A fascinating piece in the (London) Spectator introduces us to a new kind of guy, the Dali: stay-at-home fathers who are dependent on what their wives earn and, instead of being bitter, are loving it.

Andrew Brown, a writer for the Telegraph, captures the easy life of your typical Dali:

It sounds like a cushy life for a man. On weekdays he potters about at home, running a duster over the surfaces, tinkering with a short story he’s struggling to compose, painting, daydreaming, listening to a bit of Jeremy Vine; his wife, meanwhile, gets up in the dark, takes the 5.47 to Liverpool Street and toils away in a glass tower all day to bring home the bacon. He is dependent, and loving it: we could call him a Dali.

Now, I say if this is what a couple wants to do, more power to them. But, as Brown makes clear, there are–ahem–some sociological trends that are worth examining. For one thing, most Dalis became Dalis purely because of economic considerations: it is cheaper for one partner to stay at home than it is to hire somebody to look after the children. Increasingly, Brown notes, women are paid more than men; it therefore makes economic sense for her to be the breadwinner.

The rise of the Dali gives the lie (at least in the U.K.) to one of the most cherished of movement feminism’s myths: that of the gender gap.

Their official classification for a man who stays home with the kids, earning nothing is “economically inactive.” That has to sting just a bit for even the most dedicated house hubby. To feel better, many Dalis insist that they are working on inventions or novels.

This trend among married couples may turn out to be as sociologically important as the rise of singletons, so much discussed in the wake of Kate Bolick’s evocation of singleton life (“All the Single Ladies”) in the Atlantic Monthly last year.

As I said, I am making no value judgments here. This is an economic decision. But one can’t help noting that some poor guys just aren’t cut out to be mums:

Take poor Richard:

The day-to-day stuff — taking Lucy to play groups, for example — gets on his nerves. ‘I’m 46. I don’t want to meet new people and make new friends. Women are different from men. They’ll get in there and say “Today I’m going to make five friends.” They’ll scour the internet for zumba classes. They’re gung-ho. Men are more grumpy about that kind of thing.’

He feels uncomfortable in the feminine domain. There’s a ‘cabal’ of women at the mother-and-toddler groups, he says, and they don’t make him feel welcome. ‘There is still a sexism. “Who are you?” they seem to be saying.’ Instead of joining in with the mums, he prefers to take Lucy on her own for long walks, or to ‘patrol Tate Britain.’…

The bottom line, for Richard, is that he misses work. ‘A lot of my friends are in full-time employment. They get five days a week at a desk. I’ve never experienced that.’ Even his partner worried, to begin with, that as a freelance, arty type, he might be ‘a lazy arse’ deep down. But he’s definitely not — he works ‘very hard on the day-to-day basics’, the washing-up, cleaning the house. The life of a Dali with children is anything but relaxing. ‘Most guys who do children do supper too,’ he says. ‘The days are long.’

Women, on the other hand, sometimes envy their Dali husbands’ getting to spend all that time with the children. One bossy wife of a Dali interrupted a funeral (!) one time to call home and harass her poor husband about his chores. Had he cleaned the car?

She later revealed to my friend her secret fear — that the only reason she behaved like such a martinet was that she was jealous of time her partner spent with their baby. This is where people get into trouble, when economic conditions force them into the wrong boxes; when, for example, it deprives them of precious time with children.

If a woman who desperately wants to care for her young offspring is compelled to work while her husband performs the role of mother, unhappiness will surely result. I wonder how many wives of Dalis secretly wish that they could send their husbands out to work?

As I promised, no value judgments.

Still, I feel a symposium coming on….