Women Breadwinners & Sex: Is the stay-at-home-husband sexy? (Read Time: 6 min.)

coule 6This is a controversial post (HINT: If you’re wanting a politically correct post that says all the right things and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, this would not be the one- stop reading now).

My husband recently got a new job that pays SIGNIFICANTLY MORE than he was making in his prior position… and I noticed that, as a result, lots of things changed.  My stress level went down, my smile factor went up, and so did my sex drive… and then I watched a show yesterday where a woman breadwinner made the comment: “Stay-at-home dads are SUPER sexy.”  So last night, after watching my latest episode of Cashmere Mafia on Netflix (only 8 episodes but all about women breadwinners… stay tuned on what I’m going to do with that in a few months), I was up pondering:

Is the stay-at-home-husband sexy?

Not just the stay-at-home-dad.  Kids can make staying at home key but there are stay-at-home husbands who have breadwinning wives and no children (unemployed, underemployed, pursuing an art or a dream that has him home alot, etc., etc.)

Is that man just as sexy as the corporate husband who wears a suit, is out the door at 6 am, home at 6 pm from a hard day’s work and is making good money?

Hmm….

Well, let me give you the answers I came up with (3 of them to be exact):

1) It depends

2) Not to me

3) If you like it, I love it

Let me break down each one:

ANSWER 1: It depends.  

I’m really tired of people talking about women breadwinners and the men they marry in politically correct terms, focusing only on the good and how wonderful things CAN be.  CAN is a word based on potential, not necessarily actual and here’s the truth:

A stay-at-home-husband will be sexy to the wife who’s agreed to that relationship contract.  

In other words, if a woman breadwinner marries a man assuming he’ll work or expecting that he’ll contribute financially and he ends up not doing that, sexiness goes out the window (regardless of how many great meals he cooks or diapers he changes or household projects he does).  It’s all about the UNSPOKEN relationship agreement both people assumed they were signing up for.  When a woman breadwinner marries a man, she has certain expectations (as does he) and if those expectations drastically shift over time and nobody ever talks about it, openly changes the rules, and clearly accepts the “new normal”, there are going to be problems.  Why?  Because if your idea of a partner isn’t one who stays at home, makes gourmet meals, and brings in no actual cash, you’re going to stop feeling the magic.  Is it fair?  Life’s not fair.  Is it right? All depends on who you’re asking.  But if we continue to ignore the fact that a lot of women marry men EXPECTING them to be financial providers, wind up with something different, start resenting it, and NEVER talk about the change or openly accept the change, we’re missing out on a key opportunity TO CHANGE the relationship dynamic.

ANSWER 2:  Not to me.  

On a personal note, I am completely uninterested in being with a man who doesn’t have a career of some sort and doesn’t bring in any income and I make no apologies for making it known.

Why is it that men can have lists of criteria they have for women they’d even CONSIDER marrying and we call it “standards”

and women have a similar list and society calls it being “picky”?

I don’t think so.  When I have my next baby, I’m going to be at home for a while.  My choice.  Do I want my husband staying at home with our new baby? I don’t think so.  The relationship contract I signed up for does not include a stay-at-home-husband and it seems that we’re living in a society where women breadwinners are made to feel like gold digging, stuck up princesses if they openly say, “I have to have a man who works.”  In Liza Mundy’s book “The Richer Sex”, she asks the question, “How can a man be sexy when he’s in an inferior position?” and then she goes on to ask “Marry up? Marry down? Don’t marry?”  Liza goes on to say that women breadwinners have two options: Marry down or don’t marry.  What? REALLY??????? Would we give those same options to men?  Exactly!

I don’t agree with those options but here’s what I am saying about my personal preference: I chose a man who gets me, is on my level, and compliments me (i.e. brings strengths to the table that I don’t possess).  Part of that agreement also means that he has his own career, his own professional aspirations and he earns money.  Does he have to make more than me at some point? No.  I love being a woman breadwinner.  I don’t need a man who brings in six or seven figures and is always on the road or in surgery or doing a business deal.  That was a conscious choice I made to NOT have that.  But do I want a man who sits at home all day and watches the kids or plays video games or is a gourmet chef and has all of my meals prepared for me as I walk in the door? No way.  While that may have its perks, in the bedroom, for me, that’s  a TOTAL turnoff.  And having worked with enough women breadwinners, I can tell you that I’m not the only one.

ANSWER 3: If you like it, I love it.

The bottom line of this post is to get to a place where we can accept that women breadwinners will differ about what they seek and what they will accept in a mate.  Some love having a stay-at-home-dad for their kids and they see his job as being the hardest job in the world and the sex is hot and heavy because of the gratitude and respect they feel for him making that decision.  Wonderful!  Some women breadwinners want a man who has ambition, drive, and focus in areas OUTSIDE of household and family management and they love a husband who has a professional calling, follows it and brings home money because of it (whether the money is a lot or a little) and that’s awesome.  But to condemn one choice over the other or to say that we all have to love having husbands who are at home or husbands who work is a cookie cutter approach that doesn’t jive in real life.  Not only that but it invalidates the feeling of women breadwinners who may find themselves in marriages where their spouses are at home (and they didn’t co-sign on it) or their husbands are working (and that wasn’t the terms they agreed to when they had 5 children) and they feel angry, resentful, and frustrated.  We cannot deny the feelings of these women breadwinners who may be looking at their lives saying “This is not what I signed up for!”

We need to acknowledge that one of the struggles in being a woman breadwinner is that the gender roles are new,

they’re being recreated as we speak, and they don’t always feel comfortable (for the men or the women).

 We need to accept that not all women breadwinners are going to want stay-at-home husbands and not all stay-at-home-husbands are going to feel like men by taking on those roles.  It is not our job to make these individuals feel comfortable in a relationship dynamic that they don’t want.  It’s our job, as a society, to validate their feelings, listen to their concerns, and help them communicate and move towards creating a relationship dynamic that aligns with BOTH of their values.

But, if we never talk about the dissatisfaction some women breadwinners feel, the unhappiness some stay-at-home-husbands feel, and the impact these uncertainties and unspoken issues are having on the marriage, we’ll continue to speak favorably of women breadwinner marriages and we’ll continue to cheer on women in the workplace and we’ll continue to see increasing divorce rates among these types of marriages.

Let’s keep it real.

Is the stay-at-home-husband sexy?

Woman breadwinner, you get to decide but don’t co-sign on an option you secretly feel isn’t it. 

Say what you mean, mean what you say, and work out whatever is bugging you.

There’s nothing worse than pretending to be in love with life when you aren’t.

#keepitreal

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9 thoughts on “Women Breadwinners & Sex: Is the stay-at-home-husband sexy? (Read Time: 6 min.)

  1. mike pearse says:

    I think you’re bending the rules here. I understand breadwinner to be defined as the SOLE financial provider for a family. That’s how I saw it when my wife was staying at home to look after the baby. As soon as she started work and contributed to the family budget, I could no longer call myself a breadwinner.

    • kassandrabibas says:

      Hi Mike,

      By definition, the financial breadwinner in any home (male or female) is the person who brings home 60% or more of the income. There are SOLE breadwinners but a breadwinner is not defined by being the only person bringing home the money. In years past, when men brought home 60% of the money and women worked by babysitting the neighborhood kids or selling Avon, their husbands were STILL the primary breadwinner. So, yes, there is a difference between a sole breadwinner and a primary breadwinner but this blog is dedicated to talking about the issues that impact BOTH primary and sole women breadwinners. Thanks for commenting and giving me the space to clarify the definition.

      • mike pearse says:

        Fair enough. I stand corrected.
        By the way, my own experience concurs with yours. Technically, I was a stay-at-home Dad because I worked from home while my wife went to an office to work. Despite earning three times her salary as an artist/writer, she still felt I was the ‘woman’ in the marriage because she would come home to find me cooking dinner or watching our son. She heard comments from female neighbours about me being ‘more a mother than a father’ because I was the only man picking our kid up from school and so forth. It was not a good time and I was sleeping in the spare room throughout.

      • kassandrabibas says:

        Thanks for sharing your experience Mike! That’s EXACTLY why I wrote this post. In all of this media hype about the Pew Report and women breadwinners and how wonderful it is to have a stay-at-home-husband, people aren’t talking about some of the real problems these couples face… like the fact that many women (breadwinners or not) do not give their husbands the same leg room to change, shift, or take on different roles in the relationship without losing respect for them. And the biggest cause of that comes when both people don’t sit down and have “the talk” about expectations, gender roles, what it means when one stays home and the other doesn’t. If more people would be up front about how they feel instead of hoping or expecting that their partners will become someone different, there’d be happier marriages. Sometimes, as women breadwinners,we look at anything that isn’t as driven, overachieving, and like ourselves and judge it as being lazy, unacceptable, and not sexy. That’s wrong. We would crucify a man who’s CEO of a bank and complains that his stay-at-home wife isn’t out in Corporate America making six figures and closing deals. It’s got to work both ways… and many women aren’t there yet. Many of us still want the freedom to overachieve at work but we want to come home to alpha men who, in our eyes, represent the knights in shining armors we expect… down to the letter. And those kinds of ridiculously high requirements (not standards because they’re ridiculous) will not result in a happy, passion filled marriage. And listening to female neighbors or other friends is a NO-NO. People love to give advice and only fools allow other people to run their shows for them. I hope you find the happiness and love you deserve. Kudos to you for working from home (which, with children, is TOUGH) AND financially providing for your family.

      • mike pearse says:

        Thanks for the kudos, but before I put them on the mantelshelf I ought to confess that the situation I described is now long in the past. We divorced over ten years ago and she is now in a more traditional marriage where her husband is sole breadwinner and her main source of income is the child support she gets from me. They live with our son and his daughter in a big house in a small village in Friesland, the Netherlands, (they’re all Dutch) and every two weeks my fifteen year old son takes the train to Amsterdam to stay with his English father for a night or two. I’ve lived here, alone, for ten years now. Only three more years before my son is eighteen and then… Home.

      • mike pearse says:

        Apologies. My last reply makes things sound much worse than they are. The whole breadwinner thing pushes my buttons. But if I’m honest, a part of me sees that because Feminism came along and busted the Woman-At-Home/ Man-Must-Be-Breadwinner gender roles, one result was that I ended up with a much easier life than my father’s. He envies my freedom, my pad in Amsterdam and the fact that I have a great relationship with my son without all the work. I didn’t ask for this, but it’s happened and it’s okay. Others have it much worse.

      • kassandrabibas says:

        It’s so important to see the gifts that come out of any situation, especially the ones we didn’t expect, didn’t necessarily want and certainly didn’t plan for. Great way of looking at things! You do have freedom that your father didn’t have and there’s a gift in that as well.

  2. Teresa says:

    We definitely fall into the third group: I like it. I definitely love it that my husband is at home with the kids, and our love life reflects both the gratitude and respect I have for him and the gratitude and respect he has for me. You are so right that one of the struggles in being a woman breadwinner is that the gender roles are new and can be uncomfortable. We work at it every day.

    • kassandrabibas says:

      Hi Teresa, and what I love about your comment is that you express gratitude and love for the roles but you also talk about the reality of needing to work at it everyday. It’s a gift when you know that the person who’s caring for your children is one of two people who helped create and who’s responsible for raising those children. It truly is a gift. Thanks for your comment!

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