12 October 2012

Stay-At-Home Dad Misery?

Being a dad that spends a lot of time looking after his daughter I search for info about stay-at-home dads on Google from time to time. The results are rarely satisfying, since there’s a dearth of links out there, at least when it comes to useful and informative ones. I have however noticed a rise in negative bias about stay-at-home dads, which leaves me with a very bitter taste in my mouth. One is a Daily Mail article called “Why being a stay at home dad is the quickest way to kill your sex life (and can even lead wives to stray)”.

Let me first clarify that I don’t really feel that I’m a stay-at-home dad per se. I do indeed spend a lot of time looking after my daughter in the day. I do however have my own business. I’m qualified as a school music teacher, and as such I’ve an educational background that lends itself to my private venture as a guitar tutor, which I’ve been doing for a very long time now. I don’t have any issues with the label stay-at-home dad, but what I can say is that my wife and I are a very close couple, and this is definitely a difference maker. We decided very early on that keeping our daughter out of daycare would not only be better for her development, which is backed up by research, but also financially more sensible.

My wife has a good job in the private sector working in telecommunications, while I was the fool that chose to work for the public sector. This was a depressing experience in many respects, and is a big reason why I’ve become the libertarian I am today. But alas, that’s a story for another day. Since my wife earns the type of money that a teacher wouldn’t attain for many years, it was more sensible for me to subsidise our family’s income through working part-time, while my wife worked full-time as the breadwinner. We therefore reached a mutual decision that worked for the family, and this I feel is a good way for a family to operate.

Back to the article in question. It’s a mixture of valid criticisms that I myself have noticed about the perception towards stay-at-home dads, and cultural issues masked as objective concerns. A valid concern I think the article brings up is the alienation that stay-at-home dads can feel. Speaking from personal experience it’s extremely hard to meet other people during the day, and even when you do meet people you can feel a lack of connection to them. I’ve had occasions when I’ve seen dads around, but it’s unusual for men to strike up conversations when they don’t have an immediate reason to do so. Women on the other are accustomed to social interaction, and evolved to be collectively supportive. Mother groups and soft play abound, women start talking with one another at the slightest opportunity, and before they know it they’re having weekly gatherings at one another’s houses, or pubic places like coffee shops. This is pretty standard practice that few would contest. There’s little reason to, unless you have a politically correct axe to grind that insists men and women are the same.

In the article in question the pressure of being a stay-at-home dad reaches boiling point for the writer when he’s told to leave the room by a mother who’s breast-feeding. This is indeed irritating, and shows just how much female emotions dominate the present culture. On one hand we have women complaining when people challenge their right to breast feed in public, and on the other we have a male student nurse being told to leave a class because women were “sensitive to a man’s presence.” Talk about making your head spin! This is an appalling double standard, and shows just how much society is obsessed with appeasing the feelings of females over and above any sense of true equity and universal sense of equality. Women still want their sex specific space, while men have to surrender theirs at every turn via affirmative action and public sport funding, like Title IX.

The isolating experience of being a stay-at-home dad is not about to change any time soon. Stay-at-home dads are on the rise according to recent statistics, especially since the recession is hurting men more than women, thus being dubbed a man-cession by some. So I sympathise for the plight of men who don’t necessarily have a choice when they become stay-at-home dads, as I did. Combined with alienation, isolation, and harsh economic times, it’s enough to make a man feel justifiably depressed. What’s more there aren’t the plethora of support groups for dads as there are for mothers, and in my local area it’s laughable how sparse (aka non-existent) they are.

Once upon a time life was much more clear-cut for families. The dad had his role, and the mother had hers. Occasionally they crossed in the middle, but both sexes (not just men) safeguarded their unique contributions to the family, and the present behaviour by women related to parenthood, and the lack of cultural support for fathers, shows that women are determined to keep their sacred cow of motherhood alive, while men have little choice but to keep to their own traditional roles. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel the need to rigidly define familial life, and I for one am very comfortable in mine. Equally I’m less than impressed by the hypocrisy of modern women when it comes to living up to their end of the modernisation bargain.

Chief among these disappointments is the statistic that the article in question cites regarding marital break-ups, involving men who stay at home with the children. This is cited at ten percent of all marital break-ups, doubling in the last five years. This falls directly in line with the bite of economic slowdown around 2007, and shows that many women are so entitled in this present day and age that they can’t return the same courtesy that men have given women to relax their inherent roles as carers, by respecting men as carers too. I do feel anger at this predicament. It also does women no favours when it comes to a person like me defending the fact that women are not fatally prone to their hypergamous instincts. Before any misogynists get excited, there’s every reason to believe that only the most enlightened woman has a chance of rising above the morally bankrupt culture that feminism endorses. With this in mind most men and women struggle to think laterally, manipulated by social engineering instead. This is a recurring theme, regardless of identity.

This aside what favour is the writer of this article doing dads when he claims that there’s a strong loss of self-esteem in his role? He may indeed feel that way, and many alpha males may struggle with changing diapers, cleaning, and other traditionally female jobs. His previous boardroom power jockeying was obviously not transferable to his homely duties, and this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Being a stay-at-home dad is not a ego-soothing job. It’s not one that gives you prestige or sadly, even respect in many cases. So why am I happier as a stay-at-home dad compared to people like the writer of the article in question.

First, I don’t dwell on what people think about me, and I’m only principally concerned with people I’ve built a mutual respect for. I don’t care if people think ill of me for earning less than my wife, or that I change diapers, and spend lots of daytime bonding with my daughter while my wife is at work. My daughter completes me as a person, and it really is a pleasure to be around her, and one that words can barely describe effectively. Anyone that feels this makes me less of a man can take a hike!

Second, I admit I have an introverted streak. I love to read, browse the internet for interesting links, play guitar, and generally relish my own company. Weekly exercise is of a similar vein. Regarding friendship my life experiences have made me realise that quality is preferable to quantity, and on this basis my wife and I are the best of friends. We’ve built our relationship on years of understanding. I appreciate this can be rare; especially in today’s vacuous culture. Men and women are very different animals, and no amount of PC propaganda is going to change the fact that science is making this more apparent all the time. Fearing these differences or opposing them is ignorant. There’s no reason, except an ideological one, that men and women should be the same. Saying that my wife and I share common interests, and if there’s one thing I think helps us get along so well it’s this. So this is one way to transcend differences between the sexes.

Third, as I’ve already stated I have my own business, and this helps to keep me busy. Which brings me onto another area that occupies me - blogging and video-making. I love to express myself philosophically. I seriously doubt I could ever have the time to do this to the same extent if I had a full-time job, so I savour the opportunity. Aside from my wife I don’t really know many people outside of online communities that I connect with on a philosophical level, and I now realise this has been a recurring issue in my life. It wasn’t until I started blogging and volgging that I learnt to appreciate how therapeutic philosophically expressing myself actually is.

Last and not least, it never fails to amaze me how couples often live distinctly separate lives today. It’s getting harder to actually live as a true partnership thanks to disgraceful doublethink legislation regarding “emotional abuse” as a form of domestic violence - what constitutes “controlling how you spend your money” is open for interpretation, and as usual the lawmakers and enforcers are almost certainly banking on this. The writer of the article in question also showed signs of petty wranglings over who’s money belongs to whom. Even when I earned more money than my wife we didn't operate this way, at least after we reached a point of certainty about our commitment to one another.

The bottom line is that marriage is a partnership, and couples have every right to be involved in one another’s business, unless this is some sort of shallow arrangement devoid of warmth and love. If you’re the type of person that thinks this is a controlling or domineering arrangement then do yourself a favour and don’t get married. Of course there’s a line where a spouse becomes abusive, but many domestic violence laws are not designed with any kind of pragmatism, hitting nails into the coffin of familial stability with a nanny state shaped hammer.

I honestly don’t know if many men are individually minded enough to be stay-at-home dads. It’s hard enough trying to influence the culture into accommodating fathers. But when men like the writer of the article in question project their blatant subconscious shame of not being the alpha male provider onto the role of stay-at-home dad, it just makes change that much harder. I myself feel great happiness in the strength of my relationship, the bond with my daughter, and the chance to live through music and philosophy. What does it matter if that’s not alpha male enough?

16 comments:

  1. to be a self-actualized person means, to me, that you could be in any circumstance and find a way to make something worth living for out of it, without asking questions like "why me" or "why isn't it fair?"

    Christians would call it "joy", Buddhists would call it Buddha-nature, and I guess everyone else just calls it self-actualization.

    I struggle with being a "stay-at-home" dad as well, I think it's definitely counter to male biology, but then again so is being locked in a dirty cage for years with minimal food and water, and a good number of men have survived that and worse.

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  2. I guess that, while you have an agreement with your wife about being a stay home dad, most of these guys don't. They didn't chose it. It was forced upon them by the recession. The feminist policies forced a gender role swap by turning the educational system and labor policies in favor of women and against men. And things will only get worse.
    And despite all feminism, many women respond in surveys that they would like to be home with their children and have a man to look after them and the family.

    Men wanting to take care of women and women wanting wanting to be cared is positive and quite satisfying, as long as both parties agree with it, and most of the human beings are set this way. This is as much psychological as biological, and no feminism or egalitarianism can change it.

    but the way things are today, people are forced to contenting themselves not only with less than what they want, but also less than what is healthy for them. That's when you stop living and start surviving. This is not an issue of being narrow-minded, it is just preference plus instinct, and most people prefere traditional gender roles, even if today the political correctness doesn't allow them to voice it.

    On the other hand, depicting raising a child as a "prison sentence" is a well known feminist point of view. Things are being set this way, so families become unstable and break it up.

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  3. I love being a stay at home Mom and I have fun with my kids and we are a tight family which helps us all. I have dabbled in creative endeavors over the course of my marriage and I can say that while it is fun ultimatly I am glad to be back in my home being full time mommy. I have found intellectual stimulus from research and writing and blogs like yours and find you to be a wonderful person and brilliant and logical thinker. you are affecting many people by your place in the world as a stay at home dad, you are necessary and providing reason to so many seeking answers. your daughter is blessed with bonds with loving parents and you get to sort of fight the bad guys or at least explain succinctly why they are bad guys. I am a femininist, not a feminist, I love my gender instincts and place within my relationship with my husband and the world, I love shoes, and shades and girl stuff and have always felt sad for the radical fems always unsat and fighting something.
    so much of what I research happening here in the states with agenda 21, common core curriculum and all the rest seems to come from the cultural marxists and I have to say I find them rather sad and jealous. chip on the shoulder the size of gibralter seems to be their motivation. sense of not accepting their lot and looking to punish others. sad really.
    that and power/greed of course. but ultimatly knowing their willingness to deceive and lie and steal to get their way is just so vulgar and makes me angry. I was taught to put others ahead of myself, to mind my manners, to examine my conscience and to stand up for what I believe in and be myself. this seems to be the opposit of what is the cultural norm today. So I continue to enjoy my chosen role and count my blessings and fight the bad guys in my own way. I am delighted to have discovered you and have recommended you to my peeps.

    My last point is that the same frankfurt bunch that made woman feel inadequate for not going to work also said that the playpen was restrictive and cruel, resulting in mums and dads losing complete independance by needing to chase little ones all over the house to keep them from harm. My mother told me fiddlestix to that and got me the cadillac of playpens. I used it til they each figured out how to climb out and then it was something else, but those times I was able to shower and run around the house with out fear of harm, and teaching my children to occupy themselves and self soothe has definatly shown its rewards in my children today.
    All Moms and Dads encounter their own difficulties navigating the daily routine of freedom and need, of being " stay at home" and you are not alone. keep rockin!

    Tanni Fawkes

    some favorite links

    www.invisibleserfscollar.com
    www.jenkintownchronicle.com
    girlwriteswhat you tube

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  4. Couple of days ago I watched a Danish TV-show called the "Women Patrol". It was about some women touring a variety of men and men's groups. It was actually a wonderful show as it showed both some dads at home and other groups of men in a very, very positive way. The wife and I definitely had a good time, and she actually proclaimed at some point: "next time I want to be reborn as a man". :)

    The women did notice some "odd" behavior" among the dads at home, though. One of the men, for instance, took the entire Wednesday out where he went to a garage to work on his vintage motorcycle. The women patrol all noticed that this would have been unusual behavior for women, themselves included. Most of the time they just couldn't let go of their home responsibilities in that way. So while those dads are at home, they not quite doing the same "thing".

    Also, there are other sources to male virtues such and strength and social status than just having a well-paid career. If you have an inner strength, a calm, or that "artistic quality" that just is there that accomplishes quite a lot of what a Porsche does.

    I wouldn't be worried about you, RockingMrE, as you definitely have that spark, and I'm sure you're correct about your wife having transcended some of those natural propensities of our culture and biology. Outside of the everyday chores you DO have a Greater Mission and are very well spoken on it. That's YOUR "going into the great unknown". That is also very manly!

    I would, on the other hand, consider being a stay at home dad to often be a perilous strategy for quite a lot of men - and their women and relationships. I struggle a bit with the psychological approach of Warren Farrell on this, preferring the mechanistic approach of biology, but maybe he has a point that when you've been subjected to the same narrative a million times it just leaves a mark that far from all people can transcend even if they "logically know better". I would expect lower middle class or worse to be most impacted by "self-esteem issues", but that's just my guess.

    I guess what I'm saying is that you're a bit of a freak - and I mean that in a loving way, my Brother!

    I've spent a lot of time with my own daughter, and also went on paternity leave for two or three months, and I really appreciates the close bond we have. I'd rather prefer, though, not to be the dad at home on a permanent basis. Not cut out for it. Just isn't. We've got a more traditional division of labor, and it's actually become a LOT better in our relationship as my wife has begun to accept this arrangement instead of listening to the external influences.

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    1. Perhaps I am a freak. I'm not over-invested in stay-at-home Dads catching on. But as I said in the post I have a tuition business, so that does give me a diverse life when you add in my online activities and everything else.

      I do take issue with the idea that some guy who goes off to look after his bike for a whole day is not the type of behaviour that women undergo at times. There's growing evidence to show that autism might be linked to people that were neglected by mothers for hours on end, while the fathers were not around, and it's not as though mothers are perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

      I think my relationship is strong for many reasons, and that women value more than just "money" from men. There are lots of masculine traits, and people have been fooled into focussing on just a few.

      Anyway, your comment was interesting and informative. Thanks for making it.

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  5. I'm right there with you. Very similar experiences. Wife took some time off, then back to work and I filled in because my work permits it. I found it a nice challenge at the start, but as things progressed found it grating and primarily boring/unfulfilling. Thankfully I'm on the home stretch with just 3 more months to go and the kid and wife is on summer holidays and then in school full time. I had fun, wouldn't trade it way, but it's past due. I recently have been taking a day off with kid in daycare so I can rest mid-week. This has helped a bit.

    But the same as you, I didn't have a problem with other people, it just didn't jive with me, it didn't build me up as a man. It did hurt my desire - overall. I began to suffer physical injuries (probably lower testosterone) and was generally poor mood. My wife also didn't support how I felt, or provide me with what I needed in spite of my efforts. Much better now, but not without lots of undue pain. Oh well, live and learn from this giant experiment I guess. I would never do it again, and would not recommend any Dad do it for longer than 6 months. Men simply were not designed to do it alone.

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    1. I'm not sure whether you got the impression that your experiences apply to me. Generally I am perfectly happy in my role, and don't care about stigma overall. I also don't feel like less of a man because my wife and I have a very strong relationship compared to most. The article in question was very cynical in my view, and is reflective of alpha male attitude, which I feel totally disinclined to mimic.

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  6. Personally, I feel that my wife has the more important job. The job of raising several humans to not be pieces of garbage. I say this to everyone who will listen. Someone has to raise the children. I have the shitty job that pays for the family's continued health and well being, but it also keeps me from them. I believe the absolute worst part of feminism(and there's tons of awful shit about it) is that it so devalued the rearing of children, that people almost feel a sense of shame when they would prefer to do it. Be they male or female. I don't discount my contribution, but I draw my satisfaction only from what it facilitates, rather than the actual work I perform. I accept that throughout history, men have done their jobs, understanding that it's not what they do that is important, but that they do it at all - because of what it ensures for the family unit.

    While I do support traditional gender roles, I don't claim that they have to be rigidly adhered to. I feel that if the woman wants to go out and be the breadwinner, that's fine - but at that point, she is not the mom. If the father is the one that stays at home he's the mom. In the case of a "single mom" or "single dad" who works, that child has no mother. The daycare provider(institutionalized or family member) is the de facto mother and the breadwinner is the "dad". Same with the two working parents situation, but with two "dads". If the single parent does not work, then "The State" is more or less the absentee "dad".

    I sometimes wish that my own and my wife's positions were reversed and I could be the one out of the ratrace and doing what I feel really matters, but I think it's for the best that those roles are the way they are, since I believe that I lack the compassion and access to empathy that is required to do the job right. I do not believe that that is the case with all men. I am over-compartmentalized and find it too easy to distance myself from prolonged emotional engagement. This has served me well in many respects, but due to this aspect of myself, I believe that I'm not quite suited for full time parenting. I envy your situation, but I don't believe that I could emulate it. I hope that you are able to remain content and proud of what you are doing, instead of wistfully pining for some other situation.

    It's really disgusting, that somewhere along the way, as a society, we tricked ourselves into thinking it's ok for some stranger to raise our children. To pack them up in boxes with a dozen or so other kids while we seek "fullfillment". As if that could be provided by working for some faceless company and not by those we share genetic and emotional ties to.

    I only recently found your videos and am finding them very interesting. Initially, I found them difficult to follow, as I had a hard time adjusting to your accent. I'm glad that I made the effort to adjust, as while I don't necessarily agree with all you say, you make your points well, and they resonate with me. I have said many of the same things that you do over the years, to many people, but with less eloquence and actual data to back it up.

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    1. I largely agree with you, and appreciate your effort to keep up with my endeavours. However, I don't agree that staying at home with children somehow makes you a de facto "mother", and going to work makes you a de facto "father". I do the job somewhat differently to my wife, but what's important is that you can teach the necessity of empathy, as many women do. Some men aren't good at this, but many women over-empathise it's importance, making children conformists. It's a balancing act, and this is always the case for being a good parent.

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  7. The nomenclature pertains strictly to the role, as I see it. Typically the one who leaves the child in the care of the other parent fulfills the role of the "dad" while the one assuming the fulltime care of the children applies to the "mom".
    It's not terribly important, what they are called really, but it fits better in my head that way. That the words mom and dad are defined more by the their sexual identity, rather than what each does seems to give each some measure of disservice.
    While I'm not especially keen on same sex pairings raising kids, I have seen that there is some data that suggests that if the kid's other option is foster care or an orphanage, then yes, two same sex parents would probably be better.
    In their case, it seems silly to say the child has two mommys or two daddys. The role each performs seems more definitive than their sex.
    I think typically that each sex in the role of primary caregiver is likely to be a bit different. Not to say one is necessarily weaker in that regard than the other.
    I think that the point you make at the end is quite important - and why the two actual parents will usually make the best ones, because of the balance between the two psychologies in creating well balanced kids.
    The way that I gravitated towards my naming convention is in this way - and should clarify my feelings on it. I am friends with a couple... and both of their kids were raised in daycare and have been since very young ages in both cases(under 1 year old). It makes no sense to me(logically), that the mother in the case of those kids is still technically the "mom" as society calls the female parent. Since her method of child rearing is only marginally similar to my wife's. It makes more sense to me, in that case to say that the kids have two dads and daycare is "mommy".
    I think it's kinda silly to call what my kids mother does the same thing as what that woman does. They are not the same role at all and the word "mom" loses all meaning in this context.
    By all accounts, their kids seem to be doing really well intellectually and emotionally(their daughter is somewhat of a control freak in her interactions with outher kids - I would imagine due to having so little control over other things in her life{but then, all kids have no control - so it's hard to say})so far, but I will be watching them to see how they turn out.
    When it all boils down, I think that families do better when one is the breadwinner and one is there for the kids to help them grow. To belittle either one as less than the other is profoundly short-sighted.

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    1. I find your arguments about the type of parent being defined by culture, not biology, to be troubling, and one that leads to a slippery slope. It's a denial of reality. I am a dad. I am not a "mom" because I spend a lot of time with my child. And no, a gay couple cannot fill the void of one mother and one father by the "jobs" they do. Biology plays a role in this, and while you can compensate, it's important to have a male and female influence. People can try to compensate, but it will never be better than nature overall. I do however question the idea that men can't care for their children. They've just never had the luxury because they've had no choice but to provide in the past. Only today can this really be challenged.

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  8. I don't question mens ability to be the primary caregiver. I only question my own - specifically. I need too much solitude. And I don't think what I'm doing is... arguing, really. I'm just discussing.

    I just think it's weird that a parent that turns her kids over to daycare all day still feels that she fits the definition of the mom, when at best, she fits the traditional role of the dad. So while I wouldn't call her the 'daddy' or you the 'mommy', it does feel like those that the roles.

    I also don't feel that two same sex partners generally do as well as a mixed sex, biologically linked couple in creating well-adjusted kids. I was just saying that if that's not an option, due to the bad choices of the biological parents, then it could be the better option among potentially bad ones. Theoretically, it seems better having two invested parents than the alternative. Maybe. I don't know. There's not enough data out there, that I can personally reference, to say for sure. In the best of all possible worlds, they would have access to positive examples of both a man and a woman to be exposed to, but we're talking about situations that are already less than ideal.

    I'm glad that more dads are getting the option to stay home with the kids. I think it's a good thing.

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  9. I'm not saying you're wrong... I'm really just thinking out loud to an audience.

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  10. I am in an almost identical situation. I even had an experience where I was asked to leave a breastfeeding support group that I was attending with my wife when we first started this adventure. I did have struggles adjusting to my new role and still do to some smaller extent, but a lot of the mothers I know have had the same issues. This leads me to believe that the stress has more to do with the transition from professional to parent than it does with challenging strict gender roles. I personally feel extremely fortunate that we were in the position financially for me to be a "full time dad," a term I prefer because I try to avoid staying at home for both our sakes.

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  11. I don't have anything witty or philosophical to say but, I just want to thank you for your beautiful article. I have been a stay at home dad for 2 years now and have done it completely alone without any kind of group support. There are very few articles that help men like us feel "good" about being who we are doing the things we do. I will most definitely share this article because whether people like it or not there will always be "Stay at home dad's", so why not give "us" some positive feedback.

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    1. Thank you. To be a stay-at-home Dad you have to be perfectly at ease with yourself, and doing things on your own, because there is no support structure unless you're prepared to join groups dominated by women. I don't know if that will ever change, but one thing's for sure, Dads that stay at home for their children are doing a great service.

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