Gender roles were fairly standard in my childhood home. My dad worked full-time, while my mom worked part-time + did the lion’s share of housework. (Although, my dad would never dream of letting her iron his stuff.) Even with the standard fare around me, my parents taught me I could be anything. They raised me as a person, not a girl. From an early age, I learned gender roles are lame.
I’m a melding of many things, some traditionally feminine and some not. My parents encouraged me to embrace all the pieces of me including the contradictions. Growing up I didn’t think about my wedding or future kids. Instead, I spent hours pretending to be interviewed by Oprah in my red floral palazzo pantsuit.
Being career-focused was top of mind. Yet, I struggled to make an impact, live independently, and stay true to my personality. After college, I found my way to a cubicle in the land of corporate headquarters donning JCPenney sheath dresses that truly sucked all the soul from my body. When I met my husband, Quinn, I lived paycheck to paycheck working at an uninspired company in a meaningless role. Just as I resigned myself to getting through the next 30-years, Quinn saw the real me. He reminded me I could be anything.
Many moons ago, on the path to being anything, I refused to wash the dishes in our sink. Already late in the evening, I’d been at work cleaning up the dishes left behind by the 30 other folks at my office. And I’d had it. Even though it was my turn, my husband swooped in without missing a beat to take over. He never stopped. Here we are years later and he still washes the dishes every day. (You do not want to see our kitchen when he’s out of town!)
At the time, my husband was the breadwinner for our family by a lot. But he never scoffed at stepping in on chores, he never spent “his” money, he never made me feel as though my career was less than, and most importantly, he encouraged me to chase my own aspirations. At each juncture in the road, when either one of us wanted to follow our heart, we leaped together. We’re a team.
And now while it’s ridiculously meaningful to be able to show my daughter my published work and awards, the most impactful thing she’ll see is Quinn’s relentless championing of me personally and professionally. He’s my biggest fan and just good people. Even if we’ve flipped gender roles, her dad wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope it sets the stage for her future relationships and friendships–in both what to look for and who to be.
Being the breadwinner isn’t without its sacrifices. There are some days, I hug my daughter good morning and good night, with nothing in between. Working in leadership for a startup is hard, but it’s rewarding in ways I never dreamed I could experience in a career. In those moments, I remember she’s in the best hands with Quinn + that she’s getting to see me live out my daydreams (minus the Oprah part). And it’s not just seeing me live daydreams, it’s the getting to meet the real me, not just a shell of myself.
Whether I hold onto the title of the breadwinner or not, I hope Henley grows up in an environment that embraces her whole personality, encourages her to follow her heart, and inspires her to build relationships with folks that will be her champions, not competitors.