1,000 Families Project: What Happens When You Break with Gendered Family Stereotypes

Strong stereotypes of the traditional family — dad works, mom at home with 2.5 kids and pets — prevail, and combined with a Facebook-filtered world, put a lot of pressure on what it means to be a family today.

At the same time, research shows that parents — including dads — are more hands-on today than parents were a decade ago. Sharing authentic stories makes us all feel included, finding a relatable space in the wonderful chaos of parenting. This is why I love the 1,000 families Project and am thrilled to take part.

Here’s how our family rolls in Omaha, Nebraska.

Everyone has a story, including Mike. He is an only child who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, went to college and got a degree in marketing, married his high school sweetheart and became, by choice, a full-time at home dad to four kids and home manager through four moves. Twenty years after he started his family manager career, two kids are in college and the other two are teens. You could say it is kind of the traditional family with a twist, the ZagZig, instead of the ZigZag.

I am his wife of twenty-three years, Kori — advanced degreed working professional. We moved for my career, and had a child in each state in which we have lived. While you might say living apart during moves produced some “passion” children, we knew we wanted four kids from our pre-marriage conversations.

I did the “lean in” before Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made it a mainstream term for keeping on the career track while raising a family. When I was 16, I wanted to marry someone who would stay home with the kids. It didn’t quite go as smoothly as planned, but here we are.

And at 16, Mike was game. At that age, who wouldn’t glorify what he imagined at the time would be the easy life raising kids? As Mike says, “I envisioned I could golf during the day and have leisure time while the kids took naps.”

“As an only child I had not been exposed to constant diaper changes, never-ending hungry mouths, sibling fighting and being unstaffed to even manage zone defense with four kids, age six and under.”

We adjusted to our way of being a family, and at times got awakened by events that made us think, “Oh, this is what happens when you break with gendered family stereotypes.”

Mike started staying home when our first was just one year old. We had moved to Virginia for a job and Number 2 was well on the way. The neighbourhood welcome committee stopped by the house and invited us to a play date, to which I said great, ‘My husband will be there with our daughter.’

They paused and said it was for moms to which I replied, ‘But I work during the day.’ They smiled and politely repeated that it was a moms’ group. After a few more exchanges, it was clear that Mike was not welcome.

As Mike would tell you, it wouldn’t be the last time that happened. When he took Number 1 to ballet, some of the moms went to ice cream after and we did not get invited because dad was there. He and our daughter got ice cream on our own and our daughter never knew differently, although she may find out now reading this in her 20s. Sorry, Honey.

The experiences lead us to write a collection of our own stories, sharing in common with The New Family that there is more than one way to family. We call it ZagZig Parenting: (Mis)Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and a Stay-at-Home Dad, a collection of authentic, vulnerable stories about the way we did family over two decades as a non-traditional household. Let’s face it, parenting issues don’t discriminate, whether parents are single, where there is a so-called role reversal or if the roles align with the stereotype. We hope our book contributes to a better understanding among us of just how much we have in common.

This is #1000families post number 220. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Kori Reed

About

Kori, a natural communicator and storyteller, values authenticity and demonstrates that in her raw, tell-it-like-it-is prose with the purpose of helping people see things in new and creative ways that ultimately build a sense of commonality and community. She is a mom, willing to confess that she forgot the diaper bag if it makes someone feel connected versus alienated at times of self-inflicted inadequacy. She wrote ZagZig Parenting: (Mis)Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and a Stay-at-Home Dad. Mike is Kori’s life partner for nearly twenty-five years, and an experienced dad. Over the years, he has been promoted from family manager to household CEO as he improved his budget skills, demostrated the ability to take on more duties. Mike provides commentary on ZagZig Parenting.com.


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About The Editor

The New Family, a blog site that examines and celebrates modern family life, is run by long-time parenting editor, writer and spokesperson, Brandie Weikle. She is also the host of The New Family Podcast. Former editor-in-chief of Canadian Family magazine, Brandie has also been the parenting and relationships editor for the Toronto Star, founding editor of two Toronto Star websites, and an editor for Today's Parent. Brandie is a single mother of two in Toronto and a frequent television and radio guest on parenting topics. She lives next door to the father of her children and leads a dynamic Facebook community called Positive Co-Parenting After Divorce. You can contact Brandie here. You can find our privacy policy here.

1,000 Families

We'd love to learn about what makes your family tick. To participate in our award-winning guest blog series, The 1,000 Families Project, or "I bet we can find 1,000 ways to be a family" please email us a photo and at least 750 words describing the people in your clan and what life with kids is like for you.