Opinion: Dads Can Stay Home With the Kids, Too
Discussions of successful women always seem to include the notion of being forced to make a choice: time with the kids, or career advancement. Parents should consider that dads can stay home with the kids, too.
It is also possible for men to make a choice to take on more responsibilities at home. There is nothing wrong with the traditional 1950s-style family, where the husband goes to work and the wife takes care of the kids. But there also is nothing wrong with the reverse. In my family, it's me, the dad, who is the head of the household.
A few years ago, my wife and I decided that I would be the one to stay home with the kids. I had been self-employed for a long time, and I was still going to work, but strictly from home. As the kids get older and have more things to deal with, I continue to make adjustments to my schedule -- sometimes daily.
For example, sometimes I don't start writing until 10 p.m. Why? Because that's when I have finally gotten the kids to bed, cleaned up the kitchen and completed the various other tasks that need to be done every single day. I used to complain about my household duties, partly because they can sometimes get in the way of paying work.
But, while I still don't like doing certain things (especially cleaning the sink trap, in which one day I expect to find the remains of Jimmy Hoffa), I accept that they need to be done, that it's my job to do them and that I have to make choices about how much work I can handle. Is staying up later than I would like and getting up early to finish that work fun? No. But it's my choice to do it this way.
Jezebel's Irin Carmon writes that when it comes to women achieving professional success, "It's hard not to look at the evidence and conclude that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't." I understand what she means but it doesn't have to be that way. The assumption that a woman must make a choice between career and family, whereas for a man there is no need to pick one or the other, is just as retro as the notion that a woman's place is in the kitchen. Chromosomes don't determine whose job is more valid any more than sex dictates professional aptitude.
I consider myself lucky that I can make some choices about how I spend my time. In some households, it is a financial necessity that both parents work. But even in those situations, men and woman should be treated more equally when it comes to housework and child-raising. Working mothers often are told they have two jobs -- their profession, and being a mom.
Recently, I was filling out a form for one of my children, and there was a box to list your maiden name, because, of course, only a mother would have this responsibility. At many schools, parent-related events are often called "Mom's Night Out." I'm not crying discrimination here. But it would seem that men are not the only ones perpetuating gender stereotypes.
This issue is always current, but is even more so because of the pending retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens. Over at The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart suggests President Obama should nominate a mom to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court, because it will send a message "that women can have kids and still reach the apex of their profession."
One could argue that a message has already been sent. Martha Stewart is about as successful as a person can be, and she has a daughter. Carol Bartz, the current president and CEO of Yahoo!, has three kids. Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, has two.
And you know what that proves? Absolutely nothing. Well, I suppose it shows that women can have a family and also experience professional success. But so what? More female CEOs won't shatter the glass ceiling overnight.
I'm not saying more women running large corporations is a bad thing. It certainly helps to chip away at the still prevalent idea that women can't handle the pressure and responsibility that comes with a high-profile position. But, retro attitudes about gender roles will still exist. The United States has an African-American president. Yet, I still see taxis zoom past black people on the streets of Manhattan. One thing has nothing to do with the other.
A mom on the Supreme Court sounds good to me. But not to send a message. The message young women and young men should be sent is that they are capable of making choices, and that those choices do not need to conform to society's norms.
I'm not a woman, so I don't know how important it is to have more high-profile examples of successful women with children to look up to. What I do know is that making a choice to take care of your kids instead of pursuing a career is a valid one, no matter your gender.
Maybe we can all open our minds a little bit and stop making broad assumptions about who is supposed to do what.
Related: Babies of Working Moms Get Just as Much Cuddle Time
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.