Back in the long, long ago. When I was a younger, more enthusiastic, obliviously optimistic dad, the idea of being a stay-at-home parent seems to me to be the most natural, fantastic adventure. Obviously now, as I’ve just clocked up two years of SAHD-ing, things are different; I’m older, probably a lot more than two years older – and I’m not sure what space/time/vomit continuum contributed to that! Mimi is similarly older, smarter, cheekier, more defiant than the helpless six-month-old dot who I first had all to myself.
One thing that doesn’t seem to have changed, however, is the general attitude that I encounter to the lesser-spotted phenomenon of stay-at-home fatherhood. One would wonder how, in this day and age of gender equality, or at least the attempt at such, that for a man to be the primary caregiver would be just another element in a fair, balanced, forward-thinking society.. But no, we SAHDs are regarded as strange, rare creatures, most especially here in Ireland.
The reason for me bringing this up now, and I should really be used to my dodo-like status by now, is a simple phrase used in a recent conversation.
While chatting to one of the excellent capable caregivers at the creche Mimi sometimes attends, she mentioned that her partner had recently suggested, jokingly, that he should stay home with their (as yet imaginary) children, while she worked. When she told him that she knew a stay-home dad – me – it was his response that stuck with me:
“How does he get away with it?”
(Excuse the bolding up, felt it needed it.) Get away with it!?? Pardon me. Am I getting away with something here? Am I somehow playing the system to my advantage? Am I just having a jolly? Playing Lego and eating jelly babies while the rest of ‘normal’ society go about their worthwhile pursuits in industry? I doesn’t f***ing feel like it!
Ok, calmer now.. Absolutely, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks, I’ve always said that. I get a unique opportunity; to be the formative influence on this amazing brand-new person. I get to revel in every achievement, every milestone reached. But I also get to see more poop, puke, and laundry than I could ever have imagined! I get to fret and worry, to monitor wheezy sleep, to sit anxiously at her bedside with thermometer in hand, torturing myself with nightmare scenarios. I get to agonise over every calorie and incur the wrath when I refuse to hand over lollipops. In short, the exact same battles as almost any other parent. Are they ‘getting away with it’ too?
Now I’m not furious about this, or even hugely offended, just curious that it should be seen as a dodge, a scam. I’m sure the lad who used the phrase most likely meant that his mates wouldn’t let him ‘get away with it’. That they’d consider it an affront to his masculinity. But for feck’s sake, is that not probably worse? Eh? I’m well into my forties now so that sort of male super-ego is long gone from my list of concerns. So are today’s generation of breeding-age men really so insecure in their manhood that childcare is likely to damage their fragile millennial facades? I despair if so.
Harping back again to that long, long ago, I remember a conversation with one of my closest mates, himself as newish dad at the time. On hearing of my stay-home plans his response was; “That’s amazing, you’re going to be such a big part of her life. I’m kinda jealous. But honestly, I wouldn’t do it myself.” And that’s cool, I can totally understand that it’s not for everyone. But right now, two years in, it’s still for me.
As long as I can get away with it..
It’s crazy what people think of stay at home parents in general, and I can imagine as a stay at home dad you get it in the neck too. And they say we have equality!!! Glad you’re still enjoying it #GlobalBlogging
“Get away with it” as long as you can! It is a special time with your child that matters more than people with a narrow world view. #globalblogging
My sentiments entirely, Jeannette. Thanks so much for reading, and commenting of course – much appreciated.
It’s interesting isn’t it? Attitudes to work that doesn’t fit with the norms created by capitalism just seem to be predominantly negative. That is probably driven home more forcefully to you as a man: the traditional worker- provider. Your value is in your commodifiable labour.
Then there’s also the whole issue of gender roles. The big difference for women I guess is that they can also receive criticism from BOTH camps. I have friends who’ve been vilified for having the audacity to pursue a career and “abandon” their children and then others who’ve been virtually regarded as non-people because they’ve stepped out of the work place to stay at home with their kids. Both camps are hugely defensive of their positions because they deeply want assurance that they’ve made the “right” decision. Truth is there’s no right decision.. it’s whatever works!
Loving the blog!
Well said, Ange, and thanks for commenting. As you might have guessed this is only the first of a few pieces I’ve written around this theme – I will definitely be quoting you from this!! X
Yup, people seem to love putting the dollar ahead of the welfare and the relationship of their children! I feel blessed that I get to stay home with my two girls! I will say that I’m busier with the two of them then I was when I worked, but I’m really enjoying being there for them and loving on them and being the one to help them work through some problems and try to impart some wonderful lessons as much as I can! Definitely “get away with it” as long as you can, but treasure this time because it’s a blink of an eye in the true scope of things! Thanks for the great post and witty banter!
That’s exactly it, Steve. I often say it’s the best job I ever had but with the most demanding boss! Definitely busier now than in my journalist days, but squeezing every drop of joy out of it because, as you say, it’ll be gone before I know it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
As parents, we do what we believe is necessary for our children. We live in such a chaotic world, spending as much time with our kids is so important. It’s exhausting being a SAHM parent. I love that dads are doing it more. The relationship built with your child is one that will have an everlasting impact! Good on ya! Thank you for lining up with #globalblogging, hope to see you next week!
Too right! It’s funny that some folk think I’m missing out, but of course, I think they’re missing out more! I hope to be prouder of this time in my life than any I spent working to line others’ pockets.
Thanks very much for reading and commenting, and especially for having me on #globalblogging , such a great initiative with some super talented people. Cheers.
[…] favorite is from The Walking Dad – GIVIN’ ME DADDITUDE: Perceptions of stay-home fatherhood. Loved this post! We need to give dad’s much more […]
Super post. I know a couple SAHDads myself, and they’re doing a FAB JOB, as good and even better than a ‘mom’ would! It’s just about perceptions and what society sees as the norm, but I give my hats off to dads like you who choose to go against the norm and do what’s best for your child and family. Here’s to Stay-at-home-dads!
PS: I LOVE the name and tagline of your blog, Very smart:)
Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Nicole. You’re too kind.