Last week Lisa Belkin wrote a superb Huffington Post article entitled, “The Year of the Dad?” In it, she lauds the trends indicating men’s increased involvement as fathers, yet questions the cultural permanence of such in light of the recovering job market. Belkin’s thoughts come as a result of new data released by the Census Bureau suggesting that dads now are playing a more active parental role. However, Belkin, who was recently listed on Babble’s Top 100 Mom Bloggers, debates how much of this is due to personal choice versus economic necessity. Her point is a valid one.
I’m a SAHD because of the recession. I did not accept the role graciously. You might even say I was a whiny little bitch about it. I could run through list of obvious reasons for this, but basically it boiled down to the frustration that came from re-evaluating my self-worth, which previously had been centered largely on my work performance. With that gone, who the hell was I? A dad? Swell. That’ll pay the bills.
Eventually, I did come to grips with the situation, realizing that being a SAHD was what my family needed. I mean, we needed money too, but without me taking care of the kids, my wife would’ve lost her job. Some money is better than none, and me being a selfish jerk about the whole thing wasn’t helping anyone. It was time to get my ass in gear and stop thinking of myself.
Still, even though the experience has changed my worldview in a big way (while also exposing me to a whole community of exceptional mom and dad bloggers), given the choice between staying home or returning to a traditional job, I’d choose the latter. Why? For a couple of reasons: 1) greater earning potential and 2) more time with my family.
Being a SAHD, as I’ve already mentioned, has been something that’s made our family stronger; however, call me sexist, but I still have the greater earning potential in this house. They say money can’t buy happiness — true, but having it sure reduces a lot of stress when the starter goes out in your minivan — and that’s the biggest stress felt by our whole family.
With my other reason, it may sound counterintuitive to say having a job would actually allow one more time with their family, but when you work from home, you are always at work. Yeah, yeah — work-life balance, priorities, yadda, yadda. Those arguments will always exist. For me, though, being able to walk away from a physical location means leaving work at work as opposed to the temptation of eating dinner in my home office just to squeeze in a few more billable hours.
I realize this line of reasoning is endemic to our family’s specific set of circumstances, and may differ from those of others. My real point, though, is that my decision to give up being the primary care-giver is based on what’s best for my family, not because I dislike my domestic duties.
This is the thought that goes through my mind whenever I hear discussions about which parent is working and which is staying home. The question is what’s best for the family and for the children. I think that this sometimes gets forgotten, especially when we start to overanalyze statistics in attempts to prove parental equality exists.
Are fathers really more involved today? Yes. Is the data presented by the Census Bureau valid in suggesting this? Yes, to an extent. But as more men return to work how will this affect the rise of fatherhood we’ve been seeing take place over the last few years?
Personally speaking, I’m actually more conscientious of my parenting as I now work full-time, and it’s because of my experiences as a SAHD. Will this happen across the board with other dads? I hope so. It would be deflating to think that the rise of fatherhood occurred by default at the hands of the economy, and worse, that it will leave no lasting footprint once those conditions have evaporated.
What do you think? Is the rise of fatherhood, largely a default consequence due to the economy, or is it real?
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons (Tbdsy Lives)
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Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.