Thursday, May 16, 2013
I’m a house-husband. Having experienced this life for a number of years now, I have concluded that many of the stereotypical traits attributed to the classic 1950s wife & husband dynamic are almost entirely environmental in nature. Examples?
Let’s begin with an obsession with the house, especially its interior. This is my domain. I exist within it for hours a day, either alone or in the company of non-speaking children. Flaws in design and decor are noticed first by me. (“Why’d they put the door there? It would have been better over here.” “Another stain on the carpet. Gah!”) Given a choice about where to spend household finances, I’d put them into home improvements. Bigger kitchen. Newer appliances. Renovated bathrooms. Change out the flooring. Paint. That kind of crap. I never used to care about this stuff, just since I’ve become house-bound as a full-time job.
Next? Social starvation. When the women come home from work, I nearly jump on them in my eagerness for social contact. Adult conversation! A glimpse into the world outside! Gossip, rumours, work-stories, who’d you meet, what’d they say, how was your day, what are you doing tonight? All they want to do is have an hour in silence to detox from a long day, and all I want to do is engage them in the excruciating minutiae of their time away. You can see why those 50s dads just wanted to put their feet up and have a beer, and why those 50s wives were hanging around. It wasn’t because they were waiting to serve, it was because they were WILLING to serve in the hopes of getting some conversation going.
So why not just ask? (“Geez, Bill, talk to me, will you? I’m dying in here!”) Well, that’s where a subtle but powerful factor plays in: balance of power, both perceived and actual. I have a valuable job to do--take care of the kids and the home--but these skills don’t sell particularly well. Nor do they pay well (at all, beyond room and board). Housekeepers don’t, by and large, pull in sixty large a year, nor do nannies or baby-sitters. If I’m kicked out the door, the only thing I’m currently trained to do is take care of families. While this is a legitimate career, the problem is I don’t much like children other than my own. Selling myself as a male nanny who doesn’t like your kids could be tricky.
So I have to rebuild some kind of sellable career from the ground up. All my old corporate contacts are five (or more) years outdated, as are my job skills. I wouldn’t be destitute, but it would be a bit of a slog to get back to the lifestyle I enjoy right now. And I’m lucky, in a way, as I did have the usual kind of job until switching over; what if I’d NEVER worked outside of the home? Employers rarely see “house-husband” as a big selling point. A paycheque carries with it a certain degree of freedom. Sure, the estranged wife is entitled to half the assets, but she has to fight to get them; the guy with his name on the accounts can just take what he wants without asking.
This balance of power is also why the 50s magazines carried all sorts of articles about looking your best (for your man!), preparing great meals (for your man!), and making the house pretty (for your, you guessed it, man!). It’s easy to imagine, home alone all day, that your spouse might lose interest in you. Going outside the house to work carries with it all manner of temptations. Booze, sex, drugs, and a variety of other forms of entertainment can be much more easily accessed when you’re away from your kids for eight to ten hours a day. That doesn’t even include the business trips, over-time, conferences, and other “bonus work” many are expected to do. There’s a reason “working late” is an often-offered excuse to cover infidelity. The only real way to combat all these temptations is to present something at home that can’t be beat (sexy trophy wife/husband, top-notch food, and immaculate house).
Of course, that only applies while the kids are at home. Once they go to school, I’ll spend my carefully hoarded embezzled funds to have non-stop orgies and dance parties.
Just have to remember to make sure the house is clean by 5, and supper on the table for 6.