I recently read an article in The New York Times entitled Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives? Spoiler alert, the answer is yes.
Well, 58 percent do. Actually, that 58 percent actually refers to all high school seniors—not just the boys. In other words, more than half of all high school seniors, young men and women, dream of a future in which the wife’s primary occupation is caring for her home and children. That is a 16 percent increase over the number of young people who desired the same scenario in 1994.
What if Mary, her class Valedictorian, goes off to her high-dollar, liberal arts college and spends four years studying literature, history, philosophy, and economics, only to get married and stay home wiping bottoms and reading bedtime stories?
What if Catherine, my artist with a dry wit and a love for music, spends her days in an ivy-covered cottage, only ever singing to her children and sharing her humor over cups coffee with her mom friends at her weekly playgroup?
What if my daughters, my smart, clever, kind, witty, daughters, devote their entire lives to raising children—smart, clever, kind, witty children?
Nothing would make me more proud.
This isn’t to say that I won’t be equally proud if my daughters choose to be doctors or teachers or rocket scientists or hair dressers. But no matter how clever and brilliant they may be, if they are anything like their mother, their greatest desire in life will be to make a full-time career out of building a home and family.
If they are like me, they will love college. They will soak up the works of Shakespeare. They will be enthralled by discussions on Chaucer, Hemingway, and Austen. If they are like me, they will take extra history classes just for fun or work a drama class into their schedule, just out of curiosity.
When they are older, if they are like me, they will continually draw on their love of literature, their lessons from history and philosophy, and most definitely their skills at debate and reasoning to raise their own children.
What if for my smart, clever, kind, witty daughters, being a homemaker is enough? What if they do not aspire to have more letters behind their names or more promotions under their belts?
What if they do not see their worth as women or their contributions to society in terms of their choice of career or their financial autonomy?
What if their greatest measure of success is a chubby fist holding out a bouquet of dandelions, a big brother who teaches his baby sister the alphabet song, or a teenager who lingers at the dinner table, just to talk?
What if my daughters are more interested in baking for a shut-in neighbor or organizing a church yard sale than they are in building an impressive resume or heading a corporation?
And what if after years of wiping noses and making dinners, driving carpools and bandaging scraped knees, my daughters do not look back on their lives and see a wasted education or a lost identity?
What if they don’t wish they had done more, been more? What if they don’t say “I lost sight of who I am,” but instead they say, “This IS who I am.”?
If my smart, clever, kind, witty daughters choose being a homemaker over a career, if they see homemaking and child rearing as a calling, are they less than the husbands whose salaries make their staying home possible? Or are they part of an equal partnership wherein each has respect for the other’s unique contributions to the family?
Will this mutual respect, the respect between husband and wife, be enough if the world around them dismisses their life’s work as too old-fashioned, as a step backward? How will society as a whole view them if don’t bring home a paycheck?
If a generation that values the role of women in the home is thought to be less egalitarian than the generation before it, then perhaps that says more about how our society truly views women and what we feel constitutes true equality than it does about Millennials themselves.
I don’t know yet what career path my daughters will choose. Perhaps they will pursue careers outside of the home. Maybe they will choose homemaking as a full-time career. Or maybe they will find a way to do both. All I do know is that it will be their choice, and their choice ought to be respected and even celebrated. If it isn’t, then we really have made very little progress toward equality.