Gender Roles: A Day With Stay-At-Home Dad and Working Mom

NBC 5 spends the day with the Salter family in Plano to find out the benefits and struggles of a stay-at-home dad and a mom who works outside of their home.

(Published Friday, Dec. 1, 2017)

Traditional gender roles have been slowly changing inside our homes, but experts say it has been speeding up the last few years.

Chances are it's happening inside your family, within your friend's family — or maybe you're just now thinking about it.

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The Center for American Progress says that in 2015, 42 percent of mothers were sole or primary breadwinners.

And as those new breadwinners grow in numbers, it's changing how families go about their daily routines.

NBC 5 recently spent the day with the Salter family in Plano to find out the benefits and struggles of a stay-at-home dad and a mom who works outside of their home.

At 7 a.m. in the Salter home, the family is already busy.

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"You want your coffee now or later?" Mike Salter asked his wife, Jennifer Salter.

"I'll get it when I come back, thank you," she answered.

Jennifer is busy doing mom duties, like making the kids' food for the day and packing their lunchboxes, before Mike takes over.

"I try to keep it like a well-oiled machine. However, sometimes you have the wrong oil in the machine," Mike said with a laugh.

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Mike takes care of their three boys.

"Where's Matt?" Mike asked.

"He's brushing his teeth," Jennifer answered.

Mike also takes care of everything thing else.

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"Dish tabs, baggies, what else do we need?" Mike asked Jennifer.

"I think that's it," she answered.

Mike has been a stay-at-home dad for more than seven years.

He's the go-to for the day-to-day.

"It's Red Ribbon Week, so today is crazy hair day," Jennifer said.

Mike transforms son Mikey's hair into a Mohawk using red gel.

"Oh, son, I'm telling you what, you better not sweat in P.E. today!" Mike joked.

Mike and Jennifer have been together 16 years, and their mornings are sacred.

"It gives us time to have coffee talk," Mike said.

They plan and discuss the day ahead, any upcoming events and their boys.

When Jennifer takes their two oldest to school, it's her time to connect.

"Even though it's only a few minutes, I get to talk with them alone, which is really nice," Jennifer said.

Mike says, even though he's around the kids more, it's mom to whom the boys confide.

While Jennifer is at work, Mike spends his day with 3-year-old Mason.

Mike got this house-husband role in 2008. His business slowed down, and Jennifer was up for a promotion at a Sewell car dealership.

She works in finance, while Mike works at home.

"Who has the tougher role?" NBC 5's Kris Gutierrez asked Jennifer.

"He does by far, because he has little to no adult interaction all day," Jennifer replied. "He does all the grocery shopping, plans the meals, and all that at home. He does all of it."

"How grateful are you?" Kris asked.

"So grateful," Jennifer said. "I couldn't do this, if he weren't at home doing that."

"But the other side of that coin is he's able to work hard at home because you work hard here," Kris added.

NBC 5's Kristin Dickerson asked the same question to Mike: "Who has the tougher role?"

"She does, because she loses so much family time," Mike replied.

"Is it a gift to be able to stay home?" Kristin asked.

"I think so," Mike said. "I think this day and age it's important for the kids to have that solid foundation."

But for Mike there are also challenges that have come with being a stay-at-home dad. The naysayers — people who judge their situation — can sometimes be the loudest.

"It's hurtful to the point where you start to second-guess everything, but the big picture is what's under our roof, not under theirs," Mike said.

For Jennifer, being away from her boys is the hardest part — especially being away from the youngest, Mason.

"The little one, he cries when I leave. They [the family] came up yesterday and saw me [at work] for a little while, and he cried when he left," Jennifer said. "Those instances make me sad and wish I were there."

"But then I'm home on Sunday, and I watch the boys fight all day, and I'm like, 'Alright see ya! I'm going to work!'" she added, with a laugh.

As the boys grow, the Salter family is still perfecting their flow, but it works because it's a decision they made as partners.

"Cause she's my rock, you know," Mike said.

"He's my life, my partner, he's my other half," Jennifer said.

And he's trading the instant gratification of a paycheck for their family's long-term investment:

helping raise three young men.

"You always have to try and remind yourself of your purpose," Mike said. "And you always have to make sure that you find value in what you do."

Jennifer and Mike Salter both stressed that this is obviously not the best situation for everyone, but it is what's best for their family at this time in their lives.