Do Only "Good" Wives Stay Home?
I came across this recent book review on Amazon:
"Three timely truths: On average, highly educated wives play a crucial role in their husband’s career success, women who let their husbands take the lead in breadwinning enjoy happier marriages, and couples who focus on common goals enjoy happier and more stable marriages. So, husbands and wives, take careful note of this engaging and important new book."
—W. Bradford Wilcox, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia and Director of the Marriage Matters Project
Before you throw your keyboard across the room, let me explain why the idea that wives play a crucial role in their husband’s success is an outdated fairytale.
The quote I read referred to Megan Basham’s new book, Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All. She’s gotten enviable publicity, with two Today Show appearances, and the book is selling well, so her idea must have some cultural appeal. She uses statistics to argue the following point: when moms stay home, their husbands earn more money, the marriages are more stable, and their family enjoys a more affluent lifestyle.
Contrast this with Leslie Bennetts’ 2007 book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? which also got a lot of publicity. Bennetts uses statistics to argue this point: when moms work fulltime, they are happier and healthier, and they enjoy more financial independence over their lifetime.
So what is the real answer, and why do we care so much?
Here’s what Basham has to say:
"There is a reason this book is titled beside every successful man rather than behind him. It is about taking the best part of the progress women have made and combining it with age-old wisdom to create a more satisfying future for both you and your husband. The wives who were the models for this book are not put-upon ‘little women.’ They didn’t abandon their own ambitions and desires by helping their husbands achieve theirs. Their service isn’t the same thing as subservience."
Now I am all for choice. Each and every woman on the planet has the right to calculate for herself the ideal work/home equation. But I question the validity of Basham’s conclusion that staying at home leads to a husband who earns more money and a longer lasting marriage – and the underlying idea that women should stay home, and should feel good about staying home as helpmeets for their husbands.