Recently I wrote a post about how to pick a husband if you want to have kids. A lot of people asked that I write the male corollary to that post. So, here it is.

This post is about identity. How to see yourself. How to figure out if you can remake yourself. How to make a life that is true to yourself. And, put more bluntly, how to get the best deal in a wife given who you are.

For men, there are three choices: breadwinner, and stay-at-home dad, and  shared responsibilities. 

Choice 1: Be the Breadwinner

The first thing is that you need a realistic sense of who you can be. The breadwinner and the stay-at-home dad are the extreme ends of the spectrum. Most families end up with some blended scenario where there are two incomes and both parents pitch in with the household duties.

The easiest thing for most men to imagine is that they are the breadwinner. Then they don’t have to do a lot of compromising with their wife. The wife takes care of things at home, and they take care of things at work. It’s a very clear division of labor.

This setup has been proven to create the most stable marriages. It makes sense because there is someone whose full-time job it is to take care of the marriage. So the marriage and the family stays together.

This setup also creates the highest earners. Most men at the top of corporate life have a stay-at-home wife supporting them at home.

The first factor to consider in this scenario is that you have to be a stable earner. The more money you earn, the more women you have to choose from. You cannot attract women who cannot live on your salary. So really, you can be a breadwinner at any salary if you can find a woman willing to stay home on your salary.

Something to consider is that salaries top out at age 40. They only keep rising for people who are climbing the very top of the corporate ladder or people who own their own company. So if you are a regular employee or middle manager, you should figure that you will not keep increasing your salary after age 40. On top of that, nearly all the people who are senior in corporate America have a Myers Briggs score of ENTJ or something very close to that—ESTJ, for example.

There are exceptions, of course. But you’re playing an odds game here. If you are getting married in your mid 30s, you are pretty much at the pay level you will be at for the rest of your life. So pick a woman who can live on that.

If you are in your 20s, you should take the Myers Briggs test and you will find out if you have a personality type that will feel fulfilled longterm by working long hours and competing at a high level while leaving the brunt of family life responsibilities  to your wife.

Choice 2: Marry a Breadwinner

Stay-at-home dads don’t do the homemaker job like moms do. They usually have huge side projects going on that feel like a part-time job to them even if they are not directly earning money. (Remodeling the house in a series of small projects, for example.) So the men are often pretty happy with the arrangement.

Until they are not. There’s a huge social stigma to men staying home with kids.  But also, there’s a sexual stigma. Women want to marry someone who earns more than they do, even women with extremely high salaries.

You’d think that as long as one of the spouses is taking care of the family full-time, then it wouldn’t matter which one was in the breadwinner role. But in fact, if a man’s hours at work increase to garner a higher salary, there is no negative impact on the marriage. But as a woman increases her hours to earn a higher salary, the chances of her getting a divorce go way up. (Here’s the citation for that data – a bunch of academic publications.)

That said, if you want to stay home with kids, your best bet is to find a woman who has already shown that she is comfortable working very long hours with little personal life. Because if she can’t do that before she has kids, she’s not going to want to do it after she has kids.

Also, we can talk about the wide range of women who can be successful, yes, but at the top of the corporate ladder, the women are just like the men: all ENTJs. And less than 1% of all women are ENTJs, so you have your work cut out for you if you want to find one.

For those ENTJ women who want to climb the corporate ladder, your willingness to stay home is gold. For women, having decision-making responsibilities at home decreases their chances of advancing at work. So having a competent, take charge, stay-at-home partner would be essential for this type of spouse’s career success.

(The breadwinner must earn a lot to support a husband and kids. But if you are thinking you could live off a lot less if you could just get a breadwinner who doesn’t want kids, try an INTJ. Women who are INTJs are most likely to not want kids. )

Choice 3: Shared Parenting

In each of the above examples, one spouse gives up the majority of time they could spend with their kids in order to have a huge, exciting—and high paying—job. In this scenario there is no trade off like that. And there is no high-paying job.

Increasing numbers of men want to spend more time with their families. This shift among Generation X dads has been building for years and exploded during the last recession when it became clear that women were out-earning men and the the recession was hitting men disproportionately. The rise in stay-at-home dads looked like it was a result of men being unemployed but it turns out that men really want to spend more time with their kids by choice.

The problem is that we have no proven  road map for how this might work. Because first of all, in households where men think men and women split the housework, women think they do the majority of it and in reality, the women are right. On top of that, in the homes where there is shared care, many women outearn their husbands, and women do not usually like this. They tell their husband that they don’t care. Then they tell pollsters they can’t stand it.

The immediate impact of establishing shared household duties is less sex, according to American Sociological Review. But that’s just one of the potentially explosive issues related to shared care.

Landmine: Instability. Now both spouses are minimally engaged at work, so neither is a stable breadwinner and both are vulnerable at work in their 40s when they are competing with 29-year-0lds for the same job and the 29-year-old is full of potential and can work 24/7 because they have no kids.

Landmine: Change of heart. Partners who are agreeing to do both types of family labor instead of specializing at work are the people most likely to have a change of heart. This is true because it’s a poorly-defined sense of identity, as no one is equally suited to work and stay home with kids – they are fundamentally opposite skills when compared to almost every job.

Landmine: Your wife falls in love with the kids. We all know that when a woman says she will go back to work after maternity leave, it doesn’t happen until it happens. Because so many women are completely different after they have kids. Who knows what your wife will really want to do if she was never all that committed to work to begin with?

Women who are most likely to be tortured that they are not climbing the ladder: ENFJ.

Women who are most likely to change their mind and not want to go back to work after the baby: ISFJ.

Women most likely to be disappointed that there is so little combined earning power in this arrangement: ESFP.

Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.

(You can learn how to figure out the personality type of the women you meet if you sign up for my Myers Briggs webinar.)

What to do?

This approach to picking a mate may seem crass, but what you’re really trying to do is mitigate family trauma down the line. If you look at a situation realistically, and consider the odds based on objective evidence—research—you can see if it will be likely possible for each person to get what they want, or that they should move on to someone else, rather than have children together.

It’s true that you do need to commit to your financial goals and figure out what you can contribute before you pick a spouse. Otherwise you’re just shooting in the dark and you may as well just go date a girl who reads.

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  1. Malia
    Malia says:

    Lots of great stuff and I appreciate PT’s voice. Here is my dilemma: I am an INFP, or INF/TP (I’ve seen this called an INXP as well). In the Enneagram system I fall under type 4 with a 5 wing. Oh the bliss. I have never found fundamental validation from an outside source like parents or mentors. Well, I have had some good mentors but painful shyness and insecurity kept me from really utilizing them and I still wouldn’t say I’ve had a lot of people in my life who “get” me and can therefore really affirm or advise me properly. And I’ve never been able to do that for myself. I’ve spent way too much energy trying to go against my nature and being critical of it. Examples would be completely wrong jobs, projects, living arrangements and mates.

    Now I’m 36, unemployed – again, single, childless and broke. This in spite of the fact that I appear charming, funny and generally likable in social settings (what’s happening internally is another matter) and although it’s uncomfortable to say so, I am very, very intelligent.

    I have had some good counseling and one of the things that seems to come up repeatedly is that people like me do well with quiet lives, low stress part-time work and a supportive spouse.

    >>Well, that’s f*cking fantastic but where do I find this Prince Charming? How do get this magical un-job and how do I live on the pay?<>how do I build a family from this point? How do I find that guy who values what I bring to the table and how do I frame my story in a marketable way?<<

    Nothing about my life as it is now is very marketable. I never meet men who want to date women who don't have jobs and money of their own. And by the time I'm working full-time and supporting myself I'm far too tired and morally irritated to date. And truthfully, I often prefer my own company to the hassle of social logistics.

    Sigh. And I'm still a feminist. How many guys can really pick up what I'm putting down? I'm not asking for happiness or even contentment. But can I build a life rather and some serenity under these circumstances? How?

    To clarify, I don't *need* to have children and don't really even have interest in pregnancy. But I am good with kids and like the idea of homeschooling.

    As for earning a living, How do I deal with my spotty resume? A education level that is so out of step with the low paying jobs I have to apply for? (I've started leaving it off as it's been counted against me more than once, but that does hurt.) The lack of autonomy, respect (or evolved social interaction in general) which is so icky for INFPs?

    Sorry this is a bit long! I just need a little more to go on than "Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP." :)

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      Of course, I’m not PT, but I love the Myers-Briggs, and very familiar w/ it. You point out that INFPs are dissatisfied with life no matter the choices they make. A struggle INFPs have is that they tear down every option so they are left with no viable solutions. Be solution-oriented. Really find a way to make a decision, and find steps to make progress. INFP blog talks about how this type struggles with making decisions, and why. They are perfectionists. You say that you’ve always tried to find mentors, but the truth is, you are the one who has to assess things for yourself and make decisions. No one can do it for you. So stop tearing down all of your options because they’re not perfect, and find a way to find direction.

  2. Ann
    Ann says:

    I continue to be amazed at how many people are smitten by this bullshit. Yes, the MBTI can be helpful. But not in this way. To stare at its entrails this hard and imbue this single test with so much predictive power about life’s major decisions is about as smart as predicting your future based on the number and prominence of bumps on your skull.

    • Dan Austin
      Dan Austin says:

      LOL. True. I’ve never seen such a collection of people eager to pigeonhole themselves with psychobabble.

  3. Dan Austin
    Dan Austin says:

    While I find the Myers-Briggs pigeonholing to be nearly religious here and in the comments, the article rings depressingly true. However, the cause of this scenario, which has destroyed the preferred male-single-breadwinner option, is feminism. Home prices for example reflect the fact that there are so many dual-income couples, and unless you are in a rare very high-earning career, you are forced into the dual-income role if you want a nice home to raise your family in. Thanks feminists, for destroying the American family and creating a perpetual cycle of kids and divorce. Hope you feel fulfilled.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      you are kidding, right? You mean the quest of women to actually have a choice destroyed family values? Do you honestly think all those women in the 50s (who by the way did not have the choice of divorce unless they wanted to be ostracized by the community) were super-duper happy? Really? And just the desire for a nice big house drove them out of their happy family lives?

      • Dan Austin
        Dan Austin says:

        Of course I’m not kidding. And it would be more accurate for you to say that the quest of *some* women to has destroyed choice for the rest. Given the divorce rate today, a woman could hardly be blamed for wanting a career as a backup, but children and families suffer as a result.

        The US needs more people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)careers to stay globally competitive, right? Well, in the 1950’s, an engineer could afford a home in a nice area with a two-car garage, a washer and dryer, with enough left over to send the kids to college and take the family on vacations now and then. Good luck with that today. Buying a home in a decent area with good work prospects and a good school district so the kids can grow up to be engineers is virtually impossible on a 100K salary. It takes either a dual income or an exceptional income to afford, precisely because of the prevalence of those dual incomes.

        Not everyone wants to be a surgeon or a CEO even if they were capable of it, but if you have another passion in life, you can forget about the single breadwinner option even though it makes for the happiest marriages and most stable families. It’s too late now; we’re in a downward spiral where divorce is so commonplace that it has no stigma even though it still carries the same emotional damage, particularly to kids, who are then more likely to perpetuate the divorce cycle.

        The feminists have successfully destroyed the most successful family model and relegated most people — men and women — to a life of combined work and family stress, less family time for the kids, less couple time, less marital stability, and ultimately less happiness.

  4. Dean
    Dean says:

    Very interesting take on family life right there.

    I’m going to have to show off both of husband and wife articles to a certain someone… :) Thanks!

  5. E'Tramiane Zenckehardt
    E'Tramiane Zenckehardt says:

    In today’s world women go to college more than men and are more driven. I think the best arrangement is let the woman be the breadwinner and the man can stay home and learn what it’s like to run a household. Women will run companies and government much better than men.

    • Dan Austin
      Dan Austin says:

      You evidently missed the part of the article that mentions men don’t like the woman to be the breadwinner…and neither do women!

  6. Nikki Robinson
    Nikki Robinson says:

    I’ve never seen anything like this – just wanted to say that before I run off to find out what type of woman I am.

    I knew this much though: guys seem to be intimidated by my ambition… I don’t think I could function with a husband who isn’t a breadwinner… and I could very well be one of those women who are never satisfaction.

    That part worries me a bit.

    I’ll probably be back to comment when once I read the womens’ version also.

    Good stuff Mrs. Trunk :)

  7. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Would you mind sharing some reasoning or science behind the “Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.”?

  8. Alora
    Alora says:

    As a childfree female ENTJ exec in the middle of a divorce with a stay-at-home-husband, your analysis amuses me. You didn’t mention the other reality of ENTJ workaholic women: many of the ones I’ve met have no desire to have children at all — so the pool to choose from is even smaller than you think.

  9. Jackson
    Jackson says:

    I don’t have a single set of friends among my circle (all married) who fall into any of the above categories. All are happily married (gasp!) though things are an occasional struggle–like life. The dynamic tension between traditional gender roles and changing roles makes the new territory of marriage a completely different land. I think the personality types touted above are a crock of shit; they’re like an alternative form of astrology with so called science to back them up. Pls bear in mind that Myers & Briggs is great theory, but theory only; and the Jungian underpinnings are not empirical, but anecdotal. Evaluating potential life partners based upon this trash is perhaps the first mistake. Everyone has gradations of every conceivable personality type, and others evolve and summon completely different traits as they age and have new experiences. Some of the guys voted best husband material when I was in college are total losers today. They were the guys who were super cocky, felt entitled, came from good families, were popular jocks and/or business majors, and subsequently cheated on all their wives (Arnold Schwarzenegger anyone?). I don’t have all the answers to choosing the perfect mate, but I know what I sure won’t do: take anything in this ridiculous post to heart. First mistake: a woman’s going to tell ME what to look for in a wife? Gimme a break. I’ll ask my father who’s been married to my mother for forty-seven years. He was a janitor and she was a token booth clerk. They put six of us through college and couldn’t be happier. Get real people.

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