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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.

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Experts agree that when switching roles, as with any relationship upheaval, communication is paramount. After PJ Mullen announced that he didn’t know if he could continue, he and his wife talked. "She said, ‘If you feel that way, we will change.’ I said, ‘No, I just need to decompress.’" A few days later, she brought it up again. "I said, ‘No, I’m fine,’" PJ says, and he’s still convinced that this is the right choice for his family. Joe Schatz is, too. "We consider ourselves blessed and lucky to have kids in the first place," he says. "We just evaluate things as we go. Jodi’s been very supportive of the fact I’ve stayed home. I’ve been very supportive of her career."

Caryn Medved, an associate professor of communications at Baruch College in New York who’s conducting a study of 45 families with female breadwinners, says that most couples adapt. While the guys listed a number of challenges, she said, they also talked about what a deeply rewarding experience it could be. "I’ve had men crying when I interviewed them," Medved says. "I remember a man in Utah who talked about the ability to be a father in a way his father couldn’t, and the joy he felt in seeing his children grow."

Indeed, as the economy shows hints of recovery, not all househusbands are in a hurry to get back to the grind. Not long ago, PJ turned down a well-paid job offer. "You do wonder about your self-worth, because you’re not earning a paycheck," he says. But "my wife is the only one who matters. As long as she can look at me and realize that I’m doing the best for our family, it doesn’t matter that some random guy thinks I’m less of a man."

Hilary Stout is a New York City-based writer and frequent contributor to The New York Times.

Originally published on August 9, 2010

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