In a world where gender roles are continuously evolving, I find myself in the novel position as the sole provider with a stay-at-home husband. Balancing the demands of work, marriage, motherhood, and self-care has become a delicate juggling act — one that I am often failing at. As I navigate through the challenges of being the primary breadwinner while striving so intensely to maintain a sense of self, I am constantly reminded of the importance of carving out moments for self-care – and that I don’t carve them out nearly enough.
My journey into this unconventional family dynamic was driven by a combination of choice and necessity. When my husband, Kevin, suggested that he be the one to stay at home with our newborn daughter, Coraline, I was absolutely on board. My business was thriving, and he was eager to throw himself into childcare. We also believed we would be challenging societal norms for the better. Wouldn’t it be amazing to cultivate a world where our daughter could grow up knowing that gender roles should never define one’s aspirations or responsibilities?
However, while I absolutely embraced (and still embrace) my role as the sole earner, I discovered that this path came with its own set of difficulties, particularly when it came to self-care.
The demands of entrepreneurship are never-ending, often stretching well beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. The pressures to succeed and provide for my family constantly loom over me, leaving little time to spare for personal pursuits. As I rush to meet deadlines and fulfill professional commitments, I can’t help but notice the background hum of guilt.
Guilt for not being able to spend as much time as I would like with Coraline. Guilt for not being able to contribute more to household chores. Guilt for not paying enough attention to my own emotional, mental, and physical needs.
Self-care, for me, feels like a luxury, but I know that it shouldn’t. It’s essential for my well-being and effectiveness as a mother, a partner, and career-driven business owner. But finding time for rejuvenation often feels impossible. After I close the office in the evenings, I spend every moment as the primary caregiver for our daughter. When she goes to bed, I regularly get back to work so I don’t get overwhelmed or behind on projects. On the weekends, Coraline and I spend sun up to sun down together. Alone time, relaxation time, and “me time” just isn’t on the docket very often.
I’ve come to understand that self-care isn’t always the grand gesture, but rather a series of small, intentional choices. It’s taking a few minutes to practice deep breathing before diving into a challenging work task. It’s conscious mindfulness, never-ending gratitude, and positive thoughts during my daily life. It’s a long hug with Kevin in the kitchen that reminds us both how thankful we are for the life we have.
Kevin’s willingness to take on household responsibilities and care for our daughter provides me with the freedom to enjoy moments of self-indulgence. Whether it’s a walk with my favorite neighbors, a wild and relaxing weekend in York with my sister, or Zumba classes on Wednesday at the Y, these modest activities keep me from absolutely losing my mind.
I’ve learned that the pursuit of self-care isn’t selfish but an act of self-preservation. It’s a reminder that I am more than my roles as a mother, a partner, and a professional. As the overstated saying goes, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”
So, to all the parents out there who find themselves in a similar situation, I want you to know that you’re definitely not alone. Embrace the small moments of self-care and enlist the support of your partner. Your well-being matters just as much as anyone else’s.
And also, remind yourself that once your kids are older, they will think you’re incredibly boring, so you’ll have all sorts of time for self-care then.