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I'm A Doctor, My Husband Is A Stay-At-Home Dad & We Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way

My husband gives me so much pride in what we are building; our journey works for us - it is uniquely ours.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

This is Dr. Gina Charles' story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I've always been nontraditional and done things my way. When I first met my husband in college, we must've been on date #3 when I said to him, "One day I'm going to have a daughter named Asha, and a house husband too." Ha!

The power of the tongue is real.

I was born in Dominica, West Indies, spent a few years living in Antigua, then immigrated to Harlem, NY at the age of five where I lived with my mother, brother, and a few other relatives. I always knew I would become a doctor, and at the same time, I also had a love for beauty and skincare. I began testing the waters in beauty as a bridal makeup artist while in med school.

Eventually, I got married and became a Board Certified family physician. My husband left graduate school to pursue a career in photography and we formed a wedding company, where he is the main photographer and I am the main bridal makeup artist. After some research of corrective skincare and aesthetics, we realized that there was a high-demand for skincare services from my brides, so we decided to offer these services as well. Our clientele immediately expanded. And with the help of my husband, coach, and advisors, we birthed a boutique medspa in Philadelphia.

This all kept our schedules relatively hectic in itself, minus even factoring in our daughter.

But after giving birth, everything changed. Between the daily operations of the medspa, me being a practicing physician, and my husband running a photography business, it was almost impossible to balance our schedule with personal needs and professional obligations. My husband and I had many conversations about what would be best for our living arrangements, and ultimately, we settled with him being a stay-at-home-dad. He was a full time entrepreneur at this point, so, it was kind of a no-brainer.

Basically, I got what I manifested 18 years ago without having to say it again.

After a while, working as often as I did took its toll and mom guilt set in. I remember when I went back to work after four weeks of maternity, and each day I spent away from my daughter, killed me. I was pumping at work, calling on FaceTime, and asking for pictures every available second of the day. Naturally, I couldn't help but feel at fault for not being with my family for so many hours. I felt I should be there for all of her firsts—and I've missed a few—but my husband is brilliant and amazingly supportive in helping me feel at ease with these struggles. He happily answers my FaceTime calls or he'll document and send pictures of everything our daughter does.

But how did my husband adjust? Does he have any regrets? When I asked him, I didn't know what to expect to hear but here's what he said:

"Staying home, the adjustment was easy at first until we had a daughter, then it became a bit difficult. I had to learn to care for our daughter, run a business from home, and manage our household (cooking, cleaning, shopping, lawn care etc.) It took me about two years after our daughter was born to get into a rhythm that worked for me.

[In the end] the moral is simple: if she wins, I win, and vice versa. It's a team effort, whether in business or in the home. We abide by the philosophy that in order for us to win in life, to break generational curses it has to be a team effort and each team member has to do whatever is necessary to for the team to win."

Damn, I love that man.

Once we settled into a routine, I began to learn how to balance, and appreciate, me time. Sure, I don't get to be home as often as I'd like but I still need solid moments to do absolutely nothing from all risky stresses. Ladies, it's important for us to be fully aware of the fact that not being present in one area, means being overtly present in another. I chose to seek decompression methods: spending mornings practicing meditation in our meditation room; focusing on mindfulness.

I share all of this to say, in the end, your family is exactly what you want it to be. Forget societal standards and understand that no one can decide what a family's roles should look like to you.

Many have questioned our arrangement—you can see it on their faces and even hear it in their voices. We deal with them both directly and indirectly, often dismissing the negative comments, but also openly addressing them as well.

We know what works for us, and we're pretty good at it. At the end of the day, we do what makes us happy. My husband calls himself the happiest man alive because he manages his business from home, he's happily married, and he gets to raise our child by instilling certain values and laying the foundation not taught in classrooms.

I've also learned that there are many women physicians who have this arrangement with their spouse as well, believe it or not, which was rather reassuring.

My husband is more than a SAHD, he's been my number one supporter since my undergraduate years, and he's literally and figuratively "shot with me in the gym". He sacrifices in building our home and family's foundation every day as our personal photographer, chauffeur, handyman, chef, travel partner, corny joke aficionado, and best friend.

He gives me so much pride in what we are building; our journey works for us - it is uniquely ours.

And we're going to continue on this crazy journey, our way.

If you're considering a stay-at-home-dad arrangement, my advice would be to first, be honest with each other and plan out how each of you will contribute to making the home acceptable, or who is responsible for certain tasks and bills. Be confident in your choice of the arrangement. Your confidence will inspire others who are considering doing the same, but also may be afraid of judgement.

Hopefully our story can make it a little easier for you, or give you that nudge of confidence that you're looking for.

It's your family, so play by your rules.

For more of Dr. Gina, follow her on Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Gina Charles

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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