Men's New Role as Househusband Challenges Chinese Tradition

June 28, 2007
By Wang YanEditor: wocm

Men's New Role as Househusband Challenges Chinese Tradition


For a working mother, it's a dream come true to see  a spotless house, a gourmet meal on the table, and her child's homework all done when she comes home at night. She neither need do the ironing and the laundry, nor she need worry abou
t whether or not the household bills are paid on time.

This seems unimaginable unless one has hired a maid. But for some urban families, women have begun to free themselves from their traditional role as housewives. A small proportion of married men have chosen to quit their jobs to stay home and be househusbands.

In a traditional Chinese family, women are expected to do the housekeeping and leave “external business” to their men. However, the emergence of "house husbands" is changing Chinese families.

A survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen shows that a respective 22 percent, 73 percent, 34 percent and 32 percent of white-collar male workers, aged between 28 and 33, would like to do the housekeeping when situation permits. Their wives usually have well paid jobs in private companies.

Three Types of House Husbands

Mr. Yang Wenhui is a househusband who prepares for and enjoys delicious meals with his wife when she gets home from work ever day. Yang said, "It gives me satisfaction when I see my wife savoring the food I have prepared."

Yang, 32 years old, used to work for a magazine prior to his resignation. "My job was quite stable, but boring. And I didn’t see any chance of being promoted. My wife is a workaholic. After we got married, we decided that I would stay at home and take care of the household while she works full-time outside the home after we had a baby,” said Mr. Yang.

Sociologists have identified three situations, out of which Chinese househusbands are most likely to emerge:

First, when the wife has a high-powered and demanding career, it would not have been possible for her to work without the support of a househusband. Mostly, the husband is not well paid and has no career prospects. Second, if the wife is tired of household chores and eager to go back to work, she may persuade her husband to switch their roles. Third, if the husband has a more flexible job or he can work from home, he may take this option as it allows him more time to take care of the family.

What Challenges Does a House Husband Faces?

“I think men who don’t work are not real men. If they stay at home being househusbands for a long while, their wives will feel superior and their marriage will suffer. ” said Ms. Xiao. Most people, men and women alike, also share her opinion.

A househusband’s responsibilities go beyond child care, grocery shopping and so on. They need the understanding and support of other family members.  They also need to be prepared for the stress and discrimination from the outside world. Lastly, they need to keep up with social changes to avoid being left behind.

Mr. Cai, 42 says that at parties men look at him as a source of amusement, or worse, ignore him. He says he has gotten used to it and talks with their wives. “I don’t think it is shameful because my wife is a great manager and I am willing to assist her. In fact, there are other househusbands like myself, but they wouldn’t admit it.”

People’s Changing Attitudes towards Househusbands

In recent years, people have changed their views about what makes a good father. Many of the young men surveyed believe a successful man should be a good father, too.

Mary, a businesswoman, said, "In my circle of friends, many families have househusbands and the couples all live quite happily." However, Wang Yuan, a journalist, still thinks that men should be the breadwinner, though he understands the new trend.


Influenced by traditional ideas, some families with househusbands prefer to keep it low key because they are concerned that people would laugh at a husband with "no prospects" or wife who is "too strong".

Zhou Wei said he has become accustomed to being a full-time househusband although his relatives question this when they gather during the holidays. "To be happy is the most important thing. I don’t care about other peoples' opinions," added Zhou.

A househusband has to be someone whose self-esteem is not tied to making money. There must be considerable benefits besides doing household chores.  At least they don’t have the daily stress career men have, which is to try to earn money to support their families. Sometimes career men are envious of these househusbands.


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