In the latest issue of Harper’s Magazine, I came across an astounding statistic: only 8% of Americans believe that a child is better off if his or her father stays at home while the mother works. 51% of Americans are said to think a mother at home improves the lives of children. As a “stay-at-home dad”, I find this poor opinion of my fatherly prowess to be a shocking statement of American prejudice. It suggests that a large majority of Americans feel that women are better parents than men. It also implies that a man’s place is not at home. And yet in 2010, according to the U.S. Census, 20% of fathers were “the primary caregivers” of children under 5, which means that some stay-at-home dads likely believe their wives or girlfriends really ought to be the primary givers of care to children. Clearly it’s time for men to fight for the right to stay home, raise kids and feel good about it in the face of great pressure to go out and “be a man.”
The rights of men (not to be confused with The Rights of Man) have gotten a lot of interest lately, namely from men who feel slighted by the rights of women. There is something called the “men’s rights movement” which, as far as I can tell, exists to promote the right of men to be obnoxious, insulting and cruel to women who want only to assert their democratic rights. I have no sympathy with this men’s movement, for I see nothing wrong with helping to secure the true independence of women. And some men have never really given up the right to treat women poorly, anyway, so the “men’s rights movement” seems like just another exclusive club for men. I don’t want to demean or exclude women; in fact, I want to join them, to have the same right to stay home and be respected for it.
I realize that not all feminists may respect the women who choose to stay home with kids rather than work at “a job” or “pursue a career.” If 51% think it’s good for children to have a woman stay home to care for them, that still leaves a lot of other Americans who don’t think either parent hanging around has much of an effect on a child’s well-being. But women with well-paid significant others at least are seen as having a respectable choice–work or stay home–and no doubt many women agonize over making the decision. Of course, single parents of either gender generally have no choice but to work away from home.
A man, however, is apparently expected by the nation to be a person who goes forth by car or train or bike every morning to do battle with broken things or numbers or freshmen or criminals or, if he is a “Tea Party” Republican representative, he puts on a suit of impregnable denial to ward off logic and reason, which probably works better outside his own home. This male-as-commuter ideal may be partly why male farmers are in decline and lack general prestige; sure, they leave the house, but they don’t go very far and their work involves a lot of caregiving and getting dirty, much like being a stay-at-home dad.
So it is time for us professional fathers to band together, however half-heartedly, to assert our minority rights and defend our manhood. Almost the entire nation thinks we are wasting our time; we live in a nation where manhood is assumed to be the opposite of womanhood and housework (cleaning) and child rearing is still mostly women’s work. While the stress of breaking old gender roles is not something we victims of anti-father sentiment are willing (being men) to admit, help is available if we need it. And the loneliness of our noble cause, the failure of our wives or partners and working male friends to fully appreciate our marginalization, has forced some fathers to create their own patriarchal union, a National At-Home Dad Network sponsored by Huggies and other sympathetic corporate brands.
The point is we home-bound fathers, we farmers of children and dirty sheets, are beginning to find our voices: it is our unalienable right as American men not to put up with this discrimination. Besides, we are also fighting, indirectly, for the women who want to work at home as mothers. Yes, we stand proudly with our fellow stay-at-home moms and hope they will soon proudly stand with us.
Update (11/27)— Some editing has occurred since the original post.
- The Stay at Home Mom Hobby Guide (coupons.answers.com)
- CFPB finally proposes stay-at-home spouse card rule (creditrepair.com)
- The Life Of A Stay-At-Home Father (gq.com)
- Recognizing the “SAHD” (timesunion.com)