I use the term “salary parent” to describe the primary breadwinner in a household that includes children. I got the idea from the Japanese stereotype of the “salary man,” a white-collar worker who spends his professional life (and almost every waking moment) in service to a large corporation or government office. Labels like “stay-at-home” and “working” imply that parents who do not hold wage-earning positions are not performing meaningful labor in raising children and managing households, and that’s nonsense.
There are challenges inherent to the Way of the Salary Mom. They make up a lot of what I wrote about as Dinosaur Mom. Like the fact that I’ve only personally met a handful of women who have “leaned in” and made it all the way to retirement still married to the fathers of their children. I’m not saying that leaning in and staying hitched are the end-all, be-all goals of life, but they are commonly accepted as external signs of Success for women in my demographic. I’m part of Gen-X, but for the purposes of this exercise we might as call ourselves the Enjoli generation. Fact: bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan, and never letting you forget you’re a man is a lot of work. Ditto working ’til five o’clock, coming home and reading your tickity-tock, and kissing you and giving you the shivers, babe. I’m pretty burned out by it, to be honest.
(I’ve got almost as little patience with the “having it all” trope as I have with that whole nonsense about women “wearing the pants.” Neither of those are the problem. The burn-out is not nature’s immutable response to the Monstrous Regiment of Women, it’s the same existential despair men were starting to confront in the late 19th century.)