How to be a good millennial dad

If feminism is about having the right to make choices, then it’s also about the obligation to make a choice. You cannot choose to have a spouse who’s a breadwinner and who shares everything 50/50. You cannot choose to have everything in life but only do it half the time. Having something—anything—is about commitment. And you cannot choose to have everything up to your standards but also allow other peoples’ standards to prevail.

Being a real feminist means you cannot have everything. So women who are feminists are self-assured enough to make choices to give stuff up. And men who are feminists are brave enough to say that they, too, will be giving up some things.

Here are things men should give up:

1. Give up the idea of 50/50. It doesn’t work.
Most millennials dads think men should be breadwinners. But many don’t think this way until they have kids. It’s so much easier to live in a fantasy world about kids before there are kids.

The genesis for this post is a video from Jonathan Mann about how he and his wife are dealing with their new baby.

Jonathan basically feels bad that his wife is better at working and taking care of the household than he is. He thinks that he should be doing 50% of the household and baby chores because he is bringing in 50% of the income. He thinks that since he has his wife taking care of 50% of the income, then he should not leave her with more than 50% of the childcare or household chores.

Their baby is very young and therefore it’s unlikely that this will work. Because moms don’t share. Unless there is a full-time stay-at-home dad, and a full-time working-out-of-the-home mom, the mom rules determine the parenting style of a family. Because it’s impossible to have 50/50 breakdown of who sets the rules for parenting, and it’s impossible to parent when you are negotiating every decision, one parent’s style will prevail. It’s not fair to ask the non-prevailing parent to contribute 50% of the work when they don’t get 50% of the input.

It’s like cleaning the bathroom. Most men think the bathroom is clean enough, and most women don’t. There is research to back this up. Which means that you can’t hold a man responsible for meeting standards that are not his own. If the woman wants the bathroom cleaned the way she wants it cleaned then she has to clean it. (Or hire someone.) But the guy can’t do it.

Just as men and women are not equal when it comes to cleaning, men and women are not equal when it comes to career. If you take a male and a female math genius, the women is more likely to choose being a housewife. Please do not tell me there is societal pressure for math Ph.D.’s to become homemakers. There is the opposite, in fact. There is pressure to “live up to your potential.” Yet more women math geniuses choose to take care of kids. Because men and women are different, which is why 50/50 doesn’t work. (Another reason: It’s a financial suicide pact.)

2. Give up gender neutrality. Millennial women are comfortable with gender roles.
Millennial women have been hearing Gen X women say loud and clear how you can’t have power in the office and power at home, and millennial women choose power at home. Millennial women don’t want to be managers, they want to work from home, and they want to work part-time.

It might seem, for example, that both spouses have equal earning potential, but when kids enter the picture, ambitions change. And most women do not want to advance as far as most men do. But it’s hard to see this proclivity crystalize until the kids have grown out of toddler-hood. And by then it might be too late. So there’s no point in assuming you are the exception to the rule when the stakes are very high and the statistics make it very unlikely.

Additionally, while 1 in 4 women are breadwinners for their homes, this is largely a poor person trend. That is, rich, educated women are driving the trend to stay at home with kids, and poor, uneducated women are driving the trend for women to be breadwinners.

Similarly, the idea of staying home with kids while a spouse earns the money is the new millennial girl’s fantasy, probably because it’s only for the lucky few and millennials love to be admired. But more than that, 60% of millennials believe one parent should stay home. 

3. Give up housework. Choose some other contribution.
Men who do more housework get less sex. There is commentary all over the internet about this research. But the bottom line is that this research goes in tandem with the research that says that no matter how much money women earn, they want to marry a guy who earns more than they do.

Some women will say this is not true. It will be women who do not have school-aged kids. Some women, mostly ENTJs, decide that they have fallen in love with a guy who will not earn as much money as they do, but they love the guy, so it’s fine for them, they decide.

The problem is that it’s only okay until the kids are school-aged and the women realize that they want to be with the kids because kids grow up so fast. Then they don’t know what to do with a guy who does not parent the way they want to parent and does not earn enough money to support the way they want to finance the family.

So the best tactic for men is to focus on doing male tasks, whatever that may be in your family. Marriages where there are male roles and female roles are more likely to remain intact.

It doesn’t work in marriages to treat men like women the same way it doesn’t work in the corporate world to treat women like men. In both cases it holds them back.

And this is why women are penalized at work for having kids and men are rewarded at work for having kids: Because people fall into gender stereotypes whether or not we want to.

4. Give up being a stay-at-home dad.
There aren’t any. You might think there are, but men who are supposedly stay-at-home dads give up on the idea of “not working” and they start saying they do have a job.

Women who stay home but also want a job end up having no job because it’s too hard to get part-time work. But men are not nearly as likely to be willing to do that, for all the reasons we have listed above.

So, for example, a huge number of stay-at-home dads will say they are writers or they are in construction. Because those are jobs you can say you are doing at home and no one needs to give you permission to do them—there’s no need to fake a job hunt.

Also, being a stay-at-home parent is not all about taking care of the kids. I mean, that’s part of it, but that’s the part we imagine stay-at-home dads doing. There are a million other aspects to a stay-at-home parent that we don’t envision men doing:

  • Choosing the colors of the bathroom towels.
  • Making Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Going to PTA meetings.

A big reason we don’t envision men doing these tasks is because research shows us that men having a harder time remembering these tasks. Is that sexist? Yes, but the world is sexist. And the idea of men staying at home is not going to work if the men do not feel good about it. And believe me, it’s hard enough for women to feel good about it so we can forget about it with men.

This is not mean-spirited. I am reporting reality when I tell you that if a dad is a stay-at-home dad with no other job, the world thinks he’s unemployable.

5. Give up trying to something you’re not. Just being you will be a good enough dad.
Women are more uptight about kids. I’m not even going to include links for that. If you can’t accept that as truth you probably stopped reading long before now.

But also, women work harder to follow the rules men do. We know this in school. Girls get way better grades than boys. Men work less when women are present, both as kids and as adults. And when a marriage is under stress, women work harder and men work less.

Men take on substantially more childcare duties than even one generation before them, but men gravitate to the fun stuff we do with kids, whereas moms take on the not-fun stuff.

Study after study shows that men do not force housework and childcare on women. Men just naturally do not do it. Men don’t mind kids in daycare as much as women do. Men don’t mind a dirty house as much as women do.

If you accept that, then you can accept that your role as a man is to be a man. And the role of a woman is to be a woman. That’s why you chose each other. You decide what that role looks like for you, but no marriage was ever 50/50 and it won’t start now.

80 replies
  1. Charis
    Charis says:

    I know this is article is addressed to the dads out there, but you’ve really helped me to feel better about my own decisions.
    As a mom who dumped her career to homeschool her kids, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this decision will affect me in the future.
    I love being with my kids, but I do worry (a lot) about what I would do if something happened to my husband. I’d be a middle-aged woman with a graduate degree, student loans, a pretty sparse resume and a long time out of the workforce. A bit scary for me.
    You’ve talked me off the ledge.
    Thanks :)

  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Penelope, you home-school. For mothers who send their kids out for education, it’s different. Staying home after the kids hit 7-8 is way, way less appealing, and often when the kids become teenagers, they have a hard time respecting their stay at home mom.

    When the kids are little? Staying home and being supported by a working father who earns a lot of $$$ would be totally awesome, I agree.

    • harris497
      harris497 says:

      Respect from kids is determined from the cradle through adolesence. My 23, 18, 16 and 14 year olds don’t messy around with Mom. But as a parent you need a back-bone and to do away with the need to be a BFF while remaining loving.

      • Lisa
        Lisa says:

        The more kids you have, the easier it is to warrant respect for work done. My primary observations have been of women with 2 kids.

        • Lisa
          Lisa says:

          Your primary observations ? Oh. You do not have kids your self I take it-

          Raising kids with appropriate attitudes relies solely on the parents themselves. If Mom believes in herself, its all good, and the right stuff follows

  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I am a fan of so many of your posts on Aspergers. But lately, with the gender thing, it seem to me that you are trying to justify your own decisions by claiming they’re natural.
    Statistics never prove causality … I am a woman, and I am neither picky with the bathroom, nor daycare, nor do I like picking towels. Of course, I do have my gender typical habits, but I am sure most of them are actually learned. And I do know men out there who are great homemakers.
    When it comes to “do whatever makes you happy”, I agree on that one. But why don’t you just do that instead of proselytizing about conventional gender roles that may fit some people and others, not so much?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      What? I am not doing what I’m telling people to do. I’m the breadwinner.

      Also I chose two times in a row to marry a guy where I would be responsible for earning the money.

      So it’s hard for me to understand why you think I’m writing this blog post to justify my own decisions.


      • Maria
        Maria says:

        I am sorry Penelope, I appreciate you because some of your articles give food for thought. But this one here is a non-sense article. On one side you confirm as a woman you are the breadwinner of your family, on the other hand you give advice how men should be the breadwinners of the family and woman should focus on the household. Very confusing. You dont do what you preach. I trust some of your career and entrepreneurial advice, but I will never trust your family/gender/parenting advice. By the way, I am a millenial have two kids and I enjoy the double role and sharing tasks with my husband 50/50. Of course, would I love that my guy made 100K a month and that I could focus only on the things I love the most,, yeah sure! but who wouldnt?

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          It’s interesting that you say you trust the career advice but not the family advice because the career advice is actually the same as the family advice.

          I write three types of posts:

          1. Here is what research says is the best thing to do to have the best life.
          2. Here is what I’m doing, which is not what the research says.
          3. Here is what to do if you make a mess for yourself.

          I have found that the research has never been wrong. Not for career. Not for relocation. Not for family. (Mostly the errors on this site are me misinterpreting the research.) Sometimes the research LOOKS wrong because at the beginning we can trick ourselves into thinking it’s different for us.

          There are very few 45 year olds who comment on this blog and say that either the career research or the family research is wrong. There are tons of people at the beginning of their life who say they are doing it differently and it works for them. But I think the research works for the long term and the deluding ourselves works in the short term.

          For example, it looks like my own situation is working pretty well, with me as the breadwinner, but technically I’m only in my fourth year of marriage. So, we’ll see.


  4. harris497
    harris497 says:


    This post is accurate in most regards, but way off the mark in one important area. My wife is a veterinarian who decided to stay home and homeschool our kids. The pressure to “live up to her potential” exists, but could largely be handled because we migrated abroad, and are pretty much on our own – friends’ opinions don’t matter as much as family’s. But as a man, I respect what she has decided to do and work at home based on her operational definitions for how home chores are to be done.
    The main reason is guilt.
    When I see the sacrifice she has made, then giving the loo an extra brush, or mopping the floor is okay (even though I do believe it is overkill), but then too I am the one who misses the bowl every now and then:). The main thing is I care… and when you care, you go beyond what you deem adequate and make / try to keep mama happy. I don’t struggle with my wife for power at home, because despite my ego, I know that she knows more about what is good for the kids (intuitively) than I do – I hate that, but it is so.
    Long story short, I make more/the money, I toe the line on home task requirements, and the sex still is pretty slim pickins (but good). The key determinant of why it works is caring. I care for her and the kids enough to work at it, and so do my friends, many of whom are very much like me in this regard – I guess that’s why we’re friends.

  5. Ereina Avery
    Ereina Avery says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on “giving up on gender neutrality”. I am the breadwinner while my husband homeschools our 3 daughters. (He does have a part-time job). We designed our life to what gifts we have and how to make it work in our household, but I agree with you on 50/50. His idea of housecleaning and parenting are far different than mine. Call him a stereotypical man, but that’s what I love his masculine thoughts and ideas. In return, I know that he loves that I am feminine and well “mothering” (more stereotypes). Even though I work 8-5pm, I do most of the cooking and cleaning. He does the lawncare, bug removal and facilities maintenance. A unisex world would be quite boring…I am not pushing for it. I want my daughters to proud to be future women. Women have amazing gifts that are different from men.

  6. Marcus
    Marcus says:

    People vary in their parenting styles and interests. This blog says trying to step outside of gender generalizations is a poor choice, and instead prescribes reinforcing your stance as a man/woman is best for the family. I disagree. I’m a man, and I clean the bathroom when no one else notices. I’m a fantastic cook and have made numerous Thanksgiving dinners. (Certain divorce? Screw you and your manufactured data.)

    Oh, and this is where you say, “I didn’t say divorce anywhere!” And I say to that, look at the tenor of your post! You encourage us to rely on old stereotypes to parent and be in a family unit. To that I say bullshit.

    “…it’s hard enough for women to feel good about [staying at home] so we can forget about it with men.” That’s it.

    I stayed at home for over 5 years with my two boys. It was tough and beautiful, just like it was for all the moms I met. You suck, you sexist a**hole! But then again, I’m a man and I don’t work as hard as women. So perhaps I’m just being intellectually lazy and I should accept your stupid post as gospel…?

    This. Post. Sucks. UNSUBSCRIBE from your lame digital rag.

    Get bent Ms. Trunk. (From an evolving Father with a good marriage.)

    • Debbie
      Debbie says:

      While a bit harsh, I agree that this is a very poor excuse for a post for Penelope. While I am not a gen-y, my daughter is and I cringe to think of you giving this advice to her. Let’s not take women back fifty years, please?

    • Valerie
      Valerie says:

      Thank you!

      I stopped reading after ‘A man can’t clean a toilet as well as a woman can, so the woman might as well give up and do it.’ Because all men are man-children who marry someone they hope will be their mommy for the rest of their lives.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Everyone can’t do everything. So the advice is the same: divide tasks based on what is important to each person. And don’t try to split everything 50/50.


      • jessica
        jessica says:

        I struggle to understand why people are so delusional about this stuff.

        Everyone, through basic living, should be aware enough to realize that the modern gender stories sold to us are not reality.

        My husband’s boss is pregnant. She is the only female in her late 30s in the company. I visited her office today and wanted to say hello. He told me how she’s always desperate to talk about her baby with coworkers but is largely ignored. She works with 20-30 something women who are just becoming engaged and not yet had children; so they don’t ask about the upcoming baby… what would they really know to say and ask that is relevant? All the women who had kids….well I asked my husband and no woman in their office has kids.
        She’s super lonely about it in her workspace (and this IS one of THE progressive companies here in the US) and is desperate to pretend the baby won’t interfere with her work (why is this a thing?!)….

        Anyway. I wish people would stop pretending that women having a high powered career …and…a balanced family life is a thing (w/o the SAHD).

        I asked my husband if he thinks it’s subconscious…like if the men around you know you have a baby and their own wives stay home do they wonder if your neglecting your kid somewhere in the back of their head…more specific, are they wondering what you priorities are? And judging your character and potential on that?

        Just my personal thoughts on this whole work life balance thing.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          This is just anecdotal but I have a friend who is an executive in NYC and her husband runs his own company. The way that she does this is by hiring one nanny for each of her two children, and they are not the ones deep cleaning the house, they hire someone for that. Household stuff *can* be done 50/50 but someone else is watching the kids for the majority of the day in this scenario, not the parents. They have money for this lifestyle. So it’s not a realistic example for most of us.

          I just hate the whole gender role thing in this post. Male/Female roles. I liked the advice to the person who asked how it works for gay couples, I think that is great for all of us, pick what you care about the most, regardless if it is male or female and realize that it isn’t going to be 50/50.

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            Yes, gender roles are over pronounced. I think I just get generally frustrated by the sentiment that women or men have to do a specific thing when generally in the workplace things fall into order.
            Most of our friends that are even just on one income that have two or more children have two or more nannies. I think that’s also something people overlook. Everyone that has a lot of money tends to get rid of all the menial tasks a bit like the Royals. Today even we took our kids ice skating together and I noticed my friend told her young child after the session ‘when you become a professional’ without giving it a second thought. It was the kids’ second or third time ice-skating. it’s the expectation you set up in a way.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            ….”when you become a professional” hahaha!

            I agree with everything you said. :)

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            This is to YmKAS,

            Exactly. She was so positive in her support even I started to believe it! ‘Wow, well then he’s going pro!’

  7. Jana
    Jana says:

    Hire a house cleaner-it works for us. It’s silly to fight about how clean the house is. I’d rather work part time to pay for a house cleaner than actually clean my house and my husband doesn’t need to be cleaning the house after working 40+ hours a week. When the kids were little-he’d work overtime to pay for it.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      My husband and I went through religious marriage counseling, which he thought was a joke, and I said to hell with it and went through with it anyway because I really wanted to be married in the cathedral. (sorry religious types). Anyway, the one BIG piece of advice the pastor had for us was: get a maid. He kept banging on about how it saved his marriage.
      Now, my MIL thinks it’s insane we have one come around (once a week for deep stuff) since she is a complete DIY person. (which is ironic that she doesn’t agree with unschooling/homeschooling).

      Anyway, yes I second this, or third it? Get a maid! Saves a lot of time. It’s not a big deal. In most cheaper countries it’s the standard.

      Happy Marriages!

  8. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Urgh, this is so hard to read. I’m not sure if that’s because I disagree with most of it or because it is long-winded, ranty and too cluttered with links.

    Is this a good time to ask for a post which is an update on what Melissa is upto these days?

  9. Rachel C.
    Rachel C. says:

    If the point of this article was just that roles can’t be split 50/50 between parents and do what you want, I’d agree with it, but how often does 50/50 happen in any situation? That why people always talk about work/life balance, why job co-oping doesn’t work, and why someone always gets stuck holding the bag in group projects. The only people that I know that expect 50/50 are children, and they will grow out of it.

    Secondly, as a Gen-Yer myself with mostly Gen-Y friends, this list does not seem representative of my generation and our veiws at all. I love reading your work, but I think you really missed the mark on this one.

  10. Maria
    Maria says:

    I am also a Gen Y and I dont think this is how Gen Ys see the world. As a mom of two little ones, I would even contradict some of this advice! However I agree with some of the commentes saying : get a maid. Yes it really has helped us a lot.. I hate to clean and my husband as well… so we were always fighting to see who clean what and when. Anyways, the solution to stop the fightinng and to keep the house clean.. was getting a maid. It has paid off!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Okay. Yes for housecleaner. I totally agree with everyone who is writing this. It helps a lot.

      But the housecleaning point was just an example of how there are a million things that the two spouses will not see eye-to-eye on, and the one who cares the most will have to do it. And there is TONS of research to show that when it comes to the household, the woman will care the most, which is why she ends up doing so much more of the heavy lifting at home even if the husband is a stay-at-home dad.


      • Juliana Mann
        Juliana Mann says:

        I have a lot to say about this, but I’ll start with something we should have included in the video. We have a housekeeper who comes and deep cleans the house every 2-3 weeks. This helps, but it doesn’t even come close to the amount of work that managing a household (up to my ENTJ standards) entails.

      • Vanessa
        Vanessa says:

        What if the woman is a XXXP type and the man is a ESTJ. In your opinion, will the woman still care more?

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        I agree it’s a little thing. BUT it’s another thing you can cross of the long list.

        Every bit helps.

  11. JML
    JML says:

    I’m a 40 year old commenter and totally agree with this post, although part of me doesn’t want to because I’ve always bought the line that I could do everything.

    When my husband and I had our first child, for economic reasons we decided that he should be the one to stay home. And although he was great with the kids, something shifted in our relationship. I started finding him less attractive, I found that I was still managing much of the household (making appts, organizing everything, keeping the house clean instead of tidy) and resentment grew. I’ll never say he wasn’t a good SAHD, but I was always exhausted and overwhelmed. And he saw this and hated it, too. So we talked. And we worked out how he could find a new career with a comparable or higher income than mine. But this doesn’t happen overnight, so we’re in the process (nearly there!) where he can go back to work and I can stay home. My kids are now school-aged and we’re going to try school. But to the commenter who suggested that once kids are 7-8 there is no need to stay home, I disagree. The idea of before and after care is dreadful. And teenagers, in my experience as a latchkey teen, need someone at home the most. You can’t knock stability for a child at any age. And that stability comes from knowing someone is going to be there for you, and not just after a long, frustrating or annoying or exhausting day at the office. But that’s me. It’s hard for me to be constantly switching gears. And knowing that my out is coming, and seeing how hard my husband is working at it, has definitely improved our relationship, emotionally and sexually.

    There are a lot of uncomfortable truths in this post. Had I known how things were going to play out for my family, I would have done things differently (i.e., not even tried going back to work). Every situation is unique, of course, but I am living what Penelope describes and it’s not easy.

    Penelope, these posts are usually my favourites because it validates what I’m experiencing and confirms that I’m making the right decisions (and am not just being crazy and irrational).

  12. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    I appreciate all the research, but a lot of the connections you’re making are tenuous or just outright wrong.

    For example, when you say women work harder than men when a marriage is under stress, you link to an article that talks about how long men and women with jobs in certain industries (health care, financial services, etc) work when using a privacy filter on their computer vs not.

    This has nothing to do with how people function in relationships, nothing to do with working under stress, and nothing to do with how hard people work; what they’re measuring is completely different from the conclusion you’re trying to draw.

  13. Janna
    Janna says:

    Can you please fix the link for “most women do not want to advance as far as most men do “? I’d really like to read it. Thanks!

  14. Meg
    Meg says:

    I can’t even pretend that I want my daughter to have a career. My greatest wish is that she can grow up and be a “home mom,” as she calls me. My husband and I would be delighted to pitch in to make that happen, too. I wish I had skipped the doctorate and had babies instead.

  15. Anna
    Anna says:

    I don’t have time at the moment to write any details of my opinion, but I wanted to say that I thought this post was brilliant and right on target. Thank you.

  16. Ali
    Ali says:

    I used to think Penelope was full of shit when she said you should get married and have babies early, rather than waiting until you got your career on the path you wanted it to be on. Screw you, P, I thought – I can do it all!

    And then, four years ago, my career really took off. And now I’m 32 with a great career, running out of time to have babies and the truth is obvious: having babies now would blow a huge hole in the career I’ve worked so hard to have because you can’t replace my role for a year (because the learning curve means it takes a year to learn to do the job) and I don’t want to be the kind of Mom who dumps a nine-week-old infant in daycare. And then there’s the fact that I just don’t have the energy to chase a toddler around the house, let alone actually work through nine months of pregnancy.

    So now I’m trying to get comfortable with the idea that I’ve chosen to be the breadwinner, which means that instead of getting to be the pregnant lady in this relationship, I have to watch my girlfriend experience it instead. Harder than I ever expected…

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


      That really does sound hard, but I admire you for figuring it out. I suppose that now is a good time to embrace that reality so that you can choose happiness from this point forward. I have found that practicing mindfulness helps me tremendously.

      FYI, 32 is still young to start having a family, you will find that energy returns after the first year the baby is born. I am in my mid-late thirties and had my last child at age 33, there really isn’t *that* much running around unless my youngest is having one of her adventurous daredevil moments that give me gray hair. A lot of my friends were around the same age when they started their families and we all agree that starting later gave us the time and resources for beginning a family to bring lots of happiness without many of the struggles that younger families tend to experience.

      I wish you the best!

  17. Juliana Mann
    Juliana Mann says:

    Jonathan and I are going to talk about this in a follow up podcast, but thought I’d let you know my reaction here. If you watch the video Penelope first references in this post, my husband, Jonathan Mann, talks about an incident where I was home taking care of our three-month old (and making dinner) and he went for a run and impulsively went to a see a movie. I agree with what Penelope says that women can’t have it all. I was willing to make the sacrifices to my career. But that day he left me home alone with the baby and went to see a shitty movie (at a theater reputed to have bed begs) was a breaking point for me. He was completely tuned out to my reality.

    So for us, exploring feminism in our relationship has been a lot of validating my experiences. Even if it means I’m doing more work, if that’s acknowledged and appreciated, I’m ok with that. That’s our compromise.

    I’m an ENTJ married to an ENFP, which I think according to Penelope means we’re doomed! Oh, well, we’ll see what happens!

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Maybe he was tired and stressed, too? Infants aren’t easy. Random actions seem less strange in context.

      Hire help.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Juliana, I’m really happy you commented. Thanks. I’m looking forward to the next video installment….


  18. Tom
    Tom says:

    I’m on the x – Y line, wifey pure Y. We fit this mold pretty well, I am breadwinner, wife stays at home. I feel compelled to split 50-50 of the domestic tasks and when I do it drains me as it leaves me no hours in the day. If I contributed as much as I’m told I’m supposed to I would have no time for the kids. 50-50 can’t work if you ask me, unless you Re both high earning low hour workers and outsource all the bullshit. It’s math

  19. Alan
    Alan says:

    Every exception in the world is going to post an argument here. The western world is now an inverse democracy, where all the rules are made by the bitter complaining few rather than the normal majority. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

    Wouldn’t be the first time that society was wrong, either. Remember Dr Spock telling parents to never give their children guidance? That benefitted gifted children (the few) and crippled all the rest.

  20. Sean
    Sean says:

    Spot on Penelope. I’m a 41-year old man. INTJ. Let me dive deeper on the 50/50 thing. You’re right that it’s garbage. The beautiful thing in our marriage is that my wife got to that truth on her own. She observed other wives constantly negotiating chores (which just pissed off both spouses) plus she felt herself becoming bitter towards me because I don’t come close to 50/50 and early in our marriage and early with kids, I was way below 50%.

    So she let it go. That, plus counseling and lots of work actually created an environment where she’s not resentful and keeping score, yet I’ve never helped more, nor wanted to help more than at this point in our marriage. It’s a paradox I tell you!

    FWIW, I wanted, and want, my wife to be happy. I never cared if she worked full time or not. I was determined that we would never do childcare. I’m not a high earner but would have worked three jobs so she could either stay home or we’d have a nanny. She ended up staying at home and working PT from home until the youngest was 6 or 7.

    So I’m a caveman who will work as hard as needed so my wife can have the freedom to choose. I mow the grass and yell at the kids to clean up the house. The sex is often and awesome.

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      “I wanted, and want, my wife to be happy. I never cared if she worked full time or not. I was determined that we would never do childcare. I’m not a high earner but would have worked three jobs so she could either stay home or we’d have a nanny…So I’m a caveman who will work as hard as needed so my wife can have the freedom to choose.”

      My hat is off to you, Sean. You’re an inspiration.

  21. Amy
    Amy says:

    I found this post fascinating. As a 58 year old mother of 2 grown daughter, and a grandmother of a toddler, I reflect on my own choices, and watch my daughter and her husband work to figure this out and craft a life that works for them.
    The comments here are very passionate. So perhaps, rather than everything in the post being totally spot on or not, its purpose is to inspire thought and dialogue, which it definitely is doing.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      One of the problems with generalizations gleaned from social science research is that social science research is difficult and rarely gives a 100% answer. Mostly it is like 54% of women or men prefer to do xyz and 46% do not. Technically the majority preferd xyz, but to make this a generalized statement of ” research shows… ” is somewhat problematic. And unsuitable as a guiding beacon for ones life. Part of the difficulties in social science research is how the group of interviewees is selected – and how large the group is in the first place. That is the reason why the answers are so passionate and divide the happy people ” research shows exactly how it is best” and those who disagree. I have to say that i am pretty sure any social science study which gives a result of more then 75% preference for a certain type of life plan was either poorly designed with a narrow group of participants or done in a communist country.

  22. Amy A
    Amy A says:

    I had so much to say about this blog post (especially about the 50-50 myth) that I wrote a blog post about it instead.

    YMKAS: I’m years into parenting (birthed kid one at age 32, and kid two at age 36), and I still don’t have this ‘returned energy after the first year’ you speak of. ;) But I am raising self-reliant kids; so that helps.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      No energy still? Haha! : ) I guess it is just me then.

      What has worked for me is trying to get regular exercise, eat healthy, and meditate. But…I’m an introvert, so you won’t see me running around all over town every single day or planning five hour field trips twice a week etc. I plan out my logistics around my high need for alone time. :)

      • Ali
        Ali says:

        First off, thanks for the advice, YMKAS…so many of my friends had kids early that it’s hard sometimes to remember that 32 isn’t that old!

        Wondering how you do the required alone time with kids?…as that’s one aspect of parenting that I’ve always been concerned about! Frankly, work takes so much out of me socially that there are days when I get home and don’t want to talk to my partner, let alone have the patience to hear all about a toddler’s day!

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


          My spouse is the high-earner and bread winner for now and he works at least 60 hours a week. I am the one that stays home with the kids.

          The best advice I can give is to have a plan worked out ahead of time with your partner, what you feel you can give and how you can help, so that your girlfriend won’t feel snubbed or like she is doing all the work. Let her know that sometimes you will try to do more, but there may be times when you have to do even less than what you have promised to help with.

          Being open and honest about it will set you both up for success. When my spouse is available on the weekends it is a totally different dynamic than it is with just me and the girls, and I try to accommodate his different style of parenting. You two will find your groove and what works. :)

          • Ali
            Ali says:

            Thanks YMKAS, that’s really helpful. (And HUGE kudos for staying home with the kids…not sure I could do that!)

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            This comment is for Ali,

            I never planned on staying home with the kids. I didn’t think I could do it either, but I ended up with kids who needed something different than whatever it was I had planned. They are very non-traditional and non-conforming and so they require a non-traditional path to be successful. I was the more logical choice to stay home with them since my husband is a high-earner.

            I am an INTJ that requires copious amounts of alone time to recharge, and I have found through the years how I can do that. I practice a lot of self-care, as well as raising my girls to be independent and self-directed has paid off in allowing me to get back into my own pursuits on a part-time (unpaid) basis. I am also an advocate for authentic passion-based living. :)

  23. Laura
    Laura says:

    I appreciate this post, Penelope, but it leaves me feeling quite sad for how much pigeonholing and compartmentlizing happens in conventional society. I wish we could all be a bit less label oriented and a lot more interested in pursing an authentic existence.

    I got married and gave birth to my two children abroad. My husband is a native Italian and we are raising our bicultural/bilingual children in Italy. While it has been tough for me navigating foreign systems, even a foreign husband, through early parenthood, I am thankful that the result has been a sort of marginal existence for our family. We skirt along the sidelines of both the American and Italian standards and have consequently had to create a path unique to us. My husband is the main bread winner, but I’m the ambitious one who passionately pursues professional and personal growth (I have an online business and do some additional part-time work as it becomes available) while maintaining peace and stability within our family (women can be super that way). I do most of the housework, but if my husband wants an empty sink on a day that tidiness was last on my list, he does the dishes. On the other hand, I make sure there’s a hot meal waiting for him every night after work because that’s important to him, even though I could just eat a sandwich for dinner. I don’t know if this makes us 50/50 or 40/60 or 80/20. We love each other and our commitment to loving well compels us to find ways of ebbing and flowing with each other’s strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes I’m the slacker, sometimes he is.

    Also, I found the exact opposite of what you describe in your post about women feeling time slipping away as our children transition out of toddlerhood. Once both of my children were school age, I felt the doors of professional opportunity and possibility open up again! It was like, “Woo hoo! I have an amazing family that I adore AND I now have the time to dive into other really interesting aspects of myself!” For me, being a homemaker/accessible mother and a professional has never required mutual exclusivity nor the hyper-definition of roles. My husband and I are just evolving into our best selves, whatever that looks like, alongside our children.

    So I thank you for this post, and look forward to future ones.

    • Anna
      Anna says:


      A well-written comment. It seems to me that you are describing exactly a split-role marriage (the opposite 50-50). You show the way role divisions is successful, in my opinion. My impression is that shared roles is entirely different than what you describe. You even mention an online business and working part-time — exactly! This is the path of split roles. And I personally think it’s great, possibly even a model of how to do it well. Just my take on the whole thing.

  24. Starrie
    Starrie says:

    I work full time, and have two young boys. I make almost 3x as much as my husband when he worked full time, and we are barely making it (I make $65,000/y). We decided it was best for him to quit his full time job, take care of the kids at home while I work during the week. He works part time on the weekends. He is also a writer (seriously – LOL!)

    We want to homeschool but it just isn’t possible for me to work full time and do it… are you saying that my husband won’t be able to do it? I mean, when you say don’t be a stay at home dad, what about a homeschooling dad?

    I seriously don’t know what else we could do besides him going back to work and putting them in Waldorf school.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


      I know several homeschool dads who absolutely LOVE staying home with their kids. My husband is the bread winner but he tells me all the time if he could switch roles with me he would prefer to be raising our kids full-time. So there is that. If your husband wants to be a homeschool dad, then YAY!

      I’m not so sure about all these gender role scenarios and the evidence linked in this post. I’m certain that it may have been true up till this point, and that is why older generations will totally agree with it, but I think Gen Y and Gen Z will be totally different than my generation X. Each generation can bring about positive changes in parenting and gender roles. Not every change has to be about feminism, but about the choices we all make as individuals and then as parents. Corporations are starting to make small changes to appease the Gen Y crowd like Netflix and it’s new year long parental leave policy, we will start to see how these new policies play out in the coming decades.

      • Anna
        Anna says:

        I think the argument of the post is that men might *think* they want to stay home and home school but it tends to not work that way in reality. The ideas are not based on actual facts of the situation that may be obscured beforehand to those who have the ideas. It could be that it is speaking about the majority or a certain inherent truth, not every single case specifically. (The exception that proves the rule, etc.) The argument of the post rings true with my observations, though.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I’m not denying that there may be a certain truth in the post. I think my issue is gen x telling gen y about who they are when the tail end of gen y is still in high school! It seems too soon to make these kinds of statements. I agree with the points of the post that one must choose in life what they want, and that no parent can have it all once they start having a family.

        • michele
          michele says:

          Totally disagree. Why not put an insightful post? This post helps men and women other than Gen Y.

  25. Kimble
    Kimble says:


    I’m curious as to how the division of labor shakes out at your house, considering that you’re the breadwinner.

    I know you have a lot of household help, but still, there’s always stuff that needs to get done. Cooking, dishes, laundry, bills, scheduling of appointments, etc.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I earn the money. My husband does a lot of childcare. Not as much as I do. He also takes care of the farm. I want to live on a farm, so even if I don’t get money from his work, I get a lifestyle. He has the house and the land and I love that.

      Like I said earlier, we are not doing what the research says we should do.

      Something I really need from a spouse is the ability to have fun. I am not fun. I have a hard time doing fun things with the kids because it feels stupid to me. I mean, I didn’t really do fun as a kid either. So my husband does fun. I am SO SO happy to do the dishes if he plays basketball with the kids.

      Things are not perfect. When I am not earning enough money to pay for tons of household help then I get into trouble and have to work harder. And I get pissy toward my husband — which may or may not be justified. I can’t quite sort it out. But actually getting pissy doesn’t get me anything so I should just stop.

      Okay. That was a long disjointed answer because the truth is I have no idea how I’m doing it. And I didn’t even mention my ex-husband who takes care of the kids one day a week.

      I think the reason I write so much about this topic is because I’m trying to sort it out for myself, in my own life.


      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        “I am SO SO happy to do the dishes if he plays basketball with the kids. ”

        It’s a nice feeling to have a loving, caring person (who the kids want to be with), do the things we cannot do for and with the kids. In both your and my cases, it is the father doing most of the fun things with the kids. In my case, I don’t like running all around town in crowds and malls or making games like obstacle courses; but their dad does.

        And things like washing dishes is an family-accepted way to hide out without our feeling like we have to participate in the activity. (Rather than it being “50-50” shared duties.)

        I never understood when women complained about the dad being the “fun’ parent. I say that’s awesome when a kid has at least one fun parent.

        It took me a while to figure out how to be fun. It doesn’t come easily for me either; though, I am randomly goofy. And kids, of course, see right through us when we are inauthentic. I figured out that if I would just entertain myself with the absurdity of the mundane in my life (and there is A LOT of it)—in a Wes Anderson sort of way—then that sometimes comes across as “fun.” Laughing at my own humor or making fun of society entertains me. When I’m entertained and laughing, then my kids are extra happy. It’s the “light and easy” vibe that they probably most appreciate.

  26. michele
    michele says:

    Penelope is right. This post is great and I agree with it all. Try to not be offended people.

    I am 48 years old. Have 2 grown children and 4 little ones. I have experience. Kids grow up fast. Be with them if your heart desires it and your pocket book can handle it. A mother’s guilt (happens when the children have moved out) does not go away. You just stuff it somewhere and ignore it. Don’t fall into the trap of doing what society says we should do. Do what is your first natural instinct.

    Thanks PT. Awesome post. Michele

  27. Cicely
    Cicely says:

    Move to The Netherlands, where it is definitely possible to have a career while working part-time (4 days), where men happily share household tasks and children are the happiest in the world.

  28. Russell
    Russell says:

    Girls get better grades in school, only because we’ve decided that boys are too “rambunctious” and dope them up to the nines. Also school grading has been switched to emphasize homework, (which girls are good at) rather than test taking, (which boys are good at).

    Boys are being taught from the get go that they are all “rapists in training” and that their masculinity is “toxic” is it any wonder that boys are choosing to say “F*ck it” and not go to Post secondary? 60% of all Univerisity students are women.

    The fact is, men need to be men, and our society from the time our kids are in kindergarten are taught women=good, man=bad.

    This will not end well.

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