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The “Supermom” Myth: When Dad Becomes the Stay-At-Home Parent

Written By: Dr. Sheva Guy

Alright, y’all. Let's have a conversation about the "supermom" myth and how it is impacted when—like in my family—I am the sole income earner while my husband is the stay-at-home parent.

The "supermom" myth refers to the societal expectation and pressure placed on mothers to fulfill multiple roles and excel in all areas of their lives simultaneously. It perpetuates the belief that moms should effortlessly juggle careers, parenting, household responsibilities, and social obligations while maintaining an immaculate appearance and meeting high standards of perfection. This myth sets unrealistic expectations for mothers, often leading to feelings of guilt, stress, and inadequacy when they struggle to meet these impossible standards. It overlooks the complexities and challenges of motherhood, reinforcing outdated gender norms and failing to recognize the need for support, balance, and shared responsibilities within families.

In our family, I work outside the home (well, technically inside the home ‘cause I work remotely, but you know what I mean; I retreat to my office or a coffee shop during the day) while my husband takes on the role of stay-at-home dad. It challenges the norm, but it's a decision we made together—one that was surprisingly easy for us.

Being the primary breadwinner (oh how I can’t stand that term!!) in the family, I have a demanding job as a change management consultant, along with several side gigs like teaching, writing, and equity & inclusion work. It sounds like a lot, right? Well, here's the secret to how I manage it all—I have an incredible partner. My husband, who reached journeyman status as a professional tile layer, always wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. So, when our daughter was born, and he achieved that milestone in his career, the answer was obvious.

Our family structure was unique from the get-go. On the precipice of the pandemic, we ended up with not one, but three kids in the span of three months. We welcomed two foster sons into our home in August 2019, and they officially became part of our family through adoption in November 2020. And just a couple of months after they joined our home, our daughter was born the day after Christmas in 2019. It was a whirlwind, and right when I was supposed to go back to work from maternity leave, we went remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk about a wild ride, to say the least!

Choosing this path wasn't about gender roles at all or challenging societal expectations—but it’s a great perk. Overall, it was a practical decision for our family. Childcare costs are astronomical, and because my job involves travel, it made sense to have a dedicated caregiver at home. Not to mention the physical toll that his construction profession was taking on his body. Being a stay-at-home dad offered him an opportunity to be more present for our children while prioritizing his well-being.

Not surprisingly, pressures and biases persist. Despite being the parent who works “outside” the home, when our kids are sick, the school nurse still calls me. When there's a volunteer event, it's always me who gets contacted. And don't even get me started on those "team moms" associated with my sons' lacrosse teams. It's as if society assumes that moms are the default parent, no matter what the actual arrangement may be. These double standards can be infuriating and highlight the need to challenge and redefine societal expectations.

While some people assume my husband must be lazy for being a stay-at-home dad, others hold him up on a pedestal as the most amazing father. They can't believe that a man would willingly take on the role of the primary caregiver. It's as if they expect him to be some superhero dad, while stay-at-home moms rarely receive that same wow reaction.

The reality is, being a stay-at-home parent, regardless of gender, comes with challenges and rewards. It's not about being perfect or living up to some idealized image; it's about doing what's best for our family and supporting each other along the way.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have a partner who defies traditional gender roles and supports our family in this non-traditional way. Together, we challenge societal norms and celebrate shared parenting. We believe that parenting responsibilities should be shared and valued equally, regardless of gender. It's time to break free from the constraints of the "supermom" myth and acknowledge the diverse ways families can be structured.

Balancing work and family is a juggling act many moms face, and for those with a partner who stays at home, it adds a unique dynamic to the mix. As a mom who navigates the delicate balance of work and family with a partner who stays at home, I've compiled a list of practical tips to help other moms in similar situations find harmony in their busy lives:

  1. Communicate openly and regularly: Maintaining open lines of communication is key. Discuss expectations, schedules, and responsibilities with your partner to ensure a clear understanding of each other's roles and needs.

  2. Embrace shared decision-making: Make important decisions together as a team. Involve your partner in discussions about parenting, household responsibilities, and family goals. Mutual decision-making strengthens your partnership and ensures both of you feel valued and heard.

  3. Appreciate each other's contributions: Recognize and acknowledge the efforts and contributions of your partner as the primary caregiver. Express gratitude for the work they do in managing the household and taking care of the children. Showing appreciation strengthens your bond and fosters a positive and supportive environment.

  4. Establish a routine: Set up a consistent daily routine that balances work, family time, and personal time. This helps create structure and predictability for both you and your partner, making it easier to manage your responsibilities effectively.

  5. Delegate tasks: Divide household chores and responsibilities fairly based on your schedules and strengths. Delegating tasks ensure that the workload is shared, easing the burden on both of you. Consider creating a shared calendar or task list to keep track of responsibilities.

  6. Make time for self-care: Prioritize self-care for both yourself and your partner. Carving out time for relaxation, hobbies, and personal well-being is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Encourage each other to take breaks and engage in activities that bring joy and rejuvenation. Frequent date nights are also key—we try to make time for them once a month.

  7. Create a support network: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, and other working moms who can offer advice, understanding, and a listening ear. Sharing experiences and seeking support from others in similar situations can provide reassurance and valuable insights.

  8. Commit to quality time with your children: Despite busy schedules, prioritize quality time with your children. Plan activities that allow you to connect, bond, and create meaningful memories together. Even small moments of focused attention can make a big difference in your relationship with your kids.

  9. Be flexible and adaptable: Understand that work and family life can be unpredictable. Be flexible in adjusting schedules, accommodating unexpected situations, and supporting each other during challenging times. Adapting to changing circumstances will help maintain harmony and reduce stress.

  10. Practice self-compassion: Remember that you're doing your best in juggling multiple roles and responsibilities. Be kind to yourself and let go of perfectionism. Accept that there will be days when things don't go as planned, and that's okay. Practice self-compassion and prioritize self-care to maintain your well-being.

Remember, every family is unique, and it's important to find what works best for you and your partner. Embrace open communication, flexibility, and a supportive mindset to navigate the challenges and joys of being a working mom with a stay-at-home partner.

Navigating through the "supermom" myth while raising three kids during a pandemic has its challenges, but it's a journey worth taking. By defying stereotypes, advocating for shared parenting, and striving for gender equality, we can create a more inclusive society that values the diverse contributions and experiences of all parents. It's time to redefine what it means to be a parent and support each other along the way. Let's break down those stereotypes, one myth at a time.


Meet the Author

Dr. Sheva Guy

Dr. Batsheva (Sheva) Guy (she/her/hers) is a Change Management Consulting Senior Associate, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant, and Participatory Action Researcher. She is an alumnus of the Educational and Community-Based Action Research doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati. Sheva implements participatory and community-based methods to engage and support diverse groups and advocate for inclusive and equitable practices in the workplace to drive change management. Her strengths include organizational development, community engagement, and innovative research practices. To connect with Dr. Guy, visit her LinkedIn and follow her hashtag, #TheRealDrBatGuy, or visit her website.


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