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Stay At Home Dad haters

Sorry for the double post today. But I'd be a bad member of the Stay At Home Dad community if I didn't comment on the nonsense going on in Chicago this weekend. In case you missed it, the Chicago Tribune ran a feature article on Stay At Home Dads with a photo. Awesome, right? Look how far we've come! Then there was an opposing post on a blog complaining about the media attention SAHDs are getting for simply doing their job. Now that a man does it, it's considered work, essentially. I'll leave the reader to Google both the original and the response.

I was just saying to the researcher who interviewed me a few weeks ago that I consider myself very lucky. As a Stay At Home Dad, I encounter very little in the way of the bias and discrimination that I know other modern dads face. I hear and read the stories of the angry looks all the time, the negative comments, the blogs...it makes it even more important to continue the work we do of putting a positive face on modern fatherhood.

The plain old outdated folks who just oppose dads doing the "woman's role" aren't my concern here...they really aren't the concern of many SAHD, I don't think. They're self-obvious idiots.

The more troubling, two-front concern, however, is both ending the social stigma of not being the babysitter or funny "Mr. Mom" out of our depth. Fighting the assumption that we're not capable of taking care of our kids, on one hand. While, on the other hand, countering the criticism that we're simply doing our jobs as dads so why should we be getting praise for that.

I actually agree--and have blogged before--about the "low bar" issue. I agree that it's insane that we get bonus points for simply showing up. How low of an opinion do we have of men that we get a pat on the back for taking care of our own kids? See above, however, for some of the other reasons we get a pat on the back. Some of it has to do with the fact that a few in society don't think childcare is a man's world. It is.

It's especially sad when the complaints come from Stay At Home Moms though...who should be our natural allies in this struggle. Even if some moms are offended that dads are grabbing glory and attention after years of moms doing the same thing for less attention, most dads see past that to the fact that ANY person who has childcare as their responsibility has a fulltime, difficult job. That goes for SAHD, SAHM, teachers, daycare, grandmas who watch the kids while parents work. It's tough and grueling and points for you.

One of the odd quirks of the rise of SAHD has been the way that our moving into household duties and parenting has gone hand in hand with the rise of women in the workplace. The irony of moms complaining about the attention dads are getting is that it is the new equality of women in the workplace that creates the possibility of dads staying home. That irony is lost, perhaps, in a complaint about SAHM not getting enough attention.

Stay At Home Moms do deserve the attention of being a hardworking fulltime parent. But another issue--especially as a dad blogger--that I would bring up is that men have had a hand in our own self-promotion. And we bring a different style not only of parenting but of homemaking and our views of ourselves. Dads are, partly, receiving attention for our hard work because we've grabbed, forced, and required recognition of our struggle as part of our rise. That's not the case for the traditional role of moms at home because...well, that's been the traditional role. But there is no reason mommies can't blog, call attention to issues, write about the difficulties. In fact, many, many do. I read some great ones!

Of course, moms in general are where the complaint is leveled. Why don't moms--the vast majority of the At Home Parent demographic--get more recognition for simply doing what they've always done? As a dad blogger, my answer is that rather than wrap that response in the trappings of gender equality, sexism, and the like, moms who choose to stay home would do better to emphasize that it is a legitimate choice for ANY parent.

The cultural debate is about the "have it all" (written about that one, too, previously) mindset where both women and men think they don't have to make difficult choices about what is important to them. If staying home with the kids is what is important to you--regardless of your gender--you should talk about that and defend that. One need not bash dads to raise up moms. Both genders deserve more respect for the work we do in raising our kids. Nay, I'd complain that our culture values working for wages more for both genders these days.

Together, we could be fighting that.

So my take on the issue of SAHD in the spotlight is that we're fine with that. Most of us approach the topic with humor and a bit of humility. We're not easily offended or we couldn't function as parents. We fight hard for our own equality and the equality of those like us and we encourage others to do the same.

In short, changing gender roles need not be a zero sum game. What's the saying? A rising tide lifts all boats. Whether you're a mom or dad, a photo of you doing your child's hair should get praise.


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