Making this year’s IWD about celebrating those that help us achieve our dreams too

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #choosetochallenge. This got me thinking about what I have done over the years in my role as a woman, a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur to challenge tradition and my role in society.

For some time now some of the actions and decisions my husband and I have taken as a couple, has meant we’ve been challenging what’s been known to be the norm.

For us, that’s been about ‘role-reversal’. Initially, I was the Mum that worked from home. Making sure also that all the chores were maintained, looked after drop-offs and pick-ups of the kids, after school clubs and much more.

However, that all changed five years ago when we lost our second son. It was at this time both my husband and I questioned what was really important in life and for both of us we wanted to prioritise having quality time with our family.

This manifested itself in my husband leaving a highly pressured and well paid job to spend more time at home with the remainder of our children, and my work allowed for me to work from home to be able to see them also. It balanced life out.

When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimers, my husband who is her only child, became her full-time carer whilst she lived with us. This meant to keep things going, I became the primary earner – but most importantly I was making a living by working in the beauty industry, something I have always had a real passion for but had been unable to fulfil until then.

This worked well for us, and then when COVID meant that my work with make-up was on-hold, I turned back to a previous career in marketing. I’m so grateful that I was able to do this, to be able to keep my family afloat, but I wouldn’t have been able to without the support network that I have in place. My husband with a smile every day for the last three years has been doing all our errands, domestic chores, school and children’s affairs and activities, in order to ensure that the weekend is just family time.

For any woman thinking of challenging the norms when it comes to home life and societal expectations, my advice would be it’s so important to have open conversations with your partner and agree priorities. One thing that was important for us, and that both my husband and I are united in, is that one of us will always be around for the kids, whilst the other is working away, and when we are both home our time needs to be focused just on them.

What I’ve learned in this time is you really need to be open about your desires. It hasn’t come without challenges, I’ve had comments from people almost pestering me to ask my husband to get a job, because “how can a man take on all the responsibility to babysit our kids?” My answer is simple, he isn’t babysitting, we are both equal partners in co-parenting. Society isn’t used to a man doing this job entirely.

There’s much sympathy and ‘awe’ moments when people discover what he does, something women wouldn’t get the same reaction to, because it’s deemed to be the ’norm’ and what women should do. I don’t understand why this is still the thinking and mindset today. Equal partnerships are necessary – raising a family and earning money need to allow both partners to have balance. It doesn’t matter who does what, as long as the family, children, and couple are thriving in that environment, that’s all that matters. Which is why we need to use days like today to celebrate, raise awareness and challenge the norms.