Much has been written about the obstacles that women face as they seek to climb the corporate ladder – the glass ceilings, unequal pay, discrimination in promotions, etc. Many family women are also made to feel guilty for their devotion to their career as if that somehow means they are less devoted to their children. As these women press on and take their rightful places in the corporate world, men are increasingly doing the same in the household.
Today more than ever, husbands and fathers have been willing to step forward to support their wife’s success. Taking on the role of homemaker rather than breadwinner, the husband/father selflessly steps back from his own career for the betterment of his family. As with his wife, this man, too, finds himself in a brave new world filled with opportunity, peril and societal judgment.
If you find yourself driven to climb the corporate ladder and your husband feels as though he is ready to take this leap, you, like many influential women in leadership, may find yourself facing more obstacles than you’d previously anticipated. Now, not only do you have to defend your own position, but that of your husband as well.
Opponent One – You
While it is expected that society will judge this type of arrangement, the first critics a couple should address is themselves. If she can’t spend as much time with her family, will she feel that she has failed them? If he passes up a promotion or steps aside from employment for a time, will he be happy with himself? Will he feel unmanly or emasculated because she earns more than he does? Another possibility to consider is respect. Many times, a woman who steps into the breadwinner role will unwittingly see her husband in a lesser light. Though many times, as he steps into his support role, this respect is quickly regained.
Note: If a couple decides to move forward in nontraditional roles, they should revisit the arrangement often to ensure that it is still working for their family.
Opponent Two – Everyone Else
So, what is your husband doing? He can’t JUST be staying home with the kids. What’s his real job? Why did you marry him if he can’t even provide for you and your family? These are some of the common questions my wife heard from friends and colleagues when we decided that I would be a stay-at-home father. Although these questions and comments bother both my wife and I, we have learned to deal with them quite well. In fact, she has become a pro at shutting down both colleagues and friends with just a few carefully pointed words. Both tactful and sharp, I cannot help but grin when she defends me. Like a lioness guarding her pride, she leaves no questions as to the importance of my role in our family, and how it has benefited both her career and our quality of life.
As more and more men step out of their traditional roles to devote themselves to family, there won’t be a need for the wife to defend the husband’s honor in society. Until then, women should continue to be their husband’s champion. After all, it’s their family. And in the end, that’s what many people would say matters most.
As an author, leadership coach and keynote speaker, I tour the country sharing my view on the changing roles of men in today’s evolving society. In my book, Lean On, I explore the stigma of swapping traditional roles, the prevailing societal attitudes of what a “real” family looks like and how you can make it work for your household.