A strange thing started to happen when Bill Higgins, a one-time real estate entrepreneur, left business world three years ago to stay at home with his young son. Whenever Higgins accompanied his wife, Barbara Corcoran,founder of Corcoran Group, a real estate firm in New York, to business-related social events, he found that the high-powered corporate men completely lost interest in him the moment they discovered he wasn't active in business.
Higgins and Corcoran, who married in 1998, are among the increasing number of couples in which the woman is the main breadwinner. In the US today, nearly 30% of working wives earn more than their husbands, says a study by Harvard University economist Richard Freeman.
And that's where the trouble starts. Corcoran says, despite her heavy work schedule, she still remains chief housekeeper and meal planner. She goes on to complain that while house husbands may have the time they don't necessarily have the interest level to do these things well. To Corcoran, it seems as though she is running along at an exhausting speed of 100 miles an hour while her husband's strolling along at leisurely 10 miles per hour. .
House husband Higgins is entitled to air his complaints as well. He says his transition from successful businessman to stay-at-home dad has been anything but easy. 'It's only natural that I struggled with my self-esteem as my wife climbed higher and higher up the corporate ladder,' says Higgins. 'I spent hours just trying to come up with ways of getting out of the house.
A stint in the army was reason number one, Higgins, who was in the reserves during conflict, became bored with business and began casting about for something new to do with his life. The second was the birth in 1994 of his son. Thomas - Higgins' fifth child, and his first with Corcoran. He says that he felt he had missed watching his other four children grow up and that now he has being given another chance.
Consequently, Higgins now structure each day with regularly scheduled time with his son as well as time to manage some venture-capital projects. Another hurdle Higgins had to overcome was isolation. That's the main reason he founded the web site. He realised that other men were in similar situations but didn't have a way to network. The site already has a well-visited message board where members can chat with each other and a guest book where visitors can post their thoughts and ideas.
For Corcoran's part, she says that she married the best kind of man because Higgins is comfortable enough with himself not to be threatened by her career. And thanks to Higgins, other men who have made similar choices have a place where they can talk about their experience.
In this relatively modern scenario, issues in evitably arise for both the husband and the wife. Corcoran says that while it's the ultimate luxury to have a husband who is totally available to her and their six-year-old son, there are times when it can be difficult. For example she says that even though Higgins is home, it is she who must take charge of the day-to-day-running of the house.
To alleviate the situation, Corcoran says she has learned to delegate responsibilities at home and reduce her expectations of how well chores and such are carried out. 'I have finally come to the conclusion that at the end of the working day, I have to leave my aggressive work personality behind me at the office,' she says.
Most stay-at-home dads don't feel so lucky. The biggest challenge facing them is fighting inertia. Because they don't really have to do anything at an any specific time, aside from taking the kids to school and picking them up again, it can be quite easy to keep putting things off. Some say that they often find that half the day has disappeared before they have managed to work up enough motivation to do the dishes or put the washing machine on.
The fact that he voluntarily opted for his new lifestyle, Higgins admits, didn't make the change any easier to live with. For Higgins, who had been both an FBI agent and US Navy captain before he entered the world of real estate, the decision was based on two things.
Higgins' cyber advice to them: have a schedule, and make sure you continue to maintain a commitment outside the home, be it to a charity or to a business. With Thomas at school full-time, Higgins plans an ambitious undertaking: he has decided to teach in a New York public school for two years.
Being the person he is, rather than take offence at these not uncommon brush-offs, Higgins turned to levity. He began handing out business cards with his title boldly engraved on them. His stated occupation? Spouse and Dad! What started out as a joke last spring spawned www. spouseclub.com, a networking site for men who are wed to high-powered female executives.
Looking back, Higgins says he hadn't prepared himself for the changes which would result from his career change, for the emotional upheaval that came with leaving the business world. He confesses that he hadn't devised a definitive plan and that he had only had a general idea of how he would spend his days.