When I was kid, being a stay-at-home dad was basically unheard of in my neighborhood. Now, with added equality between the sexes, a faulty economy and many moms in high level positions, it has become more widespread, if not common. Our society has grown more accepting of pushing past stereotypical gender roles. Yet there are still certain circles where you’ll overhear moms on the playground gossiping about the stay-at-home dads as if they are a new breed of men. There may be some truth to that because these men don’t feel the need to have to slip into the skin of a typical alpha male in order to feel confident.
But I’ve also heard from many men throughout the years who feel intimidated, out of place and even emasculated when they are the only dad at Gymboree, on the playground or at a birthday party. That has to change so more men will feel comfortable with taking on a bigger role in raising children. Is there anything as attractive as a rugged, macho (if you will) man tenderly caring for his kids?
I read an interesting piece at Huffington Post debating the role and appeal of stay-at-home dads. Writers Tom Matlack and Laura Munson discuss their positions on the subject. Matlack, a self-proclaimed stay-at-home dad believes that these men are as macho as they come because they are tending to their children. It not only helps define the child but it gives the father an incredible experience and realization of what is really important in life, namely family. “The feeling of holding a child, especially my own, in the crook of my neck is as close to God as I have ever been,” he writes. Dads like Matlack give moms a unique perspective that we other wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. (Incidentally, moms of boys should check out his article, Raising Boys: A dad’s parenting advice for moms for exactly the same reason.)
Munson, who is married to a stay-at-home dad says that if she and her husband knew in their 20s that she would be the breadwinner and he would be the one at home, they would have both cringed, but after some life changes that often result from growing up — career changes, unemployment, babies, household duties — they have fallen into these roles. She says a man who takes care of his wife and family by rolling with life changes are just about the best a wife can wish for.
So why do some men and women still put it down and use a stay-at-home dad’s role to infer untruths, such as he’s lazy and doesn’t want to work or his wife wears the pants in the family? It’s these false notions that not only hurt men, but women too, because men who join in childcare and household duties help us in unimaginable ways. They help us to not feel so overburdened and overwhelmed. They help us remember that we still have a life outside of motherhood. They sometimes take us off the hook so we don’t always have to make every decision, and they give us a mental and physical break.
And raising kids is hard … and non-stop. Being with kids all day can become so repetitious at times, you want to jump out a window. It requires you to be available 24/7, sleep or no sleep. A child only benefits from having both parents involved, especially when one can be at home.
Most of our marriage, my husband and I have split shifts so one of us was always available to watch the kids. There were times when I had to work late and on weekends when he took over completely with feedings, school, cleaning and anything else that came along. There were times when I have done the same for him. We have each changed jobs, shifts and schedules multiple times between us. Like Munson, I believe there is nothing more important than a spouse backing up the other so family and kids always come first.
I actually believe that a stay-at-home dad can be even more macho than a working dad who only spends time with his kids on weekends. I use the word macho lightly because the term itself means different things to different people. Do women want a caveman, Neanderthal dad? No, but do we like confident and masculine men? I say yes.
Those qualities come from the inside and have nothing to do with a current job situation.
My husband is 6 ft. 2 and in law enforcement. He is anything if not outwardly the typical rugged and masculine type. Yet, despite his outside bravado, some of the times I find him most appealing are when he’s rocking a baby to sleep, consoling a scared child, or reminiscing about our children’s milestones. Confidence and self-assurance come from within, and a man that knows his value as a husband and a father is more attractive hands-down than an uninvolved dad any day. Just ask his wife.