In celebration of Father’s Day, I want to express the gratitude I feel for my husband Luke who has been an unwavering partner in this thing called life. That’s because Luke is an amazing stay-at-home dad and without him, I wouldn’t be living my dream career.
Together, we’ve challenged the status quo that a working mom’s job should be secondary to her husband’s and busted the myth that mothers are best at raising kids. (Please note that I’m writing about my experience in a heterosexual marriage; I recognize that single parents and LGBTQ+ parents face other societal pressures.)
Don’t get me wrong—Luke isn’t a martyr. He hasn’t sacrificed his goals for mine. We made this decision together and it suits our family. Our partnership is an example of the sum being greater than the individual parts.
That said, it’s not always easy. We struggled with the same issues every single-income household does at first. And I still deal with the same guilt, fear, and exhaustion that almost every working mother experiences.
Asking for help lets people share their expertise and focus on building the business together.
But by flipping the script on traditionally gendered perceptions of work and life, our modern family dynamic provides some valuable lessons to aspiring female business leaders. Here’s what I’ve learned in our journey down this untraditional road.
Lesson #1: There’s no room for ego
A key to my partnership with Luke is that we let one another shine and we leave our egos at the door. I tell people all the time, marry someone who is your 50/50 partner in all things.
Luke could feel self-conscious about his role as caregiver, but instead, he’s embraced it.
Likewise, I could claim that I alone have been the architect of whatever success I’ve achieved. But it’s not true—I couldn’t have done it without my mentors pointing me to new opportunities and my husband cheering me on.
RelatedHow hybrid work impacts gender equality
The unconventional partnership in my home life translates well to work. At ServiceNow, ego-free collaboration is the norm. As CFO, I don’t just “stay in my lane”—I work with other leaders to ensure we’re all heading in the same direction. Whether it’s the finance team or leaders in another function, like HR and IT, we do our best work when we come together to find the right solutions for our customers and our people, without worrying about who gets credit.
Lesson #2: Equality outside the office breeds equality in the office
Too often, women carry the responsibilities of home and family while also feeling pressure to outperform their male colleagues. Because Luke assumes a lot of the logistical details and the mental load at home, I can bring my whole self to work.
Treat your life (and work) partner as an individual. Play to each other’s strengths. Support one another.
The support I get from my colleagues means I can also bring my whole self home, as well. All leaders at ServiceNow, regardless of gender, are role models in taking paid leave, using vacation days, and tending to their mental and physical health. So please, take the PTO. It’s not just about offering programs and policies—by actively and visibly using these programs, leaders set the stage for true equality.
Lesson #3: Ask for help, no matter what your title is
It can be difficult for leaders to relinquish control at work and in other aspects of their lives, but it can also be empowering. At home, Luke takes the lead, whether it’s scheduling appointments, overseeing renovations, or coaching our sons’ soccer teams. And I’m not afraid to give up control in some areas, because doing so allows me the freedom to focus on the things I’m good at, like helping with math homework.
Letting go at home has taught me to let go at work, too.
Even though I’m the CFO, I am just as invested in talent management, IT strategy, sales, marketing, operations, and more. But having an interest in these aspects of the business doesn’t make me an expert. That’s why I partner with people who specialize in those areas. My colleagues play to their strengths, and I help support them in every way I can.
Asking for help not only lets people share their expertise, but it also shows that we’re less interested in building walls between our functional areas, and more focused on building the business together.
Lesson #4: Be an example for the next generation
I distinctly remember a time when my son’s friend asked him if his mommy had died because only Luke was home when he came over to play after school. Ouch. That question struck me to my core, but my son laughed it off and answered, “No, silly, she’s at work. My daddy has the snacks.”
To my boys, it wasn’t odd that dad stayed home while mom went to work—it was their life. Not only has our untraditional relationship normalized the idea of a successful female in business, but our boys also have firsthand experience with a warm, nurturing, and reliable male caregiver.
Luke and I don’t shout “equality” from the rooftop, but we show that it works.
At the office, I hope my visibility as a leader who not only promotes egalitarian values but lives them encourages younger workers to do the same. I see men on my team who are less likely to interrupt their female colleagues because they report to a female boss. Young women aren’t curbing their ambition or taking a backseat to their partners’ careers. Instead, they’re coming back from maternity leave, while their partners take paternity leave, and growing their careers with the company.
This is a case where actions speak louder than words.
Let go of outdated gender expectations
I’d love to think that Luke and I have paved an equality highway and lots of couples are following us. Although more dads are staying home to raise kids now than in the past, there is still a stigma attached to our flipped roles. It’s why I’m passionate about this topic. We need to continue to drive change.
Here’s my advice to anyone who wants to take a non-traditional path: throw away external expectations about roles and standards. Treat your life (and work) partner as an individual. Play to each other’s strengths. Support one another. Carve a path that best suits your desired outcomes. Go forth with your head held high.
While it can be difficult to fight the pressures of the outside world, having open conversations about what you want, and then leading by example, is essential to breaking down societal expectations—both at work and at home.
This post originally appeared on Forbes BrandVoice