Wingspouse

I discovered an interesting website this morning, and it got my mind whirring. The website and its concept is Wingspouse:

“A wingspouse is similar to a wingman which is sometimes described as a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment.

“A wingspouse partners with her husband and has his back as he advances in his career. It is a non-traditional career with many rewards. A wingspouse reaps the benefits of acting with her husband as one united force… working together to balance career and family, and celebrating every victory together. Who said you can’t have it all!”

I am sure you can imagine how I felt about this – it made my skin crawl in its 1950s overtones. But I clicked through everything up there and had a good read – I wanted to give the author a fair chance to convince me that abandoning my own career to help my partner achieve all his life goals was more than a dated old fashioned concept of the role of women.

I was utterly intrigued when I clicked through onto the blog to read this:

“However, when we tried to define whether our role was more traditional or feminist, we stumbled. We both felt professionally empowered and incredibly successful, but we realized that giving up our own careers for the stay-at-home life normally falls under the traditional wife. If we had not married executives, we clearly would have been climbing the corporate ladder somewhere, but somehow we had both come to the realization that serving as our husband’s partners was the way to have it all. Perhaps our non-traditional feminist approach to being a traditional SAHM was yet another example of our chameleon quality.”

One minute I find myself thinking *You are living the life of a 1950s housewife!*, then I reply *but my sister is a very satisfied stay at home mum, who has walked away from her successful teaching career in making the choice to spend more time with her children*. And then I scoff; *What a waste of their apparently strong business brains* and *what did all those feminists fight for over the last 100 years so you can just stay home and ‘serve’ like before, but this time it’s your choice to*. And then I capitulate… because that I think is what it boils down to. Choice.

These women are happy. Their choices aren’t mine. The lifestyle choice actually makes my skin crawl. But I believe that feminism is about empowering and equipping women to have choice. And this is their choice.

No I don’t like it, but I should be defending their right to choose it. It’s hard though. Makes me feel nauseous.

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13 responses to “Wingspouse

  1. I read through some of her blog articles. Here’s a quote from ‘A Wingspouse Knows Her Place’ :

    “A good starting point may be simply sharing magazine articles, news clippings, or internet sites that may interest her spouse. Each offering should be carefully evaluated by the wingspouse to determine if she was truly helpful or missing the mark.”

    It is eerily like the 1950s housewife clipping coupons or presenting her husband with “offerings” and it’s reminding me a lot of some very old folgers commercials I saw a while back.

    On the other hand at various points in our relationship, my husband has taken a supportive and active role in my career. But that may be different, as I work from home and my work is in the graphic arts. He may not be an artist, but there are a lot of things he can help me handle more directly than clipping articles from home and garden.

    Still, in purpose it’s the same. He’s more interested in supporting my interesting and independent career than keeping up a job at an office in his field and I can hardly blame him.

    Two are better than one, right?

    On the other hand the rise and fall of women’s rights are tied directly to the historical changes of economic pressure on families. Depression era families and war era families had more working mothers because of need, both economic and patriotic. Slow economic times can also send women home. With high competition for jobs, British women are choosing or being pushed to stay home, and their male counterparts have first pick at the jobs.

    Last thought: The wingspouses she describes are just a few posh silver-spoon babies at the top of the pile. Different things are at work down here in the real world.

  2. Pingback: Girl vs. Robot » Archive » #052 “Permission Slip”

  3. Jennifer Ozuna

    You are right: Choice is what is important.
    “One minute I find myself thinking *You are living the life of a 1950s housewife!*, then I reply *but my sister is a very satisfied stay at home mum, who has walked away from her successful teaching career in making the choice to spend more time with her children*. And then I scoff; *What a waste of their apparently strong business brains* and *what did all those feminists fight for over the last 100 years so you can just stay home and ‘serve’ like before, but this time it’s your choice to*. And then I capitulate… because that I think is what it boils down to. Choice.”

    However I do want to point out that Kathi at Wingspouse is speaking to women who would be capable on their own and are not in any way completely dependent on their husbands.

    My husband is a doctor in training…and I stay at home. Could I do just fine without him? Yes! I have a degree in mathematics and am a certified teacher. I’m a smart woman with many choices. I am perfectly happy taking care of my family. I don’t consider it as “serving” my husband and kids in the way that you speak. I consider it loving my family and taking care of them the best way I can. Traditional? Yes. Feminist? Maybe not in your world…but in mine, I find it quite feminist. I CHOOSE to be at home and care for my family and work from home instead of outside the home. Do I have to work? Now, a little–he’s in medical training. Will I work later? Most definitely. I will volunteer my time and help kids learn math without expectation for a paycheck, simply because I enjoy it and can do it as my husband will do well in his own career.

    To Elissa, your first commenter,
    “Last thought: The wingspouses she describes are just a few posh silver-spoon babies at the top of the pile. Different things are at work down here in the real world.”
    Those words made me sad. Sad for your opinion of others. Sad that you are apparently one of those people who catagorize women and insist that if she stays home and supports her husband and family, she is not doing enough. She is not feminist enough. How sad for you. You are the person who makes those women who have children and struggle all the time with their commitments at work feel less than competent. Shame on you.

    First, I am far from a “silver-spoon [baby] at the top of the pile.” My parents are teachers. My husband’s father was a teacher, his mom a stay at home wife and secretary. We worked hard (I say we for a reason) to get where we are today. When you have 2 children and your husband puts in 80-100 hours of work every week, and is often gone overnight or for weeks for additional training, it is perfectly acceptable to be home and taking care of your family. Are we putting his career first? Yes, but his career is our career. He sacrifices more than I ever could to take care of us. Being there to help him and be his “wingspouse” is my duty as far as I am concerned. I am proud to do it.

    You are right, Elissa, things do work differently in the real world. Try applying that to your concept of the real world. You may not make our same choices, but celebrate the fact that we can all make our own choices. There is nothing 50’s about me except that I take care of my home and family…if that’s 50’s…then I’m proud to be that way.

  4. Jennifer, I’m sorry that you misunderstood me. I don’t have any contempt for stay at home mothers, (I’d have to have contempt for my husband if that were the case, and I most certainly don’t.) By “different things are at work” I was talking about the difference between lower class and upper class women in terms of choice. Women from upper middle class and upper class homes have much more of a choice about staying home than women from lower class and lower middle class homes. The less money the family has, the more pressure there is on the woman to go out and work, and more pressure means less choice.

    The wingspouse idea is a nice one, but staying at home (or going to work) isn’t really a choice for many women the world over, and that’s the shame of it.

  5. An additional thought. My original post was in agreement with the author (combination of being disturbed by the wingspouse page and it’s choice of language and agreement on the fact that women’s empowerment is about choice.) and some of my personal thoughts on both sides.

    This occurred to me after I’d hit “submit” on my last comment as a clear and concise way to communicate what I was trying to:

    When social pressure and economic pressure on women are at cross purposes (A good woman stays home, there isn’t food on the table unless you work) women are unhappy. Upper class and upper middle class women dodge that double-pressure by only experiencing the social pressure.

    Wingspouse as a concept bothers me not because I have contempt for a parent staying at home, but because it is a social pressure to stay home during a period of economic trouble. She’s the wife of a C-level executive and has the luxury. Your husband will be a doctor, and you will have the luxury to make that choice. Not all women do.

  6. Elissa,
    Thank you for clarifying. My problem with your comment was not with most of what you wrote, but that you make the assumption that all women who fall into this “wingspouse” group somehow are “a few posh silver-spoon babies at the top of the pile.” It’s okay to stay at home, but somehow if a woman has the luxury to make the choice of staying at home because of her husband’s career, it is no longer acceptable, or it is only because of social pressure? They are just “silver spoon babies?” To me that sounds like a huge generalization that would only describe a few. Obviously women in these types of relationships do have more choices. I agree with this and also agree with you that it is a shame that not all women do.

    I would also venture to say that most upper class/upper middle class women that stay at home are probably not motivated as much by social pressure as they are by the lack of time that their spouses are able to be at home and for their preference to be at home with their children and keep the familial unit as intact as possible. As far as economic pressure goes, I believe that class (upper, lower, middle) is not without its economic pressure. I’m sure quite a few stockholders out there know plenty about economic pressure. Are they out on the street? No (at least not many of them).

  7. I am delighted to read such stimulating discussion about today’s roles as women. It’s all about having the right to make a choice based on individual situations, without being made to sit through a job evaluation in order to earn the right to say you have performed respectably.

    I would be so miserable (or maybe divorced) if I were married to a man who denied me the right to work, but it’s quite the opposite. If I wanted to pursue a career outside of the home, there is no doubt that my husband would sacrifice his career for me and we would both excel acceptably within the guidelines of still maintaining a healthy family. In fact, now that we are older, my husband has begun to cut back his hours for me and has become my extended source for connections. It’s a wonderful feeling to have a spouse who appreciates my contribution and who wants to return the favor.

    I must agree that this wingspouse concept is best suited for the woman who is either married to an upper level executive, or a woman who intends to put her husband there. A woman who enjoys a better-than-average income, embraces the prominence that sometimes comes from being married to an executive, and recognizes that her availability can make or break her spouse IS the best candidate for choosing to be a wingspouse. But what if women in other situations chose to go the extra mile for their spouses without the fear of being labeled subservient? How many of those women would have healthier marriages, happier lives, and more support for their own careers?

    Just to be clear, I do know some wingspouses who have successfully formed their own careers around their wingspouse role. In these cases, they are quite successful and powerful corporate women, who’s positions directly benefits their spouses. I applaud these women and hope to do something similar in the future.

    • Thanks for coming over and joining in Kathi, I hoped you would.

      I too have enjoyed the comments on this one. Always good to see different opinions argued so well.

  8. justanotherstayathomemom

    Hi!

    I don’t really understand your whole stance on SAHM making you naseous. Do you think, because we stay home, we have no minds, opinions, or dreams of our own? That we only strive to keep a clean house, clean undies for our husbands, and a fresh drink in our hands when he walks thru the door? Of course not…I am lucky enough to stay home, and I am so glad I do in the news worthy times. Kathi recommends clipping articles? Well, I don’t clip articles, but I do tell my husband what is going on in the world because he doesn’t have time to watch the news and I do (he is too busy taking care of sick people).

    As for Elissa? Yep, your right, we are a bunch of posh silver spooners who have no way of knowing what it’s like to live in the real world…yep, we make an incredible amount of money, just over 50 grand a year, and my two kids were designer socks (hanes), and my husband and I go out to eat at least 3 or 4 times (a year) without the kids…..

    Yep, we are living a life of luxury…never mind the holes in our underwear, or that we haven’t been on a real vacation in five years….

    I could go on, but I hope you see my point…do not lump us all into one catagory. The silver spooner thing may happen to me, but not until we get our 170 grand in student debt paid off…it will take many years, despite what you may be thinking, to pay this amount of debt off.

    As for the argument that we get to stay home because we have husbands who make a lot of money??? well, I think that is bullshit, plain and simple. It all depends on what you are willing to give up in order to stay home and raise your kids….are you willing to give up cable? cell phones (gasp!) eating out, even at fast food joints? I read a blog from a gal with 4 kids, and they are dirt poor, she has a small at home business and she stays at home all the time, and makes everything from scratch (literally…even her garlic powder is home made)

    That is society telling you to work, not anyone else, because it can be done.

  9. I wrote” Last thought: The wingspouses she describes are just a few posh silver-spoon babies at the top of the pile. Different things are at work down here in the real world.”

    I said “The wingspouses she describes”, not all stay at home moms. I am not equating the two (I’m rather afraid that people will, that’s my point about economic disparity) She came and commented here and said:

    “I must agree that this wingspouse concept is best suited for the woman who is either married to an upper level executive, or a woman who intends to put her husband there. A woman who enjoys a better-than-average income, embraces the prominence that sometimes comes from being married to an executive, and recognizes that her availability can make or break her spouse IS the best candidate for choosing to be a wingspouse.”

    So she agrees, the wingspouse phenomenon is about wealth and primarily an ethic for wealthy people.

    Stay at home moms in general make their decisions for all kinds of reasons, but it remains the case that impoverished women don’t have the choice to stay home and wealthy women (As Kathi promotes) have a lot of pressure to stay at home. Neither thing is good.

    If you’re a stay at home mom, have always wanted to be a stay at home mom, and are happy doing what you’re doing, do it! That’s a feminist decision! But promoting the SAHM label as a classist tool to raise unrealistic expectations in women who can’t afford it or who’s husband’s can’t afford it isn’t fair or feminist.

  10. Let me clarify that we’re talking about two different things here: women who stay home, and women who are in a position where having a career is nearly impossible because of the spouse’s career path. I’m not promoting anything classist. I’m saying that a handful of women who would otherwise be extremely lonely because of their husbands’ career choices have a rare opportunity that is far from traditional. I AM promoting that these AND other women erase any notion that men aren’t capable of recognizing our contributions and instead begin to see them as our partners.

    I’m a bit bothered that I gave the impression a wingspouse is some silver-spoon countess. My husband makes good money, but he – no WE – worked so very hard for it and paid off a lot of debt in the process. Wingspouses don’t do it for the money, though. My mother was a wingspouse, yet in her 50’s she started her own business to make enough money to buy their first home before retirement. My father was quite a successful minister and published author, but he never got rich. Mom and Dad are incredibly happy though, having seen their 50th wedding anniversary come and go.

    As for SAHMs, I am continually impressed by how women in all circumstances have successfully made ends meet by refocusing their priorities and being incredibly resourceful. Some women have quit smoking, moved to tiny homes, or even decided they could bring home a bigger paycheck than their husbands, and so the roles reversed. These women aren’t being cheated because they aren’t a CEO somewhere. They’re succeeding according to their own priorities. So am I.

    But what if I HAD been born into money? Does money negate my right to be happy as a SAHM or a COO? What I do know is that women can’t have it all the way it was presented to us in the 70’s. We’re still trying to figure out what makes us happy and how we can balance career, marriage and family.

    P.S. Would love for someone to contact me on my blog and tell me how to make garlic powder from scratch!

  11. I want to clarify, as other commenters have, that I do not equate the wingspouse concept as being the same thing as a SAHM. While the wingspouse is a stay at home mum, there were many other implications of the concept which made me uneasy.

    SAHMs do not make me nauseous – my sister is one and I am very proud of her for making the right choice for her. I would like to think I can do the same one day.

    However I *am* uneasy about a woman sacrificing her own individual opportunities for those linked with her partnership. Sure it can work beautifully for some, but I guess I didn’t like the way the site used marketing speak to promote the concept when I believe it would leave many women in a position of vulnerability within a relationship less balanced than Kathi’s.

    For me, the write up made Wingspouse read as though it was a decision motivated by the man’s choices – not made because the woman wanted to stay at home more than go to work. It seemed like a compromise (which is healthy and realistic in a relationship) but one which was then ‘spun’ to seem otherwise.

    Dicussion on twitter on this one (between men) has also highlighted a dislike for the term ‘Wingspouse’ as the rest of the copy on the website defines a wingspouse as being a woman – there is no acknowledgement that a man can hold this position.

    Other feedback expressed discomfort that society still makes women have to make these choices. That the very fact that a woman can’t have it all demonstrates inequality.

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