How I Embrace Non-Traditional Gender Roles

by | Dec 21, 2021 | Blog

Years ago, I had solid career progression. I was always the one who made the most money, the one who covered the majority of the bills.

This all changed when I met my wife.

When we first started dating and even for a little while after that nothing changed. I still worked the same job, I was progressing, and making great money for the area. We split the chores around the house, which weren’t that bad considering we lived alone. It all came to a screeching halt after we got married and had a child. Soon after I found myself unemployed, playing what would be described by many as “Mr. Mom.”

I will first say it came as no surprise. I knew very well that we would eventually have to move and, as my career at the time was not something transferrable, would have to give up those nice pay checks. That being said, reality is often more humbling that you anticipate. I found myself staying at home during the day and, at first, it seemed like a dream come true. I was able to hang out and play video games, play with my child, and generally do whatever I wanted. The reality set in soon after that I still had responsibilities, they had just changed.

At first, I found it difficult. I had always made a good living on my own. I now found myself having to rely on someone else for things. It was extremely difficult having to listen to my friends make jokes about how I was a “stay at home mom” now and that “dinner better be ready when she gets home.” You get the idea. They truly were not being mean, they all thought it was just funny. I laughed it off but over time it really took a toll on me.

Society today no longer requires me to have to fight off wild animals with pointy sticks and big rocks.

Some people, however, have yet to receive that memo.

Among these are both men AND women. Because of this, I have to deal with strange looks and smirks when people realize I am the one who stays home with our child. I am the one who generally does the grocery shopping. I am the one to bring him to doctor appointments. Imagine walking into the clinic with a diaper bag over your shoulder, carrying a chattering toddler, only to have at least half of the people stare at you like you are an oddity. Everyone always asking “where’s mom?” On top of all that, add in the fact I am almost never accepted into any military spouse group, even being denied twice from a spouse page online. Not only was I facing down my own insecurities and long held misconceptions, but I had to do it almost on my own with no help. 

I will openly confess I used to have a warped imagine of what a stay at home father looked like. It took some time but I eventually realized it was all a load of…well…you get the idea. I am quite comfortable now but can you imagine what that was like for a man who spent most of his life in the “traditional male role?” It was not easy and it caused me to have to face my own insecurities. Through it I have learned it does not matter who folds the laundry, cooks the food, or puts the kid to sleep, only that it gets done. “Traditional” gender roles once served a purpose due to the situations in which our primitive ancestors found themselves. Those situations no longer exist and, as a result, there’s no further use for these “traditions.”

These issues are not only kept alive by men but women as well. In this age of inclusivity there are still so many double standards that exist. You cannot change what you refuse to address. The truth is often uncomfortable but great change never comes from being comfortable.

I am doing very well now. I own a business in the fitness industry doing what I love and am able to contribute financially. My wife and I find balance and support each other. I have made friends within the spouse community and have finally found acceptance from those who are important to me. The growing pains were rough but I emerged a better person, with an understanding that no matter who does what in a relationship, all that matters are the results. Remember that the next time you are in the commissary and you see someone chasing a kid around, having a hard time. They may not be a “bad” parent, but someone who is new to taking on that particular task. Be kind please, and realize that your way of doing things is not the only way.

About Toby

Toby Ralph is a military spouse, father, and physical health advocate. As a personal trainer and natural bodybuilding coach, his focus is improving mental wellbeing through physical fitness. Gaining control of your mental and physical health is key to the successful navigation of the stressors you face daily. 

InDependent makes wellness accessible and creates opportunities for all military spouses to connect for friendship, accountability, and inspiration.

We envision a time when all military spouses thrive through connection to community and resources that results in healthy decision-making for themselves and their families.