For over a decade, the National At-Home Dad Network, a volunteer nonprofit, has been working to provide support, education, and advocacy for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children. The organization uses this idea in its definition of a SAHD (stay-at-home dad):
Any father who is the regular primary caregiver of his children, usually while his partner works outside the home as the family’s main breadwinner. Also called an “at-home dad” or “work-at-home dad” (WAHD)
Chicago professor Dr. Robert Frank began an annual study in 1995 to further investigate this growing demographic of fathers caring for their children at home. The event grew into a networking and teaching community for at-home dads, and after its first decade, the National At-Home Dad Network took the reigns of the annual convention from Dr. Frank. Celebrating the convention’s 20th year in Raleigh, NC in 2015, the NAHDN continues its efforts to banish the term “Mr. Mom.”
I recently had a discussion with a coworker, where the idea of me being an at-home dad to Master Stephens was mentioned. I chuckled at the idea for me, as it is so farfetched in my mind. My coworker, though, thought that I scoffed at the idea in general, and retorted, “What’s so wrong with you being a stay-at-home dad?!”
I explained that it’s so farfetched in my mind, as Mrs. Stephens would never allow it! Even if she made a thousand dollars an hour, and we had immense disposable income, my wife would tell her optimistic, stay-at-home-spouse that I need to get a job.
And, I’m not just speaking for my wife; she concurs. I asked her opinion of the conversation, and she said more or less the same thing. She attempted to explain her way out of it, but at the end of it all, she wouldn’t be comfortable with her being in the roll of not just the main breadwinner, but the sole one at that.
Back to the initial conversation, my coworker provided many scenarios where it would be ideal for me to care for my 15-month-old Gummy Bear while my wife’s hypothetical thousand-dollar-an-hour gig cared for us financially. I turned the tables on the coworker, an unattached 30-year-old woman, asking whether she’d be as comfortable with her future hubby being an at-home pop as she suggests my wife should be.
Why? I asked. She beat around the bush, only to arrive at the same load of shrubbery my wife did:
“He needs to work!”
In the wake of the 19th Annual At-Home Dads Convention in Denver, CO, Twitter was all abuzz with #AHDConvention tweets. I read several of them; one of which struck a major chord with me, urging me into writing this post.
Parent advocate Barbara Coloroso presented the keynote at the convention, and asked a question of attendees: “How many of you have suffered an insensitive comment about being a stay-at-home dad?” From the looks of Doug French‘s posted image, all hands were raised.
I got to thinking of myself, of how I think of the idea of being an at-home pop, and the general role of fatherhood in the modern household. Surely I am not one of the insensitive 20th century dwellers that Coloroso called out at the convention last week… or, am I?
I grew up Catholic in a Jamaican family of very traditional background. I am not mentioning that to give an excuse for my current views, as I am proud of the (self-proclaimed) forward-thinking adult I have independently developed into. However, I do have what some would call “traditional” (while others would brandish “outdated”) views on certain matters as they relate to me directly, which likely stem from my aforementioned upbringing.
Ward Cleaver is probably who I could see myself aspiring to model my family after when I was a child. As I got older, I would say I imagined Cliff Huxtable to have the ideal family life. Now that I am the patriarch of my very own family, I cannot say my progression has continued on the same arc, which would probably have me able to easily see myself in the role of at-home dad. The worst part about that is, I cannot even truly explain why.
When June Cleaver kept the home as a stay-at-home mom (without the title), it was said to be a full-time, 24/7, non-stop job. There is no “clock in/clock out” for the gig. Why is it now that the at-home parent happens to have the inverse genitalia does the idea that “he has to get a job” come into play? Why are these thoughts perpetuated through the minds of those Barbara Coloroso pointed her finger at?
I’ve come to the conclusion that she was pointing her finger at me.
While I talk about equality for men, in that a #ChangingStation should be available in the men’s room if there is one in the women’s, because #MenChangeDiapersToo; I apparently have some work to do on myself when it comes to other issues of gender equality.
I do not like being a hypocrite.
This post took longer to compose than originally planned, as the questions I posed to myself provided me with answers I didn’t necessarily like hearing. Maybe posting this will allow some of you to ask yourselves where you stand. Hopefully, your answers will be more self-acceptable than were mine.
P.S. Post image stolen from The Scrapheap Pastors.