Today I went to visit some very good friends. It was a pretty long trip but it was so good to spend time with people who speak my language. We talked about many things. We even talked about the political situation and I got some different points of view about the outlook for the mid-terms. Apparently not everyone is as pessimistic as I am. But the opinions on what’s wrong with the country were still very close to my viewpoint.
One thing that was brought up was the awareness by women in their thirties and forties that they’ve been tricked. They’ve traded their most precious resource, their fertility, for ten or twenty years as corporate poster children. The paradox is the women in their twenties will deny to the death that this is what is happening. It’s only after the deal has been paid for that they understand what has happened.
But at the same time, it has to be acknowledged that our society has made the one salary middle class family a virtual impossibility. And both millennial men and women have absorbed this as an unavoidable reality. I countered that Hungary has begun the process of trying to provide a way out of this trap with tax incentives for couples that allows the wife and mother to stay at home with her kids in exchange for benefits that acknowledge the advantage to Hungarian society of providing new Hungarian citizens for the state. I got some agreement that this would be highly desirable but there was also a lot of skepticism about any chance of it happening here.
And that’s true. There’s no consensus among Americans that the stay-at-home mom is a necessity. In fact, among young women, it’s exactly the opposite. They’ve been proselytized to believe that only after they’ve achieved corporate success should they even think about getting married and starting a family. The problem is no one wants to marry a thirty-five-year-old middle manager who makes more money than you and wants her husband to facilitate her remaining at the office to further her career after she has the one child, she thinks she has time (maybe) to produce. So, we’re in a Catch-22 that neatly resists any fix.
So, I shrugged my shoulders and thought I should open a matrimonial agency and entice twenty something women to marry any men who are brave enough to try and raise families on one salary. I’ll pitch it to these young women as a quixotic adventure that dooms them to poverty but provides the most enriched personal space in the known universe, the nuclear family. And it’s true. There is nothing more dynamic than a man and a woman struggling to provide a home and an upbringing for their own children. What it requires is a man to spend his twenties saving up a stake to own a house and develop a career that he can use to sustain a family.
And it can be done. I’ve seen it done. Some military men have done exactly this. And there are other career paths that can accommodate this goal. And then he has to find a girl who’s interested. But the real question is how many men of this type are left? It may be a small number.
But this is what I was doing today. And it was a stimulating discussion. It’s good to get out and about when there are smart people to talk to. I only wish there were ten thousand people like those I was talking to today. If only those kinds of numbers existed. I could see things getting done. But when it’s handfuls it seems impossible to cause change. Well, it was a good day.