parent opinion

Mr Sally Hepworth left his full-time job to be his wife's "assistant". He loves it.

Stay-At-Home-Mums are a thing. We even have an acronym for them: SAHMs. 

We all know one. Many of us are them. I am one, I think. 

Sure, I am completing an online university degree, I teach a few yoga classes, and I get paid to write a little bit, but mostly it’s me, the laundry pile, and endless hours of searching Pinterest for shower cleaning hacks.  

Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


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Also, there are school drop-offs, pick-ups, sports, lunchboxes, finding matching socks, remembering the after-school activities roster, birthdays, birthday parties, holidays, gifts and trying to call each of my four children by the correct name. Life admin, mental load, all that good (resentment building) stuff. It’s nothing unusual.

It’s also not unusual for me to escape the domestic drag by scrolling Instagram and making my way into some other aesthetically pleasing, perfect world. 

And that is where I found Mr Sally Hepworth. Confusion set in. Sally Hepworth is a Melbourne based, groovy-as-a-70s disco, bestselling author of six novels (yes, I am an awkward fan girl.) 

Could it be that this wildly creative woman had misspelled her title? Had she left out the ‘s’? OR was this a new private account? All wrong. The Instagram account of Mr Sally Hepworth belonged to her husband – Christian Hepworth. Unusual, a man taking a woman’s name. So I followed him.

What a delight it was, to watch this charismatic couple through the lens of both their accounts. Forget Keeping up with the Kardashians – I wanted to see ‘At Home with the Hepworths'. They're modern, quirky and all kinds of cool with none of it done on purpose. Charming. Refreshing. 

And then, without warning, my internalised Boomer dialogue was exposed.

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Sally Hepworth, bestselling author, announced that her husband, Mr Hepworth, would be leaving his job to become her full-time “assistant.”

AKA Stay-At-Home Dad. 

Shut. The. Front. Door. Is that allowed?! A man giving up his job, to take over raising his family and run a home and support his wife’s career? That's against the rules.

I wasn’t alone in my response. Instagram almost exhausted Sally Hepworth with its collective questioning. With repeated and unvaried questions such as: Will he be at home full time? Has he really quit his job? Or has he just taken a bit of leave? How will he manage? What is involved in his new role? 

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Comments and questions slid into her DMs quicker than 100s and 1000s spill across a freshly polished floor. And like the cool cucumbers they are, the couple began to answer them on their stories. 

Then they started to laugh about it. Then the pair became bored by our lack of wokeness. And we sat back and watched as all our inner Boomers came out.

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In 2018, the Australian Institute of Family Studies published a report. 

It spoke about fathering being multifaceted and touched on how many now consider it appropriate for fathers to take on the role of stay-at-home caregiver while the mother takes on the breadwinning role. Sounds great. Amazing even. 

And then the report told us that when it comes to two-parent families consisting of a mother and father, with children under 15 years of age, the number of stay-at-home fathers is 4-5%. And that while the percentage has not grown much in the last two decades, it was considerably lower in the 1980s. So, not so amazing after all. SAHD's are very much unusual.

I had several questions for the duo. And to my surprise, when I asked Christian Hepworth, he was happy to discuss them.

"There was a series of moments and events over a number of years that lead up to it," he shared. 

"Sally and I have always been equal partners as far as housework, but when each of our kids were born Sally was the one to take maternity leave. I would have loved to do it, but my job paid more, and Sally was kicking off her writing career, so it made sense to do it that way.

"I will say (and Sally would agree) that while Sally is an exceptional mother, she is an unenthusiastic “housewife” so she never really took on these kinds of responsibilities at home. Fine by me, we play to our strengths. Speaking of strengths, one thing you might not see about Sally is how much she loves what she does, and how hard she works. 

"When you see that kind of passion, you back the person. She loves her job in a way that I never loved mine. And so, it felt right that the more she stepped up in her career, the more I stepped back in mine."

Listen to Sally Hepworth on Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess: Big Kids. Post continues below.

I also wondered how the kids reacted to, you know, having the breadwinner turn into bed maker.

"I’m not totally sure they understand yet. I’ve always been a hands-on dad, and so while they’ve probably noticed that I’ve been around more often, it hasn’t been a huge change to their lives. Especially after Covid and the year working from home, they’re very used to me being around. They’d definitely be more surprised if Sally started picking them up from school every day!"

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Image: Supplied.

And their friends, what did they think of this unconventional arrangement?

"I happen to be part of a circle where a lot of my friends have uber successful wives, and they’ve been doing this for years. So it was a little bit of ‘welcome to the club.’

"I haven’t had anyone say anything negative to me, but then I wouldn’t care if they did. My identity has always been wrapped in my family rather than work. I feel like I’m finally where I was meant to be." 

Image: Supplied.

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And as it turns out, his workplace was very supportive of the career change too.

I needed to know precisely how many conversations were had. And how long it took to make it happen.

"A few years ago, after being made redundant at work, I spent my three months of gardening-leave as primary parent," Christian explained.

"Back then, we had two little ones at home and Sally’s writing career was really kicking off, and this gave Sally and I a taste of what life could be like if we switched roles. We both loved it. Ever since then, Sally and I have always talked about the day we could make this our permanent arrangement. It was 'the dream.'

"This year, we felt finally ready to take the leap. Not only is Sally’s career going from strength to strength, our youngest only has one more year before going to school, and I knew it was now or never. It’s always a bit scary to make a change, but in our experience, we leap first and ask questions later. It’s worked well for us so far. And if it all goes to hell, I’ll go back to work. Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Armed with evidence of what a modern marriage can look like, I turned to my own husband with questions.  

Would he step back from his career and support mine? 

Imagine my shock when he said, “I’d absolutely love to”.  

If only raising four kids over 17 years with spats of part-time work made me look highly employable on my resume. 

Still, it’s out there, I am applying for jobs, and maybe one day soon I’ll get one. And then my supportive, modern husband will be the one to have to answer questions from a random stranger on the internet.

For more from Tarrin Lenard, follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied.