Man of the House

Stay-at-Home Dads Happily Married to Successful Career Women

When Maddie and Paul Hamill took a family vacation to the Grand Canyon recently, a helicopter pilot giving them a tour asked Paul what he did.

His reply: “I'm a domestic engineer, I stay at home with the kids,” was met with dead silence.

“The guy just didn't know how to respond,” Maddie Hamill told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

Just as Fortune labeled the “trophy wife,” in the late '80s, the magazine has coined a new phrase to describe stay-at-home dads who support workplace moms: “trophy husbands.” As women continue their climb up the corporate ladder, such domestic gods about the house are becoming more common. < /P>

There are really no hard numbers on the trend. But when Fortune tried to do the story five years ago, they abandoned it, because it was so hard to find examples. Now, of the 187 participants at Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Business summit last spring, 30 percent had househusbands.

The “trophy wife” label often goes to young, attractive women who are viewed as arm candy for a powerful husband, but professional women have created a different sort of profile for the “trophy husband.” A man who is great with child care and handling domestic duties is their idea of a prize.

Dad Provides Best Option  The Hamills had lived in London for 10 years before moving five years ago to Atlanta, where Maddie took a job as a vice president of worldwide strategic planning for Coca-Cola.

Upon arriving in the United States, they learned that the child-care system was different from what they were used to. Whereas in London there are registered nannies that attend college to learn the profession, the couple felt that in the United States, the job was more often considered to be fill-in work instead of a career.

“While Paul waited for his work permit he stayed with the kids and was doing a great job,” Maddie Hamill said. “All of a sudden we realized we could afford it, whereas in London we needed two incomes. We never intended for Paul not to work, but this became the best way to do things,” she said.

Housedad Is Full-Time Job Paul Hamill, who had been working as a production manager for a drug company, was very happy to stay home with his 10-year-old twins, Connor and Sarah, and it seemed to be the best option for the family, he said.

He said he doesn't feel trapped into staying home, nor does he feel emasculated by his role. The father of two says, for the most part, people seem reasonably accepting of him. “I have fun with the other mothers,” Paul Hamill said. He enjoys being with the kids, but staying home and tending to the housework has not been as leisurely as he hoped.

“It's definitely a full-time job,” he said. His wife, Maddie, says she is very happy with the arrangement, but she doesn't think it would work for every couple. “There are problems sometimes, like when maybe you'd like the house a bit cleaner, but you can't complain, because he is there doing it, and you're not,” she said.

Getting Closer to the Kids Mollie Allen and Tom Kiehfuss, who live in San Francisco, have a similar setup.

Mollie works as a media consultant and television producer, while her husband, formerly an actor and carpenter, is a stay-at-home dad to their two daughters, Kate, 3, and Evelyn, 2. Allen had worked during her two pregnancies, and they had a nanny and a babysitter initially. But when the couple moved to San Francisco from Chicago, and Kiehfuss took a job with a general contractor, he realized it wasn't cost-effective since he was only making about $50 more than what they were paying the nanny each week. “The tradeoff wasn't right for me,” he said. “Emotionally, I just felt like I needed to be home with my girls. I love my work but I love my girls more,” Kiehfuss said.

Kiehfuss has always done the cooking — though Allen does the dishes. “It was a natural fit,” Allen said. “We realized we wanted to take the kids to school ourselves, and not let someone else do it.”

Allen says there are moments she feels a little bit of jealousy. “When you see your children calling for daddy when they are hurt, something is within you. It is challenging, there are pangs I have as the mom,” Allen said.

Mom Gets a Bit Jealous Kiehfuss, who grew up with a dad who was a “company man” and a mom who put dinner on the table, said he had to de-program himself to adjust to his role. At first, he was trying to seek out other men doing the same thing, but wasn't that successful. Then he found a book that really helped him out with parenting skills. The father of two says he sometimes misses the adult communication that takes place in the workplace. He has tried to strike up conversations with stay-at-home moms, but some of them thought he was hitting on them. “I just wanted to talk because I was lonely,” Kiehfuss said.

Kiehfuss still makes furniture in his spare time, and he has no fear about going back to work at some point in the “very distant future,” he said. “It's a great setup,” Kiehfuss said. “love my job and I have a great wife and two great kids.”

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