“But what about your kids?” Life as a woman in business married to a stay-at-home dad

working mum stay-at-home dad

Sonia Majkic and Tamara Alaveras, co-founders and managing directors at 3 Phase Marketing. Source: Supplied.

Mother’s Day is an occasion I always look forward to and relish in. But this year I spent it with a bitter taste in my mouth and my mind blown.

It was after I read Ben Weir’s article for Fairfax titled “White, male, named Andrew? You’ve got a good chance to become a CEO and came to terms with the statistic that more executive officers leading ASX 200 companies are named ‘Andrew’ (7%) than are women (5.5%).

After days of contemplation as to why this alarming figure could be real, it became clear to me Australia has a startling problem with outdated societal gender stereotypes that are doing a massive disservice to both Australian families and the way we do business.

It’s about time we embraced the new modern household.

Each morning when Australian families start their days, there is still a preconceived notion that men will be picking up their briefcases and heading to work — whether that is to an office, construction yard, doctor’s room or somewhere else. And even though we can now more readily picture women doing the same, it’s often after they drop the kids to school first.

This isn’t the case in my household.

My husband is the primary caretaker of our two boys and does the pick-up and drop-off, the school activities and makes lunches every day. In turn, this enables me to go off and run my business with my fellow female co-partner.

This works for us better than if the roles were reversed. My husband loves being at home and I love running a business. It makes us happier, healthier and, in turn, better parents.

But these career choices are an anomaly in conventional heteronormative relationships, despite many couples proving it not only can be done but make sense to do so and actually benefits the entire household. Throughout our lives, our choices in our roles receive massive push back. Just the other night, my husband and I were at a school function and he was mocked for doing the school drop-off, pick-up and meal planning by the other parents. The butt of the joke was he was doing a woman’s job, despite being just as much their parent as I am.

But his strength is being at home, just like my strength is running a company. The fact our genders supposedly dictate which lane we should be in despite our fortes is doing a massive disservice to us, our family and the business.

In the early days of starting a company, women in my mother’s group and in the kindergarten playground would always ask me: “But what about your kids?” It was as if I was betraying them forging my own path in the business world. There was a notion my ambition would negatively impact my children, but in reality, it has only had a positive impact.

In following my ambition, I have more energy, am more content in my every day, and am living my truth. The same applies to my husband being at home cooking meals for our family each day.

Plus, my children, as a result, are now growing up with the perception that starting and running a company as a woman is completely normal.

We need to embrace this new modern household where men and women can play to their fortes, follow their ambition and teach our children gender norms have no place in the age we live in.

Society tries to push my household away from the narrative we have created and towards one where I, as a woman, am picking my kids up from school every day, and their dad, my husband, is in the office. But in taking a stand with the choices we’ve made against these gendered stereotypes, we have a happier, healthier household which gives my children a powerhouse business role model and a nurturing environment filled with love to grow up in.

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2 years ago

Good article Sonia. Its a shame things haven’t progressed as much as I’d hoped with parental attitudes. All choices are valid – its whatever works for a family and for some parents, they have to do both roles when they’re on their own. While my daughters were young and for much of their school lives, my husband was a stay at home dad too and I was the main breadwinner. It suited us and worked well. He certainly received more praise like ‘aren’t you wonderful for staying home to look after the kids’ while I got a lot more of the ‘what about your children?’ comments for making a different choice. The positive role modelling is something I wouldn’t swap in a heartbeat and now my eldest is thriving at university and has her own personal business, doing very well. She doesn’t think twice about what’s possible which I admire so much.