There's one aspect of being a stay at home father that seems to fascinate people. It's to do with my finances. When I discuss my position with people, I am very often asked; "What's it like being financially dependent on your wife?"
I can't help but feel this is a loaded question. There's an expectation I'll respond by saying I feel resentful and emasculated. According to gender stereotypes I should be the bread winner and provide for my family. My wife should nurture and raise our precious offspring while I hunt and gather.
I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't feel remotely emasculated or resentful. My wife and I considered many options and made a joint decision for the benefit of our family. We decided it was in the interests of our children, Helen and Izzy, not to mention our marriage, for me to stay at home while she continued to work full time.
I understand why people are curious about my finances. It may be more acceptable for guys to fulfil the caring role than it was, say, 20 years ago. Even so, us stay at home dads are small in number so there is still a curiosity around us.
I'd rather be asked outright than told I am a kept man or a "house bitch" (yes, been called that before). I think my favourite, however, was the time I was asked if I was a single parent. I found that a very odd conclusion to jump to and one that said a lot about the status of stay at home parents (mums and dads).
Even so, when did you ever hear a stay at home mum being quizzed about how she feels being financially dependent on her husband / partner? For women, it is simply accepted.
Yes, okay, it's not quite that simple. I know women can't win: they either work and get criticised for not spending time with their kids or they don't work and get criticised for letting the sisterhood down. That, however, is a blog post for another day.
If there's one point it is essential to make, it's that childcare is not emasculating. There's one word that I equate with fatherhood and masculinity: responsibility.
Raising children is a huge responsibility. Taking on that responsibility 24/7, 365 is not emasculating. It's about as masculine as you can get.
I also have to state that I am not entirely economically inactive. I do earn money as a blogger and writer and fit this work around my family. I see no conflict of interest here whatsoever.
Very few stay at home parents are economically inactive. I know of a photographer or two, a couple of cake decorators, numerous writers and a couple of Parish Clerks. All of them are responsible for house and home and all are making money at the same time. Without my wife's income, we wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage, but she doesn't have to buy my clothes or pay my phone bill.
If there's one concern I have, it's for my future. This is because I used to work in the field of pensioner poverty.
Pensioner poverty is an issue that disproportionately affects women because they often take time out of the workforce to raise children. When the children have grown up and mum is free to join the workforce again, she has to make up for lost time and struggles to get a job paying as much as she earned before. She often fails to make any pension contributions. The financial implications are frequently ugly, especially later on in life.
I am only too aware that I am in this very position. I was a higher rate tax payer before I became a stay at home father. I took a huge financial hit to look after family and home. This may bite me on the back side in my twilight years.
I admit, I miss the income I once had. I would like to make a greater contribution to the household budget. This, however, is partly down to the age of our children. Our youngest daughter starts school next year and I see light at the end of the tunnel.
Until that time, I am quite happy with how things are. My wife is free to concentrate on her career while I have taken on the main responsibility for looking after the children.
Don't take that statement the wrong way. My wife is a great mother who is perfectly capable of looking after her kids (I spent six days in Australia earlier this year and there were no major issues). Making a costume for a school play, however, is simply not her thing and best left to me.
I don't feel emasculated and resentful. In fact I feel lucky and blessed that I can spend so much time with my children. Money makes life easier, but it doesn't buy happiness.
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