Friday, May 26, 2006

The Dad Revolution, Part Two

By guest bloggers Kim Hall and Anne Guagliardo from the family life class.
(Part two of two)
This concludes the series of guest blogs from the family life class - my thanks to all.

In Austin Murphy’s How Tough Could it Be?, the author exposes his negative view of stay-at-home dads by assuming that the only way for a man to achieve domestic success is to follow the path set by stay-at-home moms. Obviously, this is problematic in itself as men must define their role in their own terms. For instance, most men who provide primary childcare find that obsessive cleanliness is not a necessary feature of the staying in the home. It was even seriously suggested at a convention for at-home dads that “household toy cleanup be conducted with a rake." These fathers also found that they were able to hold onto a lot of their traditional roles and were not set in their ‘fathering’ ways all the time. On the weekend or after work, most dads have no problem letting their wives take over as the primary caregiver. The imitation of stay-at-home moms could never produce fulfilling, long-term results for these men.

The advantages of fathers taking the stay-at-home role are incomparable for both the men themselves and their entire family. Stay-at-home dads often comment that this job changes their character in a very positive way. Men become more caring and understanding, as they are more attached and committed to their role, but the fathers are not the only beneficiaries of their new job. Their wives, who are usually spending most of their time at work, feel less guilt and worry knowing their husband is caring for the children. These women are able to focus more on their career, which, in turn, creates a larger income for the entire family. The equalitarianism of the marriage also benefits both parents. For example, in ‘traditional roles’, if a child wakes in the night the mother is 80% more likely to go tend to the problem. With reversed roles, the likelihood of each parent taking care of the child at this point is completely even. Not only does this demonstrate a more involved father, but it also confirms that the mother is not being replaced in the home. Increased contact with their fathers benefits the child as well. Children who have a close relationship with both parents are less likely to use drugs and become pregnant as teenagers. Children with stay-at-homes dads also perform better at school that those with less attachment to their fathers.

Although there are many advantages of stay-at-home dads, this role reversal has its downside. Isolation seems to be the “biggest hurdle for at-home dads." Even though there has been a recent increase of stay-at-home dads, the number is still relatively small. These fathers, who are often ashamed of their job, are reluctant to reach out to other men in the community who are in the same position. Instead, these men usually isolate themselves from the community of stay-at-homes, father or mothers. The children are often affected by a lack of stimulation and connection with others. Another problem of stay-at-dads is the difficulty faced when trying to return back to the workforce. Employers often question the man’s previous job by either assuming that it is simply a cover-up for unemployment or an alternative to his inability to handle a workload. Mother’s guilt can also be problematic with stay-at-home dads. With the cultural norms as they are, women sometimes feel that being the primary breadwinner, while their husbands are doing ‘her’ job, is unacceptable. These women often envy their husbands, wishing to reverse these roles once again.

With a goal of equality of the genders, the social stigma of stay-at-home dads must be replaced with open-mindedness. What is best for the family is most important. One should not be limited to traditional views and a fear of social change. As humans change and grow, society is forced to adapt by throwing out the idea of a ‘social norm’ in hopes of finding a reasonable resolution in a case-by-case process.

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