Friday, April 15, 2011
Women were not the only ones opting out.
Nearly one year before The New York Times, in its article “The Opt-Out Revolution,” showcased highly educated, upwardly mobile women opting out of paid work for the lure of staying at home, Fortune magazine had already reported that some men, which it coined “trophy husbands,” had been doing the same. “Trophy husbands” were presented as leaving paid work by choice, like their later opt-out counterparts.
Opt-out moms and trophy husbands – as described in these two germinal stories – have much in common. While, on the surface, the actions of these mothers and fathers may have been voluntary or even altruistic, at their core, their actions reinforce Joan Williams’ assertions that deep problems pervade the legal regime surrounding families and employment.
This essay builds on Williams’ work by using “Trophy Husbands,” to examine how fathers fit into the opt-out conversation. Whether “Trophy Husband” or “Opt-Opt” mom, the formerly paid worker at issue may actually have been pushed out of paid employment. Thus, both stories demonstrate that by focusing on the “choice” to stay home, we may neglect the important work of addressing work-life balance law reform.