For Julie, having Raul as stay-at-home father meant she has been able to focus on her career. Mirroring what so many successful men with spouses at home have said before her, Julie told me, “I am where I am today because he took care of the home front.”
“In a way, it’s almost like bragging for a woman to say she has a stay-at-home husband,” said Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. “Not only is she the breadwinner with a great job, but she’s also got this highly evolved male person a feminist, father, and husband who doesn’t care what the gender roles are. It’s really an elevated life-form.”177
But is it really? There is no doubt the vast majority of senior women at the top of most professions have husbands who are the lead parents. These men often don’t work or, like Bill Romans and Andrew Moravcsik, have careers that allow them to place family first. But does having a husband at home really mean we’ve come a long way?
United Healthcare Careers Work From Home Photo Gallery
In terms of gender roles, maybe. In terms of the workplace, no. What it really means is that the workplace hasn’t changed to accommodate parenting. What it really means is that we haven’t demanded our government provide systems and structures to support families. What it really means is that couples are forced to find individual solutions that may work for some but don’t work for most.
And what of the men themselves? I interviewed nearly a dozen men who are putting family first in some way or another. Each of them expressed anger and resentment that, as caregivers, they were considered less masculine and less competent. Those who were still married and whose wives had careers that flourished had few regrets about the financial implications of their choice.
But what of the men whose marriages don’t survive or whose wives have careers that don’t flourish? Staying home for them brings the same financial and professional risks so many women who have opted out have faced these past few decades in fact, probably more risks given the data on how men are penalized for prioritizing family over career. Imagine if a man was to tell an employer he’d been out of the workforce for a few years to care for his children. Talk about challenging the gender straitjacket.
These stay-at-home dads might be evolved feminists, but they are still locked in a system that doesn’t allow them or their wives to integrate caregiving and careers. If it did, my guess is they wouldn’t be staying home, at least not for very long. They’d do what so many trailblazing women have done before them and find work that allowed them both the flexibility of being an engaged parent and the rewards of a rich and meaningful career.
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