The emergence of the multi-option woman and the nooption man
Today, when the successful single woman meets the successful single man, they appear to be equals. But should they marry and consider children, she almost invariably’ considers three options:
Option 01: Work full time Option 02: Mother full time
Option 03: Some combination of working and mothering He considers three slightly different options:
Option 01: Work full time Option 02: Work full time Option 03: Work full time
Mothers are still forty-three times more likely than fathers to leave the workplace for six months or longer for family reasons.8 In most cases, this leaves him not just working full time but working overtime or working two Jobs.
Ironically, then, it is his success that makes her more than equal to him – that gives her three options while he has none. Of course, a woman’s choice to mother may hurt her career, but she can choose maternal opportunity or career continuity. In contrast, men who choose paternal opportunity – to be pioneer househusbands – soon learned that many reporters wanted them for an interview but few women wanted them for a marriage.
Women did even more than speak up for new options. They articulated the problems the new options created So we heard about her ‘juggling act " Fathers did not articulate their pressure to intensify their commitment to the workplace when children arrived. We didn’t hear about his "intensifying act.’’ Nor did men discuss how hurt they felt being left out of their families.
The first time I asked a group of men whether they would choose to parent full time for six months to a year if they could (as mentioned above) and more than 80 percent said that being full time with their newborn child would be their preference if they were not hurting the family economically and their wife approved, 1 assumed I was either dealing with a group of liars or a self-selected sample. When I received only a slightly smaller percentage from an association of construction subcontractors,91 began to understand the degree to which men had not even thought about their options.
We often say, “In today’s economy, women need to work outside the home – it’s not an option." We forget that women who work outside the home are usually exercising the option of paying for the technology that reduced women’s burden inside the home.
Most multi-option women had one thing in common: a successful husband. But divorces eliminated many women’s successful husbands – leaving us with six basic classes of women. . .
The tlx classes of women
1. The Stage I married woman. She never gave herself permission to work, or she felt "My husband won’t let me." Psychologically, she was a no-option woman.
2. The three-options woman with a poor marriage. She remained married, but unhappily, often to avoid having to work
3. The single mother married to the government. The government played substitute husband, providing her with three options but only if she remained at a subsistence level.
4. The Stage / single working woman. This woman worked to prevent herself or her family from staning. If she had children from a previous marriage, she usually did not receive child support.
5. The Stage // single working woman She was neither supported by a man nor supporting a man. If she had children from a previous marriage, she was likely to be in Stage II only if she received child support.
6. The haieit-all woman. This woman was married to a man who provided an economic safety net (a financial womb) from which she could choose among her three options. The have-it-all woman was happily married. This created a class of people who had never before existed. In a sense, the have-it-all woman was the "new royalty." Virtually no man was in the equivalent position.
The political genius of the feminist movement was its intuitive sense that it could appeal to all six classes only by emphasizing expansion of rights and avoiding expansion of responsibilities. Had the National Organization for Women (NOW) fought to register 18-year-old girls for the draft, it might have lost a few members Had feminism emphasized women’s responsibilities for risking sexual rejection, or paying for men’s dinners, or choosing careers they like less to support the family more, or marrying down, its impact would hate been more egalitarian but less politically successful.