I coach so many women who say they want career advice, but what they really want is permission to not work. These women can see that the jobs they always dreamed of having are not compatible with raising kids, ant that makes the work world feel very disappointing.
So we agree that they don’t really want to work. And their husband makes enough money to support the family. And then—this happens all the time—the guy says he doesn’t want to be the only one earning money. So this is my letter to all those husbands:
Do you want kids? If you don’t want kids, you should only date women who are past child bearing age. A huge number of women who are 23 say they might be okay not having kids, but 80% of women over 40 have kids. So realistically speaking, if you date a woman under age 35, assume she’ll decide she wants kids. Because she might not but the odds are she will.
Do you want to stay home with the kids? I bet the answer is no. So you probably think both parents are going to have careers and both will take care of kids.
But that’s not how the world works. Kids are a full-time job, which means until the kids are school-age, someone needs to take care of them. A deluge of research says that there should be a single caregiver until the child is three.
If you ignore that research and your wife works, you will pay for childcare the whole time your wife works. Which means if your wife works full time and makes $50K a year, she’ll make $35K after taxes, and a huge percentage of that will go to childcare — to leave your child with someone who probably does not make a living wage.
Let’s say your wife takes maternity leave and then goes back to work. Someone has to pick up the baby at childcare at 5pm every day. No being late. Whoever does that cannot have a high-paying job, because people don’t get paid a lot to leave at 4:30 every day. If parents switch off pickup days, it means both parents have a job that is not high paying. Or the parents have a fight every day at 4pm because neither feels able to leave work.
So one person has to leave work at 4:30pm every day. That will be your wife, of course, because she doesn’t even want to be at work in the first place. This means your wife’s salary will never be particularly large because she can never be fully committed to work.
Of course you already knew she was not fully committed to work because when you married her you knew she was not passionate about making a ton of money. She was interested in other things. You could have married someone who loved making money, but then she’d be threatening to you, and she’d make you stay home with the kids. And you wouldn’t like that. That’s why you picked this particular woman for your wife.
So you have a wife who doesn’t want to work. She wants to take care of your kids. And you want her to take care of the kids AND work. Because you don’t want all the responsibility of earning the money.
But you are not going to split the responsibility of childcare in half, because then your career would be nothing, so your wife is taking the responsibility of taking care of kids. Which means all that’s left for you is to take responsibility for earning the money.
Look: you can divide everything in half and have two half-time parents working half-speed at their jobs. Or you can have each parent specializing and the kids get a full-time parent and the family has a full-time breadwinner.
Obviously the family works better with parents who take full responsibility for their half of the deal. Research abounds to show that marriages stay together better with a stay-at-home parent. And increasingly educated couples are keeping one parent at home. And most women aspire to stay home.
Want to look at what part-time work looks like for a mother? Look at all the law-firms that tried it: the women worked full-time and got paid for part-time. Because good part-time jobs do not really exist. You cannot leave work at 3pm when school gets out because there’s always going to be a twenty-five year old who will do the job full-time.
Want to know what two parents working looks like? Google latchkey kid. And you know where you got the idea that splitting things 50/50 is a good idea? From people who didn’t split everything 50/50. Why? Because it’s impossible.
There are two jobs for adults in a family. Kids or money. Grow up and take one of those jobs. Because while yes, it is a lot of pressure to be an adult and earn the money, it’s a lot harder to be a kid who doesn’t have a parent around when they need one.