At Home Dads and Working Moms: You Can’t Have it Both Ways

Since the release of U.S. Census Bureau data indicating the statistical rise of stay-at-home dads, there has been an avalanche of commentary across the variety of news and business outlets. Two of the most recent come from Forbes and Business Week.

In the Forbes post, “Why Are We So Worried About Stay-At-Home Dads?” Frieda Klotz provides an economic overview  of the factors related to the rise in men as primary care-givers  and then contrasts this against the animosity shown by both men and women over the notion of a woman being accepting of man who earned less than.

Klotz was specifically referring to comments in response to an article last fall in The Economist which stated that women were the ones riding to the rescue in this recession as they were working more hours than were men while still maintaining the household. It’s interesting to note that the article did a fair share of lamenting over the continued fact that men still earn more too, ultimately concluding that:

“Both as entrepreneurs and as employees, women still seem to be at a disadvantage. The most obvious explanation is that most of them have children.”

The statistics used in The Economist article on the surface seem contradictory to those cited this month in Business Week. Women now fill a majority of jobs in the U.S., including 51.4 percent of managerial and professional positions, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The piece then followed this up with  data gained from the Pew Research Center which found that 23 percent of wives now out-earn their husbands, and furthermore, this trend was even more dramatic among women under 30 considering that on average they take home more than their male counterparts in all but three of the largest cities in the U.S.

Essentially, what it comes down to (and this is somewhat generalized) is that there’s no happy median here. Women want husbands to be more involved at home, but either snub stay-at-home dads or refuse to give up the reins over the household. And of the women who are working, they’re still not happy about the idea they are earning less even though that trend seems to be going the other way.

Men on the other hand are upset about not receiving due consideration when it comes to matter such as maternity leave, and for those men who are able to take advantage of the situation, the New York Times writes that that a mother’s future earning goes up 7% for  every month the dad is on maternity leave. And while a father’s parenting competency will forever be in question it seems, for those SAHDs who defy this misperception, they’re still pariahs at the mommy-and-me groups.

The solution according to Klotz would be that of balance. In her opinion:

“The best-case scenario for men and women might be if the career success of one partner were not based on the stay-at-home withdrawal of another; if laws allowed a more egalitarian workplace that favored a work-life balance…”

This seems logical assuming both men and women could accept the idea of a little give and take, starting with Klotz herself who, although accepting of the idea having a SAHD, also confesses her misgivings.

“Would I worry about my partner’s trustworthiness, in a reversal of men’s anxieties about mailmen and visiting plumbers? How would I cope with the pressures of having to earn enough to feed a household?”

Bottom line, and this goes for both moms and dads, whether working or staying at home—you can’t have it both ways. In the meantime, why can’t everybody just focus on the real priority here—the kids.

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Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons (Naked Pictures of Bea Arthur)


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