Cathy Reisenwitz

With More Women Bringing Home the Bacon, Who’s Going to Fry It Up?

The New York Times has an interesting think piece up on upper-class gender relations: Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers.

The thrust of the piece is that many of the women with children who manage to make a killing on Wall Street are able to do so because their husbands have taken their feet off the gas pedal on their own careers and are handling things on the domestic front.

What the piece helps illustrate is that making a lot of money in America still mostly requires a lot of time spent working. It is therefore mostly incompatible with being the primary person responsible for raising children and running a household. With the ascent of women to the upper echelons of finance and other highly paid careers, the question for families now and in the future becomes, who is going to take care of the house and kids?

There are three primary responses to this question offered by most thinkers and commentators. But all of them have serious drawbacks and miss a huge part of the picture.

Women Love Being Homemakers

The first response is that women are naturally suited to and mostly like being the primary person responsible for raising children and running a household. Therefore, they should do it and let their husbands bring home the bacon.

It’s true that, when asked, most women say they don’t want to work as many hours as most men. As Independent Women’s Forum Executive Director Sabrina Schaeffer recently pointed out:

It may be unpopular – or simply not politically fashionable to say this – but most women don’t want to be Sheryl Sandberg. The Pew Research Center recently found that if offered the choice, only 23 percent of married mothers would choose to work full-time outside of the home. What’s more, “working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule.”

The problem here is that it’s a solution which relies on but does not critique the role of pernicious gender-based expectations in shaping what women "are suited to" and "want."

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a Young Voices Associate and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator.