According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, a large percentage of dads want their wives to be stay-at-home-moms. Of the dads surveyed, 37% think moms should stay home, and 41% think that part-time work is a good compromise.
I’m not surprised by these results. Several of my friends have told me that they wish their wives could stay at home instead of work. For many of them, the extra paycheck is the only thing preventing their wives from becoming stay-at-home moms.
Many people will view the survey results as another example of a patriarchal society determined to keep women barefoot and pregnant. I don’t see it that way. Instead, I see it as a shift in priorities. Whereas climbing the corporate ladder was once the only measure of success, people have started to place more value on parenting and family life.
As a child growing up in the 70s and 80s, I got to witness women making great strides in the workforce. My mother, for example, has been employed full-time since she was 19 years old. Most of that time was spent as a single mom raising two children. My mom worked hard and always provided for us as did my aunts, cousins, and most of the women I knew. Going to work was as much a part of their lives as was being a mother.
Read Related: Is Being a Stay-at-Home-Mom a Privilege or a Right?
There were a few women in my neighborhood who didn’t work, because their husbands did hold on to the sexist notion that women were not supposed to work. These women stayed at home, cared for the kids, and made sure that their husbands had a hot meal on the table when they got home from the job.
Observing these different perspectives on women in the workplace shaped my point of view on gender roles and a gave me some perspective on how different families functioned.
When I met my wife in college, I was attracted to her because she was focused, intelligent, and hard-working. Being a stay-at-home mom was the furthest thing from her mind. After graduation, she set out on her path to become a journalist. After working for several small to mid-market newspapers, she realized that journalism wasn’t her passion—children were. She had this epiphany before we had kids. But that didn’t matter, my wife wanted to mentor children and influence their lives. She enrolled in classes and earned a teaching certificate.
Working as a teacher fulfilled my wife will unlike her previous profession. She loved teaching and nurturing young minds. Two years into her career, we had our first child. We were skeptical about placing our baby in daycare, but our fears were erased after finding a reliable care-giver. My wife went back to the classroom and continued working for another three years. We had another child and moved both kids to a commercial day care. This is when our mindset started to shift.
We weren’t pleased with the quality of the daycare and started to look for better options. We also realized that the majority of my wife’s salary went towards paying for daycare and other work expenses.
I broached the subject of her staying at home to gauge her interest. I was hesitant because I saw how much she loved teaching. She was dedicated to the profession and the kids needed her. I felt guilty about asking her to leave the classroom. To my surprise, she had already considered the notion. After much deliberation and planning, we decided that our kids needed her more than we needed her paycheck.
It’s been eight years since my wife left the workforce and we haven’t regretted the decision. Having her at home was especially nice when I spent 50% of my time traveling for work. Now that our kids are older, my wife is transitioning back into the classroom by taking on periodic substitute teacher assignments.
My wife’s staying at home with the kids was the best decision for our family. For other families, it may make more sense for the dad to stay home or for both parents to work outside the home. It’s a personal decision that each family has to make for itself.
Although the Pew survey may emphasize dads’ wanting their wives to be stay-at-home moms, it fails to communicate the difficult choices that moms and dads make to ensure that their family’s needs are taken care of—even if it means placing our career aspirations on hold.