FCC Classic: Stay-at-Home Dads are Here to Stay

With the Holidays in full swing this week, I decided to dip into the archives and post the first thing I wrote on the internet.  It was on concord-nh.patch.com, and was originally posted on March 16, 2012.  Most have read it, but I wanted to stay with my “something every Thursday” policy.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to everyone.

I was recently writing an introductory essay for an online class, and a simple two paragraph “Hi my name is Jon ….” –type assignment took me an extra half hour because of a silly social norm that needs to go. After letting my classmates know my name, family situation, and town of residence, it was time to talk about my job.

Well, I was a teacher for five years, and I plan on going back, but right now … too defensive.

I’m taking some time off to finish my studies and then … not true.

After five years teaching, my wife and I made the serious decision to … too dramatic.

Hi, my name is Jon. I live in Concord with my wife, two kids and our dog.  I’m a stay at home dad.  I look forward to participating in this class. Whew!

Why was that so hard?  Why do I have to feel the need to justify being out of the workforce in order to care for my two daughters?  Is it just me driving me crazy?

I will fight the urge to get all “deep” and go on about how as individuals and as a collective we need to stop defining ourselves by the employment we currently hold, and more by the number of lives we touch or trees we’ve planted. Looking at this issue of societal identity strictly from the male perspective, things need to change. Fast. The more people I meet as a S-A-H-D, the more often I hear, “oh yeah, a friend of mine is doing that too.” So the change has happened. Men don’t always have to work. Women don’t always have to stay home. We know this, and in this economic climate many couples do not have the luxury of actually deciding who works and who doesn’t.

With S-A-H-Ds growing in number and acceptance, we need to work together as a community to create a support system for them/us.  Raising a child or children full time can be extremely isolating, and it becomes even more so when most daytime activities involving small children have names such as “Moms and Munchkins” or “The Moms Club.”  There are simple steps we can take individually and cooperatively to help the nurturing men of our community:

1) Change SOME of the names of the playgroups that meet during the day. If a community organization is holding their weekly “Moms and Tots” group, it is instantly 10 times more welcoming to men if the same group on the same day is named “Parents and Tots” or “Tots Time.” I understand the need for moms to meet with other moms and dads to talk to other dads, but there’s gotta be a group or two who can step up to the plate and name a group in a way that doesn’t exclude a gender. If you’ll excuse me I will now contradict myself.

2) Hold a S-A-H-D group. I know I know. I just got done crabbing about how dads are excluded from all the fun, but notice I suggested changing SOME of the groups. A S-A-H-M has a different experience than their male counterpart, and being able to connect with people going through the same thing is important. A delicate balance needs to struck giving moms and dads their time to be together, coupled with opportunities to comingle.

3) People of Concord: Please don’t act surprised when you meet or bump into a S-A-H-D. Don’t act any way at all. Seeing suprise or pity from a stranger makes it seem like we’re special in some way because we’re doing what’s best for our family. I hear someone say, “You got your hands full,” every single time I go anywhere with my girls (I wish I was exaggerating). My wife has never heard anyone say that to her. Ever. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it points out an imbalance somewhere in peoples’ attitudes about gender roles.

4) Media and advertising executives: Please stop flooding everywhere with images and ideashinting that if I don’t watch every game with “the boys” and stay totally up to date on every sports, electronics, car, or video game story/trend I am somehow less of a man.

I think I may have said my piece. If this strikes a chord, touches a nerve, or moves you in any way, take action. Post a message below. Connect with other Stay At Home Parents. Start a new group. Make another ad with a goofy guy wearing a baby carrier and a clueless look on his face, go ahead, I dare you, see what happens, go ahead! Life changes, gender roles included. Let’s all work together and adjust our collective attitudes in order to provide support for all of the caring parents out there.

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