There was a post on Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist this week about five career tips women should avoid. The third tip to avoid was “Marry a stay-at-home dad to give you more space to grow your career.” Her reasons are two-fold. First, she says stay-at-home dads in general aren’t happy, and second, most women want men who make more than they do. It would be easy for the average SAHD to be upset at this post, but I find it to be good food for thought, especially the second point.
The first argument should be voided for a couple of reasons. To say most stay-at-home dads aren’t happy is too general an observation and probably not representative of the whole population. Look at any career choice – doctor, lawyer, teacher, burger flipper – and you will find a number of people who don’t like their jobs or want to do something different. Additionally, Penelope has well documented a very personal and negative experience with a stay-at-home dad (her ex-husband), making her a bit biased on the subject.
I suspect, though, there is a lot of truth in the second point. Traditional gender roles are so embedded that it wouldn’t surprise me that many motivated and successful women still want their husbands to earn more than they do. As hard as the breadwinner issue is on most at-home dads, it really may be more difficult on their wives. The social and professional pressures of flipping the breadwinner role can carry more weight than a front loader, which is why the topic should be constantly addressed to make sure it doesn’t crush the relationship.
Finally, I find it interesting that finding a SAHD is popular career advice for women. I hope there aren’t many out there who have used it. Penelope should have added this as a reason to avoid this advice: Don’t seek a stay-at-home dad as a husband because most men don’t really think about such an option, or strive for it, until A.) They already are married; and B.) they actually have kids or are about to have kids.