The last time I wrote a post with this title, I wrote that women need a stay-at-home husband. And clearly, I was wrong, because later research showed that women who are breadwinners with stay-at-home husbands are headed for divorce.
So I think what I’m best at is showing what we think we want, regardless of whether it’s actually good to want these things.
1. A traditional marriage
You probably know that men report being a few inches taller than they are, and tall women report being a few inches shorter than they are. But I was really surprised to hear that in marriages where the wife outearns the husband, the couple tries to disguise it: men report earning more than they do and women report earning less than they do.
By the time Gen Xers were middle-aged, most couples had decided that a traditional, home-based role worked best for them. Younger couples agree and view non-traditional marriages as a failed Gen X experiment that Millennials want nothing to do with.
2. Friends who tell you the truth
“Convenience friend” first appears in Urban Dictionary in 2006 in the context of dorm rooms, but at this point, it’s clear that all parent friends are convenience friends. Children take up more and more of your time until all your friends revolve around your kids’ mutual activities. And friends are temporary for your moment in time: IVF, divorce, a year abroad, etc.
The trophy friend is one who cares enough about you to be honest. This is no small feat because honesty is a lot of work for someone who’s in your life only temporarily.
Abigail Disney looks for trophy friends, which, in her case, are people who are honest with her even though that means offending someone who is really rich. Abigail joined a board just to be around a woman who had a history of calling out Abigail for being rude.
3. A side job
The stay-at-home spouse can have a side job if they don’t need to make money and if they can have a nanny. The side job is really about spending money in order to stay engaged in the world.
The worst of these side jobs is a book. It satisfies people who miss the external validation of report cards, blue ribbons, and class rank. Having a book published is like saying, “people think I’m smart.” And like a trophy, people see only the glistening gold, not the very low hurdle you jumped over to get the prize.
The best of the side jobs is a startup funded by your spouse or your spouse’s friends. You can have an office for your nanny. Or you can open a little shop, or teach as an adjunct professor. In the world of normal people, when you do stuff that doesn’t make money it’s a hobby. But in the world of rich stay-at-home spouses, it’s a career.
4. A home in a smallish city
Manhattan is a terrible place to raise kids. Click that link for analysis about how NYC kids give up more in cost of living than they gain in access to opportunity. So the Baby Boomers are rejecting Florida retirement in favor of big cities, while middle-aged adults are leaving big cities in droves.
People who have control over their lives can move where life is best for their family rather than for their work. Families with location-independent income can ditch stressful hubs like Silicon Valley and join the creative class as they move to smaller cities.
Coveted living spaces come from firms like SHOP that meld architecture with urban design and modular construction (as exemplified by their Lego project) to create new epicenters of community living that only a smaller city can provide.
5. Early retirement
The New York Times reports that Millennials are retiring in their 30s. Apparently, the holy grail of early retirement is having a side job that generates some money. Which makes me think early retirement is the same as being a stay-at-home spouse or an unemployed banker – overworked or in denial or both.
But the other thing the article talks about is how many of those early retirees are bloggers. The idea that blogging is a retirement gig is hilarious to me. I have never worked so many hours as I did when I was getting my blog off the ground. I did not sleep the year I grew my blog from 100 to 12,000 subscribers. The need to create content is relentless.
So I guess I’m in early retirement, Millennial style. And I can tell you with certainty that those of you working at a reliable, predictable job that does not stress you out have a much better gig than retirement.