To make Mom happy, Dad needs bacon bucks

In What a Mom Wants in the Wall Street Journal, Megan Basham argues that the recession is not helping women by laying off their husbands and make them primary breadwinners. She looks at a Good Morning Profile of the Hemmert family: Mom is working 14 hours a day while Dad is home with the kids. Eleanor Hemmert isn’t happy about the role change. Most women “prefer a husband who’s more interested in bringing home the bacon than in cooking it,” Basham writes.

Virtually every reputable poll taken on mothers and work reveals that a strong majority of moms prefer to work part time or fewer hours. Reflecting the results of many other polling organizations, the Pew Research Center’s most recent survey found that only 21% of mothers with children under the age of 18 say full-time employment is the ideal situation for them. The rest prefer either part-time work or not working at all. In contrast, fully 72% of fathers say a full-time job is the best option for them.

. . . In 2006, a University of Virginia study found that contrary to many feminists’ preoccupation with equal division of household tasks, dishwashing men do not happy women make. Along with a spouse who offers affection, attention and empathy, what really makes women happy is one who earns at least two-thirds of the family income.

I’m married to a man who earns far more than I do — and is an excellent bacon chef. And I am happy.

About Joanne


  1. I make 5/8ths what my wife makes, but spend about 2/8ths the time.

    I also do all the cooking.

    Works for us!

  2. I know a number of couples where the wife is the primary breadwinner & the husband is a SAHD who are very happy with that arrangement. I think the problem comes when couples are forced into it because of a layoff rather than actively choosing it.

  3. greifer says:

    Anecdotally, I see that in my age range, 30-40, the professional women I know who went to grad school or other professional school and continued on that career path have a disproportionate number of husbands with less ambition than themselves (compared to women with less ambitious career/schooling). I see too that generally, these same women are unhappy about it. The more ambitious the woman’s career in my circle, the more likely the man’s career is without ambition.

    The less ambitious folks are more likely to get laid off, and more likely to stay laid off in a recession. They aren’t going to appeal to employers, and they may not even be interested in appealing to them in the first place. The women unhappily married to less ambitious men then are more likely to end up the primary breadwinner.

    The real question is how they ended up married to less ambitious men in the first place.

    Was there a formative point in the man’s career that was missed because they were following the woman’s career, instead of their own?

    Did the men see that since these ladies behaved as if their career trumped all other aspects of life, that they should assume their career would continue to do so? Did they just assume that since the woman’s career was so important, they needn’t worry about their own?

    Did men who put their careers first find it incompatible to marry women who did the same, because of lack of overlap? Or did the women reject any man who might have been earning more than they did, or placed other demands on them to manage more of the child rearing or housekeeping?

    If women find themselves unhappy after creating such a sitation, it’s because they didn’t admit to themselves that their competing desires couldn’t all be met. Running from reality can only go on so long even in halcyon days.

  4. And Meghan gets paid for possessing these rare insights?