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