Do At-Home Dads Help or Hurt Work-Life Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

For a long time, I've assumed I was doing right by society and my kids by being an active dad. I was thrilled to find academics that linked involved fathers to everything from reduced contact with juvenile justice to lower rates of teen pregnancy. And I thought that by throwing gender roles to the wind that I was part of a tiny revolution that would change the way that the home and the workplace operated.

But lately, I've been forced to reconsider whether at-home dads do much to promote work-life balance or actually hurt the cause.

It all started with a wonderful profile of at-home dads in and around San Francisco by the San Francisco Chronicle. Though a compelling and honest look at an interesting group of guys, a Salon piece raised a reasonable question: Aren't stories about at-home dads just celebrating traditional work-family choices? Does flipping the genders make a difference?

This has prompted a crisis of conscience. Are stay-at-home dads just making it easier for go-to-work moms to assume the mantle of "ideal worker," logging long hours in a culture that always puts the company first? After all, having a spouse at home -- regardless of your sex -- makes it easier to log those 60-hour-plus workweeks, and it's hard to work 12-hour days and champion work-family balance at the same time.

On the flip side, I do believe that families with an at-home dad have a humanizing effect on the workplace, and that go-to-work moms are better advocates for workplace balance and sanity than their male counterparts -- though this assumption itself relies on a certain gender stereotype. And I think at-home dads -- when they return to the workforce -- are more likely to fight for corporate policies that respect family needs. But there's not much data to support these assumptions.

So, I'll throw it out to you: Are at-home fathers a help or a hindrance in getting to better work-life policies in the workplace?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  August 10, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Dads , Division of Labor , Guest Blogs , Workplaces
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when they return to the workforce -- are more likely to fight for corporate policies that respect family needs.
------
The insurance piece is key here. I would like to see benefits presented cafeteria-style. My part-time gig (nearly 20 years now) allows part-times access to insurance (health and life). But even better would be a option to not take health and life -- if spouse has options -- then take a commuter's allowance, parking permit, extra leave, or other such items.

Posted by: College Parkian | August 10, 2006 7:57 AM

Um, what?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 7:59 AM

I'm a working mom who has a SAHD husband. I work 30 hours a week-- which is enough to make ends meet for now. We will probably both work a little more than this when our kids are older (right now they're 2 and 4).

I think moms are less willing to put in the 60-hour weeks than dads are. They just naturally like more work-life balance. Of course, this is a gross generalization, but I still think it holds true for the most part (obviously not all cases).

Posted by: Ms L | August 10, 2006 8:15 AM

I think that there are not enough stay at home dads currently to make an impact anywhere. But assuming it was 50/50, maybe there would be a shift in thought about parents in the workplace, but most likely not. There really needs to be a change in thinking in those who have the power to make changes. And those in power are predominately white males with stay at home wives. The shift, I'm afraid, will come from somewhere else.

Posted by: working mother | August 10, 2006 8:22 AM

I believe that SAHD have zero affect on work-life balance. Fathers should be given the option to stay at home like mothers, if financially possible. But ultimately the SAHD still suffers the same negative social ramifications (not contributing to social security, falling behind on technology trends). Getting back into the work force once you decide to stay at home isn't that easy, despite what some may think. Women who go back into the work force have less advancement and make less money. I assume this will be the same with SAHDs.

Here's a novel idea, instead of our politicians focusing on immigration, gay marriage and other craziness; why don't they try getting some social programs to help parents balance work and family(since it actually affects more people). (I know it would actually mean that our senators and congressional reps would have to actually *work* to represent us.)

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | August 10, 2006 8:29 AM

What? Politicians work on family issues? Most are white males with stay at home wives (or at least their careers are "lesser"). Many don't come close to understanding family issues. And unfortunately the current political will is that family issues are the families' problems. You know, this administration and congress believe that Harriet should be barefoot and pregnant at home in the kitchen and Ozzie bringing home the bacon and all would be well.

Posted by: To Arlington mom | August 10, 2006 8:36 AM

I know politicans represent their own interest, not the interests of the people they represent. But beneath the cynicism, I actually hope that one day our system will work and the needs of most Americans will be addressed instead of the *crap* they do today just to upset people into voting for them.

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | August 10, 2006 8:41 AM

Are at-home fathers a help or a hindrance in getting to better work-life policies in the workplace?

ummmm, lets get this baby goin!

SAHD's are clearly a HINDERANCE since they have wasted all their education, professional experience and abrogated their responsibility to activism for greater work/life balance in the workplace.

SAHD's are therefore elitist, mean to clerks, returning 3 year old answering machines to Wal-Mart whilst drinking decaf Lattes and not watching the toddler nearly as well as the mother, who has an inate superior ability to monitor, mold and motivate her progeny.

SAHD's and SAHM's should be forced to have payrolled jobs, mobilize and demand that the goverment pay for high quality, free, child supervision for all, with much higher funding targetted at neighborhoods where income is lower than 20 percent below the median income according to the 200 census.

Taxes should be raised to fund these programs so that all those who earn more than 20% above the median income according to the 2000 census will have their income reduced to the median - just because they had better luck BTW, LUCK LUCK LUCK. Do not even suggest that focus, talent, effort and persistance have anything to do with achievemnet please.

If we mobilize and do all these things I dare say it will stop the immigration problem - nobody would want to live in America anymore - the land of opportunity will be the land of unmotivated, unachieving entitlement to mediocrity.

Anybody ever read the Constitution of the USSR?

http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/russian/const/77cons02.html#chap06

Article 35. Women and men have equal rights in the USSR.

Exercise of these rights is ensured by according women equal access with men to education and vocational and professional training, equal opportunities in employment, remuneration, and promotion, and in social and political, and cultural activity, and by special labour and health protection measures for women; by providing conditions enabling mothers to work; by legal protection, and material and moral support for mothers and children, including paid leaves and other benefits for expectant mothers and mothers, and gradual reduction of working time for mothers with small children.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 8:42 AM

"Aren't stories about at-home dads just celebrating traditional work-family choices?"

Yes they are - and yay for that!

I'm not sure about the answer to your question about whether SAHDs are a help or a hindrance to getting to better work-life policies in the workplace. They probably don't have any effect, just as SAHMs don't.

However, imo having a parent at home has a huge effect on the overall balance of the individual family. It also affects the community where the family lives in many situations, because there's a parent more available to do whatever needs to be done (whether it be volunteering in the schools or coaching or participating in co-ops that benefit other families or whatever.) (And yes, working parents do those things too but that's why I used the term "more available".)

Striving to have companies promote work-life balance is important, but I think that most balance comes from within the family. A company can have the best family-friendly policies out there but it doesn't do much good if either parent (or just one) aren't taking advantage of them.

Posted by: momof4 | August 10, 2006 8:43 AM

I really respect the ability to write a piece that questions the choices you've made, this shows true courage in a debate where people seem to go for the jugular rather than engage in a thoughtful debate.

As a mom with a husband who prefers to stay at home and take on traditional parenting tasks like homework, parent/teacher conferences etc. without me, I appreciate this question. I don't have the option to stay home, financially, but I would rather my husband work also and we could be a true partnership in raising the children. This current lopsided arrangement leaves me struggling to be involved - both for myself, and since all the literature says BOTH parents need to be involved for the good of the kids.

Plus although there are many stay-at-home dads picking up the mantle of true "homemaker", the stats say that when women work and men stay home, the women often end up doing a large share of cleaning, errands, cooking etc, while still viewed as having flexibility at work since they don't have to leave to meet day care deadlines. This does mean a lot of extra stress and fatigue, at least in my case.

Posted by: mom with stay at home spouse | August 10, 2006 8:45 AM

Fo3 wrote: Article 35. Women and men have equal rights in the USSR.

You are correct men and women were equally poor and sent to the Gulag too. The USSR was hardly paradise for women, or men for that matter. I think we see how successful Communism has been...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 8:45 AM

Although it is almost 20 years since my SAHD days, I can attest to the truth of what Alex Mom says about work re-entry problems as regards keeping up with change and regaining your place on the wage ladder. Incidentally, since returning to work the two best bosses I have had were women. In at least one case I think the SAHD thing may have helped me get the job.

Posted by: Old SAHD | August 10, 2006 8:49 AM

The American child-producing workforce -- this includes both men and women -- are in a difficult spot due to the fact that both parents must often work in order to pay the bills, cover a mortgage, save for the child's future and save for retirement. So, SAHD or SAHM are, for many families, not a viable choice. This is a tragedy.

For families lucky enough to afford one parent at work, the other at home, choices may be made as to who stays home. These decisions may be based on obvious parental stereotypes, predominant salary, career trajectory, or willingness on one part or the other to serve as care provider. This choice should be made thoughfully and carefully.

Today's workplaces, however, don't help. With the tragic amount of maternity leave due American women, coupled with often non-existent options for paternity leave available to men, a crisis is looming in American parenting. Numerous cultural changes must be made. First, workers must begin, en masse, to "just say no" to the long work hours somehow laughably considered normal in today's workplace. This reality encourages, and in some cases even mandates, the choice of work over family.

Change must also occur in traditional gender roles and the sad cultural misconception that the rules of masculinity do not include child care or child raising. Until this reality changes, men and their families will continue to be victimized by outmoded constructs based more in the 1950's than today.

Posted by: on the verge | August 10, 2006 8:51 AM

I agree with "on the verge."
This issue is not so simple and really, we need a change in the culture as opposed to encouraging one or the other parent to stay at home. Many parents need to work (as in both) and many others want to work. Stay at homes are a minority and I'd prefer it stay that way. We need to continue to move in the direction of flexibility in the workplace, job share, improved # of days off for the lower wage worker, improved childcare etc. If many of these things were in place, then I would hope these discussions would be few and far between.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 9:01 AM

good poin 8:45!

Hey - but only enemies of the state went to the gulag. Terrorists, subversives, malcontents, rource hoarders, kulaks etc.

Everybody else was guaranteed work/life balance under the law.

- and NOBODY got to return 3-year old answering machines to Wal-Mart or had to work two (official) jobs just to scrape by.

Everybody got an education too - thats what brought the USSR down - the information age ended the totalitarian state - not Ronald Reagan.

- back to my shed and CO2 beer dispenser... God Bless America!

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 9:04 AM

Re: mom with stay at home spouse's post

I also agree both partners should work to share both the financial responsibility for the family as well as the childrearing and housework.

Funny how a woman who share's your husband's desire to stay home and keep the house and kids in order is supposed to be celebrated whereas a man is likely to be considered a parasite forcing his wife to work.

You have described the imbalance, frankly, that shows up in a relationship when one party is required to bear 100% of any task that needs to be done. I also suspect more men than will admit feel the pressure you do but do not feel the freedom to say "Yes, I think/wish my wife would work."

Posted by: lc | August 10, 2006 9:05 AM

It seems to me that the book you refer to is about "involved fathers" and not necessarily "at-home dads," because you could certainly be the first without being the second. Even if SAHDs are not the best alternative, you should always strive to be an involved dad!

Let's get this out of the way before someone else says it: You should choose the situation the works best for your family regardless of what other people think.

Having said that, in my opinion, it's not a good idea for either parent to SAH because of the economic uncertainty in the U.S. right now. In the interest of the children, it seems best to save money to prepare for hardships, and that's hard to do with one income, a mortage, and two kids in the D.C. area.

As far as whether it makes a difference who stays at home, I think it does because any shift will open employers' eyes. Yes someone will still be home with the children, but the employers will see that not all women become SAHMs and that some men want to do it instead. This contributes to the power of women in the workplace who are often written off because they could be mothers. And since women seem to have more pull when it comes to childcare issues, it's best that they are front and center in the workplace to fight for them.

And last but not least, it's ALWAYS important to shake up stereotypical gender roles, if only for the sake of your children who will be living in an increasingly diverse world as adults.


Posted by: Meesh | August 10, 2006 9:05 AM

I doubt SAHDs have much of an effect on work/life balance at this point. Maybe SAHDs returning to the workplace will because they will have a different viewpoint. Where SAHDs do help is in supporting the woman's career which, of course, is a different matter than work/life balance. Setting aside whether she wants to put in extra hours or go to a late-planned meeting, the wife is able to because there is help at home. (Which I guess is an argument that perhaps they hurt the work/life balance slightly.) Just like men with SAH wives probably advance at a faster pace than those who share family responsibilities. So SAHDs probably help women be regarded as "equal" in the workplace. Some may think that's a bad thing because the women will have less balance themselves. Others would think that's a good thing.

On another note, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, politicians need money to get elected. And that requires getting support from businesses. Which means no one is likely to force corporations to provide greater benefits. It's not the voting in November that really counts. It's the money donated that gives the politicians the resources to get the votes.

Posted by: Sam | August 10, 2006 9:14 AM

I have a brother in law who's a SAHD and within the family we've kind of watched as the gender roles in his family have become more and more slanted over time. His wife keeps getting promoted and spending more time at work, and now she's like the stereotypical "Don't bother daddy" dad, except she's a woman. She basically shows up for their sporting events and does fun stuff with them on weekends -- but he handles all the day to day cooking, cleaning, buying school supplies stuff. So no, in their case, there's no real "balance" in the sense that both of them are involved. He's the houseperson and she's the worker. I think that maybe anyplace with long commutes and high real estate prices that may be more likely to happen.

The other thing that bothers me a bit about those arrangements is that lots of SAHD's don't fill in the volunteerism gap left by the working mom -- frequently because they can't figure out where they fit in, or because the mean PTA moms exclude them, or for other reasons -- I remember explaining to a SAHD that he couldn't just show up and help with the Girl Scout campout -- because the Girl Scout regulations are that he has to sleep somewhere separately, have his own bathroom, take a course first (!), blah, blah, blah. It's a shame it's sometimes so difficult for dads to get involved in the community.

You hear about the occasional dad who's involved in PTA or as a 'room mom' but I'll be curious as to how Rebel Dad handles these types of situations when they come up. Just curious, REbel Dad, do you volunteer at the preschool?

Posted by: Makes you think | August 10, 2006 9:16 AM

(sorry forgot to put my name in the other post on the USSR)

Fo3: You need to revisit the history of the USSR and the Gulags. The people sent to the Gulags weren't just "Terrorists, subversives, malcontents, rource hoarders, kulaks." If the government had a new dam project they would also arrest engineers to "work" on the project. The government arrested people when there was a shortage of labor.

You have a very naive understanding of life in the USSR. As I said before, everyone was equally poor and if rural folk you could equally starve.

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | August 10, 2006 9:20 AM

If the work week were shorter and you could chose and early or late shift, then both parents could work. However, with the expectation of long hours it is better for one SAH if you can swing it. That's what we did and I wouldn't change a day. I stayed home because my wife's career was advancing and, as a political writer, I could do my work at home.

I also quarrel with the contention that fathers are not as attentive. We do parent differently, since we let our kids take risks, but we also watch them like hawks.

As to how things should be, the tax system should be adjusted to make sure employers pay a living wage so both parents do not have to work. We are creating a generation of aggressive day care kids and that is not good. Granted, some kids are aggressive by nature no matter where they are, but I have to tell you my daughter learned a bit of aggressiveness at daycare and has been sick much more often than when she was at home with me.

Posted by: Michael Bindner | August 10, 2006 9:24 AM

My husband is a SAHD but he is still technically a part-time employee at his old company. Once every month or two his company contacts him with an urgent proposal that needs to be written or edited, and he works for them as needed (usually a day or two of work). This means he has no gap in his resume (makes returning to work easier) and it also exposes his company to the option of being a SAHD and working part-time. I think this could have an impact.

Even if my husband didn't work I would still consider him to be contributing financially to the household. We don't need day care, and we almost never eat out anymore. We can cook what we want, and usually it's better and healthier than restaurant meals. We also don't have the substantial expenses of all the wear and tear on his car, or the suits and ties he had to wear for his job as CTO in our past life. Basically, his work in the home is keeping us from paying for services outside the home, which is also a financial contribution.

Meesh, I see your point about two incomes being important in the DC area but not everyone on this blog lives there. In fact, some people have moved away just to have a more affordable lifestyle-- I'm one of them, and I thought you said you moved to NC for the same reason...?

Posted by: Ms L | August 10, 2006 9:28 AM

I am with you Alexandria Mom. My rant intended to highlight that asking our government to make life fair WONT ever work. Double negative reverse psychology.

Also I am troubled by our current US government's flauting of civil liberties in the "War on Terror." As a student of history and Russia and the USSR in particular I find the actions of our government in the name of security particularly worrying.

Sorry if my sarcasm didnt translate. Not all Russians were Stalinist. The Russian people have a rich culture and civilization that was hijacked by fascists in the name of blazing a path to communist utopia - utter failure - but not all were evil-doers... they just couldnt force human nature and gosplan a 20th century economy to fulfill their promises.

The European economies are struggling under the burden of their own socialist contract - and I dont want to see America go down that path - even with the best intentions.

Local control, State's rights, Federal oversight and safety net....and I am a registered democrat.

I like the way our system works compared to all the others I have studied. I even like insurance companies more than "universal healthcare."

sorry if I led you to beleive that I thought the USSR was fair and balanced. I know that centralized government controlled economies are completely out of balance and inflexible.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 9:40 AM

Ms. L: I hope your husband forces change, not only for workers at the CTO level but for the receptionists too.

As an off topic side note - Does the L stand for Lucky?! I think most people would live in North Carolina instead of DC, if given the chance! I loved living in Raleigh.

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | August 10, 2006 9:41 AM

To Mom with stay at home Dad:

Why does you husband not work? Just curious, not being snarky or rude - there was a mention (yeterday I think) from two women who worked but would prefer to stay home - seems like you are in the opposite position, so I was curious if the reasons were the same.

Posted by: No kids | August 10, 2006 9:45 AM

Fo3: In graduate school, there were many feminist baby boomer professors who would wax on and on about the equality of women in the good old USSR, like it was something to aspire to....?! I didn't get your sarcasm because I have actually heard this argument before, presented with absolute seriousiness.

I am hardly a fan of the current administration and congress. I feel they have really avoided doing anything for families. They just can't be bothered with us little people and our little people problems, like affordable healthcare, housing, gas and daycare. Many Americans have problems affording daycare and housing with the sad minimum wage in this country. Yet they can't pass the minimum wage bill because they want a tax break for inherited wealth (which is such a small percentage of Americans!)...what are they thinking?!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 9:49 AM

"We are creating a generation of aggressive day care kids and that is not good."

I love when people make assertions that are not backed up by fact to validate their arguments. Sorry that your daughter is "aggressive"--it's convenient to blame it on the daycare and not on the parents. Unless of course your child is in daycare 24/7, typically the parents are more influential then the daycare/school. Plus there are just as many or more studies that show the benefits of daycare.

Posted by: To Michael Binder | August 10, 2006 10:04 AM

It is the wrong debate.

The question is, why do we need to work more than 40 hours per week, in the first place? Why are we forced into what is essentially wage slavery?

Why don't we have national health care, so that stay-at-home parents are not forced to chose between benefits that are tied to work, and being able to live?

The debate should NOT be which of the spouses sacrifices life for work, but why are we forced to make the choice in the first place?

Couples who are not married - gay/lesbian parents, single parents, people who share residences - do not even have the choice to make because of benefits tied to the work place.

Change the debate. Change life choices.

Posted by: National health care | August 10, 2006 10:13 AM

Fo3: are you the previously posting Father of 4? Just asking.......

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 10, 2006 10:24 AM

Right, Mrs. L, I don't live in D.C. anymore. But I thought I'd argue to the majority of readers.

And you make a great point about the financial benefits of having someone home all the time. Definitely something to consider.

Posted by: Meesh | August 10, 2006 10:26 AM

Men are far less demanding than women when it comes to money. Men do not make the demands on women that women make on men. Go to Walmart on any day and watch the one to two hundred 300 pound women buying junk with one or two 60 lb four year olds being drug along. There are no meta analysis of data that shows that women do any better job of raising children than men. Maybe if men were given a chance at rearing our children we as a society could rid ourselves of all this junk and put our children on a different course.

Posted by: mcewen | August 10, 2006 10:27 AM

"I am hardly a fan of the current administration and congress. I feel they have really avoided doing anything for families."

Let me remind you that when Slick Willy and his harem of soccer moms and inturns left this country in economic shambles due to rampid corporate corruption, it was the Republican that banded together and pushed through a huge tax credit for working parents of dependent children. they even sent me a nice fat checkup front when things really got bad. It paid for a nice family vacation.

All the Democrats did was cry "fiscal responsibility"... Boo Hoo!

If the democrats had their way, you can bet that the first thing they will do will make the parents "pay their fare share". After all, it's the republicans that got our country into this economic mess in the first place by giving us undeserving parents a tax break . the only thing the democrats did for the family in the last election was try to make this nation a more gay-friendly nation. If that's their solution to gender-neutral parenting, I'm glad they lost!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 10:35 AM

A-Mom:
I studied in the USSR in the late 80's and was an early particiant in the capital markets there from 1993 through 2003-ish when my job changed. So I have seen the best and worst of communism as well as the best and worst of capitalism. Had some nasty positions to deal with as a result of the defaults of first the USSR and then their GKO confiscation. Also saw the black hats seize state industry on the cheap but also witness the privatization vouchers give normal citizens a good tatse of capitalism. I still own Lukoil - never owned Yukos. I dont trade the rouble anymore - and my wife likes me a lot more... I am probably a nicer person than I was when actively trading emerging markets.

Balance, IMHO, comes about based upon individual circumstance, individual contribution, ethics, community awarness and service. SAHD's, SAHM's, WOHM's, WOHD's, SINk's, DINK's and slam dunks are all ok by me. We all pay our taxes, we all get to vote and even run for office - if not a felon...

Now if we can just extricate ourselves from Iraq and spend American tax dollars on America for a change.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 10:37 AM

Mcewen, men have the chance to raise their children; no one is stopping them. I would say that a much better sweeping generalization is that men more often than women eshew the responsibility of child rearing and leave women to do the majority. I bet you'd be hard pressed to find equal numbers of men who really want to raise thier kids but who have awful wives who "won't let them."

And "Men are far less demanding than women when it comes to money"? Where do you get that idea? Because commercials cater to women who do the majority of buying for the household because they are more likely the ones at home?

Posted by: Meesh | August 10, 2006 10:39 AM

no the men are in the electronics store and the autoparts shop. (any other sterotypes we want to perpetuate?)

Posted by: to mcewen | August 10, 2006 10:41 AM

You know what's really interesting?

When BOTH parents stay home.

I see it more and more. Usually, one parent also works at home, very flexible hours, self-employed. Sometimes a part-time or temporary gig is in the mix. I have a few neighbors doing this, also my own brother in another city. All are middle-class and doing fine. It's kind of like how people lived when they were mostly living on farms. A little bit of "Walton's"!! And it does work.

I think more and more dads will want to stay home for part of their children's lives. There will be changes in the workplace anyway so why not make things better at home as part of the bargain?

Posted by: granny | August 10, 2006 10:44 AM

This doesn't answer your question, but it addresses the bigger issue:

There are other options between the extremes, options that help with the balance issues: Jobs at non-profits, smaller companies, gov't work, lower profile positions.

Granted, these options aren't available to all. But this blog seems to focus on the questions that two-parent, middle and upper middle class families ask themselves. And one answer is to not work at the jobs that sacrifice employee's lives at the alter of profits.

Posted by: Ffx | August 10, 2006 10:46 AM

I don't know what you're so upset about--your boy is in power, and has been for several years!

The bottom line is that all politicians are worthless. Democrat or Republican, all they care about is money. That's why we need to get rid of the politicians who have been in the game for a long time and elect newbies who are less likely to be corrput. And get to know your state representatives on a first name basis (by writing them tons of letters and annoying the heck out of them). We pay them to represent us! They should hear our critiques as often as possible. Also, vote in your local elections! Those people affect your life as much as the president, who we have absolutely no influence over.

Posted by: To 10:35 | August 10, 2006 10:47 AM

to anonymous 9:01 poster:

"This issue is not so simple and really, we need a change in the culture as opposed to encouraging one or the other parent to stay at home. Many parents need to work (as in both) and many others want to work. Stay at homes are a minority and I'd prefer it stay that way. We need to continue to move in the direction of flexibility in the workplace, job share, improved # of days off for the lower wage worker, improved childcare etc. If many of these things were in place, then I would hope these discussions would be few and far between."

OK....I'm with you on most of your points except "Stay at homes are a minority and I'd prefer it stay that way."

Usually it's the SAHs who are slammed for being more inflexible on the subject of "what is best". But it sounds like you're basically saying the same thing on the flipside....

What is the benefit to you personally if stay-at-home parents remain in the minority? What happened to "to each his own?"

I also don't think that anyone is encouraging one parent to stay home....but rather making it possible for one to stay home if that's what the family thinks is best for them.

Posted by: momof4 | August 10, 2006 10:48 AM

"Are at-home fathers a help or a hindrance in getting to better work-life policies in the workplace?"

Do what works for your family! As long as this is the best situation for your family, then go for it!

Women are so often paralyzed by indecision about how their choices will effect the "Sisterhood" and the community at large, whereas men are just like "Screw it-- I'm doing what works for our family." It's soooooo refreshing!

Besides, overall I think it actually does help create work-balance-- it makes it that much more common and acceptable for people to say-- "I'm going to do what is right for my family."

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | August 10, 2006 10:53 AM

I am a different guy, up in Metro NY area. Seems like Fo4 is on vaca.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 10:55 AM

I agree with Capitol Hill Mom. Stop agonizing; just do it.

My current mantra is "Make your choices. Then make them work"!

(works for almost everything.)

Posted by: granny | August 10, 2006 10:56 AM

BTW, Alexandria Mom, Raleigh is great! But I do miss the Mall and seeing the monuments on the way to work... I certainly don't miss the tourists and the traffic, though!

Posted by: Meesh | August 10, 2006 11:06 AM

"the men are in the electronics store and the autoparts shop. (any other sterotypes we want to perpetuate?"

Women demand diamonds and perpetuate the slavery of mine workers in South Africa and then turn around and make demands for their own freedom. then they cake on makeup that animals were literally tortured to ensure the safety of the product and then have the gall to make crude statements to people who wear fur coats.

Posted by: Here you go, Meesh! | August 10, 2006 11:08 AM

"Aren't stories about at-home dads just celebrating traditional work-family choices? Does flipping the genders make a difference?"

This is an interesting, insightful question. With all due respect to current SAH moms and dads I don't believe "traditional work-family choices" are truly balanced. Family situations where one parent earns the entire household income while the other parent cares for the home are balanced in a polariazed way with each parent holding an extreme position on the scale. I'm not saying that parents should split household care and income 50/50 down the middle. But I'd LOVE to see more moms and dads exploring creative ways to achieve work/life balance. What would it feel like to live in a family where both parents worked part time? Or had job-share or freelance type positions with flexible schedules? That's my ideal.

Posted by: Friend | August 10, 2006 11:09 AM

To the anonymous poster @ 10:35 AM

The current republican party is only interested in spreading hatred of immigrants and gay people. If that's your idea of a great political ideal, go ahead and vote for them... most of America did.

And please don't even talk about corruption, unless you want to talk about Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed et. al. involved with the Abrahmoff case or Iran Contra, or the whole Savings and Loan problem in the 80s. Remember that republicans are usually involved with corruption scandals.

But this whole thread is going off topic. Currently, no party is dealing with family friendly policies. They are too involved with the many wars going on....

Posted by: alexandria mom | August 10, 2006 11:11 AM

I think everyone should tell your reps about today's blog. There are a lot of good real people issues being discussed here. Up With The People.

Posted by: Get Your Reps involved | August 10, 2006 11:16 AM

Alexandria Mom, thanks! I do feel lucky. It's Meesh who lives in NC, though-- I moved to a small college town in the middle of the mountains.

We read the great book, "Your Money or Your Life" and decided we'd rather have a life. So we moved to a smaller house in a small town, and my husband quit his job and I went to work, but telecommuting. We make less than half of what we did in DC but I feel like our lifestyle is "richer" because of all of the free time and lack of stress we have. And, in case anyone's worried, we are still socking away plenty for retirement and college educations. We just live a lot more simply. I know it's a really strange choice in this day and age, and wouldn't work for some people, but it works great for us.

Posted by: Ms L | August 10, 2006 11:27 AM

I have always believed that in marriages, duties should be split up according to each's partners preferences and abilities rather than on gender role. My husband is a SAHD and part time student, and I work. The fact that he is home means that right now, I can put in more hours at work (which means the occasional 50 hour week), which isn't so onerous, especially with a 5 minute commute. We eat breakfast and dinner together every day. I cook on the weekends. We occasionally have lunch together. My son does not have to go to aftercare, although he does go to camp during the summer. Our time together is relaxed and easy. It doesn't feel like such a rat race. Having one person at home does provide balance for the family, but only if both people agree that they can be happy in their respective roles, and only if there is enough money for one person to stay at home comfortably. I sometimes see remarks about how selfish some SAHMs are because they maintain their lifestyle at the expense of their working husband. I don't see it in my case. Having my husband at home is very much a benefit to me. I don't have to worry about all the things he takes care of at home, and this does reduce the burden on me. I would much rather have him at home and know my son is well cared for then have to run around like a chicken without a head trying to figure out what to do if the kid is sick one day or having to run home at 6:00 to make dinner in a rush. It works for us.

Posted by: Rockville | August 10, 2006 11:29 AM

I have always believed that in marriages, duties should be split up according to each's partners preferences and abilities rather than on gender role. My husband is a SAHD and part time student, and I work. The fact that he is home means that right now, I can put in more hours at work (which means the occasional 50 hour week), which isn't so onerous, especially with a 5 minute commute. We eat breakfast and dinner together every day. I cook on the weekends. We occasionally have lunch together. My son does not have to go to aftercare, although he does go to camp during the summer. Our time together is relaxed and easy. It doesn't feel like such a rat race. Having one person at home does provide balance for the family, but only if both people agree that they can be happy in their respective roles, and only if there is enough money for one person to stay at home comfortably. I sometimes see remarks about how selfish some SAHMs are because they maintain their lifestyle at the expense of their working husband. I don't see it in my case. Having my husband at home is very much a benefit to me. I don't have to worry about all the things he takes care of at home, and this does reduce the burden on me. I would much rather have him at home and know my son is well cared for then have to run around like a chicken without a head trying to figure out what to do if the kid is sick one day or having to run home at 6:00 to make dinner in a rush. It works for us.

Posted by: Rockville | August 10, 2006 11:29 AM

Friend Wrote:
With all due respect to current SAH moms and dads I don't believe "traditional work-family choices" are truly balanced. Family situations where one parent earns the entire household income while the other parent cares for the home are balanced in a polariazed way with each parent holding an extreme position on the scale.

I disagree, with three kids the division of labor where I work and my wife works harder bringing up the troops manages the home and the home-economics is more efficient and more effective for us. I would consider my self very involved and pull my weight as far as home duties are concerned... but I still dont know where anything is or belongs in the house, forget everything, and leave the toilet seat up. BTW, I would be a SAHD in a heartbeat - but DW wasnt makin' enough dosh for her to career it and me to stay home and get my doctorate in laundry machine management. I'll get by with my bachelors degree, even if I still get the third degree for folding DW's pants the wrong way and insisting on efficient dishwasher space management.

Hey RebelDad! Does DW do her fare share of laundry? Or can you blow her away in the home economics olympics?

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 11:30 AM

Something that maybe Rebeldad or Fo3 or other working-from-home moms and dads can address:
How do you get work done while also caring for your brood--I am thinking more of when the kids are little and need lots of attention and/or interaction? Is it possible to write/study/whatever during the day? Only during naps? After kids are in bed? My husband is a PhD student and we are thinking about having kids...I would continue working and he would continue his dissertation (could not work b/c of receiving university funding) and take care of peanut during the day. Anyone have any advice/experience doing this?

Posted by: future mom in NYC | August 10, 2006 11:40 AM

"The bottom line is that all politicians are worthless"

Agreed, but this is not a political blog A.M. and 10:35, so can we spare the dems/repubs are horrible for another blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 11:40 AM

Wait a second! where in the constitution does it say ANYTHING about congress or any politicians doing anything about the 'family'? I don't believe I read that.
Congress should not really be doing a whole lot. If people want change, yes, it's hard, but really, you have to 'vote with your feet.' If corporations can't hire people because they are inflexible, then hey! Maybe they'll wake up.
That's what Deloitte and Touche did when women were not returning to work because they did not like the travel or the 60+ hours a week - and they changed their policies to not have the brain drain.
If people demand things, then they will get what they need/want. Of course, those with more skills have more choices than those without - that's life. Work hard, you get paid (in money and benefits) better. It's the American way.
Most people COULD live on one income, they don't want to. Give up cable, internet access, cell phones, never eat out, don't use video games, don't put the kids in a zillion after school activities, make your own clothes, make your own bread, live in a much smaller place (my mom grew up in a one bedroom apt - with her sister and her mom).
It CAN be done, most people don't want to make the sacrifices that are needed.
I'm not saying people SHOULD make those sacrifices (we are two working parents now), but everyone has choices in their lives.
I love the idea of SAHD's - and think that the reason that women don't get promoted as much is that they are typically part of two working parent households - whereas most of the time, as has been said, higher ups in the organization have SAH wives....

Posted by: atlmom | August 10, 2006 11:45 AM

I am a WOHD. But if I may speak for my DW, she has done freelance work but was only able to make significant headway when the littlest was napping or I was at home. The idea of getting work done with a toddler in the house (approx 1.5yrs until they go to playschool) was not possible for her unless toddler (DT? hahaha) was being managed by a qualified toddler control professional or me. Even if DW would sit at the PC to do emails or whatever DT would interfere - just like when the phone rings... Funny thing that whenever I call home it sounds like all hell is breaking loose... I figured in out early on as a Dad that when the phone rings it is kind of like Pavlovs bell, the kids foam at the mouth and start screaming!

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 11:47 AM

To College Parkian: Benefits are *huge* in making part-time work viable for parents. Cafeteria-style benefits would be even better. Wish I could make it happen.

To Ms L: Thank you for fighting the good fight. And your husband's situation sounds great. Would that more employers offer such opportunities (or that there be more jobs like his).

To Fo3: History of the USSR aside, I find it hard to believe that having better childcare options -- including high-quality, state-subsidized care -- will destroy America. I'd love to see more options out there for everyone to allow a bit more flexibility in figuring out the work-family combination.

To momof4: I agree that SAHDs give families new options for internal balance, but it sounds like you're coming down on the site of at-home parents *not* having any impact on the workforce.

To mom with stay at home spouse: While I agree that the "second shift" can be a problem in household role-setting, I would imagine that's a problem that's much more signficant in dual-earner families that ones with an at-home dad ...

To on the verge: You're right ... but how do we get workers to, en masse, say no to long work hours? Or do we need some government solutions?

To Meesh: Yes, "Fatherneed" speaks primarily to involved fathers, not just at-home dads. And while I agree that each family should make the best choices for them, I remain curious if non-traditional arrangements have an impact on the wider world.

To Makes you think: Yes, I volunteered at preschool, and I've volunteered at my local public elementary school since before my eldest daughter was conceived. So I may not be the best example. But a lot of the at-home dads I know are passionate about playing roles in their schools/activities/etc.

To granny: I wish that more families had the option of having both parents around a lot. But that's a unique opportunity available to knowledge workers (and a minority of them). Ideally, we'd have solutions that could work for the blue-collar folks Leslie wrote about yesterday.

To Capitol Hill mom: If non-traditional choices make it easier to raise the profile work-life conversations, so much the better!

To Get Your Reps Involved: Point 'em to Lynn Woolsey's "Balancing Act": http://woolsey.house.gov/balancingact.asp?ARTICLE4922=4928.

To future mom in NYC: I care-shared with another mom for a long time. I worked early mornings, naptimes, preschool, etc. But I only had one when I was doing that. It's very, very hard to simulataneously parent and work -- the quality of both can suffer.


Posted by: Brian Reid | August 10, 2006 11:48 AM

While I was in the military I was stationed in Turkey with my husband and then 5-year-old son. My husband didn't have a job during that time so he stayed home with our son, volunteered in our son's kindergarten class, did housework and prepared dinner for himself and our child. He also had time to go running and work out at the gym while our son was in kindergarten for 3 hours a day. It was great. It made my life so much easier and less stressful and we actually had more money then when he was working his low paid job back in the states and we had to pay for day care. Alas we returned to the states and my husband got another job, but the stay at home dad thing was great while it lasted.

Posted by: Military Mom | August 10, 2006 11:53 AM

"What is the benefit to you personally if stay-at-home parents remain in the minority? What happened to "to each his own?""

Sure, I believe in to each his own, but it is a fact that SAHM are in the minority. Over 60% of mothers of infants work and over 80% of mothers of preschool and older children work. That sounds like a majority.

You misunderstand my comments. I believe that some families choose the SAH route because of the struggles "to balance" with 2 parents in the workforce. Again, if you ask the majority of educated women if we lived in an ideal world with work flexibility, great childcare, etc would you work or not, I'd venture to say the majority would. Sure there are some who would just love to stay at home no matter how ideal conditions in the workplace could be, but for most of us, we want the careers. And we want to be good parents as well.

Posted by: To momof4 | August 10, 2006 11:53 AM

WAY off topic, but I HAD to respond...

re: gay families. I think the only solution to the mess we have made is to grant some sort of union to gay couples - because gay people are adopting children, and these children do not have the stability that they COULD have IF we allowed unions - all those benefits that your children (if you are in a married male/female relationship) have, the children in these situations do NOT have. I.e. inheritance rights, health care benefits, etc - BECAUSE there cannot be two people of the same sex listed as parents of a child. I think this is wrong.

I am not debating whether or not gay people should be able to adopt (I suppose you think the answer is no - however, would you prefer that those children grow up with ABSOLUTELY NO family life whatsoever? Are YOU adopting children? These are the choices we have to make - you may not like them, but there they are).

Sorry for the off topic discussion.

Posted by: atlmom | August 10, 2006 11:55 AM

"The bottom line is that all politicians are worthless"

They're not entirely worthless: I bet we could get good money for their organs on the black market.

Posted by: Mike | August 10, 2006 11:55 AM

"Funny thing that whenever I call home it sounds like all hell is breaking loose... I figured in out early on as a Dad that when the phone rings it is kind of like Pavlovs bell, the kids foam at the mouth and start screaming!"

Fo3, I think you've been to my house. Thanks for making me laugh today! I have a friend that we only email because between her kids and mine about only 5% of what we say is to each other.

Posted by: Dlyn | August 10, 2006 12:00 PM

lc wrote:
I also suspect more men than will admit feel the pressure you do but do not feel the freedom to say "Yes, I think/wish my wife would work."
======================================
I do not want my wife to work if she doesn't want to. And I think many more husbands than you think would be proud to allow their wives the option of working or not working. My wife swore she wanted to go back to work after having our son. I supported that to the extent that she wanted it. But I made sure that we could afford to have her stay home if she changed her mind. And I am proud of the fact that I can give her that choice and overjoyed that she chose to stay at home with our son.

It was a bit stressful when I was out of work for a time and we had to dip into savings. But it all turned around. And we live quite modestly. One car payment and a small mortgage on a small townhouse. We couldn't afford it if we were to purchase a house today. So for younger, middle-income couples trying to buy a home in the DC area, I empathizewith their situation.

Posted by: Working Dad | August 10, 2006 12:15 PM

To Fo3

Agreed. Nothing like a phone call to make children who were otherwise happily playing together either start fighting or decide that they need your attention, right now. I'll have to try to remember that when my kids hit the teen years. I can see it now . . . ten minutes into one of their phone conversations . . "Honey, have you cleaned the cat box yet today? Finished your homework?" etc.

Posted by: Sam | August 10, 2006 12:31 PM

We adopted a 16 month old. We were told that the toddler, coming from an institution needed to bond to us, just us for as long as possible but hopefully for at least 3 or 4 months.

I had saved up vacation etc. for several years and luckily my company had adoption leave, so I had planned to stay home for at least 4 months. Our adoption doc asked, is it possible that your husband could telecommute, for several days or mornings or afternoons too, for several months? The doc felt very stongly that research on attachment and bonding showed that parents who both were able to spend physical time with their new toddler had a better bond and the child would have a better outcome.

Since my husband did computer work that could be done partiallly from home, he asked his company -- armed with the doctor's note -- if he could telecommute for some mornings or afternoons. He promised to be in for all important meetins and that his productivity would not suffer.


While his company officially agreed, you would not believe how many times a certain boss would call on his telecommuting morning or afternoon telling him that an "urgent" meeting had been scheduled and he needed to be there physically.

His perfopmrance review that year was bad (for the first time), full of vague assertations and outright lies by this boss. He did fight back and with the help of HR was able to document that 90% of what was said was simply untrue. Did it matter?

Not really. He believes it affected his career for several years. Incidently, women at the same company routinely did what he'd asked to do and seemed to not have any black marks against them. He was the first man to do it though, and he feels he paid a price.

Having said all that, he'd do it again in a heartbeat. The time we spent with our son was invaluable. He's a healthy, happy 6 year old now with a great bond to both parents. When we got him we was diagnosed with failure to thrive, rickets, delayed developement and profound growth failure.

Several people at his company told him he was rocking the boat, challenging the staus quo etc. Who ever thought doing what was needed to care for a child could be so threatening?

Posted by: Sarah | August 10, 2006 12:41 PM

To future mom in NYC,

In my experience, working from home while caring for an infant is difficult. Of course, it does depend on the child, but when they are really young they need constant attention. And when they finally go down for naps and you do have a few moments to yourself, there are so many other things to do:
-clean the house
-catch up on the news
-make phone calls
-eat lunch
-cook dinner
-exercise

If you don't do it then, you never will. Finding time for work on top of that is really stretching it.

Posted by: PA | August 10, 2006 12:43 PM

-clean the house
-catch up on the news
-make phone calls
-eat lunch
-cook dinner
-exercise

dont forget:

-sex with DH/DW

Fo4 Where are you?

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 12:45 PM

to anonymous 11:53 poster:

I'm not disputing anything you're saying about how most women would prefer to have their careers and be good parents at the same time (although I would venture to say that it's *hugely* geographic...the percentage of women who prefer to work is likely much lower where I live) or the fact that SAHs are in the minority.

What I asked was in response to this comment:

"Stay at homes are a minority and I'd prefer it stay that way."

I'll ask it again...why do you care that SAHPs *remain* a minority? What's it to you if the pendulum *did* swing the other way?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 12:48 PM

to 12:48 pm

I'm not the original poster, but here's my take on SAH being/staying a minority being a benefit- If there are few SAH who can take care of things so that the WOH can put in 60,70,80-hour weeks with extensive travel, then the WOH will refuse that level of time being given to the job and there will be more personal time for all workers (and SAH) to spend with their families. I would hate to work an 80-hour week, whether it be on-the-job in an office or at home with my spouse away.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 1:03 PM

To 11:08

Certainly some women do that. Some women are hypocrits the same way some men are. But not all women--not even close to the majority--do that. Your is a blanket statement that I don't agree with.

Posted by: Meesh | August 10, 2006 1:06 PM

Please remember that any type of cultural change (being race equity, gender equity in the workplace, gender equity in the home, etc) requires a shake-up of accepted cultural "norms". SAHDs need to be more visible so that the situation becomes acceptable. That is the only way that our children will have the choice to choose what really works best for their families instead of what works financially or career-wise. Too many people now have to make limited-option decisions and do not have a real choice. People (including parents) need to have the flexibility to work when and how they wish to to balance their lifestyles and families.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | August 10, 2006 1:17 PM

I'm gonna say that an increase in SAHD's can only help the work-life policies.

Why? The bald fact is men control a lot of business and the majority of governmental power. And these men are more comfortable talking to other men.

How do I know this? My real name is gender neutral, but about 95% of the time, it belongs to a man. I've lost count of how many men - after lengthy e-mail exchanges - are startled to realize that I'm actually a woman when they get me on the phone or organize a face-to-face meeting. More than one has said something along the lines of "But you don't write like a woman!" (Whatever.)

Their reactions are usually somewhere between bemused and flustered. I have to fight to regain the initial dynamic. The one where I was seen as an equal with lots of experience and a professional attitude that tends to look beyond gender to see quality of performance and the bottom line. It's sad, but true.

Having more SAHD's speak out about workplaces providing better work-life balances can only be a good thing. Because if the men are saying it, then it can't be passed off as PMSing, general female emotional reactions, or any of the other tauro-feces that American businesses pull when this issue comes up. Because let's face it, this isn't really a woman's issue, as much as many people like to say. A family frequently involves *two* parents, many of whom both have demanding jobs.

*Everyone* should have a decent quality of life, no matter who the major breadwinner is. If it takes strong SAHD voices to advance this theory, I'm all for it!

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 10, 2006 1:32 PM

Fo3, don't take the USSR constitution too literally - it was just a piece of paper. In Soviet times, equality for men and women meant, in practice, that a woman had the "right" to a cruddy, low-paying job during the day, plus the "right" to do ALL the housework (including laundry in the bathtub) at night. (And not much has changed since then.)

Now, if subsidized day care can lead us to that, I guess we might as well end the conversation. :)

Posted by: randommom | August 10, 2006 1:33 PM

Aren't all laws paper? I guess we rest assured that the rule of law is strong and inviolate in the USA.

Stalin's constitution was so sweet:

Until you read a histry book and see the application of this clause:

The private sector is the place to provide reasonable quality childcare. YMCA's, Churches, businesses - not the Fed's - PLEASE - not the Federal government and their $800 toilet seats.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 1:47 PM

To Working Dad

Would your wife do the same for you? If not, isn't there something wrong with that?

I also sense an underlying paternalistic attitude that I don't think is healthy. I know too many men who have sown that paternalistic garden and ended up with weeds.

That being said, I know that it works for many. I was raised by a very traditional mom and dad who never traded gender roles. I thought I wanted the traditional role as well. That was before I had children and discovered the responsibilty I had to my spouse as well as my children. I work, my husband works, I take care of the house and kids, my husband takes care of the house and kids. It is a balance that we have no problem keeping.

That is the other thing that always surprises me in all these posts. I have never found it difficult to work and take care of my marriage and my children. When my kids/home stress me out, my job gives me sanity. When my job stresses me out, my kids and spouse are my refuge. Maybe its having both that gives me some perspective when one seems out of whack (which doesn't happen very often).

Posted by: lc | August 10, 2006 1:51 PM

Brian, what a thoughtful blog -- and I'm glad to see it seems to be generating thoughtful responses instead of vitriol (though I'm sure that's coming. . . .).

I think there are two aspects to this: the "women's work/man's work" stereotype, and the "one parent must be at home" idea. SAHDs smash through the stereotypical gender roles, but reinforce the SAHP/WOHP dichotomy.

So is that good or bad? Depends entirely on where you think society should be going. Personally, I think that there is a lot of value in defying stereotypes -- those unstated prejudices can really hurt women and men in the workforce (I know I've read on this blog comments from, for ex., managers who are hesitant to hire women with children because a past employee took maternity leave then quit without notice, men who were penalized for taking time off for the kids, etc.). So to my mind, anything that rebuts a stereotype is worthwhile.

I also don't know that it's really reinforcing the SAHP/WOHP dichotomy too much. I certainly understand, and share the concerns over, reinforcing the stereotype that a "good worker" is available 80+ hrs/week and will have no family conflict. But I also think there is social value in following a path that is a little out of the norm. There are 1,000 different ways to have a good family and raise successful kids. My hope is that, as we are surrounded with more examples of different ways families can succeed, maybe we'll start to focus on how things are working instead of whether something meets someone's preconceived notions of what a family should look like.

Of course, I think it's also interesting to note that Linda Hirschman raised a similar point about the societal effects of SAHMs on moms in the workforce, and was roundly vilified, whereas the responses to this post have for the most part been very thoughtful and courteous. Is it just the difference in style (confrontational vs. questioning)? Is it the difference between SAHMs and SAHDs? Is it the gender of the questioner? Is it more acceptable to question nontraditional roles than traditional roles?

Posted by: Laura | August 10, 2006 1:52 PM

"If there are few SAH who can take care of things so that the WOH can put in 60,70,80-hour weeks with extensive travel, then the WOH will refuse that level of time being given to the job and there will be more personal time for all workers (and SAH) to spend with their families. I would hate to work an 80-hour week, whether it be on-the-job in an office or at home with my spouse away. "

Huh? LOL

Are you saying that if more people became SAHP's, the remaining workers would have to put in 80 hour work weeks to compensate for the mass exodus from the workforce?

Posted by: momof4 | August 10, 2006 1:54 PM

Fo3 wrote: "The private sector is the place to provide reasonable quality childcare. YMCA's, Churches, businesses - not the Fed's - PLEASE - not the Federal government and their $800 toilet seats."

HEY!!! I buy those $800 toilet seats! It's HARD work.......................

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 10, 2006 1:54 PM

Trading gender roles is immoral and will only send you to burn in HELL!

... next you'll say it is ok for cats and dogs to live together. What is America coming to?! The founding fathers were fathers! They dont want fathers wearing dresses or swapping roles. Ack. Degenerate.

Posted by: sorry couldnt resist | August 10, 2006 1:58 PM

"How do you get work done while also caring for your brood--I am thinking more of when the kids are little and need lots of attention and/or interaction?"

I work 20 hrs a week from home (when I work them is flexible, except for some phone calls and the odd meeting) and have an 11 month old. I find I need a babysitter for about half those hours, just someone in the house entertaining my son (or relative, but I sort of wanted them to be during the 9-5 spread) and the other half I can fit in evenings and weekends, as long as there's no stomach flu. :-)

The thing is your child's needs change really fast so one week you can get tons done and the next it's hell. That's one reason I went ahead and hired someone to come in so that I was assured 10 hours at least.

Posted by: JJ | August 10, 2006 2:03 PM

"Having one person at home does provide balance for the family, but only if both people agree that they can be happy in their respective roles, and only if there is enough money for one person to stay at home comfortably."

I think Rockville hit the nail on the head. Whether SAHDs contribute to the overall work-life balance depends on if you consider balance from the perspective of the family as a whole or from the perspective of the individuals involved. For the family as a whole, having one parent at home often can lead to a better overall balance, as Rockville and Ms. L and others have said. With more SAHDs, its more acceptable for families to choose what is right for them and not be bound by gender roles.

Our situation now is great, we both have a lot of flexibility and a mix of activities in our lives. I think the best thing about higher visibility of SAHDs is breaking down barriers to letting each family choose their own.

But if the individuals aren't happy with their roles, it won't feel balanced; and even if they are mostly happy with their roles, they may not feel a lot of balance in their own life. I had a really hard time being a SAHM, even though I still had school and other things to keep me distracted. But I also HATED the time that I was studying for the Bar and working full time so was basically absent. It was really hard on all of us.
I would never want to be in the position again of working such long hours, and I know my husband and son wouldn't want me to either. Nor would I want my husband to.

Posted by: Megan | August 10, 2006 2:04 PM

Do we really want to encourage more social acceptance to the SAHD, or stay at home boyfriend role model? Men exclusively comprise the gender that commits sexual offenses against children. I feel that kids are much safer from these crimes if they are taken care of by a female.

Posted by: Sexually Abused at 3 | August 10, 2006 2:06 PM

And to the person who asked about working at home: I never got anything done while trying to also watch my baby. No way. I work from home 4 days now, but my son is in day care in the morning and with dad in the afternoon. Working from home means I can have lunch with him and get my hours in without a commute, meaning more time with him. But there's no way I could do it and watch him. Maybe when he's older, but not now...

Posted by: Megan | August 10, 2006 2:09 PM

Chasmosaur (Charles plus Dinosaur?)wrote: "Why? The bald fact is men control a lot of business and the majority of governmental power. And these men are more comfortable talking to other men."

I MISREAD this and LAUGHED heartily at the idea of BALD MEN controling business and government...
Not FO4 but did make me laugh. Chasmosaur, will the story on your name make us laugh, too?

Posted by: College Parking | August 10, 2006 2:10 PM

My neighbor started working on her PhD soon after her son was born. She works 20 hours for a work/study fellowship as well as works on her dissertation. Her son is now 5 and she seems happy with it. It helps that she lives in a supportive neighborhood with a lot of other kids her son's age. She did a lot of childcare swaps (and still does). If you can find it, I think childcare swaps with a likeminded parent can be an ideal way to work part-time and give your child some much-needed socialization (once they get past the newborn phase, that is).

Posted by: Ms L | August 10, 2006 2:16 PM

Do we really want to encourage more social acceptance to the SAHD, or stay at home boyfriend role model? Men exclusively comprise the gender that commits sexual offenses against children. I feel that kids are much safer from these crimes if they are taken care of by a female.

I can't generalize about this. If I thought my husband were capable of sexually abusing my son (or abusing him in any other way) I would certainly not be married to him. The issue of me staying at home to keep my son safe would not even be an issue because I would not consider even being married to a person I thought was even remotely capable of sexually abusing my child. I think that making the assumption that SAHDs will abuse the kids in their child is sexist and demeaning to men. I don't buy into it.

Posted by: Rockville | August 10, 2006 2:44 PM

In response to momof4, I do believe that a lack of SAH parents would promote greater work-life balance. The sad fact is that most people don't choose to work insane hours: they have to because they're competing against someone else's performance. The classic is when a single or childless co-worker pulls massive hours and gets promoted ... and then in a supervisory role continues to promote up people who put in massive hours. Anyone who insists on leaving in time for dinner will suffer in this environment.

In any workplace, the only time it's truly family-friendly is if NO ONE puts in more than 40 hours -- no one. No kids? Fine -- go do something else.

As an aside, I'm a working mom with a SAH spouse, and I pride myself on maintaining work/life balance within the teams I supervise, and on being open to part-time and flexible arrangements for new parents. I consider it part of giving back. And it may be the only way my husband's sacrifices ever really help other parents.

Posted by: jen in Chicago | August 10, 2006 2:51 PM

"Men exclusively comprise the gender that commits sexual offenses against children. I feel that kids are much safer from these crimes if they are taken care of by a female."

I was sexually abused by my SAHM and I am hardly the only person to have been sexually abused by a woman.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 2:54 PM

I was emotionally and physically abused by my SAHM.

I would have been much safer with my father....

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 3:03 PM

Yay for jen in Chicago! I don't think that SAHP are really the issue, as my sense is some people will work those hours regardless and rely on nannies or other child care arrangments if their spouse isn't at home. But I totally agree that the only way we'll make progress is if those people are shown to be the weirdos that they are. It's great that you make it a priority in a management position, and I hope that your example is followed by many more men and women, regardless of what their own situation at home is.

Posted by: Megan | August 10, 2006 3:07 PM

Chasmosaur, I totally agree! It's unfortunate--and downright infuriating-- that so many men are raised to think of women as irrational and hysterical (even to a small degree). These men need to hear from other men that childcare really does have to come before work in some situations before they'll believe.

And Laura, I think the reason that Linda was skewered and Brian is not is because women have been fighing to establish themselves in the workplace whereas men have always been there. If a percentage of men stay home, it won't affect the rest of the men who do want to work. However, if the same percentage of women stay home, it does affect the rest of the women who want to work because we're already outnumbered in the workplace and HAVE to leave in order to give birth. We already have two strikes against us.

Posted by: Meesh | August 10, 2006 3:12 PM

Meesh please! Saying is a flagrant inflammatory generalization. I have these two traders next to me always tapping away on their keyboards and I dont accuse them of stereotyping!

The fact is women are emotional and volatile, and then they're not, and then they are It's kinda cyclical and can be prediction using Elliot Wave theory.

Proletarii fcyex stran soyedinyaitez! Slava pivu!

Posted by: Fo3 | August 10, 2006 3:28 PM

hmmm didnt come through completey, kinda ruins the rythm... but here goes:

Meesh please! Saying "so many men are raised to think of women as irrational and hysterical" is a flagrant inflammatory generalization. I have these two traders next to me always tapping away on their keyboards and I dont accuse them of stereotyping!

The fact is women are emotional and volatile, and then they're not, and then they are It's kinda cyclical and can be predicted using Elliot Wave theory.

Proletarii fcyex stran soyedinyaitez! Slava pivu!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 3:36 PM

men on the other hand are oblivious to their own emotions and lack any attention to detail... shiggetty snark.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 3:40 PM

3:40 wrote: "men on the other hand are oblivious to their own emotions and lack any attention to detail... shiggetty snark."

Emotions? What's them? I can apy perfect attention ot detail, anyway!!!

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 10, 2006 3:46 PM

guess everyone is busy posting on yesterday's blog...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 4:05 PM

hi Laura-- regarding Linda Hirshman-- she was vilified, at least by me, because of her belittling attitude in her writing towards stay at home moms. I saw her on Colbert Report last night and she was MUCH easy to take, but in print-- badgering and shaming women who have decided to opt out of the paid workforce for awhile drove me nuts-- and I'm a WOHM! I've got an independant streak and I don't want anyone telling me what to do!

Rebeldad gets my support because he isn't telling me what I should do-- he is just wondering how his choices are effecting my life. That's cool, but like I said earlier, he should (we ALL should) do what works for your family. Most likely, that is also what will work best for society (something "Adam Smithian" in that thought, but I was an English major, not Econ, so not sure).

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | August 10, 2006 4:06 PM

"Men exclusively comprise the gender that commits sexual offenses against children. I feel that kids are much safer from these crimes if they are taken care of by a female."

I remember a couple of women telling me that women should never leave their female children around the children's fathers because "a man is a man is a man." One of them insisted on bathing her daughter all the time and taking her daughter out with her as much as possible. This belief is more common than people realize or will admit to.

Not only is sexual abuse not limited to male perpetrators, female children aren't the only possible victims. Kind of sad if you can't trust your man to keep his hands off your kids, but you're willing to marry and be with him to create those kids.

Posted by: momoftwo | August 10, 2006 4:14 PM

Ms L -- I'll bet your "small college town in the mountains" is Blacksburg. I moved from there to Raleigh, which seemed just metro enough but not the DC of my formative years. Interesting geographical connections of those on this blog.

Posted by: hokie | August 10, 2006 4:40 PM

So, at what age (child) does it become inappropriate for dad to give his daughter a bath? At what age is it inappropriate for a dad to bring his daughter into the Men's bathroom when she has to go. These are issues that female caretakers don't have to deal with.

Posted by: Sexually Abused at 3 | August 10, 2006 4:44 PM


To Sexually Abused at 3:

Not only men commit crimes against children. Sad that it happens at all.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060806/NEWS03/608060606

Posted by: almost4 | August 10, 2006 4:46 PM

So, at what age (child) does it become inappropriate for dad to give his daughter a bath? At what age is it inappropriate for a dad to bring his daughter into the Men's bathroom when she has to go. These are issues that female caretakers don't have to deal with.

How on earth do female caretakers not have to deal with this? Women who have sons also have to consider the same questions?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 4:56 PM

How on earth do female caretakers not have to deal with this? Women who have sons also have to consider the same questions?

=====

Ah, but women/mothers are not immediately characterized as probable sex abusers. The accusation above that all men are potential rapists and sex abusers because "...Men exclusively comprise the gender that commits sexual offenses against children. I feel that kids are much safer from these crimes if they are taken care of by a female." See, the problem here is that men are inherently viewed as incapable, inferior or more dangerous as child caretakers. If that attitude were flipped about to talk about women in any role, there would be lawsuit. It's a double standard that shouldn't be accepted, and yet it is. Warren Farrell wrote about many similar topics in the excellent book "Father and Child Reunion". He's also an excellent speaker on behalf of father's rights.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | August 10, 2006 5:04 PM

I agree that it's unfair for all men to be labeled as potential child molesters. So I see how this perception could become a problem for SAHDs. But I don't know what to do about it either. My hope is that as men become more active in their children's lives, people will become more comfortable with men in the caretaker role. But that could take a long time.

Posted by: Rockville | August 10, 2006 5:17 PM

Pardon me while I still try to get my brain around this ;o)....

Jen in Chicago said: "I do believe that a lack of SAH parents would promote greater work-life balance. The sad fact is that most people don't choose to work insane hours: they have to because they're competing against someone else's performance. The classic is when a single or childless co-worker pulls massive hours and gets promoted ... and then in a supervisory role continues to promote up people who put in massive hours. Anyone who insists on leaving in time for dinner will suffer in this environment."

So if there were less SAHPs, there would be more parents in the workforce, thus there would thus be more people who insist on leaving in time for dinner, thus diluting the effect of the single or childless people who don't care if they're home for dinner?

If that's not what you mean, I don't see that a parent with a SAH spouse is going to be treated by their employer any differently than one with a WOH spouse. Either way they're going to want to (hopefully) have more family-friendly working conditions. Whether or not there is a spouse at home to care for the children during the day really has nothing to do with it, imo.

Posted by: momof4 | August 10, 2006 8:27 PM

"If that's not what you mean, I don't see that a parent with a SAH spouse is going to be treated by their employer any differently than one with a WOH spouse."

The presence of a SAH in some ways allows the WOH to work the insane hours because they can handle everything at home. If both spouses are WOH, they are more likely to tell the employer that they must leave after reasonable work hours. The more workers who are not willing to work the insane hours, the better chance that the 80-hour-week culture can be changed.

It's not so much that the employers will treat the employees differently, it's more that the employers will choose to effectuate change in the workplace. Think of breast-pumping space - it was pretty much unheard of before the workers started to express the need to the employers. The men didn't start this - it was working mothers who wanted to breastfeed.

WOH with SAH holding down the fort will not initiate the changes to the insane hour workforce - it will be the WOH with more obligations at home who will start this change.

Young, ambitious, single employees and those without children will still probably be willing to work the long hours to make a name for themselves, but once their lives change and they want to slow down at work, they may have that opportunity based on the changes that may come as a result of less SAH.

Posted by: kea | August 10, 2006 9:51 PM

Another thought - If balance is truly important, than many people would stop worrying about the next promotion. I would love a promotion as much as the next person, but if I have to sacrifice more of my personal time away from my family, friends, and downtime, then I guess I just won't be promoted any higher.

I have a friend working in DC on a project that supposedly requires 15 hours per day 7 days per week. His wife actually goes to work with him on the weekends because that's the only way she can see him. Bizarre, if you ask me. No kids, but expensive 4 bedroom house. More house than needed for two, and he may kill himself working at this pace before they ever have kids.

Posted by: kea | August 10, 2006 9:53 PM

"because the Girl Scout regulations are that he has to sleep somewhere separately, have his own bathroom, take a course first" - Unless things have changed in the past few years when I was a Girl Scout leader, this isn't quite true. Someone must take Girl Scout Camping training before taking the girls camping, but it doesn't have to be the dad. In my troop, my assitant leader and I took all the training (lots of training for Girl Scout leaders besides camping training). Dads could go along and could sleep in the same tent with their own daughter, but not with any other girls, and I don't remember anything about needing their own bathroom. They were not to be in the bathroom if a girl was there, even if it was a multiple-stall facility, but they didn't have to have their own bathroom.

FWIW, we learned in training that the girls actually did better when the parents weren't there because the scouts expect the girls to work together while camping, cooking, cleaning, making campfires, etc. The parents have a tendency to try to do it for the girls. Our first camping trip was in a Girl Scout lodge with parents along. We set up outdoor dishwashing stations so the girls could learn how to do it before our tent camping trip. The parents were sneaking the dishes inside the cabin to wash in the sink because "the girls are taking too long". So much for teaching outdoor skills.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 11:06 PM

Girl Scouts again - In our area the troops generally had a leader and co-leader with parents volunteering on a rotating basis. There was one troop with a male leader and female co-leader and, no, they were not a couple. The male leader came to all the training and "leader meetings" for our cluster area. He gave the girls a different perspective. He was quite inspirational as a dad role model. He was divorced, the daughter lived with the mother, and he lived 3 hours away and still made sure he was that involved in her activities.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2006 11:10 PM

"The sad fact is that most people don't choose to work insane hours: they have to because they're competing against someone else's performance."

I think this is an unfixable problem. You can't eliminate single or childless people from the workforce, and they compete for jobs/promotions with those who have kids. I do think there's somewhat of a cultural shift that's created this. It used to be that married couples were childless when they couldn't have kids, and now many married couples are childless by choice, and also people marry later. I think this has resulted in a big shift away from "working to support your family" and towards the idea that family is a hindrance to work.

As to the idea that having both parents WOH will induce the man to reduce his work hours... well, if that was really the case, would this blog even exist?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:37 AM

*As to the idea that having both parents WOH will induce the man to reduce his work hours... well, if that was really the case, would this blog even exist?*

Good question. Since most people on here seem to be 'driven' sorts of professionals who really value moving up and making partner, many of their spouses choose to stay at home or find a way to work part time or work from home themselves so the other spouse can continue that drive to the top. Those people would probably still make the same choices and have one spouse work insane hours and the other take care of the home front.

There are others who have already said that they chose to take a different tack, such as moving to a government position, to achieve more balance in their lives.

In the regular workforce (for lack of a better term), where both need to work to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle (not just scraping by), I know many people who have changed jobs or gotten divorced because of the difficulties involved with trying to run a household, two full-time jobs, children, and maintain a decent relationship with your spouse.

A question for the professionals (especially lawyers) here. I'm really curious, not trying to be sarcastic. Why did you want to become lawyers? Is it the money, the power and prestige, the desire to help people, a love for the law? I don't understand why anyone would want to work 10-15 hour days. Unless you only sleep 3-4 hours, how do you have time to live a life outside of work?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 7:20 AM

Thanks kea - your post makes sense.

But I respectfully disagree. I don't think that employees with SAH spouses are any more likely to agree to work insane hours than those with WOH spouses.

Maybe it's because my family is not living the large law firm in D.C. lifestyle, but I think the reason that people strive for more time at home and less time at work is because they want to spend time with their families, not because they feel pressured to get home and mow the lawn and clean the bathrooms and do yet more work because they don't have a SAH spouse to do it for them.

My husband doesn't work insane hours, but if he did under the premise of "I can do this because I know all of the non-money-making stuff is being taken care of by my wife" I don't think we would have a very good marriage.

Posted by: momof4 | August 11, 2006 8:37 AM

My husband cut back on his hours because I gave him an ultimatum - more time at home with the family or I'm leaving and divorcing. I refused to live the life of a single working mom (work, child care responsibilities, taking care of home, never seeing spouse) while being married. That's what I think will change - demands from the spouse, not the worker deciding that they want to come home.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 8:50 AM

To the 7:20 poster (if anyone is still reading): I never really grew up dreaming of being a lawyer; I went to law school because I couldn't think of anything else that interested me after college (English major; didn't want to teach, flip burgers, or go work for corporate America). I was lucky, because once I started law school, I found I LOVED it. The intellectual challenge, the reading and writing, the logic -- all things I had always been good at, coming together in one place.

But I also don't work 15 hrs a day. I am in private practice with a firm, but I never chased the job with the biggest salary, because I just wasn't willing to work that hard -- even before I was married and had kids, I was determined to have a life. And I ultimately found a smaller firm that made me partner and lets me work at 80% (i.e., normal person full time).

One of the nice things about being a lawyer, as some other folks have mentioned, is there can actually be a lot of flexibility -- yes, there's a lot of work to do, short deadlines, sometimes the unreasonable client. But if you find a firm with a clue, there's no reason you should have to be in the office 12 hrs/day -- I telecommuted from 1500 miles away for 3 1/2 years. Frankly, no one here cares when or where I work, as long as the work gets done -- a luxury most people in the working world don't have. Of course, I'm also a subject-matter expert, not a trial lawyer, which keeps things more manageable.

In my limited experience, people who become lawyers for the money or the prestige are the most likely to burn out and be unhappy. But if you choose it because you really enjoy the work, and look beyond the big-name large firms, it can really be workable to balance out with the rest of your life.

Posted by: Laura | August 11, 2006 8:53 AM

To the 7:20 "why did you want to be a lawyer" poster:

My experience is similar to Laura's. I actually had thought of becoming a public-interest lawyer for a long time; I didn't go to law school right out of college though because I was so irritated by most of my classmates who were going (they were type who were in it for the money). However, after working in the environmental field for several years I decided it was really what I wanted and needed in order to do the work I wanted to do. Even if you decide not practice, legal knowledge is powerful, and I thought I would enjoy law school and that it would be the graduate degree that would give me the most flexibility and options in the future.

Like Laura, I loved law school, but I always knew I would never go for the big firm job that requires you to work like a hamster running in its wheel for so many years before you get any control over your life. We moved to a new state right after I graduated and I haven't been able to break into the environmental public-interest field (legal non-profit work is actually extremely competitive because there is not enough funding to have a lot of positions), so right now I'm working for a small environmental and consumer class-action firm, and am hoping that with this experience I'll be able to move over to the non-profit side someday in the not-too-distant future. However, I was able to negotiate a position that is primarily research and writing, with very reasonable hours, and I work from home 4 days a week. Like Laura said, law can actually be a very flexible profession, because all you need is a computer and a good internet connection for much of the work. And a lot of firms are beginning to see that it is to their advantage to let their employees structure their work the way they want to. So long as the work gets done, my boss doesn't care when or where I do it. And I've been pleasantly surprised that he has kept to his word about my hours - I rarely work more than 40-45 hours a week.

My advice to anyone thinking of law school is to know why you are going. Like Laura said, the people who are in it for the money or because its what someone else thinks they should do seemed to be the ones who hated law school and are miserable worker ants at firms. The people who came with a purpose and stuck to it seemed the happiest. And don't be afraid to look for the job you actually want - I think most law schools' career services are oriented almost entirely to placing people at big firms, but there are lots of other options. You just have to find them yourself.

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 10:07 AM

CLAPPING.......WOO-HOO! CLAPPING, standing ovation to the 8:50 am posting.

Posted by: I know it's late, but... | August 14, 2006 11:33 AM

Gee, don't a lot of you miss the point? The person at home IS working. The person at home DOES get paid. How? Well, I am a stay at home mom and I consider 50% of everything my husband earns as mine. Why? I'm at home watching our kids, cleaning his clothes and keeping our house. He won't find a better personal assistant than me. If I were a hired nanny, I'd be paid for those things and he'd have to pay me out of that very same paycheck.

Any parent that stays at home to raise the kids is doing their family a wonderful service. Dads do it differently, but hey, everyone has their own style.

A little money goes a long way. We, as parents, have to wake up and stop spending our hard earned money on stupid stuff that isn't good for our families (huge gas guzzling cars, bigger houses, electronic toys, fast food, in other words, JUNK). Dont' spend your money, spend your TIME with your kids. You can earn, get, win money anytime during your life. Time is the one currency that's gone for good once you've spent it. Anything that takes you away from your family for huge amounts of time should be put on the back burner, for men or women.

Posted by: Kris | August 16, 2006 7:49 AM

And to all of you misguided souls who think all men are child molesters, get real. I'm sorry but your job as a wife and mom is to make sure you marry a normal person who wouldn't commit such a crime against your child, and to do something about it if someone has.

If you can't trust your child's father to care for them, then you probably should be getting help from a professional to deal with your trust issues (or getting a divorce), not starting a family.

The fact is, some men are GREAT DADS!! And they are wasting their great dad skills by going to work for 80+ hours a week outside the home. There is nothing NOTHING wrong with a man looking after his own children and home if that's what he wants to do.

And for all you religious people who think home is a woman's domain, just look at the Bible. God presents himself as our "FATHER"- not a manager or CEO. The role of Father comes from caring for your children, not being a workerbee for someone else.

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