To Break the Glass Ceiling, You Need a SAHD

For women to make it to the top of their careers, Anne-Marie Slaughter  says that they need a Stay-At-Home-Dad or at least a husband with a flexible job. And women need to trust men to do a good job.

It’s tough managing two high-powered careers, plus properly caring for the off spring and keeping the house from falling down. We all know that. The solutions are:

A) Hire a lot of people to help out. Downside — Therapy for the children who have no relationship with either parent.

B) Mom stays home. Downside — Mom out of the workforce. Sometimes a little bitter. Financial dependence.

Slaughter suggests option C) Dad stays home. Magically, no downside. 

Meh. Stay at home dads have the same issues as stay at home moms, but more so. They are even more isolated. Not that I’m discouraging men from staying at home to mind the brood. It’s noble work. But I think we have to honest about the job.

Perhaps Slaughter wasn’t really exploring the problems of life as a stay at home dad, because she was responding to a mother’s day essay by Judith Shulevitz, which complained about women being in charge of “The List.” Slaughter says her husband is in charge of “The List,” not her. He and the housekeeper are raising the kids and keeping the house from falling down. Women should be more like her, and walk away from the tyranny of the “The List.”

Any essay with a “people should be more like me” theme bugs the crap out of me.

I’m clearly in charge of “The God-damned List” in this house, but we’ve been playing with technology to spread the responsibility. Steve, Jonah, and I share a common calendar on iCal. I also print out a copy of the calendar for the week and tape it to the fridge. I try not to micromanage Steve when he hires the gutter cleaning service or reserves the hotel for Cleveland for next week. But it’s me who shows up for the teacher meetings, who drives Ian to drum lessons, who finds an SAT program for Jonah. Steve has a job; he can’t do that stuff.

Even with our efforts at communal responsibility for the house/kids, one person has to be in charge of “The List.” It doesn’t have to be a woman; either parent will do. Still, house and kid management require time.

16 thoughts on “To Break the Glass Ceiling, You Need a SAHD

  1. The sentence/paragraph “Any essay with a “people should be more like me” theme bugs the crap out of me” should be tweeted and retweeted and retweeted until the entire writing world gets the message.

  2. The biggest positive change in our lives over the last year was when my husband took over the responsibility of driving our daughter to dance 3x week. I swear, it’s changed my life. I am 75% less resentful of life.

  3. I do not think hiring lots of people to take over duties has to have the downside of therapy (and, the studies are not in favor of the hypothesis). I think kids have to know that their parents care about and love them, but I think that can be done with paid caretakers of various forms (including drivers, house cleaners, household chefs, an array of baby sitters, camps, school, . . .).

    Someone has to be in charge of the list, but the list can be simplified, and some people are better at keeping track of it than others.

    And, on the flip side, a working parent can bring privileges to a child (independent of money, if they have the right kind of job). A child of a friend just posted an ode to his father on FB for Father’s day in which he described the value he got out of hanging out with his dad, at his workplace, during his formative years. Another friend takes her child along to meetings in Aspen, in Vienna, in Okinawa, in which her child gets to hang out with the children of other really smart people (and with the smart people themselves).

    There’s no one solution, but different people make it work in different ways (all solutions have down and upsides).

    1. “A child of a friend just posted an ode to his father on FB for Father’s day in which he described the value he got out of hanging out with his dad, at his workplace, during his formative years.”

      My husband’s dad was a chemist when my husband was a kid. Soooo much fun with dangerous substances!

    2. bj, I think no contact with parents does lead to a need for therapy, sooner or later.

      I’m not speaking of the sort of pieced-together babysitters, drivers, camps, etc., which so many parents put together these days. I’m speaking of situations in which child knows the housekeeper better than his parents.

      The bad situations seem to arise when parents use material things–expensive toys and money–to substitute for love and attention. If those parents then choose to indulge in a divorce, it gets worse.

  4. A very high percentage of the SAHDs that we have known (it is not, in all honesty, a large number) were unfaithful to their wives. Of course, so are a lot of working husbands. But the women with unfaithful SAHD husbands were especially outraged, because they had to give the guy money.

    1. Which would be the same for a working man with an unfaithful SAHM wife, right? I think everyone is outraged if they have to give an unfaithful ex-spouse money

      1. No, if you can’t keep a wife, it’s a reflection on your manliness. Your friends think mockingly: “Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater . . ..”

      2. y81, you live in New York City, don’t you? Did I miss an emoticon denoting a joke, or something?

  5. Laura said:

    “He and the housekeeper are raising the kids and keeping the house from falling down. Women should be more like her, and walk away from the tyranny of the “The List.”
    “Any essay with a “people should be more like me” theme bugs the crap out of me.”

    Especially when it has the word “housekeeper” in it, right?

    There’s an uber Catholic homeschooling SAHD with five kids and a scientist wife on one of the forums I read. His life is AWESOME ALL THE TIME if you ask. But, occasionally, he’ll let slip stuff like the only person he talks to aside from his own family in real life is the drive thru girl. That’s a flyover country situation, but it may not be that much better in a lot of other places. We live in a college town (granted in TX), but I see that the local Meet Up for a dad’s group has one (1.00) member.

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