Marry someone who will take care of the kids
November 20, 2014 7:08 AM   Subscribe

It’s Not Your Kids Holding Your Career Back. It’s Your Husband. A new study of Harvard Business School graduates found that high-achieving women are not meeting the career goals because they’re allowing their partners’ careers to take precedence over their own. This echos earlier advice by Xerox CEO Ursula Burns to "marry down" someone who will take care of the kids.
posted by mooselini (105 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
You go, girl.
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 AM on November 20, 2014


This echos earlier advice by Xerox CEO Ursula Burns to "marry down" someone who will take care of the kids.

As both the main article and that link say, she married older, not down.

But the main point of the article echoes what I have seen -- of the heterosexual couples I know, very few have made the woman's career primary. All of the couples I know who fit that pattern are where the woman is a tenure-track or tenured professor; outside of academia I do not know a single couple where the woman is clearly the primary career person.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:16 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


It’s Not Your Kids Holding Your Career Back. It’s Your Husband.

So, I guess holding accountable the corporate culture that can't support both partners having work-life balance is just a bridge too far, huh? Someone's gotta be the 'wife'.

Um, how about instead of throwing spouses under the bus, we put the blame where it belongs? On a culture that does not institutionally support parents?

I mean, I know that HBS is basically a well-paid lackey to corporate America, but talk about missing the elephant in the room.

*begins studying Swedish*
posted by leotrotsky at 7:17 AM on November 20, 2014 [155 favorites]


Which also means, conversely, that your wife is holding you back, and that you should also marry down in order to get ahead. And what about gay couples? Does this rule also apply?

And what about those who have decided that the logical end-result is no kids and no SO - just work work work? Who can they blame for holding them back?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:20 AM on November 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


I'm here ladies! I'm about as "down" as you can get! Put a ring on it!
posted by josher71 at 7:21 AM on November 20, 2014 [117 favorites]


Oh, Slate, is there any shit you won't stir?
posted by Kitteh at 7:21 AM on November 20, 2014 [27 favorites]


Although I am once again amused to see how everyone always thinks they can buck statistics. "Oh, my husband will do 50% of the chores and childcare," everyone thinks. Never think you're better than statistics.
posted by Frowner at 7:24 AM on November 20, 2014 [45 favorites]


My friend has a mother-in-law problem: she thinks he isn't ambitious enough for her daughter, because he doesn't have a stressful, high powered job like her daughter does.

We keep saying: way to throw your daughter under the bus. If you really care about her career, you'd stop worrying about his.
posted by jb at 7:27 AM on November 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


Which also means, conversely, that your wife is holding you back,

Please show your work.
posted by PMdixon at 7:28 AM on November 20, 2014 [16 favorites]


This makes a lot of sense to me, honestly. It's a lot easier to "have it all*" when you've got a partner who's willing to not do so. It's a positive step forward for women anytime couples don't consider "mom stays home with the kids" to be the default.

outside of academia I do not know a single couple where the woman is clearly the primary career person
It's still rare, but it does happen. At least one of many baby producing couples in my circle has a stay-at-home-dad and he is treated like a unicorn has has to put up with various bullshit with respect to local "mommy and me" type groups. Both mom and dad were engineers before the baby, and the mom still is.


*the notion that "all" needs to include children is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it and I encourage anyone who is on the fence about having children not to, but we are talking about balancing career and family here so the family is in the picture.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:30 AM on November 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


"older" is "down", especially in America.
posted by Renoroc at 7:31 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is a really important concept, but I think it's important to keep wider society in mind. Who exactly are these women supposed to "marry down" to? Men (as an over-generalization) are simply not raised with the expectation to maintain a household. I see it working in groups like academia, where gender issues are frequently discussed. Academia also has a more severe two-body problem that can lead to one partner completely dropping their career. But that's not really true in wider society.

I think a bigger problem lies in that it's pretty much a-okay for girls/women to participate in stereotypical boys/men activities but it is very, very much not okay for boys/men to participate in activities that are gendered female.

There's also technical issues, which the articles sort of got into. The pregnant parent is just going to face more discrimination, and also has more "required" duties if there is breastfeeding etc. Also, women-as-a-population already tend to marry older, which, unless you marry 20 years older, means that the husband's career is further along and more logical to prioritize. I'm also not convinced on the marrying-20-years-older front. Most of the times I've seen this IRL it hasn't particularly helped the wife's career, and sometimes comes with a stigma of "sleeping your way to the top".
posted by fermezporte at 7:31 AM on November 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


I really loved this article when I read it yesterday. Just the blunt shock value of her saying "Marry down ... like most men do." It was an eye-opening way of restating what we hear so often - "women, marry a man who can take care of you financially!"

I just, wow. Wow, wow, wow.
posted by jillithd at 7:33 AM on November 20, 2014 [23 favorites]


My friend has a mother-in-law problem: she thinks he isn't ambitious enough for her daughter, because he doesn't have a stressful, high powered job like her daughter does.

Yeah, it makes some of my extended family real uncomfortable that my sister and I -- both in hetero relationships -- have the primary careers in our respective relationships. It is super frustrating to get that kind of feedback from family (and sometimes also from co-workers, peers, and even strangers), and to feel like my partner's choices (and mine!) require defending, rather than being a situation we are both happy, and grateful, for.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think a lot of people are focusing on one thing in the article and ignoring the other stuff being said. Marrying down is certainly a strategy but also marrying someone who does more than give lip service to the idea that equality is also a strategy.

And it doesn't mean that it has to be a strict 50-50 split all the time either sometimes it just means that while one partner is needing to get something done for work the other partner steps up.

Yeah there needs to be more societal focus on work life balance but at a micro-level you can be both career driven and family focused if you have an adequate support structure. In a traditional nuclear family structure that typically means that the male partner needs to abandon all the traditional masculine bullshit and step up but in alternative family structures it's essentially about not privileging one partner over the other.
posted by vuron at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Someone's gotta be the 'wife'.

That's why it's helpful to ask hetero couples you meet "So which one of you's the wife?"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2014 [90 favorites]


My friend married his girlfriend from high school while she was in college. She continued on to medical school and is now a pediatrician. He has supported her absolutely - while she was in school and then residency, he worked full time to pay their bills. Since their children were born, he stopped working and does the majority, if not all, of the housework and child care. He cares deeply about the needs of his wife and children, placing them above all else.

It may be uncommon but it certainly exists.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's why it's helpful to ask hetero couples you meet "So which one of you's the wife?"

Often phrased as, "I see who wears the pants in your house." <
posted by Dip Flash at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


*the notion that "all" needs to include children is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it

The notion that "all" needs to include a high-paying executive management career is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it.
posted by rocket88 at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2014 [41 favorites]


All of the couples I know who fit that pattern are where the woman is a tenure-track or tenured professor; outside of academia I do not know a single couple where the woman is clearly the primary career person.

Mr. Machine and I are that way, and we're in the legal field. A majority of the dude-and-lady married couples we know are this way, including two couples where she is a doctor and he is grad student, and a third where she is in tech and he is a stay-at-home dad.

Off the top of my head, the only exception I can think of is where she moved so that he could pursue a specialized EMT course only offered in a few places in the US, but at the same time, she is significantly outearning him as a partner at a Big Four accounting firm/has work flexibility since she travels so much anyways.

Maybe it's an early-millienial thing? Because we're all in our early to late 30's, and the dudes basically got caught in the recession and the ladies didn't.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:45 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Please show your work.

The article just did: if the man is not as successful as the wife, then she's preventing him from succeeding. Or, if you prefer, if the woman is not as successful as the husband, then he's preventing her from succeeding. Either way, it's the spouse's fault that their partner isn't as successful as they rightfully deserve to be - because that's what life is all about, right?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


So, I guess holding accountable the corporate culture that can't support both partners having work-life balance is just a bridge too far, huh?

People can have work-life balance, and organizations do support that. But you're only going to get so far up the ladder, and you need to be okay with that. You should be okay with that. You can have a fantastic life and career without being the CEO. Not everyone can have that job, and the person who is going to sit in that seat is the person who has gone above-and-beyond for as long as they could in their career. It's not for everyone, and it shouldn't be for everyone.

This research isn't about most people. It's about those who are seeking the top spot.

The notion that "all" needs to include a high-paying executive management career is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it.

Amen.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Another thing I forgot to mention is that I know a few hetero relationships where the woman is both the primary breadwinner as well as the person who does most of the household work. Their male partners just have a lot of time for video games.
posted by fermezporte at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2014 [50 favorites]


There are two separate issues here: Whose career gets sacrificed when there are compromises to be made and who is doing the work at home.

On the question of work at home, this article misses is that if you're a woman who wants her husband to do his share of the housework, "marrying down" is the worst thing you can do. Research on household division of labour shows that men do the least housework in households where the woman out-earns the man. They do the most when the man and woman do about equally. The case where the man out-earns the woman is in between.

I don't know anything about the research on how the relative status of each affects whose career is sacrificed, but it wouldn't surprise me if marrying down didn't solve that either. One could imagine couples thinking "She's doing very well, so let's work a little to get his career up now!"

The article seems to have looked at the research on why the woman's career in a couple is more likely to suffer, but not the research on how this actually varies by marrying down. It doesn't make sense to just assume what the result of marrying down would be. It's not always obvious and intuitive.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:50 AM on November 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


My wife and I don't have kids, so I daydream about an alternate reality where she makes enough money for me to be able to stay home and take care of the house. She'd live in the cleanest, most well-organized house in the world.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


*the notion that "all" needs to include children is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it

The notion that "all" needs to include a high-paying executive management career is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it.


That's fair. But the problem being discussed here is that women are expected, by default, to sacrifice any sort of career in order to raise a family and men are not.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:56 AM on November 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Often phrased as, "I see who wears the pants in your house."

One could even postulate, based on this kind of thing, that men pay a higher relative social cost for intentionally taking on a role that has lower status (weirdly, given its level of personal importance).
posted by weston at 7:56 AM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have daydreams which I share frequently with my husband that he stays home or works part-time and takes care of the kids and household stuff, and he would be totally down with this! It would be great! He is much better at cooking and cleaning than I am! But he's making more money than I am and I don't really have a meaningful career at this point and don't see how I can get one so, as for many people, there's just not really a choice available. Also, we don't have kids yet because who the hell can afford it?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Dip Flash: "outside of academia I do not know a single couple where the woman is clearly the primary career person."

Really? I know several. I'm trying to think of something they have in common, other than the husbands not being threatened by having a "more powerful" wife and the wife not being bothered by her husband being less ambitious. But some of them married early and some later; some are closer in age than others; some started with a large job/power disparity and some didn't.

But yeah, I'm thinking of (wife first in all cases) doctor/house husband; doctor/K-12 teacher; lawyer/cop; very fancy high-powered lawyer/salesman (literally of widgets); postmaster/draftsman; superintendent/truck driver; business owner/HVAC tech; nurse/handyman. In some cases they were both already in their career tracks when they met, but in other cases they've been together since one or both were in college and made those decisions together. (They all have kids except lawyer/cop; they have dogs.)

All of the men are a little more laid-back in personality, proud of their wives' achievements, and not very bothered by people who question their manhood (most of them are "guys' guys," but not the sort who feel like they have to prove it); all of the women are self-consciously aware that because they are ambitious, it's a good thing their husband isn't or they'd have to make a lot more compromises about their own careers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:58 AM on November 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


I wonder whether the stereotypical age gap of a heterosexual couple is disappearing; I suspect it of being a tradition caused by the need for women to marry early and marry wealthy, and thus a tradition that will disappear. Maybe in the end it will be largely women who have the more developed career at the time the kids come along, since women are over-represented in further education.

A LOT of my youngish pre-kids friends are in couples consisting of a woman with a degree and a "good" corporate 9-5 job and a man who is what you might call under-self-employed.
posted by emilyw at 7:58 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


The notion that "all" needs to include a high-paying executive management career is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it.

Seriously. Fuck a bunch of that. I don't want a capital-c Career. I want a job that I like reasonably well, that makes use of my skills, that pays enough for me to cover my bills, that doesn't require sixty-plus hours of my week, and that isn't under threat of getting eliminated. That's what I wanted before I had a kid, and it's what I want now. I don't want to Have It All, and I don't want to be penalized for being happy with Just Enough.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:00 AM on November 20, 2014 [43 favorites]


My husband was stay-at-home with our toddler this summer (between graduation and his first job), and it was glorious. I need to become one of those TLC-polygamist types and get myself another spouse who can stay home with our brood. No sex or romance required (or even allowed- one love is enough); just live in my house, cook, clean, watch the kids. Any takers?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:00 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to get through the damn day without well meaning "advice" telling me what to give up, where to lower my expectations, how to pick my battles, how to compromise strategically to get the maximum amount of what I want within unfair systems. Women already know how to do that. We do it every fucking day and reading some hot take on how I'm not compromising enough or my expectations are too high is insulting and exhausting.
posted by almostmanda at 8:03 AM on November 20, 2014 [23 favorites]


Who can they blame for holding them back?

Milwaukee.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:04 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Only 7 percent of Gen X women and 3 percent of baby boomer women said they expected their careers to take precedence. Here's what they did expect: The majority of women said they assumed they would have egalitarian marriages in which both spouses' careers were taken equally seriously.

A lot of those women were wrong.
I'm not a career-driven kind of person, although I do have a career, but I made this kind of assumption an awful lot when I was in a long-term relationship because to assume otherwise would have resulted in a great deal of psychological turmoil. I was so desperate to observe myself as a person who was in an egalitarian partnership that I gave my boyfriend double-plus extra credit for contributing to the household in any way, shape, or form -- I wonder how many of the women surveyed felt the same way.

Anyone looking at our relationship from the outside would have seen a 1950s-styled traditional gender role split, but I refused to acknowledge it as such because I just didn't want to believe it. So in my head, his reluctantly agreeing to unload the dishwasher once once became approximately equivalent to me loading and unloading it a half-dozen times, for no other reason than because it was so unusual for him to chip in when it came to household stuff and I just couldn't bear admitting that I had long since become his de facto mommy.

And as usual, discussions about privileging men's decisions, careers, and comfort over women's entire lives remind me of this amazing comment from earlier this year, where Frowner expertly explains the incredible burden of expectations placed on women who live with supposedly egalitarian "feminist" men.
posted by divined by radio at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2014 [35 favorites]


outside of academia I do not know a single couple where the woman is clearly the primary career person

Well, I technically work "in academia" but I'm not an academic (I do nonprofit fundraising), and my family is basically like this. My husband works, but in a blue collar low-wage job. We also know several other families where this is true, but the careers are a wide range. In one family I know mom's a nurse and dad was the SAH parent until both children were in college, and then dad had a hell of a time getting back into the workforce. In another family we know mom is a cop and dad stays at home with their two preschool children. More middle class than C-suite, but it's certainly not uncommon. (We also have friends who are a three parent (poly) family, and I honestly think that the "extra wife" might be the best setup I know of.)

In my personal opinion, part of what's going on here is that once you have a kid (or kids) then it's natural to want at least one parent to actually spend time with those kids. I have a great, fulfilling job but if I could drop it to be a SAHM I would do it in a hot minute because being with my kid is a limited time opportunity which is way, way more fulfilling and life changing than the (actually pretty important) work I actually do at work. And, frankly, this was a surprise to me -- I reentered the workforce after my maternity leave with glee, but I've gradually come to feel as though my career is getting in the way of what's really important in my life. On the other hand, within a couple of years its likely more realistic that my husband will be able to quit his job and stay home, and I'll keep working -- and that's fine too, because I know that someone who is loving and invested will be doing the work of taking care of our son.
posted by anastasiav at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


The vast majority (74 percent) of Gen Xers, women who are currently 32-48 and in the prime of their child-rearing years, work full time, an average of 52 hours a week.

52 hours a week? On average? That's not full time, that's full time + 30%.

This 'average' abuse of working hours can't be blamed on husbands.
posted by grounded at 8:06 AM on November 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't think marrying down or marrying older, per se, is the solution. I think it should be "marry someone who respects you and wants an equal partnership."

Because, like fermezporte, I've seen higher-earning wives who also wind up doing the lion's share of housework and childcare, because their husbands are slackers who don't want to do any work, period, and want a mommy rather than a wife. Likewise, I've seen women married to older men, who wind up heavily pressured to take early retirement by their husbands.

I agree that not everyone should have, or needs to have, kids; likewise, not everyone needs or should have that high-powered job. Hell, don't feel you have to get married to live a fulfilling life! But I think that choosing someone who respects you, wants an equal partnership, and is equally committed to your relationship is a good idea across the board.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


We cannot get to the robot-worker utopia fast enough. Though we are trying very hard to get to the dystopian version with the starvation and the violence, so probably I should just stop worrying about it.

(My husband is the work/stay at home. Which is why we only have one kid. He is a great dad, but one is all he can do).
posted by emjaybee at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's wonderful that more and more women are getting the opportunity to be disappointed with their careers, and that more and more men are having the opportunity to be disappointed with their kids.
posted by haricotvert at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2014 [22 favorites]


> I'm here ladies! I'm about as "down" as you can get! Put a ring on it!

I know there are matchmaking services for lonely rich guys who want a hot young wife. Is there one for rich women looking for a laterally-mobile gentleman to get married down to? They could call it Slackr.

* starts scribbling furiously on the the back of an envelope *
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:12 AM on November 20, 2014 [18 favorites]


It’s Not Your Kids Holding Your Career Back. It’s Your Husband.

WELCOME TO CAPITALISMDOME!
YOU KNOW THE LAW: TWO SPOUSES ENTER, ONE SPOUSE LEAVES!
posted by the jam at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


It’s Not Your Kids Holding Your Career Back. It’s Your Husband.

This echos earlier advice by Xerox CEO Ursula Burns to "marry down" someone who will take care of the kids.


So it is the kids.

FWIW, at least some note a rise in women founded start-ups; often micro, to be sure, to balance that work life thing, but also because if one partner has a steady job, that's insurance against the 90% failure rate of start-ups.

I've had a few progressive women tell me that there have been moments in their lives when they did just hear that small voice in the back of their heads saying, not to worry, one can always simply get married and let him do the job thing. They were a bit dismayed to admit this, but there it is. And it must be a seductive option, however practical it may or may not be at a given time in one's life.

Of course the real scandal is that you can't it on a single salary. Economists like to say that in the workplace the more the merrier, but I have my doubts. If a lawyer marries a doctor, that creates a lot of pressure on the carpenter who marries the beautician, esp. if the carpenter wants to stay home and run the domestic operation. Income gap indeed. (This was why back in the thirties and the immediate postwar years, state governments and many businesses would not hire more than one family member. How fair or reasonable is for you to decide.)
posted by IndigoJones at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the question of work at home, this article misses is that if you're a woman who wants her husband to do his share of the housework, "marrying down" is the worst thing you can do. Research on household division of labour shows that men do the least housework in households where the woman out-earns the man. They do the most when the man and woman do about equally. The case where the man out-earns the woman is in between.

I came in here to say this. My husband has been reading The Second Shift lately the past few days, and at bedtime he sometimes pulls out interesting stats or facts from it to tell me. Yesterday he told me that one interesting finding from the book (which is the updated early 2000s edition, so no that out of date) is that men who marry women who outearn them actually contribute less to household chores than men who marry women who earn the same or less than them. The theory presented in the book is that such men (whose wives outearn them) feel that their masculinity is threatened and that therefore they insist on their wives doing most of the housework to prop up their ego. I decided a long time ago that I would only marry a man who at least talked the talk about equal division of labor at home and so I bring it up early and often in a relationship. My husband certainly does more than his fair share at home, so far so good, but we don't have kids yet, so I'll just cross my fingers. It's interesting that the most equitable division of labor occurs when partners have almost equal incomes - that jives with the advice my mother used to give me (and which she followed in her own life) which was that I should try to find a husband who would earn almost the same as me - too much more than me and his career would always be the priority, too little and his ego would feel hurt. That's depressing, and my husband would insist that he would be more than happy if I outearned him, but it's interesting that the stats seem to bear that out.
posted by peacheater at 8:16 AM on November 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


And as usual, discussions about privileging men's decisions, careers, and comfort over women's entire lives remind me of this amazing comment from earlier this year, where Frowner expertly explains the incredible burden of expectations placed on women who live with supposedly egalitarian "feminist" men.

I'm one of these men and I don't think I'll ever change. That's why I think I'll also probably never live with someone I'm in a relationship with if I can help it.
posted by josher71 at 8:16 AM on November 20, 2014


I was a stay at home dad for many years, so I would like to echo the idea that "Somebody's gotta be the wife". Also, I'm just commenting too because I am a little tired of the wealthy doling out advice - as their thinking goes - if should we all run out and follow it, we would all be tremendously happy and "successful" after. Most people's "success" stories are their own and not really easy to duplicate.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


If someone would say, double my wife's salary, I'd be all over this. Just as she'd be home in a minute if someone doubled mine. Until then, we're just like most families: both working like dogs.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:24 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


the real scandal is that you can't it on a single salary.

This should be quadruple bold and flashing. I don't give a damn on whose salary it is; in my family, our life would be so, so, so much better if we could do it on just one.
posted by anastasiav at 8:24 AM on November 20, 2014 [24 favorites]


> I have a great, fulfilling job but if I could drop it to be a SAHM I would do it in a hot minute because being with my kid is a limited time opportunity which is way, way more fulfilling and life changing than the (actually pretty important) work I actually do at work. And, frankly, this was a surprise to me -- I reentered the workforce after my maternity leave with glee, but I've gradually come to feel as though my career is getting in the way of what's really important in my life.

This. A hundred thousand times this. But then, how do people afford that? And, how unbelievably difficult will it be to re-enter the workforce? I mean, I have a masters degree while my husband is working on his associates and just entering a new career. Sure, he could quit his progress and stay home with the kid, but *I'm* the one who wants to. But how would that work?!?
posted by jillithd at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


If someone would say, double my wife's salary, I'd be all over this. Just as she'd be home in a minute if someone doubled mine. Until then, we're just like most families: both working like dogs.

This, but also.

We have kids. My wife has been contracting out of town for the past few months, and it's great for her career, but God knows I'm perfectly happy to hold my wife back if it means we're all in the same house together more than two days a week.

I'm not trying to put my career ahead of hers, I'm trying to put my kids' home life ahead of either of our careers.
posted by DoubtingThomas at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Pretty sure it's the goddamn cat complaining when it sees the bottom of the food bowl that's holdinf me back.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Cat does not understand why you want him to starve to death! Who has eaten Cat's food? Certainly not Cat!
posted by poffin boffin at 8:44 AM on November 20, 2014 [59 favorites]


The notion that "all" needs to include a high-paying executive management career is kind of sad and terrible and I don't support it.

Seriously. Fuck a bunch of that. I don't want a capital-c Career


I have about the most egalitarian marriage I've ever seen. We share pretty equally in household responsibilities - and there's some things my husband picks up the slack for more than me because I travel a lot - and that includes our careers. My husband has made sacrifices in his career for mine, and I've made sacrifices in my career for his. There hasn't been a notion of whose career comes first - every decision had been made with the idea that it's about OUR careers. It's been a partnership the whole time (and we both acknowledge how fortunate we've been).

And yet here's the thing: we both love our jobs, and work hard at them. Yet neither one of us dreams of the corner office. To both of us, our ambitions basically mean working hard, doing good work, and leaving the world a little bit better than we found it. And....our careers are important but our overall LIVES and our relationships with others come first. To that end, we've both made sacrifices in our careers.

Yet every time either one of us have made some kind of sacrifice or compromise, the amount of shit we've gotten is amazing. My husband gets the whole "who wears the pants?" thing. I get the "women always put their husband's careers first, you shouldn't be doing this" thing.

And we both get "aren't you ambitious?" We both have graduate degrees, own a house, we're both at the top of our fields as we can be without going into management. . .but we're still not "ambitious" enough.

It blows my mind every time that expectations are so set and yet so wildly dynamic, yet we're supposed to put those fluctuating expectations above our happiness, or get judged mightily. The pressure society puts on people to be "perfect" is just incredible. And fucked up. I can't help but think it's advice and stories like this one - the wealthy doling out their personal success stories like it's gospel - that contribute to that.
posted by barchan at 8:45 AM on November 20, 2014 [31 favorites]


Cat does not understand why you want him to starve to death! Who has eaten Cat's food? Certainly not Cat!

you have summed up life in my household perfectly
posted by Kitteh at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


I once googled something or other and weirdly came across some link where the husband was complaining that, right after the birth of their baby, his wife wasn't helping with household chores and that "all she did was breastfeed."

It took a lot of women responding really gently to him, and some women being like,"Omg I'm so lucky, my husband was happy to take care of me right after we came home with the baby and never complained."

I know it was just one random posting, but I know from ending a previous relationship, my ex was acting crazy and sent me the most ridiculous email about how he didn't think I had the energy to take care of a household, even though he never helped with chores and always needed to be directed/asked and I, wanting to be good, praised him to encourage him---it didn't work.

This was a guy who was well-educated, outwardly believed in egalitarian values until he was raging at me about weird things (he knew I was too exhausted to try anymore so he did the whole,"Change like this and I'll be nice to you again!") and he said he wanted me to take care of the house and everything and make it seem effortless.

My friend's husband also had the same expectation of her, despite his being faculty and her being in a challenging postdoc program. She has to use her meager stipend to pay for a house cleaner. He thinks she should be able to manage it all effortlessly. She had to push for her career and work to have significance.

So anecdotes aside, I think some men have unexamined expectations that women can more easily clean house or keep their lives together socially, and they feel cheated or something when they realize, hey, women are people who are exhausted from a long day of work. And it sucks to disappoint. I can't even imagine the exhaustion of dealing with baby and all, the unexamined expectations that pop up with that.
posted by discopolo at 8:59 AM on November 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


And as usual, discussions about privileging men's decisions, careers, and comfort over women's entire lives remind me of this amazing comment from earlier this year, where Frowner expertly explains the incredible burden of expectations placed on women who live with supposedly egalitarian "feminist" men.

I have witnessed this in so many of my friends relationships and it's so bizarre to me. Like dude you are living in filth, pick your shit up, why are you sitting on the couch talking about the revolution while your partner does the dishes?

I guess I am somewhat of an obsessive neat freak and I will organize the shit out of that shelf or clean the fuck out of that fridge, for fun. I was living with a girl in college and after we broke up I remember my mom saying something in conversation like, "That apartment was so nice, K did such a good job with it." Uh no mom, that was all me.

I don't want kids, and I like my career, but being a stay at home dad sounds like the best thing ever to me. No job and I just get to cook and clean all day? Sign me the fuck up.
posted by bradbane at 9:03 AM on November 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


jillithd: "But then, how do people afford that?"

Straight through college, straight through law school, married at 24, 6 years as a two-income family, but only living on one income (including qualifying for a mortgage on one income), so that when it was time for kids at 31, we owned both cars, had a reasonable house payment, reasonable student loan payments, etc. We don't really vacation, we own a much smaller home than most of our friends, in a less-ritzy neighborhood (interestingly, our neighborhood is almost all two-blue-collar-worker families, or one-professional/one-at-home-parent families, who apparently made the same calculation we did about housing costs and at-home parents), our cars are older, etc.

But, yeah, basically it was really contingent on "two professionals, done with graduate degrees at age 25, married early, mutual goal of having a family with a stay-at-home-parent, no significant major life obstacles in that time period (illness, extended unemployment, disability, divorce, etc.)"

And, how unbelievably difficult will it be to re-enter the workforce?"

Yeah this part terrifies me, especially as my planned timeline has been disrupted by, you know, LIFE. People figure it out so I assume I will, but I know my professional options are highly constrained now by the fact that I've taken time off to be at home with my kids. We made that decision deliberately, and I know I was very privileged to be able to make it, and I don't regret it -- but the difficulty in re-entering the workforce makes me really, really, really hyperventilatingly anxious.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:14 AM on November 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


Didn't they try this on an episode of The Honeymooners and it didn't work?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:16 AM on November 20, 2014


Like dude you are living in filth, pick your shit up

Doesn't bother some people, like myself. Wonder no more!
posted by josher71 at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


once you have a kid (or kids) then it's natural to want at least one parent to actually spend time with those kids.

This is a factor that should be constantly noted in these discussions. If you want to be part of your kid's life, someone will have to work less. It could be the male, the female, or both, but someone's career is going to be held back for the sake of spending time with kids. And that's a good thing!

There is an unavoidably gendered aspect to this, as there is to many things involving kids (from conception on up). We tried to have my wife work while I stayed home with the kids, but pumping at work was a huge logistical headache compared to breastfeeding.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:21 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Argh, an addendum to my point above: the acknowledgement we're incredibly fortunate we're in a position most of the time to even make some of those decisions - we don't have kids, for one; so the stress caused by judgement and expectations placed on people who aren't able to do so is even worse.
posted by barchan at 9:24 AM on November 20, 2014


I can't even bring myself to read the articles, as just the title and the topic start to stoke a white hot ember of rage inside my chest.

It must be really nice to make enough money to even consider someone staying home with a kid. That must just be really, really fucking pleasant in that world.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:39 AM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Even if you do want to put your kid(s) in daycare and not have a parent stay home with them, it still affects how much at least one parent can put into their career.

The daycare we send Neville Toddler to closes at 6. Somebody has to be off work and at home by then to go pick her up. It opens at 7, but we're not scheduled to drop her off till 8. Again, somebody has to be home to take her to school. I'm the one who generally drops her off and picks her up, so going to work arbitrarily early or staying arbitrarily late aren't options for me. If I needed to go in early or work late one day, I would have to negotiate that with Mr. Neville ahead of time. Working till 6 or later used to be something I did reasonably often. Now, it happens only rarely. (I'm a night owl, so going in early was very rare for me even before she was born, but the same sort of thing would be required if I did want to) This also puts limits on how long a commute at least one parent can accept when looking for work.

She's too young, too people-oriented, and too interested in our computers to let a parent work from home while she plays. If her daycare is closed, she's sick, or it's a weekend, that means somebody has to be at home with her, and they can't work from home while they do so.

Fortunately, my work does not involve any travel. Mr. Neville's does, and that's a much bigger deal now than it was before we had her, or before I went back to work after having her. He knows that if he travels, I'm alone with Toddler Neville while he's gone, and taking care of her by yourself is not an easy job, even with daycare. He's more likely to decline travel now, especially international travel.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I wonder how much of this discussion we'd have if real wages hadn't been frozen since approximately the Nixon administration.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:00 AM on November 20, 2014 [16 favorites]


This article reminded me of my now-civilian department chair. Both him and his wife both graduated West Point the same year. Her career took off and she's now a colonel (she'll retire as a B. General) while he retired a few years ago as a major. They have three kids, and there were two separate times where she went off on assignment to increase her career abroad while he "stayed at home with the kids" as much as you can as an active duty Army officer. I don't know the conversations that they had privately, but to have your wife's career take precedence in a male-dominated field like the military while you are also an Army officer and father--that takes stepping outside of expected gender norms.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


And, how unbelievably difficult will it be to re-enter the workforce?

It sucked.

I spent 11 years out of the paid workforce to take care of my family, and did so joyfully. But then it came time where I really needed to get back into the workforce, so we could do more for our family (like buy a house. Which ended up being its own special kind of hell, but that's a rant for another day).

Employers looked at me like I had sprouted two extra heads when they saw I hadn't been in the workforce for 11 years. I couldn't even get a job at godsdamned McDonald's, because obviously, if you take time off for your family, you forget how to even BREATHE without assistance.

You know who finally took a chance on me? Google. And now I STILL stay home, but I work as well, flitting from contract to contract for Google, Microsoft, and other tech companies. I get paid decently, and I'm still here to hold down the fort, keep the dogs company, and handle things for my family.

I will not lie to you, lovey, it was a rough 10 months of job hunting and being condescended to and being treated like I was too stupid to live and had wasted my education. But SOMEONE will pull their heads out and welcome you to the team, and you'll probably be surprised by who it is.
posted by MissySedai at 10:18 AM on November 20, 2014 [36 favorites]


Goddamn, MissySedai. Good for you!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:33 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much of this discussion we'd have if real wages hadn't been frozen since approximately the Nixon administration.

A lot? This discussion is about very career-driven people who are probably not affected by wages frozen since the Nixon administration. Do we have some reason to believe that stagnant wage growth in the middle class is the reason that male HBS grads are saying they expect their wives' careers to take a backseat to their own?
posted by ch1x0r at 10:40 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't know why we go on insisting that having a high-status, high-paying career is the main metric of success. I mean, I do know why (because people are constantly telling us that it's true) but I don't know why we keep believing it.

The way I figure, if at the end of your life you feel that it was a life worth living, and if your actions while alive made the world better on the whole, and if your kids (if any) are good people, then you succeeded. Period. Nothing else matters, and you don't get to find out until the end—so in the meantime go out and do things that you feel are worthwhile, try to improve the world around you as best you can, and teach your kids to be good.

If a high-powered career is a means toward achieving one of those goals then that's great, but not having one doesn't make you unsuccessful. In fact, having one could make you less successful if your career makes your miserable, or if it harms the world, or if it harms the development of your children.

Gotta keep that shit in perspective.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


When I read things like this I feel so blessed that my husband and I entered the workforce during a horrible recession and are both self-employed. We're expecting our first kid, and it's scary to be faced with uncertainty and fluctuating income, but we have so much control over how we spend our time. He's excited to be a parent, talking about working 3 or 4 day weeks so that he can get to know his child and be involved in their life. Neither of us will ever achieve high-powered executive success, and we do make less money than some of our peers. But lately some of our peers in those high-powered, highly-paid jobs are expressing that they wish they had the time and freedom we have. I don't know how it will all shake out when our child is finally born, but I suspect he'll work more simply because he's able to charge a higher hourly rate than I am. But I don't think it's necessarily a regression into 1950s gender roles. He doesn't *expect* me to do everything around the house. We just do what works for us. I happen to work in a creative field and he doesn't, so his time at work is way more valuable than mine. But he also supports the value of my work and sees the potential for it to grow and has expressed a commitment to helping me not give it up entirely.

But I recognize that we are lucky and privileged to be in this place. It really didn't feel like it a few years ago when we were struggling to get "real" jobs and hopping into freelance/solo work out of a lack of options. The reality is that that is not an option for everyone, and I recognize that, but there are a lot of benefits to not striving for wealth, status and career all the time.
posted by ohisee at 10:46 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


How about the wife does not hold back the husband, the husband foes not hold back the wife, the kids don't hold either of them back, and everyone takes responsibility for the choices they have made?

Yes, the economy sucks, but that does NOT mean you cannot raise kids on one salary. People absolutely can, and they do. They prioritize differently than couples without children, or parents with kids who both work, and they make that work.

No matter what choices you make about raising them, having kids WILL affect your lifestyle. I see a lot more denial about this than about housework, honestly.

You are bringing a new person (or persons) into your relationship and your household, how could that NOT change things? That person starts out completely helpless, cannot feed him/herself or bathe without assistance, is in danger of injury if left alone. Someone has to be available to them 24/7.

Three months, six months, one year later, that will all still be the case.

Even the most generous family leave policies that I am aware of do not extend beyond a year. So you deal with the reality.

Life is full of situations where your options are going to be limited. Adults take responsibility for the choices they make. They don't blame their partners or their kids for "holding them back".
posted by misha at 10:49 AM on November 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Whole thing is predicated on 'the job' being more important than 'the family'. It still devalues taking care of the kids/the house in favor of going and working a bunch. If it is the woman or the man or whomever taking care of the kids/home it is just as important as the person going and hacking away at a career.

I'm not a breeder myself, but good dog... your legacy is not in your job, 2 months after you leave your job people will be all "Bob? Bob who?". Rather your legacy is it's how you pass on your values and knowledge and wisdom to your successive generations. But we devalue all of that and measure success by how much money you make, not what kind of life you live.

Yes, men and women should have equal access and opportunity, but the real con job has been convincing everyone that women have to equal men in the workplace while ignoring that men need to equal women on the home front, that is as big an inequality and one that is pretty institutionalized by how little we actually value it.
posted by edgeways at 11:17 AM on November 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


I can't help but think it's advice and stories like this one - the wealthy doling out their personal success stories like it's gospel - that contribute to that.

Somebody might want to read Foucault Discipline and Punish. The system gains materially by inventing every conceivable punishment, every frequency, every size. You feeling inadequate is an essential part of a business plan that includes you. You know it isn't any kind of accident that the architecture of the school looks like the architecture of the prison.
posted by bukvich at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's not like non-CEO non-HBS men are all doing at least 50% of the household work and childcare responsibilities. I get people being annoyed at the assumption that everyone should want to be a CEO, but that's not the only thing this is about. People should be able to make career and family decisions that are not hugely constrained by gender.
posted by jaguar at 11:28 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


From the HBR link:
Our findings call for more-comprehensive organizational solutions to address gender disparities in career achievement. Companies need to provide adequate entry points to full-time work for women who have, for instance, recently been on a part-time schedule or taken a career break. Our results make equally clear that companies need to move beyond regarding flextime and other “family-friendly” policies as sufficient for retaining and developing high-potential women. Women are leaning in. Most women who have achieved top management positions have done so while managing family responsibilities—and, like their male counterparts, while working long hours. Women want more meaningful work, more challenging assignments, and more opportunities for career growth. It is now time, as Anne-Marie Slaughter has pointed out, for companies to lean in, in part by considering how they can institutionalize a level playing field for all employees, regardless of gender or caregiver status.

Companies need to be vigilant about unspoken but powerful perceptions that constrain women’s opportunities. The misguided assumption that high-potential women are “riskier” hires than their male peers because they are apt to discard their careers after parenthood is yet another bias women confront. As one 30-year-old alumna reported, “I have thought about going to interviews without my [wedding and engagement] rings on so that an interviewer doesn’t get a preconceived notion of my dedication based upon where I might be in my life stage.”
posted by jaguar at 11:38 AM on November 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


I can't favorite leotrotsky's and jaguar's points together enough.

After I raised a fuss at an old job that I wasn't being given more training, challenges, and responsibilities, I was told quietly, on the side, that while they'd love to, they weren't doing it due to my being of child-bearing age. . . and there was concern I would leave the company after having kids. Because it had happened before, you see.

I was naturally quite nonplussed and outraged. And then started paying attention. . .and noticed women my age having kids and leaving the company more likely than not. In fact, it was really hard to find a woman at that particular company over the age of 40.

But a common theme emerged when I reached out to them - because childcare was so difficult and expensive someone had to stay home, and it was these women instead of their husbands doing it because their husbands were earning more money and were further along in regards to responsibilities and promotions.

Yet nobody in management seemed capable of putting two and two together.
posted by barchan at 12:09 PM on November 20, 2014 [27 favorites]


"it was these women instead of their husbands doing it because their husbands were earning more money and were further along in regards to responsibilities and promotions."

I'm not convinced that is ALWAYS the reason. I do think sometimes women actually do want to stay at home and bond with their children because they just gave birth to a new person they carried in their body for 9 months and they have a deep bond with their child and emotional and/or hormonal urges to bond with and nurture their child.

I think women's equality doesn't have to rest in the notion that having kids is exactly the same as not having kids. And providing quality services and work accommodations for people who need different things requires that sometimes people need different types of accommodations. NOT every woman does, but many do.

I personally want to stay home with my kids and found that birthing and nursing was a huge life changing experience though I know the process is radically different from person to person. Do both sexes have to spend equal times at home or in the workforce for gender equality and respect of each person regardless of gender to be achieved? Do we all have to behave exactly the same and have exactly the same contributions to respect each individuals unique skills, contributions, and needs and accommodations?

I mean, what if people who birth children statistically continue to want more time off or to do more caregiving- do we have to force them to stop in order for gender equality to be achieved?
posted by xarnop at 12:27 PM on November 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think more work accommodations including part time options and multiple years off for child rearing with a welcome back to the workforce is needed, and also that sometimes specialization works very well and it's good to at least consider the idea that having a career oriented bread earning mother and nurturing caregiving father could also be a great dynamic for people who want that. So I dig the thought exercise of giving career driven women the same option men have been taking to design their family.
posted by xarnop at 12:29 PM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


This shouldn't be called "marrying down" but rather "marrying egalitarian." In this day and age, most people live together before marriage or, if not, they have dated a considerable time whilst not living in their parents' homes. (Hetero) Women: stop marrying dudes who who can see don't know how to clean a house, do the dishes, maintain a lawn, do the laundry, etc!

Seriously. I sometimes think if we all were to simultaneously say "no more sexual-romantic relations until/unless you do your fair share of the shit involved in maintaining a home", we'd see more men getting their acts together. Sort of like how men (implicitly) demand that their partners care about being physically attractive in order to find and keep a mate, we should make men feel compelled to demonstrate good house-keeping skills or else they will be sex-starved and lonely.

In short: There are men out there who aren't slackers on the home front. Marry/date one of these and leave the others behind.

And parents: please please please stop raising your boys to expect that others will be their handservants and lifelong secretaries and stop raising your girls to play that role.

These two things together (egalitarian socialisation plus changing the risk/reward ratio) are what it is going to take to change things.
posted by Halo in reverse at 12:35 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I personally want to stay home with my kids

Xarnop, you have a very valuable point that often gets ignored and I ignored it. Just at this particular company, their husbands having a better career at a similar point in both spouse's lives was just the most iterated theme when I talked to women about why they were leaving, and none of them really wanted to do so - I heard "I want to do this" just once. The company was utterly oblivious to the role they played in that by not supporting women in their 20s and 30s, or thinking about child care needs and flexibility, at any level, including to fathers: the common scenario that jaguar and leotrotsky (and you, on preview) have such excellent comments about how to change.
posted by barchan at 12:45 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Most of our VPs and directors are women. VPs make $500k+ one of them had the luxury of having her husband stay home.

Making $500k seems reasonable enough for one person to stay home. But how many of us are doing that?

And my mom took care of me and never worked. Boy did she have the life---cooking, cleaning, no friends, no money for herself, had to approve anything she bought even if it were for me due to budget. Oh yea, life of luxury to stay home while my dad worked 3 shifts and we lived in a shit neighborhood so they could afford to pay for private school and college. Woo hoo!
posted by stormpooper at 12:55 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can think of three "wife's career is primary" couples I know. Disability on the man's part is an issue in two of those, in the other, it's just plain how things worked out best. None of them are academics, except in the sense that some of them had some grad school behind them.

Three is not a very large number.
posted by edheil at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2014


I have definitely heard from friends in management at companies where "be careful about hiring/promoting that woman of child-bearing age, remember when we got left in the lurch?" was an unspoken (or at most, whispered) factor in decisions. It's no bloody fucking wonder that women are more likely to "drop out". They're being pushed out.
posted by quaking fajita at 1:08 PM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Xarnop, I just want to thank you for saying what I wanted to say about my own life better than I ever could have.
posted by anastasiav at 1:31 PM on November 20, 2014


I have been that 'stay at home' wife for nearly 6 years now - a change from a 2 parents working child in daycare situation. And that six years has included a child at school, then homeschooled, then boarding school, now homeschooled again.
Our situation is a little different than most in that my husband is an Army Officer so a) we move a lot for his job (and unlike when we were in Australia, we don't seem to move to places where there are rewarding jobs for my skillset and decent childcare options) and b) he is away for long periods of time (this year he has been home for a total of maybe 8 weeks). So yes, I am the stay at home wife, and it turns out that is okay because I can now homeschool my kid, and we are fortunate that my husband earns enough and/or our needs are much lower that we live on one income.
But my god do I get the 'so when are you going back to work/I didn't take you for a traditional housewife-type/don't you get bored/don't you feel unfulfilled/what a waste' either implied or outright in conversations ALL THE TIME. And I am in an unusual situation where you can see that me carrying on a career would be really difficult (and actually we thought long and hard about whose career we were going to prioritise before we decided on the path we are on now), and I am not a man. So I can only imagine the pressure and frank condemnation of a man who chooses to be the stay-at-home spouse, regardless of how it works out for the whole family.
And I think that is one thing that is overlooked - we (as in husband and I) are making decisions about what is best for our family, rather than what is best for us as individuals. Yes, that can be a bit frustrating as an individual at times, but it is done in consideration of payoffs for what will make US happy in the long run (and no, I don't mean what is just best for our kid, I mean all three of us). And of course I am not stupid, and there are provisions for if the marriage breaks up or something like that happens. But I guess this is my long and blathering way of saying that sometimes it is all a bit more complicated than if you are not able to succeed in a job and advance in the corporate world and have the 'obvious' success, you are being held back by someone else, or society or something.
posted by Megami at 4:29 PM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


sometimes it is all a bit more complicated than if you are not able to succeed in a job and advance in the corporate world and have the 'obvious' success, you are being held back by someone else, or society or something.

Of course, and individuals need to do what makes sense for them. But until there's even close to 50% of husbands prioritizing their wive's careers over their own, there's obviously a huge gender component to the situation that interferes with all individuals' ability to make their own choices.
posted by jaguar at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Live-in maid. Bam. Problem solved.

Not really of course. I married up - my career-woman wife makes twice what I do - yet I can hire a live in maid for a small fraction of my salary and as a family we make, seriously, way less in dollar terms than the average American double-income duo. The whole thing is a puzzler. We have an egalitarian relationship where she gets to have it all, made possible by some uncomfortable economic realities, ie the poor maid and millions of women like her who get to have very little. The thing is, America's economic position is resting on the poverty of billions too but the American middle class gets so few perks from it. Nobody can afford to stop working and you don't even get maids.
posted by BinGregory at 5:12 PM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cat does not understand why you want him to starve to death! Who has eaten Cat's food? Certainly not Cat!

I laughed so loud and so hard at this that my husband came in from the other room to find out what was going on and I explained and then he laughed too.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:25 PM on November 20, 2014


My husband is The Wife. I have a high-responsibility, stressful job with long hours that pays well enough that we can live simply and still afford for him not to go out and work. He keeps the house - cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. What he does makes it possible for me to do what I do. While he worked in a professional capacity for more than 20 years and could go out and get a job he's unlikely to find one that could allow me to stay home. So what I do makes it possible for him to not work, manage our household and still have a flexible enough schedule for him to do what he loves (surf, fish, make music). We don't have children, but I suppose if we did nothing would change - I'd still go out and work and he'd take care of them. He's more nurturing and patient anyway.

People sometimes react to it strangely - it's easier for us to say he's "retired" than that he's "managing the house". It's a new situation for us (almost a year) but we marvel every day at how well it works out and how it seems natural that a pair of people would team up and split up all the things it takes to Live Life in some way like this. It's just not normally that its done with this gender assignment. But screw gender expectations anyway.
posted by marylynn at 6:34 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


"But until there's even close to 50% of husbands prioritizing their wive's careers over their own," I still wonder if trying to force that number won't itself become oppressive to moms who want to stay home. Like do we HAVE to force 50% of moms to rejoin the workforce in 6 weeks to prove we have gender equality? Because that seems oppressive to human development and bonding itself and it seems we're forcing human welfare in an unhealthy direction for the sake of being PC if we really think that measurement is what prove we're doing it right.

It's like saying BMI proves healthy lifestyle which it doesn't. I DO agree there are oppressive circumstances and I want to fight against them, and that women are bearing the brunt of a lot of it, I just don't want to oppress women in the opposite direction to claim we're doing it better.
posted by xarnop at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2014


xarnop, neither the study nor I are talking about not taking long maternity leaves, even years. The bit I quoted from the study talks about re-entering work after a career break. I'm certainly not trying to force anyone back to work six weeks after giving birth.
posted by jaguar at 7:24 PM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I stopped working full time when my older son was 4 and I was pregnant with #2. They are now in high school and college, and I am just thinking about going back to full time. When #2 was a toddler I found a very part time job in my field and did that for a number of years to keep my hand in. I have been lucky enough to have what I call a "micro career." I now work 4 and a half days in my profession, which is good for our budget, my self esteem and gives me time to do the stuff that needs to get done. Librarianship is a career path that seems to have a lot of leeway in it for life detours.
posted by Biblio at 7:27 PM on November 20, 2014


> Live-in maid. Bam. Problem solved.

Maids are actually people; many are women with families. So are nannies and day care workers. Solving richer people's problems creates more life-work balance issues for poorer ones.
posted by purpleclover at 7:39 PM on November 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Every time I encounter a piece like this I wonder why there's no comparison to same-sex couples and then I get sad at how poorly opposite-sex couples seem to communicate about expectations and relationship issues. So, uh, lesbianism FTW, I guess.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:39 PM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


There's no mention either of how the best way to avoid this sort of thing is to stay single. Think of all of the awesome high-powered single women out there who couldn't catch a man if they sold their souls to the devil! They can't have a family, so they're perfect for giving up everything for the job!

Seriously, I think it's a waste that I, as a permasingle, am not smarter or more ambitious because I'd probably do great in all those male-based fields without a husband and baby to drag me down all the time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:43 PM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hey you know what would make it so much more possible for women to marry someone who will take care of the kids and for male-people to stay home and do that? If we paid women as much as men!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:00 AM on November 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


jenfullmoon that is, erm, the position I am increasingly finding myself in. I grew up with the assumption that I would be happily married by my late 20s. I was always the annoyingly earnest straight-A student. I had no idea what I was going to do with a career, but that was OK because I really wanted a family.

Long story short – once I was in a business context, all of a sudden I realized that I hadn't been skating along in school – I was driven. Ambitious. Not good for relationship prospects. There are a lot, a LOT, of men who see me as a challenge: "need to take her down a notch, she thinks she's smart/strong." (Many say it outright, to my face.) But... life is now very fulfilling. At least, when that's your personality, you manage to recognize it, and you're in a context where it's possible to set and meet goals. That latter bit is essential. It underlies this thread. Thanks to being permasingle – nearly 11 years now since I left my only long-term ex, and 4 since the last boyfriend – I was able to take a transfer position in a different city with a week's notice. That position has since turned into a promotion and a new life.

Managers said straight out that I was "lucky" not to have familial obligations – "it's always women following their husbands for promotions."

Also, it has not escaped my notice that my career stagnated in my 30s, prime childbearing age, when I continually asked for and was recognized capable of greater responsibilities... and now that I'm nearly 40, all of a sudden, hey, career prospects.

From this side of things, it's not exactly "great", in that you have to navigate being single while sparking the least malicious gossip possible, usually of the "slut" sort. It's gotten to the point where the blowback from fragile male egos (never get it from women) is strong enough that I'll probably put on a fake wedding ring for the office. Yeah, it's that bad. But... I have also noticed, in our company and the major client I'm currently with, that I'm the only woman my age at my level. Others are at least 10 years older. Sigh.
posted by fraula at 2:14 AM on November 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I would have loved nothing more than to stay home with the kids. It's about roles in our society, requirements for income, desires for advancement and how to balance it all out in a marriage as soon as the kids come along. I guess, I think, yeah, this advice is great. "Marry down" is a bit problematic of a phrase though as it tends to put down being at home, but it's great click bait so I can appreciate it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:32 AM on November 21, 2014


"Marry down" is a bit problematic of a phrase though as it tends to put down being at home, but it's great click bait so I can appreciate it.

It definitely has that implication, but I'm not sure that's the way it was intended. I think the idea is that if you want your career to have priority over your partner's, always -- which means your partner picks up the slack at home when you've got a project due, your partner takes the time off if your kid is sick, your partner moves for your job transfers but not vice versa -- then your career needs to be higher-earning than your partner's. Otherwise you get caught up in the "common-sense" math equation of "Well, your salary's just going to daycare."
posted by jaguar at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


And those were scare quotes on "common-sense." I hate the concept that somehow a mother's salary is the only household income that should be counted toward daycare.
posted by jaguar at 6:50 AM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Based on the glib line that "your husband is holding you back, not your kids", I'm surprised that no corporate MBA has suggested of just letting go of the member that contributes the least to the family enterprise, which would usually be the man.
posted by FJT at 10:14 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Based on the glib line that "your husband is holding you back, not your kids", I'm surprised that no corporate MBA has suggested of just letting go of the member that contributes the least to the family enterprise, which would usually be the man.

I don't think being a child-free lesbian is helping my career, and I don't think getting divorced helps women who partner with men, or that being chronically single helps in general - I've had a number of colleagues disparage single people openly for "failure".
posted by bile and syntax at 2:47 PM on November 21, 2014


I've definitely seen self-proclaimed feminist men in academia be jerks to their female partners. That said, my male partner got way better at household chores after gaining a female dissertation advisor who assigned him Judith Butler as directed reading. So theory can sometime influences practice?
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:23 PM on November 21, 2014


(Hetero) Women: stop marrying dudes who who can see don't know how to clean a house, do the dishes, maintain a lawn, do the laundry, etc!
This is a perfect solution except for the demographic disaster that will ensue when 85% of young adults become unable to find mates.
posted by bq at 7:10 PM on November 23, 2014


I don't think being a child-free lesbian is helping my career, and I don't think getting divorced helps women who partner with men, or that being chronically single helps in general - I've had a number of colleagues disparage single people openly for "failure".

Actually, I was thinking of women either marrying or becoming Jay/Silent Bob type "life mates" and just either adopting or going to a sperm bank.
posted by FJT at 12:22 PM on November 24, 2014


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