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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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