Thanks to Adele for this fantastic guest post. You can read her bio at the end of the article.
In defence of full time fathers…
Travelling on public transport is almost always interesting. Apart from the usual inexplicable delays and assortment of crazies and clichés hurrying to their destinations, you are almost always guaranteed to be party to someone else’s conversations.
A Guest Post by Adele Drago-Stevens
Sometimes they are one-way, your companion loudly sharing their half of a conversation on a mobile phone “…well that’s what I said, but of course she wouldn’t listen to me. I know, I know. What was she thinking…?”
At other times, you are party to conversations you didn’t think really occurred outside the realm of poorly written daytime television soaps.
“So you’re telling me your dad is really your uncle? That’s heavy.”
“Tell me about it”.
Generally, people are surprisingly frank on public transport. It’s as though we are all travelling along in cones of silence. At least, we all assume, if something is overheard, none of our companions really know what we are talking about, or whom. We are in a safe environment.
Occasionally this backfires; talking about someone who is a mutual friend of an unknown third party sitting nearby, for example. This morning, I was politely pursuing my commuter business (reading the paper on my e-reader and occasionally eavesdropping on nearby conversations), when I overheard two men nearby chatting convivially about a friend.
“Oh yeah, he’s like…what do you call it? A ‘house-husband’ or something – we give it to him all the time.”
“Haha, totally. You should ask him to do your ironing or something.”
And here we are. All of a sudden we are transported from modern times backward to 1952. A man at home must be doing women’s work (which, of course, includes the ironing).
“So, what, was he made redundant or something?”
Bam! Even better. Not only has this poor sod been relegated to being a surrogate house-wife, worthy of ridicule, but one can only assume that he has been forced into the role as a result of being put out of ‘real’ work.
“Nah, nah. He, you know… They decided I think.”
Well, this might be revealing. No-one can really understand why a man would choose to stay at home. It certainly would have been a discussion. Aren’t we all a bit uncomfortable if it’s revealed his wife earns more than him? How emasculating for the poor bugger. So much easier if he was forced into it. Let’s not talk about it anymore.
If his wife was at home, then it would be clear that she was either earning less money or that it wasn’t up for discussion. In fact, no reason would probably be sought. No one would ever say “oh my wife’s a full time mum”, “oh, why’s that then? Was she made redundant? Earn less than you?”
No. It’s so, natural, and so accepted that ‘mum at home’ is the default setting that only the exception (when the dad chooses to stay home) is notable.
Perhaps I am being idealistic in expecting surprise at a mother choosing to care for her children full-time, but what I’d really like to see is a lack of surprise when the inverse is true. Let’s all just get a grip, shall we? A father staying at home is not earth-shattering. The decision has probably been made for the same reasons as for the mum, just that the genders are reversed. I often wonder what people think when gay couples decide who is going to be the full-time carer. There are perhaps fewer opportunities for gender-based assumptions here. (Although gay couples deal with a whole raft of other, more serious discriminations and prejudices, so I’ll leave that issue alone for now.)
At the end of the day, it’s what is best for the family.
Now, I am obviously a little bit sensitive to this issue. My husband is currently a full-time father (he’s also studying online, but I hate to qualify our decision for him to be the one that stays home with our son by justifying it with “but he’s studying!” The implication is that otherwise, it wouldn’t be OK.)
He is an amazing man. Not only is he wonderfully smart, strong and good-looking (brownie-points?), he has taken time-out from his career, and taken some time to assess his direction in life, upon the arrival of his son. We are sharing the load. I did the first six months. Now he is taking the opportunity to care for our first born too. His days are long; longer than mine. And I know the feeling.
He supports me in everything I do. After spending a full day caring for our (active, non-napping) nearly-one year-old, he usually makes dinner, helps to prepare a bath for our son, gets the fire going, maybe even feeds the young man and puts him to bed (I usually do this on my work days for a little mother-son time), and then packs my lunch for the next day, before doing some study. Quite often he gets up in the morning to make my breakfast, too.
He stays home while I go for jogs and dash out to meet up with friends. He cooks, cleans, repairs, cares. All of it. Everything that I would do when I was home, and more.
And, the best part? He does it all differently to I do. Not better, not worse. Differently. He is offering our son a unique perspective. And we each have a much deeper understanding of what it is that we both do and contribute to our family and to our shared and individual goals.
I understand how hard it is to be home sometimes, but I also understand how fun and rewarding it can be. He knows that it’s difficult to be away all the time, but also knows that it’s nice to be able to run to your own agenda in an adult environment.
I couldn’t love my husband more. I feel extremely lucky to have found a man who wasn’t worried that I would earn more, or that he would get bored, or what people might think if he chose to stay home. I am incredibly lucky to have found him. But I kind of wish I didn’t feel SO lucky. That he wasn’t as rare as hen’s teeth. Not to say I should be able to take him for granted; more that it would be nice to be thankful for having such a man in my life, despite the fact that there were thousands of other men in the same situation. Where a father or mother could stay at home and neither choice would seem unusual.
If I’d had a little more coffee this morning, I’d have said all of this to my companions. I wonder what they would have said in response. Probably would have told me to get back in the kitchen.
Adele Drago-Stevens works in Higher Education in inner-Melbourne, is currently studying her Masters, and live in the chilly interior of Victoria.
She is also a happy mum to her first-born son, and wife to husband, Marcus.
Being lucky enough to work in an excellent industry for family-flexibility has allowed Adele time at home to enjoy her new family, before Marcus decided to take over the reigns at Christmas as ruler of the family domain.
Moving from a inner city DINK (dual income, no kids) lifestyle to country Victorian family, while trying to combat gender stereotypes, is proving interesting so far…
If you have a guest post relevant to the Reservoir Dad website send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!