What would it be like to have a ‘househusband’ – a male partner whose primary responsibility was running the household? Would it be amazing? Slightly awkward? Caryn and Todd are doing the househusband thing and they love it!
Tell us a bit about yourselves!
Caryn: I’m from Petersburg, Alaska (3000 people on a tiny island) I’m 36 and I coach professional women who are ready to get support to end the food and diet struggle. I help them lose weight so they can stop putting off enjoying their lives. This last year for fun I wrote a book, painted our kitchen, and tried to plan just the right amount of camping trips for this summer. There’s also Liv, our 2-year-old daughter, she talks endlessly and gets funnier every week!
Todd: I’m from California, I’m 44 years old, most recently I worked as a research technician for a wholesale plant nursery. In the past I’ve worked in Natural Resource Management focusing on wildlife and fisheries biology. For fun,I enjoy hiking, camping, gardening, brewing beer, and traveling.
Growing up, how did you think about traditional gender roles?
Caryn: I grew up in a family business, it was my dad’s passion, but my parents worked together. My mom was the ultimate support at home and in the business. I always thought I’d live on that island and have 2 kids. Here we are in Eugene, OR with our one (and done!). I knew I’d be serious about my career, I was always working or selling things as a kid.
I had a piece of the yellow legal paper pinned up in my dads office and I’d track hours, I’d try and convince my friends to work with me so we could make money – they rarely went for it! I was constantly trying to figure out what to do, what would be ‘the thing.’
Todd: I grew up in a very traditional household with two older brothers, a father who worked full time and a mother who stayed home as a housewife until we were all in school when she went back to work part-time. I did anticipate going to college and getting a job then following a career track.
I don’t ever remember anticipating being really serious about my career, but I knew that going to work was just part of being a grown up. I was indifferent as to whether or not I would have a family. I guess I felt I could go either way with that and still be happy.
At what point in your relationship did you start talking about Caryn being the breadwinner and Todd managing the household?
Todd: I think, initially, it was me who decided that I really wasn’t enjoying my job. I wanted to work for a different company or organization that was more in line with my core values and ideals. Originally, I just assumed I would have a few months off. I imagined taking another job and we’d make our lives work around whatever that looked like.
I think as the weeks passed by, I embraced the role of house manager and primary parent to our daughter. I don’t remember us ever making a decision that this was going to be the new family dynamic going forward for any pre-determined amount of time.
You guys have a two year old daughter who goes to daycare. What made you decide to do daycare rather than looking after her at home?
Caryn: I never wanted to be a stay at home parent and neither did Todd. It made sense to both of us that we have time to be ourselves even within this parenting role. I will admit that I had to manage my thoughts about this! We have a wonderful woman who cleans our home, we have amazing daycare providers that take care of Liv. It’s pretty great and as a woman, I’m not sure I would have afforded those same things for myself – ah gender roles!
Todd: Liv had been in care for close to a year before I left my job and we didn’t want her to lose her spot and end up being stuck on a daycare waitlist when I got a job. So rather than take her out, we just cut back the hours a bit. Plus, Liv is an incredibly extroverted and social being, we didn’t want her to miss out on time with other kids so it was a no-brainer to keep her enrolled.
Caryn, could you walk us through a normal work day?
I get up at 5:30 and do a little yoga while the coffee brews then do some self coaching/journaling and work for an hour or so on one thing or another. Then I work or see clients until about 4 and hang with Todd and Liv and get things done around the house or do dinner stuff until 7 when it’s bedtime!
Now that the book is done the post bedtime routine is a lot more relaxed! For example, we are caught up on House of Cards…
Todd, what does that same day look like for you?
Up by 7am to get breakfast together for Liv and begin prepping for the days activities. I feed Liv breakfast then get her dressed (though she picks her own clothes) and we play until its time to get her to daycare. While she’s at daycare I’m usually running errands or taking care of anything that’s not possible with a toddler pulling on your pants!
I pick her up just in time to have her home for afternoon nap and then spend time cleaning, washing clothes, doing yard work. We have an acre so there’s always something that needs my attention outside. We have time as a family when Caryn get’s home from work until bedtime (if I can get her to stop checking her email!). Then have dinner and relax.
How do people respond when you guys tell them about this?
Caryn: When I tell my friends that I rarely go to the grocery store anymore they are very excited for me! It is also fun to talk about the discomfort of the shifted roles. The majority of my female friends are the primary breadwinners yet we are still upholding some of the old gender roles – almost unconsciously.
It’s been interesting to equate myself to being “the man” in the relationship or to notice my timidness about using the word “househusband” even though housewife would likely role off the tongue with relative ease (however uncomfortable the role!).
Todd: People have always been supportive, especially our immediate family. We are happy and self sufficient so I think people see us with a positive attitude about our situation and the negativity just isn’t there.
Todd, when you’re at a bbq and people ask what you do, what do you say?
That I am at home taking care of my daughter most of the time and actively looking for the next job that will be a good fit for me and my family.
Do you guys anticipate continuing to do this long-term?
Caryn: We never went in to it thinking it would be long term, but I think it’s been the greatest gift to us, our home, and to Liv. I think we’re both surprised he’s still not working a traditional job.
Todd: No, I’m doing job interviews and hoping I can land a new gig before the Fall. It’s been a great experience, building a green house and getting to spend so much time with our daughter, but I miss having my own thing that I go do. After not having a job for over a year, I think I will appreciate the working world more……for a while at least?!
What has surprised you about this?
Caryn: How nice it is! Who knew (besides every man in the 50’s!) it could be so amazing to be this supported and to always have back up. No matter what happens in the future we will be forever changed by this time – and so will our daughter which is really exciting to think about!
Todd: How much energy and focus it takes to be a househusband and parent all day, everyday. There really is no turning it off. It’s a humbling and exhausting experience that you just don’t quite understand until you run a household.
What have you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
Caryn: Stop enforcing things that you haven’t consciously chosen. Play to your relationships strengths. Don’t just do what your parents did (or the opposite) just because that’s “how you do things.” Do more of what’s actually working!
There are a lot of unspoken agreements in every role – make sure you like the results you’re creating in your life. It all takes energy, time, and patience – you might as well make it work for you!
Todd: There is no right or wrong way to do “family” as long as Love is at the core of it. There are so many ways to do it right and everyone comes at it with a different set of life experiences and morality.
All that really matters is being comfortable in your family role and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience. It’s an incredibly intimate and private experience. Its up to you to decide who you let in and who’s opinions you care about. Traditional gender roles are evolving and I think people are less attached to them every day.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Caryn and Todd! Do you guys have any questions for them? Do any of you have a similar set up?