Fall in: men, housework, and the will to do dishes

Is there a husband in the house?

No one ever mistook Mr. Mom for Superman. No lavish praise for the stay-at-home dad. No kudos for bucking the stereotype. Dads who buy groceries in the middle of the day look less like superheroes than the unemployed. Those who leave work at five to start dinner feel like corporate welfare cheats.

As I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I couldn’t help concluding that the burden of housekeeping will continue to fall on women until cultural expectations change for their mates. For men who struggle with the issue of leadership at home as well as work, I offer a few observations based on the chapter titles in Sandberg’s book:

  • Fill the ambition gap. “Men are expected to be ambitious,” Sandberg writes. “Women are expected to be nice.” Men can be both. Offer to split the chores. And when your spouse has to work late, don’t carp when she gets home. She’s heard enough complaining at the office.
  • Set the table, don’t just sit at it. Arrive home early and make dinner, maybe on alternate nights. On the days when your spouse cooks, offer to wash the dishes.
  • It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder. The kids were your idea as well as hers. Offer to split the chauffeur work. Watching the ballgame instead of reading to your kids will feel better now, but your children have long memories, and one day they’ll be taking care of you.
  • Speak your truth. If you feel a disproportionate amount of the work is falling on you, don’t slam a door you don’t really want to close. Talk about it with your spouse. She might give you a “now you know how it feels” look but eventually she’ll realize that she can’t function effectively at work without your support at home.
  • The myth of doing it all. Now you know what women have known for centuries: you can have it all but not all at once. There isn’t time to clean, cook, take care of the kids and work on your doctorate. You’ll fall asleep during one of those activities. “Instead of perfection,” Sandberg writes, “we should aim for sustainable and fulfilling. Success is making the best choices we can . . . and accepting them.”

So lean into your family and home. So lean into your family and home. Only then will you truly become the man of the house.

Entrepreneurs never say die

The headline reads “Small Business Owners Fear Being Unable to Retire.” But according to a survey done last year by the financial services industry, the opposite may be true.

Nearly two-thirds of small business owners fear outliving the money they need to retire, according to a poll from the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. Yet many of the 1,433 small business owners surveyed expect to live well into their retirement years, with one in three saying they plan to retire after age 70. Nearly one in seven plan to work part-time in retirement while 10 percent expect to work full-time.

“In many cases, small business owners keep working because they love what they are doing and don’t see the point of retiring,” said Patricia G. Greene, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College. “It’s hard for many of them to think what life would be like without (running) the business.”

Sarasota, Florida entrepreneur Martha Nikla agrees. The jewelry designer and owner of Beauty & the Beads has watched too many retirees fade with their careers.

“My mother and many of her friends, wealthy Sarasota retirees, regretted giving up their entrepreneurial businesses and longed to be ‘in the mix.’ According to them, working provided a reason to get up in the morning, a structure to the day, a sense of accomplishment, a way to remain current with technology and societal sensibilities, and was life extending. Playing bridge and eating rubber chicken lunches at the club proved to be a very hollow experience for many of these elderly ladies . . . so much energy and experience untapped. Their advice: never retire, never give up your business.”

Take this job and chart it

What’s the best job in the world? Software engineer, according to CareerCast.com, which ranked 200 jobs based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. (The firm used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies.) The worst job? Lumberjack.

Rounding out the top five were actuary, human resources manager, dental hygienist and financial planner. Rounding out the bottom five were reporter (newspaper), oil rig worker, enlisted military soldier and dairy farmer. I’ve worked as a reporter. CareerCast might be on to something. (For a snapshot see the graphic in the Wall Street Journal.)

Looking at my new profession (writing, marketing and social media strategy), online advertising manager came in at number eight, web developer at 15, public relations executive at 70 and advertising account executive at 98. Authors logged in at 113, just slightly above nuclear decontamination technician (115) on the hit parade. (Maybe the common element is “The Simpsons.”) Others in the allied professions did ever worse: publication editors (118), film and video editors (121), advertising salespersons (136), photographers (147), photojournalists (166) and broadcasters (191).

Ah, glamor.