When Anne-Marie Slaughter first gained attention in the wider world three years ago, not for her work at the State Department, but rather, for being pretty blunt about the fact that women still can't have it all, her husband was there somewhere, too.
"My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of [their teen] and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends," she wrote.
And now that husband, Andrew Moravcsik, has written a piece in the Atlantic about why he put his wife's career first, and what it means to be a man who is the primary parent.
Moravcsik has been able to do it because he's in the position to, he readily admits. If he were an investment banker or shift worker or, well, worked at the State Department, that might not be the case. But he's a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton. That sort of academic career lends itself to flexibility, but he wishes more parents, men in particular, could have the flexibility or opportunity he did to be the main caretaker.
The only way to get more dads to be able to be what he's calling the primary parent, he says, is to change as a society. It should not be weird for the dad to be the one to take kids to doctor's appointments, schedule activities, run to school when the nurse calls, do school pick up, make dinners and more.
"We should be doing things in society to put more people institutionally, culturally and socially in the position to do what I did," he said in a recent interview. "And if we do that, then we certainly would be doing more for women to finish the unfinished business of the women's movement. We'd be doing right by our kids with more options for a more caring family. And I think it would be good for men."
As he said in the Atlantic piece: "We know that a top regret of most men is that they did not lead the caring and connected life they wanted, but rather the career-oriented life that was expected of them. I will not have that regret."
So how do we fix this? Moravcsik has a few ideas.
Paternity leave: Dads also need time to bond with their children so they can have a "close and caring relationship with their kids," he says. "They learn to do that. They need to be taught to do that by experience. And paternity leave is where that starts."
Flexible working conditions: "I think it's most important to have this ability to step in and out of the fast track during a career," he said. There's no question, he added, that his academic productivity isn't rising like it was 15 years ago, but now he's ramping it up again "as the kids are leaving the house. That's not so easy in other professions."
Values: It starts with our language. We say things like "working mothers" but not "working dads," he says. "We say stay-at-home rather than lead parent" or primary parent. "This language is pejorative and it needs to be pitched," he says.
Stereotypes: Thankfully, some stereotypes seem to be changing, but wow, they have a long way to go. "If you're 30 and a guy and you're involved in childcare, it's very different than when you're 50 and you take time off to deal with a teenage crisis. That's still a little odd," he notes. "We don't have a social category for that." Think about that for a second. Isn't it important to be able to be there for your teens when life really can get hard? "People have this strange view that child-rearing is front-loaded," as if the baby years are the only time you need to take off from work and be home more, he says. "It's the other way around in our experience." And don't forget about money and the whole top earner stereotype: "I'm cool with my wife making more money. But a lot of guys, and interestingly, a lot of women, are not so cool with that."
Empower men: Finally, Moravcsik says that both he and Slaughter have heard from men who say finding a true balance and allowing women to have it all is not just about empowering women. They kept hearing: "You have to understand how constrained guys are. How much we grow up with these cultural constraints," he says. "There's a whole cult of a certain kind of masculinity in society that is pretty pervasive."
Take, for instance, this anecdote in his piece in the Atlantic: "When Anne-Marie was interviewed by Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival about how work and family are balanced in our household, a woman in the audience asked me - without apparent irony-to stand up so she could make sure 'he really still is an alpha male.' "
Moravcsik's advice to others seeking a better balance or split so both can have careers, but one can be more available for children? Try as much as possible to see what's coming and work it out with your spouse in advance. He recalls talking to one of his role models, another academic who followed his wife to various (big) jobs. "I said 'How do you manage this stuff? Is there some sort of quid pro quo?'" The answer: "You need to think it through so you don't feel ripped off in 19 years."