• Thu, Aug 5 2010

Do You Want A House-Husband?

When I was a kid, I always thought that one day, I’d become a housewife. Oh, sure, I’d work at something (something I didn’t like very much, because work is supposed to be work and not fun) for a while, but then I’d get married and quit when I wanted to have kids. And it would be great to be a housewife! I’d hang out and bake cupcakes and take naps when my kids were at school.

Then I grew up, and I realized that I could work in a field I enjoy and love work. I love going into an office every morning. I love being told I’m good at something. I love cashing paychecks.

That said, I still want to get married and have kids one day. And I realize that work might seem less appealing after realizing that half my salary would have to go to a nanny or daycare center. Besides, I’m not sure I’d want to leave my totally theoretical kid alone with a stranger all day.

Which is why I’m kind of entranced with this idea of house-husbands being on the rise. Marie Claire claims that  they’re “the new status symbol for alpha women.” Partly, that may be a product of the recent recession where “three men lost their jobs for every woman that did, and, as a result, this year, for the first time ever, women make up the majority of the workforce.”

And a lot men seem very happy taking care of their kids. And on one hand, it seems great, doesn’t it? I’d love to come home from work and find my apartment clean and a nice dinner waiting for me. I’d say that you might need to worry about it being emasculating, but most of the men seem cool enough to know that, as one man interviewed for the Marie Claire article says “if I’m doing what’s right for my family, it doesn’t matter if some random guy thinks I’m less of a man.”

No, that doesn’t worry me. What worries me is things like this comment from the NY Observer article about house-husbands. A man who used to work in publishing states:

“There is a weird little sense of accomplishment that you get, cleaning up the space around you. For example, today, I got up and-I have a lot of shiny surfaces in my apartment, and they really show any kind of smudges and stuff like that. They don’t even have to be that dirty to look kind of bad. At one point, I was just like, ‘O.K., I don’t like this, I want to clean the space around my computer and I want to clean off that countertop.’ And I felt good. I felt very organized.”

My concern isn’t “oh, my husband might feel less manly and that would bad” my concern is “my husband might become the kind of person who goes on for an entire paragraph about smudges.” I am sure at one point, this man was a brilliant and witty conversationalist. He worked in publishing. Now, he appears to be really into cleaning and already clean space. And then there’s this, from another man:

I’m a compulsive cleaner anyway … and when I was home all day, that’s basically what I did,” said Brad, a 28-year-old lawyer who was out of work for six months before finding a job earlier this year, and who requested his name be changed for this article. “If someone called me and said, ‘What are you doing right now?’ I would be like, ‘Oh, I have so many chores to do today.’ You make something out of nothing. I had one friend who, if you called him and asked him if he could hang out, when he was not working, he would be like, ‘Well, you know, I had a few phone calls to make, and then at some point I wanted to make a sandwich. …’”

Remember Betty Friedan’s chapter in The Feminine Mystique about housewives create unnecessary tasks (already vacuumed? How about cleaning out the floor cracks with a toothbrush?) in order to fill up their entire day? It sounds…suspiciously as though that is happening here. And, I’m sorry, but I think I’d find it impossible to live with anyone quite that preoccupied with the mundane.

Well, unless they made a really good dinner. What do you think of house-husbands?

- “Ward Cleaver Makes A Playdate” – Observer

“What’s the New Status Symbol For Alpha Women? A Stay At Home Hubby” – Marie Claire (not online)

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  • Eileen

    If that’s what he really wants to do, and I’m making enough money to support the family, then I suppose it’s fine. But I don’t dream about it any more than I dream about being a housewife.

    And he’d better remain the interesting, curious person I decided to marry. If he needs to keep his job to keep his curiosity, we can hire a nanny.

  • audrey

    I don’t want the person I’m married to to remind me of my mother.

  • Lilit Marcus

    This is basically my dream. Things I am good at: working. Things I am bad at: cooking, cleaning, dealing with children for more than five minutes at a time, fixing things. From a numbers perspective, it makes perfect sense.

  • Lola

    Not. Fine. I understand the whole “new generation” of men who are “happy with staying at home” but they’re only happy because they’re not being told what to do by anyone: either their wives or their bosses. They finally get to sit at home and watch TV all.day.long.

    How long can it go on before they begin having affairs with the pool-lady and the milk-woman while wifey’s making the money?

    Not to mention, I can’t even handle it if a guy says the word “silly” or “yummy,” so if he ever turned into one of those guys who yapped on about a smudge… I can’t even think about that actually. I just got sick.

    I have the babies. I’ll take care of them, thank you very much. There is still the “hunter/gatherer” instincts that men and women have ingrained. If my hypothetical “husband” ever “gathered” while I “hunted,” he’d be wearing an apron while I carried a gun. That just doesn’t make sense!

    • Amanda J

      I totally agree!

    • Jen Dziura

      I just don’t think that a whole lot in the modern urban world really falls into a hunter/gatherer dichotomy. Most of the tasks involved in running a household are pretty non-gendered. Anyone can order Freshdirect, walk the dog, and fold laundry after work. And, obviously, parenting should be performed by both parents, if there are in fact two of them and they’re together. I think the gun and apron, while nice symbols to identify the men’s and women’s rooms in a faux-honkytonk restaurant, represent a bit of a straw man.

    • Diane

      Lola, maybe you should read Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls, which shows how much of a lie biological determinism (that nature dictates gender differences) really is. And that more recent evidence suggests men and women actually hunted together back in the day…

      I think anything that redresses the “women doing all the domestic work” ethos of old is great. I have no problem with a man being the primary caregiver; why should I? Why should anyone?

      Suggesting it would make him boring and smudge-obsessed seems like a bit of a slur to women who’ve done this job for years, many of whom have stayed interesting. Honestly, I can’t believe this is still a debate in 2010.
      I

    • Nemo76

      Oh so the feminist party line is that gender doesn’t matter? Then I assume you are all bisexual, right? But then why are we talking about a houseHUSBAND? If gender doesn’t matter, it should be housePERSON. Surely you’re not suggesting “in 2010″ that women only marry men? Why that’s biological determinism! Horrors!

      And if we don’t like the “gun and apron” symbolism, I wonder why we’re here at a women’s website? I mean how can we justify having a site for women only when there’s not ” a whole lot in the modern urban world really falls” into gender categories. So why do all you genderless people need a site like this?If you’re not careful you might appear to be in favor of gender differences. We can’t have that.

      So men can take care of children just as well as women? Perhaps you are unaware of the recent NYTimes article by Lisa Belkin, titled “Are Fathers Necessary?” The answer was no. She cited recent research claiming that single mothers and lesbian mothers raise more successful children either gay men or male/female couples. So apparently gender cannot be ignored after all. And apparently women are better at raising children after all. Just like we always said. Biological determinism wins again.

    • Eileen

      Someone needs to learn the difference between “gender” and “sex.”

  • Jen Dziura

    Jerry O’Connell really likes putting his daughters’ hair in pigtails in the morning: http://www.usmagazine.com/momsbabies/news/jerry-oconnell-stress-of-parenthood-gets-worse-and-worse-2010297?related=1

    Who wouldn’t want some of that???

  • Molly

    Do you want a house-husband? Sure do! I don’t worry about my spouse becoming obsessed with cleaning surfaces or finding jobs to do where there are none, he already does that. “Oh, you need me to take out the garbage? I would but I am right in the middle of ____.” So, if my spouse wanted to stay home and we could afford it, no problem, go for it.

  • Jamie Peck

    Hmm, I don’t think I would like this. A large portion of what attracts me to people is that they have something really fucking cool going on in their lives, something they’re as passionate about as I am about my own stuff. I question the intellectual life of anyone, male or female, whose only passions in life are cooking, cleaning, and child rearing (except professional chefs, obv). Call me a coastal elite. That said, it could be cool on a temporary basis.

  • Reggie

    I think it’d be cool to do a 50/50 think where I work 20-25 hours a week and my hypothetical husband works 20-25 hours a week. When you do both jobs, you appreciate your partner and the things they do more because, well, you do them too. Yeah, not entirely feasible at the present time, but I can dream right? I think this would be ideal.

    • Kerri

      that’s my future gameplan too. I love work, and I’ll probably love my kids, but.. everything’s easier when it’s part time.

  • Walt

    For the first 20 years of our marriage, my wife did all the housework while I worked in an office. For the past 5 years, I’ve worked from home (still making a 6 figure salary) but I have also taken over the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and laundry duties (while my wife takes care of our five kids, and also does volunteer work with the schools and in the community).

    My wife says she’s never been happier. She loves the volunteer work, and says I’m a much better cook than she is, and that I do a better job with the housework, too. As for me, I like keeping busy — doing my 9-5 job plus all this housework definitely keeps me out of trouble. I go to bed exhausted, but I know I’ve earned a good night’s sleep, and that feels good.

    Not saying this would work for everyone. But it certainly is working great for us.