainable goal my own mother would never have imagined. My job opportunity came up when COVID was in full swing, so my husband and I knew daycare was not an option, especially since one of our children has special needs and would not be able to wear a mask all day.

 

I always knew that I would go back to work after having kids, but I never pictured my husband taking over as primary caregiver.

 

Of course this childcare arrangement may not be for every family, but it worked well for ours. Soon our family was thriving with our new schedule and dynamic. We arranged our schedules so that my husband would watch the kids five days a week while I worked, and then I would take over the two days he worked part-time. But during the shift in responsibilities, we had to navigate a few unexpected moments.

If you and your partner are switching caregiving roles too, here are three things you may notice through the transition.

 

 

1. People may have (negative) opinions about your arrangement

Despite it being 2021, traditional gender roles are still very much alive. You may find that even your most forward-thinking friends and family are not ready to accept this caregiving arrangement.

Since restructuring our work-life balance, my husband and I have received many negative comments and questions from our close circle of family and friends who do not understand how a man could “let his wife wear his pants” in the family. 

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that we never second-guessed our decision, because we both did. Even though the arrangement was working well for our little family, it felt like we were doing something wrong. It made sense financially and logically, but gender norms were so ingrained into our thought process that it made us feel like we were somehow harming our family. It took many conversations—and lists of pros and cons—to help reinforce that our decision was truly best for our family despite what other people thought. 

 

2. You will learn how to walk in one another’s shoes

Your partner may need help at first. After all, learning how to manage the house, pets, chores, and children is tough for any parent. When we first shifted the responsibilities, I initially forgot how long it took for me to find my groove with child-rearing and taking care of the house all on the same day.

 

When we first shifted the responsibilities, I initially forgot how long it took for me to find my groove with child-rearing and taking care of the house all on the same day.

 

It wasn’t until I was working long hours, that I could finally understand how it was possible for my partner to be frustrated with our children’s behavior even though he was at work all week. I thought that being at work would make it easier to cope with the normal stressors of family, but quickly learned being the primary earner is stressful as well. It’s completely normal to feel burned out in both roles. And now that we can sympathize with one another’s position we make it a priority for both of us to have alone time.

 

 

3. You may feel jealous at some point

There were little changes at first that made the transition for us not only exciting, but rewarding. For the first time in four years, our kids were going to their dad first when they needed something. From asking for more water in their cups to helping them put on their shoes, my husband was now the go-to parent.

But as the newness of our dynamic wore off, I felt a little lost. I wanted to be able to help and care for my children and, most importantly, I wanted them to know they could depend on me too. Their preference for their dad over me left me feeling jealous and inadequate—like I wasn’t good enough for them anymore.

 

From asking for more water in their cups to helping them put on their shoes, my husband was now the go-to parent.

 

It’s important to remember these feelings are completely normal. And in working through them, I realized my children still needed me, but just in a different way than before. And the bond they were now forming with their dad was beautiful to watch too. 

 

Read More: How I Learned to Let My Husband Parent