March 24, 2014

Althouse the advice columnist.

A reader writes:
Hi, I just discovered your blog via internet searches. I noticed many of your posts about single earner households and I tend to agree with your views.  I just met a woman I really like. She is an attorney and loves her profession. She is strong willed and out earns me by far. She also wants to find someone to settle down with again after a long and disappointing first marriage. I am also in the same boat in that I'm ready to settle down. We both would like to have children but she doesn't want to stay home. We have discussed are parental preferences already. I am very open to staying home as a full time father and househusband. I think our personalities and career options lend themselves to this arrangement. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get into MBA schools. I can't perform well enough on the GMAT entrance examination and I receive low test scores. I am just not intellectually qualified for graduate schools such as business and law school. Whereas, she is definitely a lot smarter than me!  :-)  Her and I both know that if we were to marry, she would wear the pants and then would place me on diaper duty! Lol. As a law professor, do you think this would be the best thing for her law career? You touched on this with women wall street bankers and their f/t househusbands. I realize that women are the majority of law students now and there is a large pool of very bright, young women attorneys, which is wonderful. However, there is a grave shortage of women partners in law firms. At least that is what I've heard and read. In order to go as far as she wants to go in law, do you think a woman attorney should get a stay at home husband / full time father to help her reach her career goals?
I sure do! She needs to want it and to view you as a worthy equal and you've got to see yourself that way too. If you get married, you're a team, and you should think soundly and creatively about what works and what makes the most love and happiness — including what makes the most love and happiness for the new human beings who come into the world through your love.

I have a special problem with your sentence "Her and I both know that if we were to marry, she would wear the pants and then would place me on diaper duty!"

First, "Her and I" is grammatically wrong and perhaps indicative of why you're not performing well enough on the standardized test. If she really is much smarter than you and you're not wily enough to appear to belong with her, you might not make a good team.

Second, you've equated her working with being masculine — wearing the pants — and maybe she is a masculine kind of woman and both of you like that, but chances are she doesn't want to feel masculinized in the relationship, and you'll have to avoid slipping into feeling feminized by the role you take on. Do you see yourself as wearing the dress?

Third, caring for children is not "diaper duty." Diapers are the easiest part, and to focus on that — especially in correspondence to the idea that working outside the home equals "wearing the pants." You're too pants-focused! It's not sexy toward your wife, and it's not convincingly child-loving. A baby is not a poop machine. If you don't have real respect for what you are doing as the home-based spouse, she will feel short-changed — not because you're failing to bring in money but because you've never understood how to be her equal.

It's a challenging role, being a house-husband. People will disrespect you and you yourself may be one of those people who disrespect you. Even if you were willing to humiliate yourself, she's likely to reject you in the end, perhaps after she fulfills her own need to produce children. Maybe it's a reasonably good life for you, collecting child support from your law-firm-partner ex-wife and bringing up the kids you two produced. It's not a terrible downside risk. But I wouldn't recommend starting that enterprise unless you understand and commit to high performance in what is an unconventional masculine role.

ADDED: Lots of commenters believe the letter writer is a troll, but the young man has written back to say:
Thank you very much for your response post to my question. I am not a troll. Also,  I was using figures of speech and some levity in my question.  Of course child rearing is more than just "diaper duty." "Wear the pants" is an expression about who is in charge.    Sorry if my lack of formality didn't fit in with the theme of your blog. Going back to your advice, yes it did help because you have been there before, I assume, and you know what it means to be committed to a partner and to children. My letter was more or less about the roles my future wife and I would play and you answered that question without ambiguity.  I will be an equal but I probably won't have as much decision making power on where we are going to live, etc. On the grammar point, I'm confused. How should I correct  "Her and I....?" There were, in fact, grammar questions on the GMAT! Also, math, logic, reading comprehension.  At 2.5 to 3 hr. point, my brain wore out, lol! I'm very lucky to have this woman in my life. Her intellect is very attractive to me. Thanks again for your help.  

64 comments:

Meade said...

Why do you want children? Why not just get a dog?

madAsHell said...

I'm sorry.
I can't make any sense out of this.
How can you NOT get into an MBA school? She has been in a long relationship, but is still in the child-bearing years? She's going to wear the pants? At best, this is a mama's boy, but more likely a troll.

I think someone is making fun of our hostess.

KenK said...

I think you're being trolled professor.

Jay said...

Her and I both know that if we were to marry, she would wear the pants and then would place me on diaper duty!

That is....pretty pathetic.

EDH said...

That email with its drooling earnestness kind reminded me of those mock Amazon product reviews.

madAsHell said...

Low GMAT?
I'm pretty sure I saw an advertisement for Low GMAT pills on the ABC Evening News with Diane Sawyer.

Henry said...

Where's the part where he mentions the money he would like to transfer into your bank account?

John Lynch said...

We had a woman career lawyer commenter on this blog who divorced her husband because she was tired of him "treating her like an ATM." She didn't want to share all the money she was making, for some reason.

My own experience with staying home with a child so that my wife could work was mostly negative. My son was fine with it, my wife was fine with it, but no one else was. I lost friends and got disowned by my father. Even people who believe in gender equality in theory don't follow it in practice.

Althouse is absolutely right about how things should be. I applaud her for standing up for stay at home spouses, especially husbands. But it's not easy, and it's not something that should be entered into simply because it sounds like a good idea. For me, working overtime every week is much, much easier than being a stay at home dad.

Talk about it beforehand. A lot. Budget. And make sure you're not going to be a doormat because you're not bringing home cash. That's a sure path to divorce. Althouse is right about that, too.

Michael K said...

Spelling and grammar might be a reason for the low GMAT. Or maybe not.

Krumhorn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tank said...

We both would like to have children but she doesn't want to stay home.

I admit I don't understand this at all. Why does she want children, if not to be with them? I know, I'm a dinosaur. Lots of my kids' generation thinks this is normal now. The gov't seems to want it to be normal.

Her and I both know that if we were to marry, she would wear the pants and then would place me on diaper duty.

If I ever say something like this, just kill me then. What kind of man says this? Even if you accept being a stay at home hubby, are not a man anymore?

Mark said...

I also think you're being trolled.

As a Dad who is just about done being home with the kids until kindergarten, your point about actually wanting to raise the kids is important. There is no reason to stay at home with the kids unless you actually do a decent job of it, any daycare can do the bare minimum.

This guy seems to have zero interest [or respect] in that job. I agree about how he clearly views raising kids as feminizing and seems very unlikely to be happy with unusual gender roles as he so clearly clings to old-style roles.

I also see the intellectual differences with this couple as problematic, and likely exacerbated by his scenario. If the person at home [whatever sex] has no curiousity, is not someone who reads exposes their mind to something greater - it is unlikely that they will have anything to relate about other than the children quite soon. If one person is at home, they had better keep their mind alive and creative.

This guy seems about the farthest thing from the other successful [and happy] at-home parents I know. What's between your legs matters less than interest and pride in taking care of your kids.

This guy seems like he has zero interest there. I sure wouldn't hire him for the job [and maybe this is why no one else wants him either]. Being a full time parent isn't a job for someone who has zero interest in it, society has plenty of examples of why that is a bad idea.

acm said...

What the hell did I just read? It started off like spam---"I have found your blog via internet searches" and ended up with the sad earnestness of Yahoo Answers.

Ann Althouse said...

I've considered the possibility that this is a fake letter, and if it is, I believe it embodies the mindset of those who disrespect the stay-at-home husband and that supports my wanting to use this to say what I am saying here. It works either way.

Whether this is someone who mocks the stay-at-home husband or someone who is contemplating it without having thought it through that well, I have the same thing I want to say, and nothing about the possible fakeness undercuts my statements.

So… it's the usual problem faced by advice columnists, but I'm a new kind of advice columnist, and I welcome attempts by trolls to get me to write them an answer.

You'll see what works on me and what doesn't.

It's not necessarily sincerity!

Krumhorn said...

I believe Ann hit all of the notes precisely. The difference between us in this instance is that Ann apparently thinks it can work, in theory. I do not. I predict 100% chance of failure.

Every successful woman I know wants a wife...not a househusband. It will take less than a week for her to see that this is not a man, but a houseboy. Smart, attractive, successful women don't do their houseboys. They do their pool boys. And then, wearing a cute skirt, they go in search for a man who wears pants.

Like it or not, this is the way we're wired, us and them.

- Krumhorn

Freeman Hunt said...

This person, fake letter writer or not, does not understand the job of being a stay at home parent. He (perhaps she) needs to read more about it.

A high-achieving single earner wants a high-achieving stay at home spouse, not a maid/daycare worker.

Freeman Hunt said...

A stay at home parent should not be equivalent to someone who could be hired for pay.

Rob said...

Au contraire, Ann, we are all poop machines.

Mark said...

Freeman nailed it. A high performing, intellectual person wants to be matched with the same. This isn't about what job they do, it's about how they do that job.

Ann did a pretty remarkable job of advice as well.

Few people can do a job they don't respect or like well. Enthusiasm does not guarantee quality work, but lack of it generally guarantees the opposite.

Krumhorn said...

...and being a secure and successful male who adores smart, attractive and successful women, I find I'm in a heavenly Ann/Krumhorn/Freeman Hunt sandwich.

It doesn't get better than that, I can tell ya'

- Krumhorn

Pogo is Dead said...

If he isn't wearing pants, well, I suggest staying inside.

At a minimum, if you do venture outdoors, don't put on lipstick with a trowel.

You might get mistaken for a journalist, at least hereabouts.

David said...

Diapers are not the easiest part.

For you, maybe, but not all of us.

And it's not the shit and urine. I can deal with that. It's getting the damn things on right. I did it with pins (or failed to do it) for my first two kids.

Nearly killed them.

John Christopher said...

One of the families in my children's kindergarten class fits Althouse's model to a T.

FWIW, the husband is a very skilled carpenter/handyman and when the kids are in school spends a ton of time volunteering at the school on various projects and does a nice job.

The Cracker Emcee said...

You're totally being played, Althouse. The disingenuous tone, the overdone beta male humility, the bait for your hobbyhorses, it couldn't be plainer. They know you well.

SGT Ted said...

A high-achieving single earner Woman wants a high-achieving stay at home man, not a maid/daycare worker.

FTFY to highlight the differences in how women view life partners, as opposed to men.

Men don't mind a non-high achieving stay at home wife, if she does a good job at home with the house and kids.

Women, however, DO mind. It shows in their actions and divorce filings. Women naturally expect to get cash and prizes and having "financial independence" to spend the money from a high achieving husband and to stay at home with the babies, but absolutely resent being held to the same standard when roles are reversed.

One of the many hypocrisies of the alleged "equal rights" gals.

William said...

Maybe he's the one who wants to stay home and wear the diapers. Who are we to pass judgment on someone's unorthodox lifestyle choices?....On the other hand, there's no excuse for bad grammar. I've seen so many marriages flounder on the shoals of bad grammar. Sure, we've all dangled a participle now and then, but mistaking the possessive for the nominative is symptomatic of a deep character disorder. He can only think of himself as her possession, her little boy. It's all fun and games until the diaper needs changing.

rehajm said...

It will take less than a week for her to see that this is not a man, but a houseboy

It won't take her that long. She'll keep him around for support while she studies, then dump him the week before she'd handed her degree.

jr565 said...

I'd think liberals would be totally supportive of this guy. Who's to say that men can't wear the dress and be on diaper duty? If he's a beta, well shouldn't we be accepting of betatude?

Henry said...

So… it's the usual problem faced by advice columnists, but I'm a new kind of advice columnist, and I welcome attempts by trolls to get me to write them an answer.

I remember Ann Landers' once going to the trouble to respond to a troll -- and this in a newspaper column where column inches are valuable! In highly condensed form, her polite response was something like "No, a woman can't lose her virginity horseback riding. Please pass this on to the rest of your fraternity brothers who wrote me the same question."

rhhardin said...

She needs a man because some things take a man, owing to differing abilities to sustain interest in different things.

Women can do a lot of man stuff, but only grimly.

Men revel in that same stuff.

jr565 said...

Think of transgenderism and gender being a social construct. Now, explain to me how a man acting strong, and like a man isn't reinforcing gender stereotypes. This guy then would simply be a male female, perhaps bi gendered and maybe pansexual. Don't be judging people's gender althouse!

jr565 said...

Actually, are beta males a separate gender on gender spectrum than alpha males? Did Facebook make that one of its new genders which you can so identify yourself with? why not?

Freeman Hunt said...

"Men don't mind a non-high achieving stay at home wife, if she does a good job at home with the house and kids. "

???

How would doing "a good job at home with the house and kids" not be high achieving? That's exactly what I'm talking about. High achieving as in doing your job as a stay at home parent extremely well.

acm said...

Men don't mind a non-high achieving stay at home wife, if she does a good job at home with the house and kids

----

Isn't "doing a good job with the house and kids" kind of the definition of "high-achieving stay at home spouse"? I mean, if a stay-home spouse was a terrific amateur cellist or rock-climber, or very well-read but did a crap job at keeping house, you would call him/her "a high-achieving cellist" not a high-achieving homemaker. Someone who teaches well is a high-achieving teacher, someone who does a good job with house and kids is a high-achieving homemaker.

People seem to use "high-achieving" when they mean something more like "well-rounded" or "interesting". People who work in the home or outside of it will be boring if they don't pursue some interests aside from their occupation, whether that occupation is homemaking, medicine, or what have you. Some men don't mind boring wonen, some women don't mind boring men.

In any event, the problem with this man (if he exists) is not that, but the fact that he views child rearing as something feminine and lesser, something he'd be unwilling to do even if it makes the best use of his and his wife's talents. The sort of person who calls caring for a kid "diaper duty" sounds like the kind who calls caring for his own kid "babysitting"---that is, someone not really interested in being a parent.

CStanley said...

I disagree that "doing a good job with house and kids" is necessarily synonymous with being a high achieving stay at home spouse.

I think the first category is broader and includes a more traditional housewife role...one with little intellectualism, and contentment with simplicity. Keep the kids' bellies fed and faces cleaned, teach them basic manners and get them off to school, then focus on the housekeeping.

"High achieving" to my ear involves an additional, different set of skills and goals that make the stay at home spouse also a more interesting mate (and have as the goal to assist the kids in becoming higher achievers.)

CStanley said...

And to put a finer point on it...I think what some are saying is that women would never be happy with a househusband who fulfilled the simple housewife role, while there are men who are very contented with women like that.

Freeman Hunt said...

""High achieving" to my ear involves an additional, different set of skills and goals that make the stay at home spouse also a more interesting mate (and have as the goal to assist the kids in becoming higher achievers.)"

CStanley, good point. I was assuming that as part of "doing a good job," but maybe others don't assume that.

Freeman Hunt said...

"while there are men who are very contented with women like that."

I have yet to meet a high-achieving man who would contented with a woman like that.

CStanley said...

Really? I can think of any number of them. I can't imagine being a woman contented with a man who was contented by that setup, but I know women who are as well. They seem to be people who primarily have strong friendships among their own gender, and in my view that's not a healthy marriage but it seems to work for some people.

surfed said...

Dude. You didn't write me for advice but since it's a public forum here's my $.2 worth. Run. And do it quickly before you're the combo house cabana boy. As per Meade - get a dog and the two of you run away together. Again, quickly.

Beldar said...

As a member of the Texas Bar since 1981 who spent a dozen years in BigLaw, I concur with Prof. Althouse.

Prof. Althouse's answer to her correspondent's inquiry reflects her vocation. Asked if she thinks a woman attorney should get a stay-at-home husband to help her reach her career goals, Prof. Althouse gives an immediate and enthusiastic answer: "I sure do." But then she continues with a series of follow-up observations — including counter-questions, frank cautions, and helpful suggestions.

If your prospective wife has this same issue-spotting-and-explication skill, she may indeed prosper in her profession.

I would add to Prof. Althouse's advice just this much:

When you're contemplating these scenarios, keep in mind that your and your prospective wife's respective sets of responsibilities and activities and goals will not remain static. The respective roles you're imagining right now may change over the course of your relationship.

Children don't always demand the same percentage of your attention; parenting duties start as (among other things) diaper duty, but they change, and over time as the kids grow, the parenting duties generally become more flexible and less time-consuming.

Your prospective wife's career likewise may evolve: some people who start in practice with law firms end up becoming judges or going to work with/for clients in non-legal roles, and she'll have such opportunities to consider if she's talented. Thus, even assuming that she does remain on a consistent career-focused trajectory, that could manifest itself in many different ways. Those ways, in turn may affect your prospective wife's scheduling and prioritizing as your partnership functions day-to-day.

Good luck.

paul a'barge said...

Now, what is Meade's advice?

Let's hear both sides.

cokaygne said...

If he cannot pass the GMAT,he ahould consider journalism.

William said...

Dear Ann: I'm a famous German philosopher. I have long maintained that nothingness is our highest evolved state and that being is a flushed moment of depravity before we achieve the stasis and perfection of nada. Accordingly I have acted in such a way as to manifest the depraved sentiments that are part of our being.....My girlfriend is Jewish. I like to dress up as a Nazi storm trooper and bounce her on my knee. She's very slight and when she wears her hair in pigtails, she looks a little like Anne Frank. She says the game is banal and evil and that she doesn't like playing it. However, there are certain clinical details that lead me to believe that she is lying. Perhaps her protestations are part of the game.....I'm at a loss at how to proceed. She claims that she wants me to wear tweeds and smoke a briar pipe during role play. I'm a good sport, and I've tried this. Nothing. Not nothingness but nothing. Tweeds don't get her off, but black leather Nazi uniforms drive her up the wall. I'd be interested in hearing your advice at this delicate juncture in our relationship.

JimT Utah said...

My sister's husband is a great and enthusiastic gardener, a gourmet cook (actually too good for my McDonald's-trained taste), and all-round handy guy to have around the house. He may get dissed by some, but not by her and not by us. He's lots better as a househusband than he would be as an office drone.

eric said...

"She also wants to find someone to settle down with again after a long and disappointing first marriage"

Get ready for a shorter and even more disappointing second marriage.

JimT Utah said...

PS: Children. It takes half a generation of grown-ups to raise a generation of children. If you think it's not a full-time job for one of you, don't have children.

Gabriel Hanna said...

a baby is not a poop machine

I wish my infant son was old enough to read this so he would know that by being a poop machine he is doing it wrong.

Of course by the time he's old enough to read it, he will no longer be a poop machine.

surfed said...

Dude - buy a dragster and peel out of there. Floor it bro!

tpceltus said...

I dare the questioner to sent his query to Penelope Trunk.
Having already written a lot about this, It would be veeery interesting to read her response.

Alex said...

"Poop machines, all are we" - Master Yoda

SOJO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SOJO said...

@SgtTed

I think some women's inability to easily share is simply because they are unused to the role. It will fade in time.

I hit the workforce in the early-90s. I was not secure that I would even be able to support myself. There were still huge hurdles then to overcome that are beyond the scope of this post.

All the focus was on being able to do for myself because that was the first 4-minute mile, if you see what I mean. It was only after the personal and/or generational paths to that goal were well traveled and well marked that I settled down and suddenly realized, "Hey, I could support others. I could have a child alone if I wanted to. I could support my greater family. I could support a guy." It might seem silly to someone who has had that expectation his entire life, but it was an epiphany. And it's still one step more to "I have a duty to support the guy to the best of my ability with a great attitude" because we are a team.

(Side note: Truly generous guys are great, but it's a part of their character like being honest, not a quality every single guy has. Some guys use their earning ability to manipulate.)

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

There is an enormous difference between a high-achieving stay at home parent and a low-achieving one.

I know someone who gets her children dressed and on the school bus and goes back to bed until 10 am. She cooks four nights a week and they go out three nights. Her house is always a mess. Her kids don't do activities so she's not chauffeuring or team-moming or scout-leadering. She watches a lot of TV. She doesn't read. She doesn't work out. She's not depressed--just not particularly driven.

This is not the kind of person who would be married to a high-earning, high-achieving spouse. Their wives are the kind who run six miles at 5 am & come home to pack organic lunches; work in supplemental homeschooling activities around school; plan the PTA carnival; keep a tidy smoothly functioning home; plan clever birthday parties; get all the errands done during the day; parent proactively and intelligently; have a good meal ready to serve when the working spouse gets home for the day.

chillblaine said...

I have a hunch this originated from either OFA or HRC. They're watching movies trying to find the feelers.

Kylos said...

William, mistaking the objective for the possessive is also a deep character disorder.

Leit Bart said...

I don't think the writer is a troll, but I do think the letter was written by a woman. The "Her and I" and then, this:

"We have discussed are parental preferences already."

convince me it's the prospective bride-to-be who wrote the letter. She's either in need of some convincing, herself -- hence the inserted errors and glaring sexist viewpoint -- or she needs some help convincing him to proceed.

When it comes to marriage, that either person might require any convincing ... sounds like a pretty discouraging proposition.

@jr565 said "Think of transgenderism and gender being a social construct." Of course the gov't doesn't see it that way -- minority and women-owned businesses get a leg-up. Anyway, here's a teacher who, born a sconce, always knew, from an early age, that he was truly a feminine chandelier.

http://weaselzippers.us/180525-transgender-teacher-to-return-to-california-classroom-as-true-self/

But if gender is merely a social construct, then so is race. How can this not be so? If I self-identify as a black male, who's bully enough to say I'm not? And so why can't I check that box on my college application? Elizabeth Warren self-identifies as Native American ... and it worked for her (and Harvard). If I self-identify with the poor, why can't I be poor on my IRS 1040? Let's just rip up these social constructs altogether. They're discriminatory and unfair.

Kirk Parker said...

"A baby is more than just a poop machine."

FIFY.

Kirk Parker said...

Freeman,

"High achieving housekeeper" sound weird to us because we have no idea what it takes to really create a well-run (large!*) household. Proverbs 31, anyone???

------------------------------------
*Yes, your typical urban professional 1.5+ child does not qualify...

Kirk Parker said...

David,

" I did it with pins (or failed to do it) for my first two kids... Nearly killed them."

Now try doing in a third-world country, with no running water--our water came in a 5-gallon jerry can, carried about 1/2 mile by bicycle. (Our two oldest were raised there...)




rhh,

"Women can do a lot of man stuff, but only grimly.

Men revel in that same stuff.
"

True, and also vice versa. Mega, MEGA vice versa.

Kirk Parker said...

cS,

"They seem to be people who primarily have strong friendships among their own gender, and in my view that's not a healthy marriage but it seems to work for some people. "

Seriously? It's the way the incomprehensively-massive majority of humans have lived their lives over the millenia.

Freeman Hunt said...

There are also major cultural differences in what constitutes a high achieving stay at home parent. There's the Socialite-Volunteer, which Pants described well. There's the Tiger Parent or Tiger Parent Hybrid. There's the Incredible Crafter, the Minister, the Thrift Master, etc. All kinds. Some combinations. Depends on the couple and the cultural group.

Freeman Hunt said...

Kirk, CS was describing how people who are married but not intellectual equals compensate. I don't think CS was implying that other types do not have same gender friends.

Kirk Parker said...

Freeman, yes--but that's exactly what I'm saying: the vast majority of people who have ever been married have either been of the same class or from a culturally-compatible class, but concern about intellectual compatibility is a fairly recent Western invention. And in those historical-majority situations, married couples had their stuff they did together, but those societies an awful lot of men-doing-men's-things and women-doing-women's-things.