The premise of the New York Times’s recent piece on the stay-at-home husbands of female Wall Street execs was a must-click the minute I heard about it: the so-called “house husband” is one of my favorite answers to the nebulous question of how to Have It All. The article focuses on a growing class of families in wealthy suburban areas that are putting aside the traditional nuclear family structure for a more progressive and profitable alternative. While these moms earn seven-figure salaries at financial firms like Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, their husbands stay home and take care of the children.
The piece is decidedly positive about the rise of female bankers and executives in the business world, but as the authors change their focus to the home lives of the families in question, they veer towards tired tropes of masculinity and gender roles. One exec’s husband tells her he wants a wife (quoted without comment on the obvious sexism - a woman can’t be a wife unless she stays home with the kids full-time?). And all the dads seem to be treated with a reverence rarely awarded to the average housewife.
It says a lot when an article like this chooses to recognize fathers for taking on the "strange" and "exclusive" role of stay-at-home dad, instead of recognizing them simply as a good parent and husband. Women have been cleaning up the floods of spilled Cheerios for years, why should a man garner such lofty praise for doing the same? The women say they wish their husbands did the household chores, but don’t want to request it lest they “sound as if they were treating them like employees.” Nowhere is the answer to the question of why the men aren’t doing these basic tasks in the first place.
As the article makes clear, reversing traditional gender roles can yield positive results for the finances of suburban families and their employers. Whether the effects on the families themselves are good, bad, or just have some kinks to work out is apparently still up for debate.
Thanks to The New York Times
Image via Walrath Recruiting