CONFESSIONS OF A BIG FLIP WIFE
A home-grown interview by JANE RUDOLPH, Ph.D. | Jane Rudolph is an Internal Organization Development Consultant and has been a Breadwinner Mom for two years.
Jane has a degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and works as an internal Organization Development consultant. Heath and Jane have been married for almost 5 years, and has been a Big Flip family for two years. They have a 2.5 year old and an 11 month old.
Where did you meet your spouse?
Heath and I met through an online dating site. I never expected to meet someone that way, but gave it a chance. We were both in our thirties and at a stage in life where we had a good idea of what we wanted from a relationship. The more time we spent time together, the more it became clear that this was someone who would be a great partner for life.
What attracted you to your spouse initially?
His kindness, intelligence, sarcasm, and curiosity about the world. I feel like he brings out the good sides of me and balances out the not so good sides.
What surprised you the most after one year of “big flipping”?
Most surprising to me was that I haven’t lost some of the daily feeling that I might be missing out when I’m not with the kids. I thought there would be a transition period, and then everything would feel easier. I am proud of the contributions I make at work, but that means I miss out on the day to day family interactions my husband gets to experience. On the weekends, I try to make up for the time I spend away from the kids, but it then makes it difficult to fit in some of the household duties that are my responsibility. There are just not enough hours in a week!
Another thing that has surprised me is how much harder it is for both of us to create a network of other people with kids. For fathers especially! And because I’m limited to weekends, with so many other things to do, I don’t have very many opportunities either.
After a year of Big Flipping, I became exceptionally sensitive to stereotypes about fathers. It is such a disservice to men that our society sets the bar so low for parenting. There are simple signs that reinforce gender roles, like the lack of changing tables in men's bathrooms.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that my husband and I have embraced tackling life as partners. We both have tremendous respect for each other’s roles, because we have both experienced the working and caretaking roles. Because of our deeper understanding of what it takes in both roles, I think we both try to support each other as much as possible. We also get to demonstrate this idea of partnership to our kids. When one of us is struggling, we are there to help each other and try to pick up some of the slack.
Was there ever a moment you wanted to flip back?
I do have moments where I am a bit jealous of his role. I grew up picturing myself staying at home and caring for my family. In addition to enjoying many of the things that are part of the homemaker role, a mother staying at home was what was role modeled for me. I suppose part of me thought that is what I needed to do to provide the wonderful home and family life I experienced in my childhood. That being said, I believe there are opportunities that my career can offer our family that align with our values and how we want to raise our children. We have been able to travel internationally as a family, and I have flexibility that allows me to still participate in my children’s life (e.g., attending doctor appointments).
But overall, I think my husband and I are in an exceptionally good situation. And after our first year of Big Flipping, I became exceptionally sensitive to stereotypes about fathers. It is such a disservice to men that our society sets the bar so low for parenting. There are simple signs that reinforce gender roles, like the lack of changing tables in mens’ bathrooms, but there are also the personal interactions. But, we are both good in our roles, and we are fortunate to be able to make these choices for ourselves.
Research shows that unhappiness can be heightened in big flip marriages, with one study (from Western Washington University) indicating that divorce is 40% more likely when a woman makes over 60% of the family's income. Why do you think that is?
In your experience, what do you think is behind the friction – and more importantly, how have you overcome those hurdles?
I don’t have data to show this, but I expect that when a woman is earning enough to support a family, it “evens the playing field” compared to a situation in which a woman stays at home and a husband is working. I expect that in many traditional situations, a woman may have more concerns about trying to reenter the workforce and financially providing for herself, so it would be more difficult to leave the relationship. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is more likely for individuals in big flip marriages to feel they would be able to financially make it on their own. The positive side of this is it means that both individuals have to constantly make the choice to be together rather than feeling they HAVE to stay together, which is a pretty great feeling.
Even if someone isn't doing a Big Flip, I think all parents should experience what it is like to take some leave and care for a child beyond just taking the reins for a weekend. It is very different running a household, than it is to just get by for a weekend and play with the kids.
If you were to meet a couple who are starting or considering the “Big Flip” – what words of advice or encouragement would you share?
Test the waters with the husband taking leave from work. Knowing that there is a trial phase gives everyone the opportunity to see if there is potential for it be successful.
Check in often to ensure it is working for both people.
Help the husband find his own network of fathers or “tribe.”
Know that if you are breastfeeding, there is only so much that a father can help at night in the beginning, so you will still have a very tiring part of the care taking role in addition to your work.
Be prepared to see just how deeply ingrained cultural norms are.
A VERY SPECIAL THANKS to the collaborators for taking the time to share their experiences with in this home-grown interview. This series of email exchanges is a conversation from the home front that we hope will add to the palimpsest of Big Flip tapestries unfolding all across our country, inspired by this wonderful film.