HOW DUAL-INCOME COUPLES COPE Men are confused about their roles in two-career marriages. Intellectually they accept their wives as breadwinners, but emotionally they wonder if Dad didn't have an easier time.
By Julie Connelly REPORTER ASSOCIATE Laurie Kretchmar

(FORTUNE Magazine) – ONE TENET of women's liberation was that the movement would liberate men too. Straitjacketed executives could share the burden of breadwinning with their wives, peel off those pin stripes, and work less hard -- perhaps even drop out of the work force altogether, if only temporarily. But after two decades of dual-careerism -- of the 45.1 million married couples drawing paychecks in the U.S. today, 29.4 million, or 65%, are dual-income pairs -- things have not exactly turned out that way. At least not in very many cases. A word of explanation: While books, magazines, and films have chronicled and critiqued the women who entered into and progressed (slowly) through the executive ranks, little attention has been given to the men they married. Are they househusbands of the Mr. Mom variety? Do they see themselves as competitors, vying with their wives for more recognition at home and bigger paychecks at work? Do they long for a simpler age -- their father's, to be exact -- when gender roles seemed blissfully well defined? Or are they happy participants in the revolution, enjoying their spouses' independence and income? More than 70 interviews with managerial men, some of their wives, academics, and social scientists do not provide absolute answers. What they do show is a great confusion over the man's role in an executive marriage. Men's identities as the family provider have become threatened by wives who are providers too. And when his wife works, a man loses her full-time services as nurturer and builder of his ego. Yet men, of course, want their wives to be happy and their marriages to be successful. Here is a report.

I WANT A GIRL, JUST LIKE THE GIRL . . . In an earlier era the roles of husband and wife seemed clear -- he sallied forth into the great world and earned while she stayed at home and yearned for cleaner cleans and whiter whites. At night he returned to a tidy house and an adoring spouse who put him at the center of her universe. At least that's how some men remember it. Listen to Robert B. Reich, 44, professor of political economy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School: ''My wife and I are partners in this enterprise of career and home, but this was not what I was led to expect from my formative years in the 1950s. I came from a fairly typical Ozzie and Harriet household where my father, who owned a clothing store in upstate New York, worked and came home late. Mother catered to him, comforted him, and brought him a drink. She kept the house, Dad put up the awnings, mowed the grass, took out the garbage, and did the income taxes. It was my unthinking assumption that I'd have the same. I expected Ozzie and Harriet, but on a rational basis I knew it was never going to be.'' Like most other professional and executive men of his generation, Reich is living in a way for which his father's example left him unprepared. His wife is Clare Dalton, 39, a law professor at Northeastern University, and his home life does not remotely resemble Dad's. ''When I come back from two days out of town,'' he says, ''subconsciously I expect hugs, slippers, children greeting me -- the homecoming of a conquering hero. But Clare's not in, and sometimes I go to bed alone. I have as many responsibilities for the house as Clare has, and a little voice says, 'But Dad didn't have to do any of this.' '' Chicago psychotherapist Buddy Portugal knows just how he feels: ''Underneath, what men want is to come home and have everyone greet the returning hero. But their wives are tired; they want to be told they are heroes too. There's increasing struggle for who is the hero, for who is making more of a financial contribution. What they add up to is a battle for recognition and nurturance.'' As a result, says psychoanalyst Charles Swearingen, who is also a management consultant with the Levinson Institute near Boston: ''A lot of men are confused about relating to women. They never saw this confusion in their fathers.'' But even Swearingen makes the seemingly contradictory point that men want to respect their wives as successful achievers in their own right. Indeed, society has come to value the high-profile working wife. Says Francine Hall, a professor at the University of New Hampshire's business school: ''One of the new badges of courage is to be the spouse of a working woman. It's a way to stand out and look wonderful.'' Roderick Hills, 59, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and now with the Donovan Leisure law firm in Washington, is married to Carla Hills, 56, the U.S. Trade Representative. Says he: ''There's nothing glamorous to me about having a wife who doesn't work. I mean, what would you say to each other?'' Successful women contribute more than conversation and prestige. Malcolm MacKay, 49, a managing director at the Russell Reynolds Associates executive search firm who is married to Dr. Cynthia MacKay, 47, an eye surgeon, finds: ''The benefit of a wife with a significant career is that it relieves the husband of being the sole breadwinner. We don't spend all our earnings, but if something went wrong with my career, there would still be Cynthia, whose career was safe. My father always knew he had to bring home the bacon every day, every week, every year.'' Adds a partner in a Wall Street law firm whose husband is a partner in another: ''At some level having a wife who is financially independent is insurance for my husband against failure. We would not have had our children unless I continued to work.'' Certainly men can have honestly mixed feelings about their working wives. MacKay registers his: ''I like the fact that my wife is a successful doctor, but I would have real trouble with stopping working and letting her support me. We have very traditional sex roles in our house; I pay all the bills. We save Cynthia's income, and I don't consider it as real as mine. I consider myself the primary provider. It's not a rational thing, but there it is.'' Says Dennis Perkins, 47, a director of Delta Consulting Group, whose wife, Bernadette, 46, is a psychotherapist: ''Men have an intellectual belief in the importance of family but also a set of values based on success and achievement as a definition of the masculine role. I think men are really caught in the middle. I think they are truly ambivalent.'' , But men are realists too, and they know there is no going back to traditional marriages. Why not? They don't have wives like their fathers had. Martha Clark Briley, 41, the CEO of Prudential Power Funding Associates, an investment arm of the big insurance company, met her husband, Joseph, 44, a vice president at Citibank, when both were students at Harvard business school. ''I anticipated having a career, and I assumed that Joe thought I would,'' she says. ''I don't think you meet a woman at business school and not expect her to have a career.'' Says James Schroeder, 54, a Washington lawyer who married his wife, Patricia, 50, the Denver Congresswoman, between their first and second years at Harvard law school: ''I expected I would support the family. But when you get married there's no road map. Everyone has the expectations of his parents, but all life is a learning experience. I knew I was marrying a lawyer who wanted to practice.''

I WORK, THEREFORE I AM Take the case of Gordon Mott, 37, the managing editor of Market Watch, a monthly trade magazine covering beer, wine, and spirits. He accompanied his wife to Paris in 1985 when she was transferred by her employer, Citibank. Though he was a successful freelance writer, the pickings in Paris for a writer in English were slim. ''I began to feel somewhat defensive,'' he says. ''Men are raised to find their fulfillment in work and I found freelancing fulfilling. But I was not a partner in the financial sense for the three years that we were in France. It bothered me sometimes. It was one of the reasons I wanted to return to the U.S.'' The man-as-breadwinner stereotype is hard to kill. Says an unmarried male 30-year-old real estate lawyer at a big New York City firm: ''It's easier for women. They're almost expected to drop out of the labor force for a few years to have kids. We have to bring home the dough.'' Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Are the Way They Are, makes the point that men see women as having choices about work that they don't have. Says he: ''A woman can work full time, part time, or not at all. The message a man gets is: I must perform.'' When Tony Leisner, 48, a vice president at Quality Books, a Chicago distributor to libraries, married his first wife, she had a job as the office manager for a finance company and a young daughter from an earlier marriage. Once wed, he recalls, ''she promptly quit, and I had to work three jobs to support the lifestyle that two jobs were supposed to maintain. She exercised her options at my expense.'' Now his son-in-law and daughter have bought a house that they could afford only with their two incomes. Says Leisner: ''He works with the fear of having taken on a commitment that requires two incomes and finding himself suddenly reduced to 50% of that if his wife should decide she wants to stay home.'' Children, of course, add a considerable complication. Says Asa Baber, who writes the Men column for Playboy magazine: ''Men are as stressed out as women over family issues. They want to be good fathers, and out of necessity they are changing their patterns of fatherhood.'' But they are trying to do so in a way that does not jeopardize their careers. Consider the issue of paternity leave. Even when companies offer this benefit at the birth or adoption of a child, few men take it officially. Says Mark Moreland, 29, a computer engineer at Corning who actually did take a four-week paternity leave: ''The only stigma is self-imposed. The worst a boss can do is say no -- at least you hope that's the worst.'' However, many husbands do arrange for an unofficial leave by combining vacation and sick days, or asking co-workers to cover for them. Joseph Pleck, Luce Professor of the Family at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, says, ''Almost every father takes paternity leave under these circumstances.'' John Katz, 36, a lawyer in Washington, reports that at his firm ''it's fairly common for men to take a week or week-and-a-half when their kids are born.'' Fully jumping the career track for the daddy track is still very unusual. Michael Zampa, 40, a public relations officer at the Bank of America, whose wife, Lynn, 34, is on maternity leave from her job as a newspaper reporter, expresses a prevalent male view when he says: ''I'd like to try being a househusband, but the odds are not very great that I will. The drawback would be the perception of friends and colleagues who would think, 'What kind of deadbeat is this? He's supposed to be supporting his family.' I admit frankly it's a stereotypical issue as well. I don't deny that I might have a hard time looking my dad in the eye and, when he asks, 'What did you do today?' saying, 'Stayed at home and looked after the baby.' It's just that traditionally guys haven't done that. And I'm not one to buck tradition.'' It could be dangerous. Dee Soder, president of Endymion, an executive advisory firm, reports that at high levels ''generally people who take sabbaticals or parental leaves are unofficially penalized. They'll be passed over for promotion, or they won't be considered for assignments. They won't be seen as career oriented.'' Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale, is the author of a five-year study of 17 families in which the men left the daily work force to become the primary rearers of the children. He has discovered that when his fathers return to their jobs after anywhere from two to eight years, ''there's a fair amount to pay. They often have slipped a rung or two on the ladder. They are often not taken very seriously about their long-term career plans.'' Jeffrey Lehman is an exception. Not only is he one of those rare fathers who cut back his work hours to help raise his children, but his career did not suffer for it. When his second child was born, Lehman was an associate at the Caplin & Drysdale law firm in Washington. Neither he nor his wife, Diane, also a lawyer, believed in hiring others to mind their children -- ''They are our children, and special,'' he says. The Lehmans' arrangement: He worked 60% of the time and cared for the children 40%, and she did the reverse. Lehman says that he did not feel his firm penalized him for this decision -- ''I got full bonuses and proportionate raises those years'' -- and his clients coped. Nevertheless, he left the firm in 1987 to become a law professor at the University of Michigan because ''I had always thought I would teach.'' Now 34, he works full time, and Diane, 31, does occasional consulting. Since his hours are more flexible than a full-time lawyer's would be, Lehman has plenty of time to be with his family.

WHO'S KEEPING SCORE? An executive at a FORTUNE 500 company whose wife has a big job of her own complains: ''People say my wife is so amazing. She does so much! How does she do it? Well, one of the reasons is that I do a lot.'' Russ Yarrow, 38, is in corporate communications at the Bank of America and his wife, Linda Sanderson, 33, has returned to her job as an investigator for California's Contra Costa County public defender's office after a five-month maternity leave. ''I think men do just as much as women,'' says Yarrow, who does all the cooking. ''Yet all the media attention is on working moms and supermoms. I think the emerging issue of the Nineties is the working dad.'' California psychologist Morton Shaevitz tells of a senior executive whose wife had returned to work and who thought he was intellectually prepared for | the fact that he would now not be able to eat off the floor. Then one Saturday afternoon after his wife had been up till 2 A.M. that morning writing memos, he found himself in the kitchen facing a sinkful of dirty dishes she had not washed. ''I felt so angry,'' he told Shaevitz, ''and so guilty about feeling angry.'' Competition for credit at home often leads to the most damaging question of all: Whose career is more important, anyway? Lisa Silberstein, a psychologist who teaches at Yale, discovered when she was researching her Ph.D. dissertation on dual-career couples that competition ''was just too hot a topic for couples to discuss frankly. It caused the most squirming among the 20 couples I interviewed. It's a taboo subject because women can't experience it without conflict and men don't want to compete with women, especially with their spouses.'' Competition can become pernicious when she earns more than he. Says New York City psychoanalyst Magda Denes: ''We still have some of our traditional thoughts -- a man should be taller, make more money, be better known. Everybody gets upset when traditions are not adhered to.'' One man whose wife earns four times his salary often asks his grade-school children, ''Do you know how much money Mommy earns every year? Every day?'' Then he tells them -- and his wife's mother-in-law for good measure. But when the subject of his wife's success arises, he dismisses it with: ''Oh, she's so lucky. She's just so lucky.'' One way to counter competition is to ignore it. Thomas Harvey, 48, a Washington lawyer who is married to USA Today publisher Cathleen Black, 46, says: ''I've had some big jobs in my area -- assistant to the director of the CIA, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration -- and so has Cathie in hers. We don't compete. I've never had Cathie's preeminence. But we also picked separate areas. If I went into publishing, then our world would tighten a bit.'' Investment banker Richard Blum, 55, who is married to Dianne Feinstein, 57, the Democratic contender in the California gubernatorial race, takes a sensible, sensitive approach: ''I've seen when men try to get in the way of a wife's ambition or ask her to be really subservient to their own needs and desires. If the woman is intelligent and cares about what she is trying to do, it will inevitably create resentment. You rarely see women discouraging men from doing what they want to do. Why should it be any different for men?'' As in most other aspects of marriage, humor helps. Blum must occasionally endure people who call him Mr. Feinstein. ''I tell them I prefer to go by my maiden name.'' Jim Schroeder, Tom Harvey, Bernard Norwood, 67 (an economic consultant who is married to Janet Norwood, 66, the Commissioner of Labor Statistics), and Charles Horner, 47 (head of the Madison Center think tank, whose wife, Constance Horner, 47, is under secretary of health and human services), are the nucleus of the Denis Thatcher Society. Named in honor of the British Prime Minister's almost invisible husband, the group lunches every now and then. Says Horner: ''Membership is a state of mind.'' The successful survivors of executive marriages point out that they work best when no one keeps score. Says Rod Hills, who has been married for 32 years: ''You invest where you can get the best return. For a long time I was the best investment, then Carla was. If you look at our lives, the only thing that kept the marriage together was that we each did our share. But at any given time, one did more.'' Adds Bernard Norwood of his 47 years of marriage: ''There was a recognition that each of us had to accommodate to the other. Sometimes we did so easily, sometimes not so. But I question whether that flexibility exists today. With a traditional male and an aggressive female, there's not much recognition that sometimes the situation comes out uneven in life.'' SO WHAT WILL the next generation want in marriage? Perhaps something different. ''This is a group scarred by divorce,'' says Joseph Pleck of Wheaton College. ''They are used to working parents and they know that a lot of these relationships didn't work. There's a return to more traditional values.'' But there are higher expectations too -- for men, for women, and for their lives together. Many of the fathers interviewed for this story figure that their daughters will have careers. Says Rod Hills of Laura, 29, who is an associate at the Washington law firm Patton Boggs & Blow: ''She starts life with two advantages over her mother. One is that she has enormous flexibility in what she does because the position of women is better. The other is that she's had role models, and as a result she and her husband, Steve, will do a much better job of dividing up their responsibilities.'' Hope MacKay, 20, will be a junior at Princeton this fall, and her father, Malcolm, says: ''She's on a track where she will have a serious career. But she's not thinking about being a breadwinner.'' Give her time.