Real Life Stay-at-Home Husbands
Men pick up the slack as women for the first time make up a majority of American's workforce.
And just as having a stay-at-home wife carries cachet in certain male corporate circles, having a househusband may, in a way, be the ultimate status symbol for the successful professional woman. When her husband, PJ, was working as a mortgage broker, Michelle Mullen, a clinical pharmacist in Charlotte, North Carolina, usually lunched on Lean Cuisines from the break-room freezer. But ever since PJ became a full-time father to their 2-year-old, he sends Michelle off to work every day with homemade curried beef stew, turkey mole soup, or tarragon chicken salad with raisins and walnuts. "I’m spoiled," she says, adding with a laugh, "A man who changes diapers is just sexy."
Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education and smartmarriages.com, a website that acts as a clearinghouse for information on strengthening relationships, says that as women work more, the qualities we value in a partner can shift greatly. "In a way, it’s almost like bragging for a woman to say she has a stay-at-home husband," she observes. "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." For the hard-driving careerist mother, a husband who’s willing to take up the lion’s share at home is a godsend.
Still, the transition from breadwinner to househusband can be rough on a guy’s ego. Despite all the enlightened views about hands-on dads, all the reflexive "That’s great!" comments from hip and politically correct peers, the professional dad lives a life filled with big existential questions (What is my true worth as a person if I don’t get a paycheck?) and tiny daily indignities, like having to buy presents for his wife with her money, or shrugging off incredulous looks at dinner parties after revealing he’s a stay-at-home dad. "At times it’s been emasculating," admits PJ, who has been home full time since his son, CJ, was born two years ago. When people see him pushing a stroller at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, they jump to conclusions: Guys assume he’s been laid off, and little old ladies figure he’s dabbling in childcare. "Are you babysitting today? Giving Mommy a break?" they coo. "Babysitting?! I’m his father," seethes PJ.