This article came out on NPR today. Give it a read, my reaction is below.
I didn’t like the notion that for the past 150 years men have been trained not to spot dirt or care for a child while women have been. The pressures and social expectations still exist, but “training” has changed dramatically over the past 30 years (if not, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing). I had some exposure to care-giving as an adolescent and knew plenty of involved Dads growing up. As far as I know, Vv never took a Home Ec class, so I’m not so sure the gender pigeon-holing of the previous century was nearly as confining as they make it sound in the article (at least not for everyone). That is not to say there isn’t plenty of room for improvement, but I don’t feel like a “pioneer” in my role.
The NPR articles is certainly not the worst exposure for SAHD’s and some of the common complaints of At Home Dads are addressed. It is always good to help others understand the effect of familial expectations, societal pressure, and misperceptions regarding any Dad with kids in public being part of a social experiment or a rare “Daddy Day.” That was the biggest learning experience for me, because I never thought I would get the insight as a heterosexual white male into the experience of a minority. Certainly SAHD (stay at home Dad’s), at least the those of us who are white guys belonging to a middle income or higher brackets, can’t compare our problems to other minorities and I certainly don’t mean to imply we could/should. Being shunned by a group of Mom’s, sneered at by “manly men,” or mistaken for a bumbling idiot on occasion doesn’t compare in any meaningful way to what I would call true marginalization and doesn’t approach any level of oppression. It’s a pain in the ass not to have a changing station in the men’s bathrooms in many places and its annoying to see Dads in media portrayed in the tired, stereotypical “Mr Mom” way, but we do still get to vote and be married, so we’ve got that going for us.
With that said, just the “taste of being different” brought about an increase in empathy and the understanding I feel around minority, LGBT, gender and women’s issues. It’s like the whole“simulated childbirth” thing they can do to men now. It still doesn’t really scratch the surface of the experience, but certainly gives you a moment in the shoes of another’s experience. To me, the insight in this area is going to translate to my children’s perception of the world and gender in particular. I like to think that the children of at-home Dads are going to grow up to be some of the most interesting trailblazers in a generation that will challenge all the ideas of “Man” and “Woman.” I’m proud of that.
I addressed the contentment/satisfaction issue mentioned in this story within my own article at the Good Men Project.
I hope what I illustrated in that piece is that for men and women, full-time child caregiver is a career and can be just as engaging as any other with rewards that fall short monetarily but are incredibly fulfilling emotionally. There is no doubt, however, that the unique situation brings about unexpected stressors in relationships. Fortunately, those are also accompanied by unexpected benefits. Men’s experience in the stay home role often has a lot to do with how they accept it and approach it, which is often a product of how they came to the role whether accidental, forced by unemployment or if it was a voluntary and deliberate decision as mine and many others’ was. I love what I do and I’m good at it, to me that’s the most important aspect.