New York Times Op-Ed Says Families Where Wife Stays Home Aren't 'Egalitarian'

An article published this past weekend in the Opinion section of The New York Times poses the question, “Do millennial men want stay-at-home wives?” Apparently, data is showing that, increasingly, they do. But judging by her horrified and rather sanctimonious tone, it’s clear that the author, Stephanie Coontz, thinks they really shouldn’t.

The article cites two studies which both found that young men today are more likely to favor a family structure in which the man works and the woman stays home to take care of the children than they were twenty years ago.

Coontz refers to families where both parents work as “egalitarian.” And she asks, “Are we facing a stall or even a turnaround in the movement toward gender equality?” The fact that I really need my computer to write this reaction (and that it’s got a really pretty pink cover that makes it delightful to look at) is really the only thing that kept me from throwing it across the room after reading this article. Because, honestly, what a big, fat load of you know what!

Where to begin? Okay. The idea that a family in which the husband works hard all day at an office and the wife works hard all day in the home isn’t “egalitarian” really irks me. Equal doesn’t mean identical. A pound of bricks is equal to a pound of feathers, but they’re still two very different things.

Look at it this way: there are certain things that, objectively, must be done in order to run a successful family. Money must be made, children must be cared for, food must be acquired, housework must be done, etc. But there are an infinite number of ways to divide these tasks such that the amount of work each partner is doing is equal, without it being the same. The work that I do in my home every day is equal to the work that my husband does at his office. His work makes mine possible, and my work makes his possible, in that it allows him to focus on his career in a way he couldn’t if he was also responsible for the household.

Coontz wants us to believe that this data reveals that men are sexist. That they don’t believe that women should be allowed to have careers. Which is why she’s weeping and wailing about gender equality. But where, in any of these studies, does it say that?

Is being a stay-at-home mom not a respectable and valuable career path? Should women who want to stay home and who believe in the power and benefit of one parent in the home not be allowed to do it? Where’s the equality in that? The studies only say that men are increasingly likely to favor a more traditional family model. And, interestingly, (though it’s buried a bit in the article since it doesn’t support the author’s outrage), these studies also found that women are showing an increased inclination toward this type of family structure as well, though at a lower rate.