Hannah Seligson of The Daily Beast has issued the latest in the endless rounds of analysis of Sheryl Sandberg’s peppy how-to-get-ahead-in-business manual Lean In, this time estimating the costs of what it takes for a proper coastal yuppie to replace the labor of a housewife. The price tag is pretty astonishing: $96,261 per year. Seligson does revise the number downward—after all, the original figure is from a site that assumes you would hire a driver and a personal chef if you don’t stay at home—but even $24,000 a year for daycare is staggering. She suggests that women who want to lean in do so by socking away money to cover these costs long before they start having children. As a bonus, you can probably get your husband to pitch into the childcare fund more easily than you can get him to pick up a mop.
What’s an ambitious woman to do? Obviously, the price tag put on your employment is just another version of the pay gap, and for some reason, the elegant solution of professional women refusing to have children until someone fixes this situation has been taken off the table. It’s a major conundrum. So why not look to men for answers? Men have managed the sticky situation of both having a job and having a home life for decades now. Their solution is possibly even more elegant in its simplicity than the “don’t have children” one: Marry a woman.
Men have long understood how this works. If you marry a woman, you can work those long hours that it takes to get ahead without worrying too much about if the house will get clean or the kids will get cared for. She may have a job and be able to get all that stuff done, but if she finds that it’s too hard, don’t worry, “opting out” is always on the table. She may, if she’s pretty, even get rewarded with a glowing feature profile about how she’s the new face of feminism. In the expensive, blue cities Seligson writes about—New York City, Washington D.C., and probably soon in San Francisco—same-sex marriage is legal, so you don’t even have to make this arrangement off the books anymore.
Oh, I can hear your objections! “But Amanda, I’m a straight lady who doesn’t want to be in a sexual relationship with a woman!” Never fear! I’ve read a ton of articles analyzing the state of marriage, such as this one by Derek Thompson in the Atlantic, and according to them, marriage is a business partnership between colleagues who assess each other based on the economic value they can provide in a relationship. You can always go outside your marriage for sexual satisfaction and hell, so can she. You’re a generous lady.
With that in mind, all you need to do is put out a job listing. “Wanted: One wife, to look after my home and bear and care for my children in exchange for economic support and an opportunity to get rid of that last name she’s always hated. Applicants who remember my pants size and who will provide back rubs preferred. Salary: None, but if you choose to opt out, room and board will be provided for free. Applicants will be interviewed over a series of dinner dates in wine bars and provided with a signing bonus of an expensive diamond ring.” It works for men, so why not for women? Get to it, ladies! It’s time to stop playing tiddlywinks with the girls, and start leaning in, man-style.