Tag Archives: money

Many Women Don’t Support Stay-at-Home Dads

moms_dadsHow many times have we heard that men need to do more at home?

I know I’ve heard it. A lot. Online parenting sites and message boards are filled with frustrated moms lamenting the fact that their husbands spend too much time at the office and not enough on household and childcare chores. If only they’d focus more on family, change some diapers, clean the house, and cook a few meals. Hell, if only they’d pick up their socks off the living room floor, right? Whatever the case, these guys need to do SOMETHING to take the burden off poor mom who is stuck at home with the kids all day, because Lord knows she needs the support.

Well, it turns out a new survey just released by Salary.com shows a potentially ugly flip side to that argument.

Salary.com (where I work as the content manager, for full disclosure) surveyed more than 2,100 people about work and shifting gender roles in April, and a couple of the questions were about stay-at-home parenting. The results of two questions in particular raised some eyebrows, dispelling some myths regarding the attitudes of men and women toward full-time parenting and gender roles in general.

The survey asked people “If it were financially feasible, would you give up your own career to be a stay-at-home parent?” The long-held belief is that women are natural born caregivers who are automatic nurturers, while men are predisposed providers who bring home the bacon and leave the child-rearing to the lady folk.

Yet when asked if they’d give up their careers to be a stay-at-home parent, just as many men as women answered in the affirmative.

Yup, that’s right. The survey showed 57% of both men AND women expressed a desire to give up their careers to stay at home full time. Some might argue that number is high because more men are out of work these days after the recent recession, but I disagree. A study called The New Dad from the Boston College Center for Work and Family showed men are placing an increased importance on work/life balance, and making a concerted effort to be more involved at home than their fathers were. That shift in attitude is probably why the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, according to U.S. Census statistics, and now sits at close to 200,000.

But as staggering as that number is, this next stat startled me even more.

When asked if they’d financially and emotionally support a spouse who expressed a desire to stay home and take care of the kids and house full time, 91% of men answered yes. That shouldn’t surprise too many people as the arrangement of a working dad and a stay-at-home mom has been the status quo forever and a day. But what about women? What about the moms who have been calling for men to pick up the slack on the home front? Surely they must be thrilled to hear that 91% of men seek to support a woman’s choice to stay at home AND  just as many of them want to stay home with the kids as women. It’s a no-brainer they’d be just as supportive, right?

Not exactly.

More than one-quarter of women surveyed (26%) said they fundamentally refuse to support a spouse’s decision to be a stay-at-home parent. So even though the men in this survey are just as open to sacrificing their careers as women, women are more than three times as likely not to support the same decision for men.

Why is this the case? I’m not sure, and the survey didn’t ask. But here’s what I do know:

Men are facing a similar battle attempting to make home life a priority as women did when leaving the home and entering the workforce. There’s no doubt women faced (and still face) obstacles and obstructions from a good old boys network who didn’t want to see things change in the workplace, and they made progress by being relentless and eventually gaining support from men and women already in positions of power who became allies to working women.

And just like that old boys network, I absolutely believe there are women who look at parenting and the home front as “their turf,” and don’t want to give up control. Any dad who has gone to the playground with his kid sans wife, or tried to join a real-life or online parenting community can attest to the sideways glances and disapproving stares from many of the mothers present. Sometimes it’s the very same women complaining about a lack of help who end up being opposed to the idea of stay-at-home dads. And that has to change if progress is to be made.

This survey tells me men have realized they need to make family a priority. But it also seems some women have a scorching case of “be careful what you wish for.”

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Tough Questions

“Dada, why do we have to leave our house?”

Our condo is half-packed up and we’re officially in transition. I’d like to tell you we bought a new place. Hell, I’d settle for renting a place. But this move is a preemptive strike before we’re made to leave. That’s what happens when you buy a home at the absolute height of the market, said market completely collapses and you find yourself $100,000 upside-down. With an adjustable rate mortgage. Facing rising condo fees and unanticipated special assessments. Saddled with job loss and vastly reduced incomes. Not to mention the fact that MJ is temporarily out of work. Did I mention we’re being sued by our lovely condo association for good measure?

Despite the fact that we surrendered the house during bankruptcy, the bank doesn’t want it so they won’t foreclose. Which means the condo fees we can’t afford to pay just keep piling up. Which racks up late charges. Which racks up lawyer fees. But you can’t get blood from a stone, and I’m rockin’ it hardcore these days. They say investing in real estate is a sure thing. Well now I have a home on Cape Cod that I literally can’t even give back to the bank. How times change.

So now we become a burden to my parents, as I boomerang my pathetic ass back to my childhood home. This time with my family in tow. Don’t get me wrong, we’re beyond lucky to have family who don’t think twice about helping us and taking us in. But I feel like a failure for letting it come to this.

“Dada, I miss my kitties. Why can’t they live with us?”

Look, I hate cats. Hate them. But because my wife loves them, I’ve lived with two Maine coons for seven years. Even though we now have a grudging respect for one another, I have long looked forward to life without allergies and the general snottiness of the feline persuasion. And now I’m on the doorstep of such of life because my mom is extremely allergic to cats and we can’t take them with us.

But along comes a little boy who loves the cats. With no brother or sister to play with, he often turns his attention to his furry siblings. What I thought was merely cute play turned out to be a fairly deep bond. But asking my mom to forsake breathing in her own home is absolutely out of the question. I know she feels horrible, but there’s nothing anyone can do. The cats are going to live with my mother-in-law so they won’t be far. Only an hour away. But to a 3-year-old that trip might as well be to Antarctica.

“Dada, why do I have to go to a new school? I love my friends and I miss them.”

I’ve never had something incredibly sharp and jagged jammed straight into my heart. But I don’t have to be stabbed after that comment, because the look on his face and the sadness in his voice was more painful than any blade.

Will has flourished at his preschool over the last 12 months. He found stability, strength, independence and confidence there. And Will, a boy who once couldn’t play nicely around any other kids, now has a plethora of friends. Every single day he comes home and recites the litany of friends he played with, the games they enjoyed and how much fun he had. He’s comfortable there, he’s thriving there. And now I’m ripping him away from all that.

I’m left to wonder how one is judged as a man. Because if we’re talking provider, I’m failing miserably. I bought a house we could afford at the time, but now we can’t. And as a result, we’re literally losing the roof over our heads. Sure I work a lot and went out and found a job that pays more, but in the end it was a wash because MJ is out of work now through no fault of her own. She’s been fantastic at taking care of the house and I’m so proud of her for starting down a path that will take her back to school. But a real man provides at all costs and keeps things afloat. I really believe that. And by those standards, I’m way south of where I need to be.

But maybe a real man is someone who takes care of his family. Unfortunately, I’m failing there too.

I get up at 5:45 a.m. and leave for work at 6:30. It takes me anywhere from 2-3 hours to get to work. I work from 9 to 5. It’s at least another two hours to get home. It’s after 7 p.m. by the time I pull in to my parking space. That’s after dinner and exactly one hour before Will goes to bed. As any parent can tell you, that last hour before bed is not exactly a time for bonding. It’s filled with “brush your teeth” and “take a bath” and “make sure you go pee.” Yet I try to cram all my hugs, all my kisses and all my bonding into 60 minutes. The last 60 minutes of my son’s day, during which he is understandably tired, cranky and wants little to do with anyone. Nevermind a dad trying to relentlessly cuddle with him.

After he goes to bed I usually have to tend to the blog or one of my other writing projects I do on a part-time basis, so MJ goes to bed while I toil away on the computer. So much for being a good husband.

“Dada, can I have a brother or a sister?”

We both want to have another child so badly, but we don’t even have a home of our own. But more than that, MJ has to be off her current medication if we want to get pregnant. That means we literally have to choose between another baby and her mental well-being. Another child makes us complete but coming off the meds might send my wife over the edge. Meanwhile the meds keep my wife away from the edge, but the idea of not having another baby might send the wheels completely flying off the wagon.

In the end I can’t sacrifice my wife’s health. The thought of not having a second child makes me physically ache inside, but the thought of losing MJ makes me want to dig a hole and never come out. Either way you cut it, it’s not a choice I’m very fond of at the moment.

And somewhere in the middle of this tempest of misery and heartache I’m stuck in traffic either on my way to or from work. I can’t move. All I see are brake lights. I’m hemmed in while my son grows up without his beloved pets, without his friends and with a father he sees for an hour a day. I’m pretty sure some divorced dads get more time than that. The roof over his head isn’t even one I’ve provided. If I’m not providing enough financially and I’m not providing enough emotionally and I can’t give him the things he wants and needs…well, then what exactly am I doing?

“Dada, I miss you. Can you please work from home today and cuddle me?”

Sorry bud, I can’t. But I miss you too kid. I miss your mom too. I’m missing it all. And both you and mom deserve better.

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Women Are Crazy

I will never understand women. Mostly because it’s impossible to truly understand an entire gender that is not hindered by any kind of logic.

My wife bought a new purse a month ago. Then, last week, she suddenly told me she needed another one. Silly me, I thought it was perfectly reasonable to question why the hell she would need a new purse when she JUST bought one a few weeks ago. That’s when she told me—well, see for yourself.

 

First of all, I do not understand the concept of taking the time to purchase something and then all of a sudden not liking it. Whether it’s accessories, clothes, gadgets, etc. it just doesn’t make sense. If I buy something it’s because I’ve researched it, compared it to other items and decided that’s the one I want. So the idea of my wife looking at purses, searching for one with specific characteristics, finding it, buying it and then NOT liking it, is just foreign to me.

As a guy, I find something I like and stick with it as long as possible. I just got a new wallet but I had my old one for seven years. It had holes in it (not really a problem as I never had any money to lose) and the only reason I replaced it is because MJ said it was no longer acceptable. The same goes for my shoes and clothes. I wear them out until there’s barely anything left, and then I still try to wear them after that.

I call it “maximizing value.”

And before you start, it has nothing to do with money. One of those purses was $10 and the other was $20. It’s not about the money. It’s about the principle of the thing. And I’m sorry, but MJ’s explanation just does not make sense.

Both purses had three compartments. Both were roughly the same size. Saying that one was more difficult to find things in is just ridiculous, as the video proves. Not to mention she’s got SO MANY other purses. Small purses, big purses, red purses, blue purses. You can fit Horton and every single Who in her collection of purses. I’ll never understand the female need to stock up on purses and shoes. It’s utterly ridiculous.

People talk about needing different accessories and clothes for different occasions. Bullshit! I have one suit, one tie and one pair of dress shoes. I wear them to weddings and funerals, baptisms and burials. I have one watch and I never worry about matching it to my belt, which is my fanciest accessory because the belt can be either brown or black depending on which way you adjust it. I work in a corporate environment so I wear slacks and button-down shirts, so I understand it’s important to look presentable. But that’s where it ends for me.

And furthermore, even if I did screw up by buying something I didn’t like (excluding clothes that don’t fit), I wouldn’t return it or get a new one. I’d just make do with what I had because that’s the only thing that makes sense.

I love my wife. I love women. But when I brought this up on Twitter recently, I was met with criticism from women while my wife received support. Which leads me to my long-held assertion that women simply don’t make a damn bit of sense when it comes to this shit. However, when I try to combat this lunacy with logic I’m met with condescending stares and comments about “just not getting it.”

You’re right. I don’t get it. Because I’m sane.

My wife, however, told me she can think of at least one other thing in her life she’d like to trade in for a newer model.

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Becoming the Breadwinner

www.commondreams.org

This post was originally published at Dads Good over at the Good Men Project. But since this is my first day of my new job I thought it was fitting.

I’ve never been a breadwinner.

My wife and I have been married five years, together for seven. I’ve worked as a journalist nearly all of that time, and if you haven’t heard—journalists make peanuts. Seriously. Mid-level suburban high school babysitters make more than members of the Fourth Estate. But if you’ve got ink in your blood, you do the job because you love it. Money be damned.

Meanwhile she works in banking. As a manager. Which means she doesn’t just make more money than I do, she makes WAY more. At one point it was more than double my salary.

And that bothered me. A lot.

But with time I learned to cope. My wife was fantastic about it and boosted my self-confidence by telling me I work just as hard as she does and I pull my weight around the house. When it comes to our son, I’ve had the majority of caregiving duties because up until a few months ago, she had a very long commute. She also told me I was her anchor, and big paycheck is a distant second to all the emotional support I brought her.

Slowly but surely, I took what she said to heart. I grew into my role as the husband of a breadwinner wife, and even took to the Internet (and this very website) in defense of those who questioned the manhood/work ethic of stay-at-home dads and guys who don’t bring home the bacon.

But as it turns out, I’m not as comfortable with it as I thought.

I accepted a new job earlier this week. And with it comes a bump in salary. Actually, it’s not so much a bump as a quantum leap. That’s a great thing and much needed for our family, so it is perfectly natural to celebrate being able to pay our bills, getting out of our financial hole and providing for our family.

But I wasn’t celebrating those things.

The first thought that popped into my mind was “THANK GOD I’M MAKING MORE MONEY THAN MY WIFE!”

And while my second thought was what a douchebag I am for thinking the first thing, there was no denying that’s what was in my head. I felt a surge of pride, like FINALLY I was a man. A real man. A real man who supports his wife and child with a paycheck, like all real men are supposed to.

If I knew how to hunt I would’ve gone out and killed a wild boar and presented it to my wife with a loud grunt. I felt like walking into the kitchen, unzipping my pants and unfurling my manhood on the kitchen table next to my offer letter. I half expected to see every male relative I’ve ever had to come greet me with a firm handshake and hearty smile, telling me “attaboy” and “welcome to the club.” I felt relief. Overwhelming relief that at long last, I was fulfilling my role.

And then I felt ashamed of being a huge, dumb asshole.

I mean seriously, what the fuck is wrong with me? I know how stupid I am for placing so much value on a paycheck. I have friends in real life and online who are stay-at-home dads and don’t contribute a penny, yet I realize full well they are doing something invaluable. Something far more meaningful than bringing home a paycheck. And if anyone ever told them they weren’t “real men,” I would tear that person a new one.

Yet for me, personally, it’s an issue. I wish that wasn’t the case, but for better or worse my misguided notion of manhood includes how many zeros are in my pay stub. My wife never EVER lorded her salary over me. Not even once. Likewise, I will never taunt her with my paycheck and I certainly don’t plan to do any less at home in terms of chores or raising my son now that I make more money. But I have to face the ugly truth that making less money than my wife is a far bigger issue than I ever realized.

And it bothers me that it bothers me.

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The Dying Middle Class

Hello, I’m what’s left of the American middle class. And I’m dying.

I’m in my 30s and I have a wife and one child. I own a house, and although a man is only a man once he buys land and a domicile, it is this very house that is crushing my will to live. But more on that later. Here in the middle class, both of us work full-time. And we work hard. We kind of had to after one of us lost that job when the economy imploded. Sure we make less now, but one of us was also forced to take a job an hour away from home, so we’re spending a fortune on gas that costs nearly $3 a gallon and less time with our families. And because we can’t spend as much time with our kids as we’d like, we need to pay for daycare. That means one of our jobs is paying almost exclusively for someone else to watch our kid, yet we slave away.

But then home values tanked and we were stuck with that exotic mortgage. I know exotic sounds sexy most of the time, but trust me, in this instance there’s nothing appealing about it. It was only supposed to be temporary, you know, until we could refinance or sell the place and get something bigger. But then the market crashed and home values dropped faster than Tiger Woods’ pants. All of a sudden we’re upside down $75,000 and saddled with an adjustable rate mortgage that’s about to shoot up higher than Tiger’s erection when he passes a strip joint. We can’t refinance because we don’t have any equity in the house. We can’t sell the place because we’d still owe a fortune. And we can’t rent it because the rental income wouldn’t even cover all of our expenses.

Not to mention most of us haven’t received raises in a couple of years now, and health insurance costs have ballooned up to nearly unthinkable levels as employers contribute less and less to the cause.

And speaking of expenses, it’s getting out of control. The condo fees are getting a little too close to $300 a month for comfort. And on top of that, the condo association has implemented a 5-year “special assessment” at the rate of $1,100 a year to put new siding on the houses. Not to mention another $140 special assessment for landscaping, which is already supposed to be included in the regular condo fees. Yet my house has no new siding, they don’t do anything besides mow the lawn and the snow barely gets plowed in the winter. Meanwhile NStar is charging me a $500 per month electric bill because energy costs are off the charts.

Although we haven’t used credit cards in years, it became clear  a few months ago we had to lean on them in our time of need. But lo and behold, new credit card regulations are going into effect and the credit card companies don’t like it one bit. So, they began either drastically reducing credit limits on existing cards, or in some cases, canceling them altogether. That means our emergency safety net was suddenly removed, just as we got to the most treacherous part of the tightrope. And the biggest kick to the junk is when you’re hoping for a mini bailout in the form of a tax return, only to discover you owe the government $3,000 because you had to take out withdrawals from IRAs and 401ks just to get by.

Recently, after some simple math, it became clear that making timely mortgage payments, utility payments, condo fee payments, etc was not going to be possible. But because we are proud people who have never fallen behind on any payments in the past, we wanted to be proactive. So, being the responsible middle class folks we are, we began calling around.

We tried to refinance our mortgage and were rebuffed. We tried to negotiate with the condo association and were shat upon. But perhaps the most frustrating part was appealing to the mortgage company. We explained our situation to them and told them for at least a few months, we weren’t going to be able to pay on time. And so we asked for assistance, noting that we were doing so ahead of time to stay in front of things.

Wanna know what they said? They told us there was nothing they could do for us until we were at least two months behind in payments.

Incredulous at their response, we asked them if we were correct in surmising that they could do nothing to help us now, but if we were derelict in our responsibility to pay them for the next two months, then and only then could they step in and help us.

Does anyone else see how fucking backward this is?!?! No one can help the middle class until the middle class is so broke they become the poor. It actually benefits me NOT to pay the mortgage, so that I can receive help to then — you guessed it — pay the mortgage. Maybe I’m a goddamn lunatic here, but wouldn’t it be more cost effective to assist people BEFORE they get to the point where they’re considering walking away from a home with no equity of which they’re in arrears?

And make no mistake, people are walking away from their homes. And who can blame them? A lot of the middle class didn’t put money down on their homes, they’re upside down and with the market correction may never see any kind of profit. Where there used to be a strong connection to our homes, many see them as an anchor around their necks. There’s no “pride of ownership” related to a home that is slowly killing you. So people are taking the credit hit, weathering the foreclosure and starting over.

Meanwhile those of us working several jobs apiece and breaking our backs to pay everything on time (or slightly behind) are met with no assistance, liens on our homes and threatening letters from lenders and bill collectors. And whether it’s a car repair, home repair or medical problem, we’re all one major unexpected bill away from serious motherfucking trouble.

This is why the middle class is disappearing. The middle class makes too much money to qualify for much of the available aid out there, but not enough to make all the ends meet. It’s like being stuck in some hellish limbo where things admittedly could be worse, but at the same time there’s no real chance of them getting any better. It’s a never-ending struggle and swimming upstream is so fucking maddening sometimes, I feel like just sinking to the bottom so someone will come rescue me.

But I can’t. I can’t imagine getting behind on the mortgage. I would feel too much guilt, because I’ve been taught personal responsibility. And that’s what the bigwigs bank on, the pride of the remaining class that will keep them paying into a money pit that will never benefit them.

I thought our President might provide some relief, and for the first time in a long time I was hopeful. Turns out I was naive. There’s no help on the way. No white (or in this case, black) knight coming to the rescue. We either need to give up and be dirt poor, or hit the lottery (or land a book deal) and move up to the wealthy stratosphere.

Because those of us in the middle are nearly extinct, and we’re running out of reasons to keep trying.


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