I received these questions from a reader and she has generously allowed me to post her reply publicly. I hope that the answer is not only helpful to her but to you if you are in a similar situation.
Hi Dr. Rainford-Bourne,
I really enjoyed your articles on "the right man" and "stress killing women". My husband chose to give up his assignment as a government employee and pursue his dream to work for himself as a web developer/computer programmer. I was just beginning my career as a young surgeon. We became pregnant with our first child and two years later our second child. Our kids attend daycare part time. He has been criticized by family and friends for his "stay at home dad" role for our family. I appreciate him dearly and he has been a strong, resilient man. How does he keep his "man card" and ego intact when he has a very dominant, domestic role in our home?
As a married professional woman myself, and having observed others in similar situations I have learnt a few lessons about the dynamics you have described. Whatever role a man plays in the household he desires to be respected for that role and in that role. In this case I am not talking about being respected by family and friends. I mean being respected by you his wife. I think it is important that you reinforce to him both publicly and privately that you appreciate the role he is playing in the family. In situations where you hear the criticisms I think this is an excellent opportunity for you to publicly reinforce your respect for him for assuming this role. For example when someone decides to criticize him you can say “I feel very fortunate that my husband has the confidence to play an essential role in our family that many may criticize him for. It is just another of the many reasons why I am happy and feel fortunate to be his wife.” You should continue to reinforce it privately. I believe that this kind of support will not only allow him to keep his “man card” and ego intact but give him that extra boost to pursue professional dreams knowing that he has the full support of his life partner.