PSA: “Doing It All” is a Sham

PSA: “Doing It All” is a Sham

I went to a conference on Thursday that was focused on women in leadership.  They had different backgrounds, both professionally and personally.  These women were passionate, driven, successful in their careers, and genuinely enjoyed their work.  Another major commonality among them: they were the household breadwinners.  Most either had a stay-at-home husband or were single/divorced.  There wasn’t much of a spectrum when it came to the household.

There is so much pressure to do everything, be everything, have everything.  These successful women talked about how much pressure society places on them to balance everything, and about how much internal pressure they place on themselves.  Each of them struggled deeply throughout their growing career to balance a growing family with growing responsibilities and moving up.  Each of them really ended up at “One partner earns the money, and the other partner manages the household.”

The biggest take-away: Most of their husbands put their own growing (or already successful) careers entirely on hold to take care of the kids and manage the home, letting these women soar.  Some relocated a half dozen times, while others managed crazy hours.  After their family tried to manage everything with two working parents, they found that it wasn’t feasible for living their best life.  Kids got sick at the most inconvenient times, house chores ran amok, groceries went unpurchased, dinner was left uncooked… if both partners worked, the only way to keep on top of everything was to hire out tasks.  Ruthless prioritization is always required, even with one partner staying home.

For people who try to do it all, what is the real cost?

When the speakers were trying to balance the work, the kids, the house, and the relationship, something had to give.  It was either divorce or an unfulfilling marriage, neglected children, a disaster of a house, hiring out of tasks and chores, or a career cap.  They were not able to live their best lives, and they and their partners were extremely unhappy.  Each of the speakers was adamant that prioritization was key to their success.

Benefits of a Stay-at-Home Parent

Financial Benefits

All the benefits of a partner not working come into play, because one partner now requires $0 to work.  Commute time, work clothes, and all the other job-related expenses are out the window!

Child care cost can be significantly reduced.  It can cost anywhere from $10-$20k per year for a child to attend daycare.  Depending on the second parent’s income, it may not make sense to continue working, at least during the early years.  This is especially true if there is more than one child.  It’s incredibly situational, and may change once the kids go back to school.

The stay-at-home parent can also take care of household chores like grocery shopping, cleaning, and repairs, saving even more money over whatever the cost would be to hire the responsibilities out.

Benefits for Children

There is always someone to care for them, pick them up from school or the bus stop, take them to after-school activities, feed them, volunteer with the PTA, and all the other fun stuff that comes along with childhood.  Having a parent there helps with a child’s development.  There are a ton of studies that show the benefits of having a parent at home.

Benefits of a Stay-at-Home Father

An extra benefit specifically of stay-at-home fathers (at least in our patriarchal society) is the effect on children as they see their father take care of tasks like cooking and cleaning that are typically considered “women’s work.”  Young girls are encouraged to dream bigger, and to be more ambitious when they think about their future careers.  Young boys are also encouraged to be more active in their own future households, because they see their father in this role.  They can learn how to be both a strong male figure and a dedicated loving parent.

So what does all this mean for my partner and I as we are starting our lives together?

When I look at my career goals, I aspire to raise in the ranks like these women.  I strive to be like them.  This led to an honest conversation with my partner, who is completely on board in support of my goals, and who is happy to take a back seat later for me to succeed.  He enjoys his job, but not in the same way I do.  He is happy either way.  Partnership for the win!

2 Replies to “PSA: “Doing It All” is a Sham”

  1. I’d be careful painting too broad of a brush when it comes to two working parents. There are plenty of situations that don’t require all or nothing, ours included (I took a step back to 80% time but we both definitely have full careers). That said, if you are both happy with a SAHP, it can be a great option.

    1. You are definitely correct! Nothing is ever black and white, and circumstances are constantly in flux. Anyone can always balance anything if necessary, and you can survive anything (at least for a time) if you put your mind to it. Thanks for adding some color. 🙂

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