A House Husband – the solution for ambitious MBA women?

What if we flipped the script?

What if we flipped the script?

I had dinner with a couple of girlfriends last week, both of whom were HBS alums, and in town attending the HBS Women’s Conference to commemorate 50 years of women at HBS. The conversation turned towards the realities of being a female MBA alum and what we expect (and the world expects) our lives to look like holistically after attaining this higher education.

Probably more than any other masters degree, female MBAs are expected to have successful families AND business careers with high earning potential. Those who decide to forego career advancement or !gasp! become a housewife post MBA are often looked at with condescension and confusion. “Why did you spend $150k to get an MBA when you’re just going to be a stay at home mom? Oh…you were just there looking for a husband…” (in that non-judgemental, but uber judgemental tone you learn so well in school)

As MBA women, we’re supposed to be able to do it ALL – not give up one thing for the other (which totally isn’t fair, as explained extremely well in this article in the Daily Beast).  And “do it all” traditionally means have a successful family and a successful career.

HBS released study findings just in time for the women’s conference this week (featuring Sheryl Sandberg and other prominent successful women), where they asked why women weren’t moving up faster in the workplace. No surprise that the #1 reason is ‘the acknowledgment that family is more important to them than their careers’. #2? “taking leave or reducing hours” – arguably to be with family and kids more.

But before getting to the children, you have to find a partner. And given most women want someone who ‘matches’ them (in earning potential, education, lifestyle expectations etc.), that’s not so easy. Today women earn 60 percent of all master’s degrees and more than half of all doctoral and professional degrees. Science and Engineering fields notwithstanding, there are more women with masters than men. Which brings me to the conversation I had last night.

My very smart and ambitious Harvard MBA female friend wants kids. She knows she has a window. And she wants her kids to be raised by a parent, not a full-time nanny. But she also wants to rise quickly in her career and climb the ladder to a C-level position. Given the statistics and reality of the above, she knows that it will be hard to find someone ‘on her level’, even without the laundry list of non-tangible things she wants.

So her non-conventional solution to family and career? A house husband. Similar to the house-wife that many successful men marry who are not unintelligent, but also not jockeying for priority in life choices based on their ambition, he would take care of the kids, and be willing to move where she needed to go to continue to rise in her career (be it a different city or a different continent). He would take care of her emotionally and physically and be a good father. He wouldn’t need to work, or bring in a major share of income – that’s not what she needs.

Now, she doesn’t want someone effeminate or emasculated. She wants a strong, secure, confident real man – just not necessarily a breadwinner. She wants someone to support her – much like many women have supported their men in other single income families in the past. Run the household, make the meals, raise the kids and be a kind ear when work gets crazy. Not insignificant or simple tasks – but not traditionally male ones either.

My initial reaction was complete disbelief – “you’d never respect him, you’d cheat or he’d cheat because you wouldn’t see him as a man. He’s got to be at least CLOSE to your level of earning potential, where are you ever going to find a guy who’s OKAY with being a house husband and putting your career completely first that would be ‘manly’ enough for you?”

**Judge me here if you must, but despite being relatively liberal, I have to admit I still have a base level of old school thinking about what makes a man feel like a man (namely being a provider)**

But…as I continue to read multiple articles and talk with some powerful women who ARE getting it done, who have the families, and are kicking ass in the corporate world, it seems like many of them attribute that ability to ‘an amazing husband who’s flexible and understanding and picks up a lot of slack”.

AND, for whatever it’s worth, I know multiple MBA men who (kind of jokingly) say they’d love to be a ‘kept man’.

So what do you think? Can the house-husband work? Is it naïve to think it’s sustainable and it’s just a oversimplified unrealistic solution?

Or if we’re truly honest, is that what many career-driven MBA women need and just don’t want to admit to for fear of social repercussions and patronizing comments/attitudes about ‘settling’?

20 thoughts on “A House Husband – the solution for ambitious MBA women?

  1. I’ve given this a lot of thought recently as I’m getting married soon and my fiancee is in medical school. The earlier me (the one who worked at an investment bank) would have absolutely refused to not be the “breadwinner” in my family. However now that I have switched to a more entrepreneurial path post MBA I appreciate the stability that another high earner would provide, and knowing that I won’t be putting my family out on the street if I don’t succeed the first time around. Ultimately, I think it boils down to communication and respecting/valuing your partner’s contributions be they monetary or watching kids at home.

  2. What an insightful and well-written blog!
    My comment is more of a philosophical one. Whatever we choose to do with our lives, we always would have to live with the consequences. Most of the time things do happen the way that we want and are out of our control. We should not allude undesirable results to anything or anyone. At the end of the day, we just have to be say that we have tried our best and enjoyed ourselves during the process.
    I know you will succeed because an MBA from HBS has indeed opened a lot of doors for you and you are in the right social circles. .

  3. House husbands are actually quite common these days. I have several male riends with University degrees who have become full-time daddies while their more aggressive and business-minded wives went about their careers. I’ve always looked at it as having the Big Child look after the smaller children.

  4. This is a very interesting question, and my thoughts mirror those in the article (“you’d never respect him, you’d cheat or he’d cheat because you wouldn’t see him as a man…). No woman wants a househusband because the guy who’d be willing to do it would be well below her level. The talk sounds good, but it’s just talk.

    You won’t find a man with a professional degree or one who’s on an upper-level management path who’s willing to give that up to support his wife’s career. It doesn’t make sense. Women generally don’t do it either. This about it; housewives generally aren’t highly educated professionals. They’re usually “average” people. Sure, this is the 21st century, but if professional women generally won’t do it, then THERE’S NO WAY that professional men will. I know that I wouldn’t. I think that we’ve gotten to a point where guys don’t expect their wives to be stay-at-home moms anymore, but they sure as heck aren’t going to be stay-at-home dads.

    The only guy on that level who I could imagine becoming a stay-at-home dad/husband is the guy who tried the corporate life, hated it and retreated into “working from home” while his wife provides the safety net for his start-up. I’d bet that that guy probably has his occasional battles with emasculation when his wife’s parents and the neighbors make those “non-judgmental” comments that you mentioned.

  5. I have an MBA from University of Chicago. I used to work as a consultant. I stayed home with my sons. It was great. Now, I would like to have some sort of employment now, but it is very difficult because people look at that long gap on the resume. I may get something entrepreneurial going, but it’s tough with limited contacts.

  6. i am a handsome man from Bangladesh, i complete my education (MBA) from a leading university in my country, now i am seeking a better job in home and abroad, but there is no job, if any girl/woman can provide me a job or her countries citizenship i will marry her and stay with her in her house……..for your kind information i am none smoker and i do not drinks…..if any girl/woman are interested about me please send me email (trustme7088@gmail.com)
    i am white handsome, and you must like me……….

  7. NICE, I’m sure liking the looks of the future, its been my dream to cook food, excersize, raise children, preform housework and maitenance, growing plants, interior decorating, and the cherry to top it all; a wife to love and support.

    To have a dog who stays at home with me and the kids during the hot summer day, while sweating away in the backyard weeding or gardening, than fixing up something for the kids to watch their faces gleam with smiles and happiness, while the dogs barking at something in the distance.

    IDK but the House Husband lifestyle sounds like one for me!!

    • Me too man! I’d go fishing, camping, teach my kids how to take a curious look at the world – how to ask the real questions. The woman can socialise them, as women know very well how to do. That would be great, no emasculation for me! I have degrees

  8. Maybe a solution is to find someone who has a high income potential but has a more flexible job – artists, authors, etc….
    Maybe good to start going out with artsy folks instead of traditional MBA types 🙂

  9. This is terrible advice for women. After ten or so years of marriage, if they decide to split up the working mother gets nothing. She’ll be out of the house, paying him alimony and child support, and worse, she’ll loose her kids.

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  11. Hi Sir/Madam,

    I desperately want to be a House Husband. Please let me know if anyone is interested in marrying me to be her trophy husband. I am a B.Tech graduate and currently working as a Software Developer in Hyderabad, India. But, do not want to do anymore. Provided the fact that i am well educated, i will take care of children with affection mixed with smart responsibility. I was born in Nov’1981. Please find me such match who can and willing to take me as a house husband.

    Regards,
    Rajni

  12. It’s nearly two years since your post but I just came across it and thought I’d share my experience. I was a professional production designer and art director at a very demanding company until, at 41 years old, I had my son and decided to stay home with him and demoted myself to an assistant position, working part time. Smartest thing I ever did. Being my son’s primary caregiver and buddy put everything in perspective and enriched my life like nothing else I’d experienced. At work I’d overhear others having those very important work discussions and they seemed superficial and insignificant.
    Being with my baby, toddler and then boy son was more rewarding for both of us than any other work I would have done instead. He’s in college now and I don’t regret a minute of work that I missed. My time with him growing up was the best time of my life.

  13. These women were always ambitious, but by choice, necessity or because of their husband s expectations and needs they spent more time in a traditional mother and wife role when their go-getting peers were putting in long hours at the office or volunteering for special assignments.

    • Hello,I am a terrific wonderful guy with great qualities. I have been training my entire life to one day be a househusband and hoping to find my special someone. write back to me and maybe we can get to know each other.

  14. Can I just say that the recession and unexpected arrival of twins left my very masculine husband no choice but to stay home for many years. I think that was true for lots of folks. It was great for my kids. It was hard on my husband, but he loves the bond he has with his kids. His family teased him. It’s awful the crap he would take and what people would say. Word of caution, a man at home is NOT like a woman. I still did more than my share. Still had to cook etc. Tables have turned, and I am home. Let’s just say it’s an adjustment. I’m expected to do everything because that’s what women used to do. I’m putting my foot down, but it’s such a double standard. Having children is hard on a marriage no matter how you slice it. Simple economic principles apply. It is a tax on resources aka sleep, money, time. Find the best partner you can and find what works for you. From observations, close family members work best to fill that gap not a husband. Maybe retired mother or aunt would be best. All successful women I know with good marriages and children have a village for support. We didn’t have that luxury and have paid for it in spades. My advice, find a village not a stay at home dad. Also, alimony and child support are real. Take note since we have such a high divorce rate. Position yourself accordingly.

  15. I am ready to be house husband and I am searching for career oriented and professional woman who is ready to accept house husband and interested in FLR(Female Led Relationship). Anyone interested please please contact me at kapilmeister@gmail.com

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