By Suzanne Gleason
We really have come a long way, baby. Especially when you consider that when that phrase was first trotted out, just a couple of decades ago, it was to celebrate a woman's right to
By Suzanne Gleason
smoke cigarettes. But a glimpse at the more significant milestones for women in business does reveal a pretty impressive trajectory. First it became OK, then almost mandatory, for a woman to have a career. Now we seem to have cleared the toughest hurdle of all: making it OK for a wife to be the breadwinner – and for her husband or partner to stay at home.
In fact, it's become a downright common scenario. Here's the math: More than 30 percent of women today earn more than their husbands do, according to one survey. Throw a business degree into the equation and that number soars to 60 percent. Corporate insiders acknowledge that the majority of their top-earning female execs have homebound partners. So, after generations of wives dutifully delivering scotch and slippers to hubby's Barcalounger at 6:15 (and still having the energy to deliver in the bedroom later), aren't we overdue for the switcheroo and all its attendant perks? Are a spotless house, a perfectly prepped cosmopolitan, sexy abs and a little decompression time with Sex and the City reruns too much for a girl to expect?
In a word? Probably.
But unlike the working men of generations past, it appears women are more likely to accept the bad with the good when it comes to their spouses' domestic performance – and even show a little empathy along the way.
Entitlement vs. Acceptance
"I don't want to come home to a man who's 40 pounds overweight with a big gut," admits New York City interior designer Karen Hartmann. "I want to come home to a hot guy in great shape." Her partner, J.C. Islander, who stays home except when he's teaching martial arts a couple of nights a week, fills the bill. But Hartmann also likes to return to a neat apartment at the end of the day – "a vacuumed carpet and a made bed, and I've had to resign myself to the fact that I won't." But, she acknowledges, "He does make dinner – he's a fantastic cook. He runs errands for me, gets the dry cleaning, takes the dog out, washes the dog. I deal with it by keeping sight of all the other things he does."
Patty Leuchten, founder and president of the Avoca Group, a pharmaceutical consulting company in Princeton, N.J., is the mother of three children ages 9 to 14 who have grown up under the loving care of her househusband, Mark, an artist with a part-time business in feng shui consulting. She did, however, have to come to terms with the fact that, with Mark at the helm, returning home to an immaculate house would not be a reality. "After a long day at work I really look forward to coming home and being totally vested in my family, in having a nice dinner. A nice, neat house – without toys all over the place and dishes in the sink – is part of that for me," she says. Like Hartmann, though, she got past it by focusing on her husband's contributions instead of the clutter.
"Mark single-handedly renovated our fixer-upper dream house over the years. And I know that when he's with the kids, his priorities are playing with them, engaging them, getting them fed," she says. "I learned that I needed to stop projecting the way I would do things on Mark since he has his own style." It was a pretty easy lesson, actually, since Mark made no bones about not wanting to be a house cleaner. The solution? The couple struck a compromise and hired a maid.
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