August 6, 2014

Male CEO Opts Out

Via the New York Times, a story (really a personal blog post) from Max Schireson, the current CEO of MongoDB, who decided to step down from the position in order to spend more time with his family. In other words, he opted out.

DaddyTips—Thoughts on Dadding

The blog post is fairly straightforward and worth reading, but this is the line I decided to share:

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

I’ll take it a step further. People don’t ask women who are married to successful men “what do you do?” Men, at least this man (I’m referring to me), are always asked what they do. “Father” isn’t enough. SAHD WAHD is the real answer, but it requires explaining. I usually answer “writer”, “primary caregiver”, or both, depending on the situation.

At the risk of tooting my own horn (note: I don’t even own a horn), this is a topic I’ve been talking about for years. I wrote about it on ForbesWoman, AOL ParentDish, and anyplace else I had the opportunity. It’s a very important thing to point out. Every parent makes choices. The expectations, however, are drastically different for men and women. I’ll quote myself again: there is a magazine called ‘Working Mother’, but there will never be a magazine called ‘Working Father.’

In an ideal world, Schireson’s tale wouldn’t be a major story. He’s making a choice that working women (a really annoying term that we really should be past but we’re not) are expected to make every single day. Women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Men, on the other hand, tend to receive praise for opting out.

Obviously not everyone feels the same way. There were some seriously negative comments posted on the AOL article I wrote in 2009. A lot of people believe that men should go to work and women should stay home and focus on raising the kids. That is still the way things work in the majority of households in the United States, at least as far as I know.

To clarify, my points on this matter are the following:

Men do not have to be the primary bread-winner. They can be primary caregivers. I don’t know if that’s what Max Schireson’s role will be in his family; his children aren’t babies. Still, he made a choice, and it’s a valid one.

This should not be such a big deal. Think about the story for a moment. As you can see below, every media outlet from The Today Show on down covered what is essentially a personal decision made by a parent who happens to have a job. Why does this matter? Why, in the 21st century, are we still so stuck on traditional gender roles?

– None of what I say here should be construed as being disparaging to Mr. Schireson in any way. This should go without saying, but since the Interwebs is where nuance goes to die, I want to make it clear that I respect what this particular parent decided to do. I would also respect him if he stayed on as CEO because he saw it as a way to make a lot of money and secure his family’s future. In fact, I would feel the same way if a woman were to make either decision. These are personal matters. Not everything works for everybody else.

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to make this choice. This is important. Single parents generally need to work full-time (unless they have a lot of money socked away; if so, good for them). Again — nuance. Not all situations are the same.

Personally, I think it’s great that Mr. Schireson decided to pull back from what sounds like a hectic work schedule in order to be around for his kids. I think it’s great that he is in a financial position to do so. I wish him and his family nothing but the best.

And I really, truly wish that we didn’t have to talk about this topic any more. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in.

via Why I am leaving the best job I ever had | Max Schireson’s blog, h/t the New York Times

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