Dealing with parental stigmas.

In the event that you are a Stay-at-home Dad (Bully for you!) I’m sure that you are still trying to get your sea legs and work out all of the kinks. It’s not a science after all.

Have you gotten to the point where you’ve wanted to say “The hell with everything!” and run away screaming into the night? Has the irrepressible feeling that you are underappreciated around your own home become to feel like an albatross around your neck, slowly pulling you down into the ether? Have you thought about getting divorced because you can’t handle the adjustment phase?

It may seem like I am joking, but I’m not. There’s something inside the male persona that does not let them properly articulate their own feelings. There are a few shining stars who are able to do this and I admire them for it. But for the most part, men shut down completely if they have to talk about their feelings.

I’m no exception to this, are you?

Consider this the next time that you are thinking about walking away: While the phenomenon of dad’s who stay at home is relatively fresh, it has been argued that “divorce will become less harmful to children than it is today. Father’s who share the care for the children will feel a stronger attachment to their children and will be less likely to stop visiting or helping…” (Smith, p.49, 2009)

Still don’t think your presence has made a difference?

That’s all right. I don’t blame you. Anyone who says that they were completely prepared for being a stay-at-home parent (or just being a parent) is a complete liar.

I have long been of the opinion that the one thing that keeps transitioning from being a breadwinner to a stay-at-home Dad an easy right of passage is the stigma that is attached to it.

Gasp! Negative sentiments about a man staying at home with his children?

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! There most definitely is a stigma attached to being a Stay-at-Home dad. 

My first encounter with it was 5 years ago during the paperwork portion of renting our house. I was on the phone, talking to the woman who ran the rental office in an attempt to build a rapport with her and to galvanize the fact that my family and I weren’t hillbillies.

Then she asked me what I did for a living.

I told her that I was a Stay-at-Home Dad.

It was like someone had flipped a switch. She went from being all chummy and glad to having someone of solid character in one of her properties to a cold-hearted shell of a person. She couldn’t get off of the phone fast enough.

“…This myth, (that) Stay-at-Home Dad’s are dysfunctional parents who are so demoralized by unemployment that they are incapable of pulling their weight around their house” (Smith, p.58, 2009) is perpetrated by every member of society who has every given a man playing with his kids at the playground before noon a funny look.

Who’s to say if this stigma will ever be put in the ground?

While as a society we are constantly evolving and creating, there are just some things that won’t go away. Racism, ageism, sexism… Basically any sort of -ism. What adds insult to injury is the fact that these things, these -isms are all born of our personalities.

I’m just as responsible for this stigma as much as you are.

Consider this: 4 out of 10 mothers are the primary breadwinners in their families. Additionally, there are an estimated 143,000 Stay-at-Home Dads with children under the age of 15, worldwide (Stout, 2010).

While men being the caregivers for the children may be a relatively new twist that our society has taken it should also be noted that gender roles as a whole are starting to change. More fathers are starting to participate in the daily mechanics of their families (dropping kids off and volunteering at their school) than their predecessors. If you want further proof, you needn’t look any further than the diaper-changing table in the men’s room (Gill, 2001). Additionally, “more and more fathers are filing complaints with the federal EEOC claiming that their employers have discriminated against them because of their care giving roles… (Some) employers have wrongly denied male employees requests for leave for childcare purposes while granting similar requests to female employees… (This results in) men deciding that they want a work/family balance” (Smith, p. 76, 2009).

So by now, I’m sure you are wondering what all of this means? Facts are great but they aren’t going to help you through your daily family-balancing act.

This means that you are not alone. You’re not feeling feelings that haven’t been felt before. And you most certainly are not going through something no one else has gone through before.

It seems like a bitter pill to swallow but it’s not. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to not being the breadwinner, find someone who has gone through what you are going through and petition them for advice.

Not sure you want to do this for the rest of your life? Then find someone who has made a career of this and see what they think.

As our society continues to grow and evolve so will the number and nature of parents who stay at home with their children.

If your situation isn’t working for you, it’s up to you to fix it.

Sources Consulted

Gill, LIbby. (2001). Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family. New York: Penguin Group.

Smith, Jeremy Adam. (2009). The Daddy Shift. Boston: Beacon Press.

Stout, Hillary. (2010). When Roles Reverse: The Rise of the Stay-at-Home Husband. Retrieved from:   Today Parenting.

Staying at home with the kids can be hazardous to your health.

When I was legitimately employed, my son and I would always engage in a little ritual. Every day I would leave for work at the same time and every day I would come home at the same time. When we were living in our 2nd apartment, in order to get to our apartment door, you needed to open a gate and go down an alley. Our door was the last door at the end of the alley.

Upon coming home, my arrival was announced by the clanging of the gate. Every time he heard it, he would scream out “Daddy’s home!”

By the time I got the door open he was all ready there waiting to tackle me.

It’s been ages since then and I still miss that the most.

What I didn’t understand at the time was why my wife was also waiting to tackle me. Occasionally, she would be talking my ear off before I had a chance to step foot inside the door and hang up my keys. Some years later and six months into my being a stay-at-home parent and I finally realize why she was always so happy to see me.

Staying at home with the kids can be one of the loneliest and isolating jobs in the world.

Many men stay at home to keep their kids out of daycare. Some men choose this position because they can’t find a job. This at times makes life harder than what it needs to be (Bayliss & Toonkel, 2004).”Part of this feeling of isolation comes from a loss of identity. Without an outside career to define yourself, you are no longer sure what you want or who you are” (Bayliss & Toonkel, p.13, 2004).

Regardless of your own living situation, I cannot stress the importance of having a social network.

When I say ‘social network’ I’m not talking about Facebook. I’m not talking about any sort of appliance that substitutes face-to-face interactions with computer usage. I’m talking about engaging with people outside of your home.

You don’t need a large group of friends. (If you do have a large group of friends, good for you!) Even if you have one friend, you’re better off than a lot of us. If you hate people as much as I do, get a part time job. Don’t want to do that because of the commitment or the possibility that it might damage your ego? Go volunteer in your community.

Just do something that takes you out of the house.

Your life cannot revolve around your family and the kids.

You need to live for yourself as well.

While I didn’t fall into that trap of putting everyone else before myself, there wasn’t anything that I could do to avoid the loneliness that was waiting for me. 

Despite the level of your ‘parenting’, you need to network if the isolation gets to be too much for you. Pick up any book on the subject and you can find countless resources available for you. Seriously, they run the gamut from additional stay-at-home dad books to websites & blogs on the subject. There’s even conventions. CONVENTIONS! FOR PETE’S SAKE!

Caveat emptor: the idea of being a stay-at-home dad is relatively new in the mind of our society. There might not be a lot of kindred spirits in your area. If the isolation is still too much for you, reach out to the mom’s in your area.

Yes, you read that right.

They are there. They are in your neighborhood. Feeling isolated? Cowboy up and break the ice. Hell, if this is what you plan on doing with the rest of your life[1], YOU NEED TO DO THIS. There isn’t going to be anyone else in your life that is going to whole-heartedly understand what you are going through on a daily basis other than a stay-at-home mom.

Yes, there are numerous things that could happen that “could” that would make this a horrible idea. So what? I’ve been in a few awkward situations before, haven’t you?

Sources Consulted

Baylies, Peter. Toonkel, Jessica. (2004). The Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook. Chicago: Chicago Review          Press.

Smith, Jeremy Adam. (2009). The Daddy Shift. Boston: Beacon Press.

[1] Fun Fact: According to a Yale University study of adolescents raised by stay-at-home dad’s, there were perfectly normal except for one small difference: they weren’t concerned that much about gender roles. The obvious issue with this would be teasing from kids who do have fixed gender roles (Smith, 2009).