Dave Lesser starts his recent Time magazine article 5 Myths About Stay At Home Dads with the following sentence: "I think that woman just call me a pedophile." He got this from participating in a television talk show pitting at home dads against moms. Those shows are designed to whip up antagonistic feelings. But he is not crazy to believe that the overwhelming majority of women AND men are suspect of men who are the primary caregivers to their children.
On more than one occasion I have had comments, stares, and atypical or modified behavior from people around me. Most of his 5 myths are pretty much on target and I thought I would share a few of my experiences and observations about those myths:
I joined a "Mom's Morning Out" group at my local church early in my at home dad days. (Yes, they had to change the name.) The setup was simple: a few parents stayed to take care of children for a few hours once a week while the others got a break from the kids and were able to run errands, go get a cup of coffee alone, or whatever you needed. The duty of staying rotated, so depending on the numbers one could ideally get three mornings off in a month. As the group became more popular, there started to be an imbalance of adult supervision to children. At one point, I was responsible for 3-4 babies and several toddlers at one time. I don't care if you are a woman or a man, but being responsible for that many young children is a recipe for disaster and not safe. I questioned the ratio and was politely told it wouldn't change and I was free to leave. Which is what I did. Months later I was called and told by the President of their board that I was right, they were having problems with having enough adults watching children and they invited me back. I was the only man in the room and I was the only one who raised the concern about safety for children. Talk to me about trust with your children.
2. We can’t have as special a bond with our children as mothers can.
I've actually heard people say this; numerous times. Yes, there is a special bond between mother and child. But, there is also a special bond between father and child. Heightening the importance of the mother's bond over the father's bond is discrimination, pure and simple. Additionally, it sets up future generations for failure and self doubt. Give our young men a chance to prove themselves. They are strong and loving. They are nurturing and can create significant and special bonds with their children. This is the message we should be giving future generations of fathers.
3. We are not nurturers.
(Nur·ture (nûr′chər) n 1. Something that nourishes; sustenance. 2. The act of bringing up. 3. Biology The sum of environmental influences and conditions acting on an organism. tr.v. nur·tured, nur·tur·ing, nur·tures1. To nourish; feed.
2. To educate; train. 3. To help grow or develop; cultivate.)
Nurturing is the basis for all parenting. I do all of those things listed above. And I do it with my full heart and mind. There are many levels and kinds of nurturing. As an example, one of the things an at home parent becomes is an after school nurturer. Many dual income households or single parents have relatively few options for after school care, transportation to that care, and then again transportation to after school activities. I and many other at home parents end up picking up the slack. We accept many children into our homes, at no cost, because it does take a village. We love them as our own, we nourish them, we hug them when they've had a bad day, we dry their wet clothes, we make sure they get their home work started, we answer their inquiring minds, we transport them to activities, etc. If you understand that nurturing takes a village, gender makes no difference. Nurturing is not an exclusive club.
4. We are trying to be better than moms.
Our current culture breeds everything into a competition - for profit. I'm tired of it. I'm not trying to be better than moms. Heck my wife is a mom, my mom is a mom, my mother-in-law is a mom, my grandmother is a mom and they were all better at parenting than I am. Let's let this go. I have too much to do than to try compete with my next door neighbor. Who, by the way, is better than me too.
(5. We are the only dads you should be paying attention to.)
Mr. Lesser states, "Stay-at-home dads are so hot right now!" He then goes on to explain media attention and that working dads deserve kudos too. Well, I think he got the hot thing right, but it isn't about media attention. The underlying number 5 should really be about sex:
5. We are trying to sleep with your wives.
Sometimes I think we are tied to our preconceptions because we let television and movie stories have power over us. Harry said it in When Harry Met Sally, "...men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way." Imagine, men and women at home, together, all day long. Just like men and women, at work, together, all day long. Stop it, I say. If you don't trust your spouse or yourself, then go get therapy. Don't blame at home dads!
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