Hmm. Well!

I have to agree: The guys whose wives stay home do seem to have a bit of what we would call in Philadelphia an “attytude” problem. And as the study says, it’s not overt hostility toward women – it’s more of a paternalistic upper-management mentality:

By insisting on staying the breadwinners for their families, men seem to also be subconsciously buying into the idea that their wives shouldn’t work. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2010 (as cited in the study), there are more than 11 million men in such arrangements, contributing to a culture opposed to women working. The study suggests that these men might be characterized as “benevolent sexists,” but clarifies they are not likely to be overtly hostile towards women.

There is an age-old problem with being a woman at home, and it has to do with distribution and claiming of power. The woman’s opinions are too frequently seen as advisory-only (except in the areas traditionally designated to women: children, decor, schools, etc.) and it’s been my observation through the years that women then indulge in covert strategies to assert their power. In other words, “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” So purchases are made in secret and smuggled into the home, much like an “I Love Lucy” episode.

You see a lot of hostage-like negotiation in which the financial hostage (wife) isn’t even aware that she’s conceded her right to partnership power. Instead, she’s focused on wheedling, nagging, cajoling and subterfuge. No way for grownups to act!

A lot of guys like it, though. After all, it’s familiar to them. Their mothers did it (or their mothers didn’t do it, and the sons preferred they had), it seemed to keep the family together, what’s the big deal? The big deal is, one “partner” in this sort of relationship is accepting inferior status. The other partner is agreeing.

Over the past few years, I’ve had male friends mention how much they wished their wives would go to work. “But not a real job,” they’re quick to add. “Just something to help out.” Because if women insist on career jobs, it’s a lot more threatening than a part-time gig at a convenience store, I suppose.

I’ve also known couples where both partners have careers, but the husband makes a lot more money. That person seems to retain the same paternal mindset as if she wasn’t working at all, which is interesting.

The marriages in which both partners earn a comparable amount of money seem to me to be a lot happier, I suppose because they’re not fighting about money – or at least, not from the power perspective.

I’m interested in hearing about your own experiences, both men and women. What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Hmm. Well!

  1. I know plenty of people in Philly with attitude problems and it doesn’t seem to relate to their marital status.

    But back to your point, what I’ve seen is several patterns:

    1) Woman has a career, so does man. Then they decide to have kids (plural) and the woman drops the career like a hot potato. I’ve seen this with several women I went to school with. I will note that in all those cases, the man had a very well paying job.

    2) DINKs.

    3) Divorced women who get the kids and have to keep working.

    4) One hit wonders. Both still work, but have only one child. Often adopted. I saw the latter situation among 3 different co-workers. One bought a kid in China, one bought a kid in Russia, one bought a kid in Lithuania. Kids are spoiled rotten.

    5) Both work, and multiple children. Only seen this once.

  2. To be fair, it is probably an old timey throwback, men went out to work, women stayed home to guard the house and raise the kids, so to speak.

    I honestly think many of these see it the other way -if I am an adequate provider for my family then my wife should not need to work.

    Also, the concept of if she works, then our kids have to be raised by strangers in a day care we have to pay for, so unless she makes that much more money, it is more economical for her to stay home with our kids – kind of thing.

    I m a man, but if I met a woman who made a lot of money [like more than I ever could] then I would see it the other way – why should I leave home and be away from my kids only to have them be raised by some employee [like day care]?
    I would personally prefer to be a house husband -to keep a nice house, garden, be with one’s own kids during their formative years, etc.,.
    I don’t think I would see it as limiting me, but a choice of which life for me and the kids I would prefer – if it were financially feasible to stay at home these days.

  3. It’s complicated. That’s why so much of the early women’s movement went into parsing the power dynamics of male/female relationships. Women in a traditional role are, in some ways, more childlike in that dynamic. They tend to ask permission for anything outside their perceived realm and act apologetic for doing so.

    There is a third way, which is for a woman to see herself as an equal partner and insist on being treated as such. But studies show that men don’t usually like it. A lot of it has to do with how we monetize worth – the person who brings home the bulk of the money is the one with the value. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the way it seems to work out.

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