Andrea Mac is a growth strategist, and her husband has been a stay-at-home dad for seven years.
Mac loves that her role as the financial provider will give her husband options to pursue his goals.
She says one of the worst parts of the arrangement is the tug-of-war between her kids and job.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Andrea Mac, a growth strategist who started her own revenue and growth consultancy, Prequal, from the Greater Chicago area. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I have four children, ages 19, 14, 7, and 5 — and while I'm the family's breadwinner, my husband has been a stay-at-home dad for the last seven years.
He left his full-time job as an electrical project engineer when our third child was born and my maternity leave was ending. He's been home since she was four months old, and she's now a second grader.
As our family dynamics evolved with our children growing into different life stages — one entering middle school, another in elementary, and welcoming a newborn — my husband and I found ourselves navigating increasing and diverse demands on our time. We both saw the need for more day-to-day support within our family.
I was a chief marketing officer for a law firm at the time, and my husband felt a strong calling to be more actively present in our children's lives. He was willing to sacrifice his career, and I wasn't.
I'm now the founder of a growth and revenue consultancy and I'm content with my decision. It was the optimal choice for my family's well-being, and having a fulfilling and lucrative career is very rewarding.
The decision to be the sole earner was based on what was most practical and beneficial for our family's unique needs, regardless of traditional gender roles. That said, being a breadwinner in my marriage while my husband is a stay-at-home dad has pros and cons. Here are five things about being a breadwinner that I'm most proud of.
1. It gives my husband more options
The least discussed factor — and maybe even the most unpopular to publicly state — is how my work opens up more doors for my spouse.
As our family's day-to-day demands evolve, my role as the primary financial provider will eventually open up options for my husband. He's not boxed into traditional career paths or rigid timelines. Instead, he has the liberty to explore his passions and interests without the pressure of being the sole provider.
Maybe he'll choose to pursue a dream job, experiment in new fields, volunteer, or not return to work at all. This flexibility feels like my most significant contribution as a breadwinner and a great gift that I can give someone.
2. I'm freed up from certain childcare demands
With my husband on the front lines at home, I don't have to constantly adjust my day for unexpected child needs or unpaid work. When a sick kid needs to stay home or if one kid needs a last-minute costume for some school-invented holiday — it's not always worth my attention.
In our household, those things fall to my husband first. Too many women must carry this burden because even if they're the earners, childcare demands usually still fall to them. Claudia Goldin's Pulitzer Prize-winning work on women and careers essentially points to this as the inhibiting factor to reducing the gender wealth gap, with household and couple equity being the key ingredient.
3. Our family has zero childcare costs
Our kids don't have to go to after-school programs, and we don't have to source and plan out costs for childcare since my husband is at home doing the childcare.
4. I get to prioritize my own job, career, and interests
The work that I do is extremely meaningful to me and is also impactful for others. I have a clear path to focus on what I want to achieve professionally and the impact I want to put into the world. It feels like my options are limitless sometimes — and I couldn't achieve this in the same way without my husband being a stay-at-home dad.
5. I'm a trailblazer
As a female breadwinner, I feel like I'm a revolutionist. My husband and I are early adopters of a conversation that's critical to the economy, economic shift, and future sustainability, and we're paving the way to normalize this arrangement.
At the same time, the expectations of me as a mom and a breadwinner can be overwhelming
Certain concessions are made for working husbands that haven't been made for working moms yet. These are the five hardest, worst, and most triggering things about being a breadwinner with a stay-at-home husband.
1. The terms used in this conversation are outdated, inaccurate, and kind of suck
The terms "breadwinner" and "stay-at-home" misrepresent the roles and make implications that start the conversation about gender roles in a negative way.
Goldin's research indicates that improving the gender wealth gap is contingent on household equity and couple equity related to household and familial demands. With such a critical conversation to me, to women, and to our future, I find it triggering to use such limited and dismissive labels.
These terms are outdated, and we're using these labels inaccurately when it comes to the critical roles each spouse plays in a family and partnership.
2. There's no clear guidance on how couples can navigate in this arena
I've found no guidebook, no resources, no support groups, and few best practices to help couples figure this out. There are countless resources on how to get my toddler to eat veggies, but nothing on this modern arrangement of household duties and how a couple might need to fight against historical gender norms.
3. I'm in a frequent tug-of-war between my kids and my job
I'm a parent, and with that comes a natural desire to be an active part of my kids' lives.
My kids expect me to be everywhere and anywhere — and as present as most stay-at-home providers — because that's what they see around them. This creates undue pressure, expectation, guilt, and disappointment.
Sometimes there's a conflict in scheduling, priorities, or availability, and because I'm the breadwinner, I often must choose the professional demand. It's hard when I want to be in two places at once, and then it feels like my options are limited.
This has natural outcomes, like my little kids preferring my husband. My husband typically gets to hear about the big moments first, and naturally, he gets to be more present.
4. My husband is around women all the time
He spends a lot of time with beautiful, smart, funny women with shared interests, while I spend a disproportionate amount of time with men.
We have an extra faithful, solid relationship, and I'm not worried at all about my husband acting inappropriately — for us, it's not about that. It's about what our adult friendships look like.
It's extra work to make friends as an adult, and when the pool of people you're exposed to is limited, it makes it less likely for him to connect with adult friends from this stage of life. It can be a little lonely.
5. My friends make assumptions about my marriage and don't always understand
While my husband and I are confident in our choice, people assume my husband is less successful and less motivated since he isn't the financial provider for our family. They assume he didn't or couldn't "make it."
The worst part is that my friends don't always understand the demands of being a breadwinner. As a mom, I share many feelings with them, but I also share the same demands as the historical "provider" role.
So, no, I can't necessarily allocate the same time volunteering, being available on Wednesday for brunch, or being at school pickup. I often get grief from friends for not replying to texts. Well, I was busy working.
Everyone in my life is supportive. I'm just not always sure they understand many of the things I'm thinking and worrying about — I have this whole other to-do list and pressures behind the scenes all the time.
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