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Behind Every Great Woman
January 8, 2012 2:50 PM   Subscribe

As more women earn high-level corporate roles, more husbands are staying home, raising the kids, and changing the rules.
posted by vidur (57 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
"changing the rules"! Oh, how I laughed.

Ok, now I'm actually going to read this article.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:58 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was an interesting article, but I wish that it had portrayed more 'normal' families.
posted by k8t at 3:02 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have read it and I'm not sure what rules are being changed.
posted by Miko at 3:02 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I quit my job a few months after my first son was born, and have been mostly a stay-at-home dad since then. It's been fulfilling, but I've basically had to restart my career from the first step (I started working part time again this summer- retail). My situation as a SAHD is probably similar to how it was (and is) for stay at home moms.
posted by drezdn at 3:03 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Silly tagline. For men, it's called "The Game."
posted by LogicalDash at 3:03 PM on January 8, 2012


I wish that it had portrayed more 'normal' families.

But it's a Bloomberg story, so it's about alpha families. I have defiinitely seen more coverage of higher-earning-women/stay-at-home men over the past couple years though, and I personally know more and more couples doing some form of this arrangement.
posted by Miko at 3:04 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our neighbors did this. He was a lawyer, she's a pharma scientist. It worked out really nicely for them because he got furloughed from his job and he wanted to kick start a career as a novelist, so why not stay home and raise the kid? He can write all he wants, takes the kid out everywhere, and he really seems to be having a blast.

I see his checkins on foursquare and he's always at the brewpub in the middle of the day. Lucky bastard.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:05 PM on January 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


CEO doesn't sound like an ideal job for a parent of either gender, honestly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:07 PM on January 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


I would very, very much like to be a househusband, but reality conspires against me. Also, Mrs. Ghidorah said no.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:12 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ding ding ding all hands on deck the USS Gender Norms needs every available man to defend her honor!
posted by The Whelk at 3:12 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


A good article overall although obviously talking about remarkably advantaged people.

I guess there's a lot of little things I could quibble with (while I wait for the laundry to finish its cycle, heh). But, for whatever reason, this in particular got my goat:

“Men are suddenly seeing what it’s been like for women throughout history,” says Linda R. Hirshman, a lawyer and the author of Get to Work, a book that challenges at-home moms to secure paying jobs and insist that their husbands do at least half the housework. Caring for children all day and doing housework is tiring, unappreciated work that few are cut out for—and it leaves men and women alike feeling isolated and diminished.

The point is a fair one, but if I had said that, in light of women now joining the military and getting killed or maimed for their efforts, "Women are suddenly seeing what it's been like for men throughout history", I'd imagine that would be treated as... uncharitable? Unhelpful? Mean spirited? I don't think any man outside of Hollywood media is surprised to discover that housework and childcare can leave one exhausted or unappreciated.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Haven't we been seeing this same article basically every 5 years since the 1980's? I don't mind seeing the latest spin on it, but it's crazy to think that this still is still regarded as news.
posted by hermitosis at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


I think I read this article somewhere about the women who thought that they could get boosted up the corporate ladder if they worked hard enough at work and didn't have kids, and how all their dedication to work didn't pay off because there wasn't any magical boost up the ladder if you made your job your life. It really surprised me how many other women who commented had gotten that same message.

I think I saw it on Jezebel, but I'm not certain.
posted by anniecat at 3:14 PM on January 8, 2012


Also, yeah, how the hell are stay at home husbands changing the rules? I don't see that at all.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:14 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been fulfilling, but I've basically had to restart my career from the first step (I started working part time again this summer- retail). My situation as a SAHD is probably similar to how it was (and is) for stay at home moms.

Yep. Now imagine that you've been out of the traditional workforce for 14 years. I have learned more in being a primary caregiver than I have at most of the jobs I worked before taking that path, and yet I'm viewed as lower than a 16-year-old entering the workforce for the first time. I learn quickly, I adapt incredibly well, chaos doesn't bother me in the least, I can get along with pretty much any personality you throw at me, I'm a team player, and I have been running a household and the lives of at least three people for the past 14 years.

But that's not considered work experience on my resume.
posted by cooker girl at 3:18 PM on January 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


For men, it's called "The Game."

I think I've lost The Game.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:20 PM on January 8, 2012


Here's the article for normal people: You are both probably still working because you can't afford not to.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:22 PM on January 8, 2012 [47 favorites]


The children of couples who have reversed roles know the stakes better than anyone. One morning last year, when Dawn Lepore was packing for a business trip to New York, her nine-year-old daughter burst into tears. “I don’t want you to travel so much,” Elizabeth told her mother. Lepore hugged her, called her school, and said her daughter would be staying home that morning. Then she rescheduled her flight until much later that day.

“There have been times when what Elizabeth wants most is a mom who stays home and bakes cookies,” she says.


I'm pretty sure her kid just loves and misses her and wants to spend more time with her. I don't think the kid has a problem with her mom having a career, but as someone who was very attached to her own mom as a child, I think it's nice to be able to see your mom at the end of the day everyday and spend quality, relaxed time with her. Not to diminish dads--I loved my dad, but I loved my mom more, the way small children love their mothers passionately.


I learn quickly, I adapt incredibly well, chaos doesn't bother me in the least, I can get along with pretty much any personality you throw at me, I'm a team player, and I have been running a household and the lives of at least three people for the past 14 years.


You should have them do 360-reviews and bring that to interviews.
posted by anniecat at 3:23 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


My father was a stay at home dad. After a while he refused to take me anywhere, he said people were giving him funny looks as he pushed around a stroller during the middle of the day on weekday. I am all for people living life as they please and I hope people have changed in the 30 years since my father gave it a shot.

I think we should expand selective service to include women, that is a freaky way to celebrate your 18th birthday. One of those things you never realize still exists until you you are looking at the form thinking Would they really throw me in jail if I don't fill this out?
posted by Ad hominem at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


so will the women spend the weekend in the garage, throwing tools, drinking beer, and avoiding mowing the lawn?
posted by ninjew at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2012


I have learned more in being a primary caregiver than I have at most of the jobs I worked before taking that path, and yet I'm viewed as lower than a 16-year-old entering the workforce for the first time.

I've worked in two industries (call centers and retail) where that wasn't true. With a younger employee, you essentially had a craps shoot with what kind of employee they'd be; many didn't need the money and therefore were uncommitted and would just not show up sometimes.

Moms re-entering the workforce, on the other hand, generally did need the money and had the maturity to ensure even the little things got done. I hired a number of them and they were the best employees I could get, even if the technical learning curve on things was a little longer. It was a well-known HR hiring practice to get moms in for interviews where I hired because of how well it usually went.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


CEO doesn't sound like an ideal job for a parent of either gender, honestly.

For real. I hope they're paid well at least.
posted by LordSludge at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


anniecat, that's brilliant!

As another anecdote, I know several stay-at-home dads and outside of the circles of our friendships, they find it very difficult to host playdates or make friends with the moms at their kids' schools. There is very much a bias against stay-at-home dads, even in my relatively hip area.
posted by cooker girl at 3:31 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I loved my mom more, the way small children love their mothers passionately

Honestly... I think my daughter loves her dad just as much, if not more, than she loves me. He's the one who gets up with her if she wakes in the night from teething. He's the one who is a little more patient.

It's immaterial, though. She truly loves us both for what we have to offer as loving, caring parents. Neither of us stays at home, but when we are with her we give her all that we can. That's the point. Either parent, and both, can and should do that.
posted by miss tea at 3:36 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think any man outside of Hollywood media is surprised to discover that housework and childcare can leave one exhausted or unappreciated.

Considering the number of married women who I hear complain that their husbands pretty much expect the wives to do the majority of the housework no matter how much work they do outside the home, I'm not so sure. There may be somewhat different dynamics for couples under 30 who have grown up expecting that they would both have to work, but I am not sure about that either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:37 PM on January 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


All I know is, if I were a househusband, the goddamn kitchen would be clean. Am I right, fellas? Up top!

Guys?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:43 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, dads who stay at home are heroes. And moms who stay at home are ... ? I wonder if any of these men who are at home now who were attorneys ever get the question of why they took up a space in law school if they weren't going to practice, like I have?

Yes, I'm at home while my husband is on the other side of the globe for work. Where's my glowing article in Bloomberg?
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:45 PM on January 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


My partner earns more than I do, and is more prominent in her field. She doesn't earn enough more for us to go to a one-income household (or at least without making a large enough cut in our standard of living for it to be a barrier), but I can imagine that happening someday, and I'm not sure what we will decide. It really is nicer to have one person not on the 9-5 schedule, and there are big cost savings from being able to do more things yourself rather than pay someone to do them (in the same way that people with kids find childcare costs to play a big factor). And, even for jobs much lower on the scale than governor and CEO, having a non-working spouse is a huge help -- you can get a lot more work and travel done when someone else is taking care of dinner, the laundry, and arguing with the credit card companies.

At the same time, there are huge social pressures for middle-class men to be "productive," and "house-husband" is not on that list. And work provides friendships and conversation, as well as variety and challenges, not just money. So I'm honestly not sure what we would do if she received a big promotion and made my contribution to the household income much more marginal.
posted by Forktine at 3:47 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


like the time he found his daughter and her high school friends in the outdoor shower, “ostensibly with their clothes on. I had to call all the parents and tell them, as a courtesy, ‘I want you to know this happened at the Governor’s mansion,’ ”

I've spent at least ten minutes trying to figure out what type of event this could possibly be a description of...
posted by yeoldefortran at 3:48 PM on January 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not to diminish dads

Too late.
posted by yoink at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


My husband has been a stay-at-home person for the last ten years. We don't have children (unless you count 2 cats, a dog, and 5 chickens - which we don't because they can't support us in our old age). I've worked for smaller firms and Fortune 500 - and over the last 15 years, I've seen more and more SAHD/husbands. Some of us are built for the corporate world (maybe just a higher tolerance for bs?) and some are not.
I'm really happy to let my husband stay home and do dishes, farm our garden plot, and do occasional handyman jobs for 'pin money'. I love my work, and he put me through school, so this arrangement is is 'payback.'
posted by dbmcd at 4:01 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Weird, I read the whole article and it profiled several couples where one partner had a "primary" job and the second person had their own business, a part time job or a career they have put on hold temporarily but none of the traditional Husband supporting stay at home Wife for the rest of her life role reversal that the headline promised.

This article is more about how work has changed, that fewer people have a decently paying lifetime job with one company and that most people are making choices based on what is best for the whole family, fully knowing they will be making different choices in a few years as circumstances and jobs change.
posted by saucysault at 4:19 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to put "househusband" in the goals list of my online dating profile. I wonder how many women will hit me up?
posted by TSOL at 4:24 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Someone should do a movie about this.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:41 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a pretty hard run in with these changing expectations. I was in a pretty serious relationship (read: we were planning to move to another country together) with another graduate student, but I had a couple years on her. When it came time for me to graduate, we researched ways to keep the relationship together, and ultimately she wasn't willing to transfer to another school while I did a post-doc. So instead I found a really interesting project to work on in Developing Nation X, where she was starting a project with her graduate adviser, and all seemed hunky-dory. And then she broke things off really suddenly last April, within a couple weeks of a re-confirmation that we were going to go ahead with the plan to move to X together.

There was a storm of reasons for the breakup, and a lot of it was that she had issues she wasn't open with me about. But some relevant things that ranked high were:
a) envy that I was able to dream my way into a pretty kick-ass project, while she was still unsure of the utility of her own project, and
b) fear that as a crazy anarcho-academic I wouldn't be able to support her+kids.

So on the one hand, I needed to be a high-earner in order to support a family, and make career choices that were clearly leading in that direction. And on the other hand, she really wasn't going to be happy if she wasn't the 'star' of the household. (At some point she actually said to me, "What I really wanted was a wife.") There are, it turns out, pretty serious contradictions between being a high-powered working woman and what we might call traditional expectations that women have of men. There are also some serious contradictions between being an academic and raising children, as the most productive part of one's career (ie, that time when you're supposed to choose to write papers over sleeping or other basic bodily needs) coincides perfectly with the optimal time for women to have kids, in their late twenties and early thirties.

No real answers on my end at this point... Except that I'm coming to think that if I build a long, intercontinental relationship with a badass (which is what I want to do), kids are probably going to have to be off the table. (OTOH, my definition of badass is pretty open. OTOOH, I'm now in what seems to be a string of short post-doc positions, which makes meeting anyone for said long-term relationship pretty unlikely.)

Thus ends another episode of "kaibutsu complains about his relationship troubles to the internet."
posted by kaibutsu at 4:51 PM on January 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I get a LOT of very judgemental stink eye from moms and older women when I'm wheeling my daughter around during the day. It's also been very hard for me to arrange play dates or join "mommy" groups, although at least in one case they've made space for me. From what I can gather, the working husbands wouldn't be too keen on some random man hanging at the house during the day. I can't say I don't understand why, but it does leave me in the lurch.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Someone should do an ad about this.
posted by biffa at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2012


As to how this is profiling Alpha families, stay at home wives were always only part of Alpha families as working class women have always worked, even while raising small children.
posted by saucysault at 5:37 PM on January 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


CEO doesn't sound like an ideal job for a parent of either gender, honestly.

I dunno, I am President/CEO of my organisation. I lead a team in taking action that result in real financial and personal gains for individuals. My children come to work with me sometimes, watch me Chair meetings, see me a a leader and a collaborator; using diplomacy and reasoning to make choices. My role in fulfilling their physical needs (especially the non-stop restaurant I run with three children) is important, but so is modeling successful adult behaviour for when they enter the academic and professional world. When possible, they accompany me on business trips and because my hours of work are outside of 9-5 I have no problem declaring a "mental health day" and calling in hooky to work/school misweek so we can be together as a family. CEOs that work non-stop instead of being with their families aren't doing it because the job demands it but because it fulfills a need THEY have.
posted by saucysault at 5:49 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah my mom was COO level of a fairly large organization by time I reached college. She was VP level around the time I was in junior high and it was very fun to see her in her work mode, and I was treated very well by staff there. She did work from 12 hours a day and weekends. As far as i can tell she didnt take a day off the entire time I was in high school but that was her thing, she got bored if she wasn't at work. She has the oddest habit of giving me tasks to do and pinging me for status updates though.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:08 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


My husband was a stay-at-home dad for years: It's called "consulting." He charges by the hour, with higher fees if they make him wear a suit. And he takes naps in the day, and has since our kid was school age (she's in grad school now). I'm no CEO, though. I work like crazy as a teacher so that we can have a pension plan and health insurance. He just turned 65 and got his Medicare card so he rides free on the bus. But he makes sure he has dinner ready before I get home. I did stay home with our daughter for about a year and a half. It was expensive, even though we seriously downsized in order to do it, but he couldn't manage breastfeeding.
posted by Peach at 6:43 PM on January 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Our neighbors did this. He was a lawyer, she's a pharma scientist. It worked out really nicely for them because he got furloughed from his job and he wanted to kick start a career as a novelist, so why not stay home and raise the kid? He can write all he wants, takes the kid out everywhere, and he really seems to be having a blast.

I see his checkins on foursquare and he's always at the brewpub in the middle of the day. Lucky bastard.


So being a stay-at-home parent allows enough time to kickstart my career as a novelist AND lots of time at the brew pub while my spouse is working? Sign me up!
posted by jayder at 6:46 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


My experience, during the fairly short time I spent as a kept man between jobs, is that guys always say "Oh yeah, sign me up!", but even the ones with wives who earn a lot are actually extremely reluctant to follow through. I presume it's because of a combination of the social stigma and the nice parts about work, but I don't really know for sure.
posted by Forktine at 6:53 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think any man outside of Hollywood media is surprised to discover that housework and childcare can leave one exhausted or unappreciated.

I've been surprised by the number of men who don't.
posted by schroedinger at 6:58 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder if any of these men who are at home now who were attorneys ever get the question of why they took up a space in law school if they weren't going to practice, like I have?

I was a single parent with primary placement of my son. The number of times I heard "why can't his mom (take him to the doctor/pick him up from daycare/stay home when he's sick)?" were too numerous to count.

Or the times when the doctors would ask where his mom was. And the looks you get when you're at the park, minding your own business and letting the kid run.

Being a single dad - all of the work, a bunch more crap, and so very little of the credit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:30 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've been a stay at home dad for almost 7 years. I've heard the Mr Mom jokes hundreds of times. Its really not funny. At all. Stop it.
posted by ducktape at 9:04 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


In my community, there are several SAHDs. In fact, I can probably count them on two hands. (Although it would take a lot more hands to count the SAHMs.) The SAHDs I know are *less* likely than the SAHMs to have a part-time business or job on the side, which I find interesting.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:07 PM on January 8, 2012


For all the dads at the park- So yeah, some of the moms might leer at your presence, but give us a chance too.

I always try to engage men with children at the park, in part because I want to make them feel comfortable. I've never once had any reciprocation to these efforts, even when they're busy making comments about my kid to theirs, and clearly noticed/heard me. Maybe you mefite stay at home dads are different, but this has been a pretty regular incidence for me, and it troubles me. Are you so uncomfortable being a minority that you don't even notice me? Do you really think other moms have a problem with your presence, because honestly... I find it hard to believe. When you're there with a kid, it's not creepy at all. I get infinitely more weirded out by lonepeople (ok, so men in particular... but still both), hanging out at the playground.

Take the park. It's yours. You may be a minority, but your rights are the same as mine as a parent, and you need to stand up and treat it that way and not risk marginalising yourself further by acting awkward and distant. I suspect some of these dads going to parks might be projecting. Or maybe you just aren't there to talk to other parents? That's cool, but it's a park. Lighten up, step outside the comfort zone a little bit and damnit, show your kids some reasonably polite social skills. Going to the park isn't any easier for your average introverted young mother, so don't act like I'm automatically comfortable and part of the 'mom club' because I've got a vagina. We're parents. Can't we all just get along?
posted by sunshinesky at 9:36 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


1adam12 and others -- that makes me so sad/mad when I read articles about stay at home dads being excluded. Around here moms seem to be extra nice to the dads at mommy-and-me classes or at toddler free plays, just to make sure they don't feel awkward.

I would totally be approaching you to chat and set up a Playdate if I weren't so shy and awkward in parenting situations that I stand in the corner and try not to get spoken to while also hoping someone will speak to me. And them I remember my resolution to always approach people because everyone feels awkward meeting parent friends, but some days the shy wins anyway.

Plus I figure any guy who has kids can hold his own in the vagina horror story game. You watch, a guy has a kid, and suddenly he and the receptionist at work are debating in graphic terms planned C vs. VBAC.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:10 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


so why not stay home and raise the kid? He can write all he wants, takes the kid out everywhere, and he really seems to be having a blast.

I have no doubt that he's having a blast.

But writing all he wants? I call shenanigans.
posted by bpm140 at 10:17 PM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Anecdata, but what I've been seeing my cow-orkers with families and kids do is having both partners work part time rather than one staying at home. One of my old managers frex worked four days a week and had split parenting duties/household chores roughly fifty/fifty with his partner.

There's a fair bit of support for these sort of arrangenments in .nl and they're quite common; three of the four people I'm closely working with at my current assignment work parttime.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:56 AM on January 9, 2012


One wonders how well these stay at home dads will fare if/when the couple divorces. Will they be treated fairly in financial terms or child custody?
posted by Stoatfarm at 5:21 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


...will they be treated fairly?

no, not in the UK. Fathers do not have the right to be involved in their childrens lives if they are no longer (or never were) married. The law does give divorced fathers the responsibility to pay child support and does not consider maternal income (ie. considers it to be zero).
posted by dongolier at 5:44 AM on January 9, 2012


There's a fair bit of support for these sort of arrangenments in .nl and they're quite common

This would not work for many people in the US because of the health benefits situation. Normally full family health benefits, if employers even provide them, are only available to fulltime workers.
posted by Miko at 6:30 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


...will they be treated fairly?

Not in Canada. People are realizing the current laws - which still work under the assumption men work fulltime and women may or may not - often penalize the husband, particularly vis a vis childcare; the laws however haven't changed to reflect the new realities of life in the 21st century.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2012


That's interesting. What laws in Canada aren't fair? I know several stay-at-home dads, but have not discussed their experiences with them at any length.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:09 AM on January 9, 2012


I'm a SAHD myself. I meant divorce law, in general (and more specifically as pertaining to custody). I don't have any cites for you (there's a lot of fairly frothy websites out there denouncing Canadian divorce law as unfair to men but little one might describe as impartial), I'm basing that observation on divorced fathers I've known, stories from the newspaper, and so on.

It's not too surprising really. The laws attempted to compensate for being unfair to women, and I think they simply went too far the other way. It's a difficult situation - requiring the wisdom of Solomon, heh - and it shouldn't surprise anyone the courts didn't get it perfect the first time out.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:33 AM on January 10, 2012


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