I was a disaster serial monogamist before my husband and I started dating. I waded my way through the ups and downs of relationships, some functional, some very much not so, and even one very brief failed marriage when I was quite young. I tell myself I had to go through all of that to learn what being with a truly good partner did not feel like, so I would know the real thing when it arrived. The biggest tip-off I had that something was different when I was first dating my husband was that there was no imperative, or really any option, to try to fix his life. In all my previous relationships my role had been a supporting one, and I found myself feeling a bit vertiginous when faced with the daunting realization that the only person I could work on in this relationship was me.
In the years we have been together, my husband and I have supported each other in pursuits both separate and joint. We've bought two homes, lost jobs, gotten married, struggled through infertility, lived through an incredibly challenging pregnancy that temporarily disabled me, and now parented a tiny human for over a year. Through all of this, my husband has remained the rational, funny, and thoughtful partner I had no idea was possible through all my previous misadventures in love. Never once through all our challenges has he made me feel less than, put down, demanding, or oversensitive.
Now as we navigate the dynamic of having one partner stay at home while the other provides for our family financially, the stakes and tensions are higher than ever. I googled "husbands of stay at home moms" and I am sad to say the results are anything but positive. "Being a Stay At Home Mom Ruined My Marriage" and "Why Men Resent Their Wives" are just two iterations of common headlines I came across. So I want to take this Valentine's Day to give a shout out to all the partners of stay at home caregivers who get it.
To every partner who has never made a comment about their spouse "not working"
To every partner who is a tireless advocate for their partner's self-care
To every partner who never needs to be asked to actively parent their children
To every partner who goes out of their way to pitch in around the house, every day
To every partner who works to find ways to make your home a pleasant and functional work environment for the person who stays at home
To every partner who prioritizes the independent interests and dreams of the caregiver
To every partner who knows it is important to make collaborative financial decisions
To every partner who expresses their gratitude for the contribution the caregiver in their life makes to their family
To all these conscious partners of stay at home caregivers, I salute you.