Its 2019. We’re breaking into a new decade very soon and yet there still remains a veiled perception of the stay-at-home Dad, who he is and what he should be like. Strong. Masculine. In the office. And yet we consider ourselves to be a progressive and understanding society. You see, it all still seems to be about Mum when we talk about staying at home and being the primary caregiver. In todays Irish Times, I spoke to a Dad who has felt the prejudice and judgment with wanting to be the Dad at home, the one who cares for the kids 24/7. He has felt the stigma and the inward pull of his masculinity as friends and colleagues ask “why would you want to do that?”
Papa Bear has always said there is one rule for the guys and one for the girls in his job. If he were to ask for parental leave, shorter hours, or even negotiate the terms of the his ordinary working hours, it would not be worth the stress, chaos and uncomfortable atmosphere it would bring. Yet, when a woman asks the same questions, theres an almost assurance that her rights would be met with a level of ease and certainly no scrutiny.
While being a stay-at-home dad has not been something he would consider, more flexible working hours would be on the agenda if he felt supported enough to ask. The issue is, he’s Dad. Not Mum and the ball game is played quite differently when gender is the proverbial ball. His company is far from unique which makes this a very difficult league to compete in.
I didn’t believe, or at least didn’t want to believe, that this attitude towards stay-at-home dads was still around. As I say, 2019 is progressive right? Clearly not when so many still struggle to gain the rights they deserve without an attack on their masculinity.
Then we have to consider how unlikely a man is to ask for part time work or parental leave in the first place as an undeniable stigma still rallies around one of the most important jobs a parent can have – to be there for their children. For men who are happily the parent who is at home, I salute you for stepping over the barriers that are still in your way. For not giving an eff if the comments and sideways glances make their way to you.
The job of a parent is commendable whether we are a man or a woman.
When I decided to stay at home with the kids, I waited for the comments which I knew would come my way and sure enough they did. “Arent you lucky to have a husband to support you?” being my absolute favourite! For a woman its almost like there is a 50/50 chance of her staying at home and that is usually a question asked when a baby arives. “Will you go back to work?” A question almost rarely asked of a man. The tear in his masculinity wouldn’t take it, right?! But a mans masculinity is never in question when it comes to being the stay-at-home parent.
“How we view a man at home with the kids needs a change of focus and emphasis. In a study last year in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity, many stay-at-home-dads reported changes in their own attitude to masculinity and identity as they combatted mixed reactions from people. It is these outside influences, the stigma associated with being at home and the attitude that raising children is a very unmanly thing to do, which negatively affects the gender balance when it comes to being a stay-at-home-parent. However, dads also reported high levels of satisfaction in caring for their children which is the positive result we should focus on.”
As a society we need to change our perception on so many things. The stay at home parent, the working parent, the same sex couple, co-parenting. You can read the full feature on how we need to change our perception in the Irish Times which includes professional insight from counselling psychotherapist Susi Lodola.