Thursday, September 13, 2007

This is just wrong

In so many ways. How do I count the ways?

This article, in New York Magazine, talks about Alpha Women and Beta Men. Otherwise known as Stay At Home Dads.

I have to tell you, I was pissed off by this article in lots of fun, different ways. The fact that they took a very small subsection of ultra-wealthy NY wives with unemployed or underemployed husbands and try to correlate their sense of dissatisfaction to all women drove me batty. The fact that they referred to their SAHDs as freeloaders drove me around the bend, further.

Lots of driving going on around here, but I'm still not behind the wheel.

The one thing I agreed with is the fact that SAHDs should not be considered "saints" by society at large. They are caring for their own children. They are doing that crazy thing called parenting. No one calls a woman a saint for parenting. Ever. At the same time, calling SAHDs freeloaders is utterly ridiculous. No one would ever refer to SAHMs as freeloaders! Ever! If one parent is working and the other isn't, that's just the way things are going at that point in time in that couple's life. If you consider your spouse an equal, there can be no concept of one of them being a freeloader.

Also, the way that the women in the article self-described themselves terrified me. The big thing that came across was "I make buckets of money and I'm incredibly controlling." Who the hell wants to be married to that, male or female?

By the way, Eric has assured me that should I ever make 5 times the amount he is making, he will be just fine with that.

Eric stayed at home with Caitlin for the first year of her life. He had been consulting for one of The Man's medium sized corporations, while I had been working for another of The Man's corporations. When told they were about to cut out their consultants, Eric decided that it would be better if he stayed home with the baby while I returned to work after she was 3 months old. It was tough, too, because she'd just hit one of those ridiculously cute stages and I felt like I was missing out.

I felt awfully frustrated how people that we knew said many of the same goofy things about Eric staying home - describing what he was doing as "babysitting". You know what? When it's your own child, it's never babysitting. It's just plain old parenting. I know that may come as a shock to the folks of my parent's generation, but it shouldn't to my peers. Eric is my equal, right down to his amazing facility with diapers. The only thing he couldn't do was breastfeed, which is why I was pumping like mad twice a day, so that he could feed the Round One with breastmilk during the times I wasn't there.

Biggest fights we had during that year? Housework.


Yup. It was never about money. Suddenly I was the only one with an income, but that didn't make any difference in our relationship as adults, spouses or parents. The issue was shopping and housekeeping and the like. I figured that if millions of other moms could go grocery shopping with their kids, Eric could figure out how to do it with our kid.

We got through it. Eric eventually made the decision to go back to school (finally finishing his degree) and attend law school. Caitlin got a chance to hang with her dad for her first year that few children ever do and I think it has helped their long term relationship. Now with the twins coming, I will be the full time SAH parent and I'll try to do my best. Eric, I think, is looking forward to doing fewer diapers this time around on his own. (Don't tell him, but I think there will be plenty to share.)

So what's the point? The point is that when you take a bunch of wound up, ultra-competitive moms with SAHDs from NYC and try to extrapolate outwards to the rest of the population at large, it's just not going to work. And if that small population of wealthy over-achievers also have a screwed up sense of partnership that's not going to add anything to your "study". I can't vouch for the relationships for the rest of the US population, but considering that it is generally accepted that half of all marriages fail, what's keeping us from assuming that those relationships weren't doomed from the start, regardless of the employment status of the men in them?

It often seems like neither sex can win in the mainstream media. If you're a successful working woman, you are emasculating your mate. If you are a SAHM, you are a slacker. If you are a working mom, you are a bad mother. If you are a successful working man, it is either just to be expected or you are missing out on your half of parenting. If you are a SAHD, you are a freeloader.

You know what? No matter where you fall on the scale of working or stay at home, father or mother, someone out there is going to disagree with your choice. And loudly. The thing to keep in mind is that it's not up to anyone but you and your spouse. Once you work out your own communication issues, the opinions of the rest of the population can take a flying leap. Do what's right for your family. Treat your spouse as an equal partner. Figure out the money issues and communicate.

That, I think, is the single biggest factor that determines whether a marriage will succeed or fail. Communicate. Don't play games.

And don't believe everything you read in the New York Magazine.

1 comment:

Red Flashlight said...

Agreed. What a yawner! How soulless do you have to be to measure "success" as purely financial? I feel sorry for these women who married their men solely for their earning power. Further proof that sexism is a two-way street.

These women's experience is simply not relevant to reality. I'm bummed this paper didn't give us a chance to respond on line - I so would have told them so.

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