One question in the Shriver Report, when husbands weighed in, was who wears the pants? Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s husband is now a full-time Dad. He talked about the shifting landscape of their marriage and changes in his sense of himself. Unlike fathers in the past, who ‘took a back seat,’ he sometimes tells his wife to ‘stay out of my lane.’ His sentiments were echoed by other dads – whereas they and the kids are a team when mom is at work, she still expects to be in charge when she’s home.
Questions the group of men answered often revolved around roles: Are both women and men having identity crises? Who is really in charge?
All of the men agreed that, in this crazy economy, redefinig roles has become the norm. Their emotional responses to expectations depend on how they grew up – in a traditional home where mom stayed home and dad worked or by a single working mom. It seems as if several of the men want to be the kind of dad they didn’t have.
There was also concensus about the struggles that go along with these evolving dynamics. At times some aren’t sure what their wives want or what the family needs from them. These new arrangements require a lot more emotional presence and awareness. Some still look to their wives for permission on a variety of issues, but less so as they’re more in charge.
It looks like the male ego may be shrinking. In general, the men wanted to support their wives, be more hands-on with the children, understand eldercare problems. They’re receptive to negotiating the family rules over the kitchen table. One dad summed it up – ‘My daughters will enjoy a better reality, although we’re not quite there yet.’ In fact, many of the men seem to be learning that, once an identity shift is made, this new lifestyle can be very gratifying.