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Profile of the New Filipino Family: House-Husbands Watch the Home Front While Women Fill U.S. Demand for Nurses

While the data is largely anecdotal, many from the Filipino community say these situations are increasingly common.

Back in her native Philippines, Rosette de Real, was a full-time mom and housewife. Most of the time, she stayed at home, cooked meals, washed and ironed clothes, and took care of their two young children. Her husband, Ronaldo, worked to provide for their family.

In a tradition-bound, patriarchal culture, Rosette described their gender roles as typical in most Filipino families. She was the homemaker and her husband was expected to be the breadwinner.

“Before he was the ‘boss’,” Rosette, 33, said jokingly in Tagalog. “It just happened naturally,”.

But since they immigrated to the United States in 2006, there has been a dramatic reversal in those roles. Rosette is now a registered nurse who works for a nursing home, while her husband Ronaldo has been managing the household chores.

Although the shift seemed inevitable because Rosette has a more stable and high-paying job, their decision on who should work and who should staying at home when they got to this country, didn’t happen spontaneously. It took them some rigorous planning and many long conversations.

“We discussed everything about it — even when we were still in the Philippines,” she said. “We certainly weighed all the options that we got.”

Ronaldo, 40, who was standing next to her and getting ready to head out and pick up their eight-year-old daughter from school, agreed and listened silently.

Rosette came to the United States first to make sure she had a job waiting for her, passed the NCLEX – the nursing licensing examination – and finalized a one-year contract with her previous employer. Six months later, as soon as she got settled, her husband and kids joined her in the United States.

“Of course, the transition from a working to a stay-at-home father was difficult for me,” Ronaldo recalled in a soft-spoken voice. “I was so used to working every day that my body had desired so much for it.”

At first he struggled and, despite their agreement, he worked for Chrysler while Rosette got a job on the graveyard shift and took care of the kids during the daytime. They ruled out the option of getting a babysitter because they were concerned that the money they earn would only go to the babysitter’s wages.

While it put him back on his usual work routine, Ronaldo felt sorry that his wife never had time to rest and do things for herself. He then gave up his job and became a full-time house dad.

“They are my kids, now three of them. I have to sacrifice. If we were still in the Philippines, it would have been easier to get a nanny, or the grandma of my kids could always take care of them. But things are different here,” he said.

The shift in gender roles that the De Reals are experiencing is not uncommon among Filipino couples, especially those who have settled on the East Coast, and most often the female spouse works as a nurse. While the data is largely anecdotal, many from the Filipino community say the number of such cases is significant.

Clarita Ramos, a waitress in a small Filipino restaurant on West Side Avenue in Jersey City, N.J., said a group of Filipino men who are mostly married to Filipina nurses would often hang out early in the afternoon for snack.

Before the clock strikes 3 p.m., they would go their separate ways, Ramos observed. Some of these men, she added, would walk to a nearby school to pick up their kids, and others would most likely head home and drive their nurse wives to a hospital or a nursing home for another long night shift.

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