Oh dear! The world, it would seem, isn’t quite ready for the concept of stay at home dads.
Many people I’ve met are totally shocked by the concept; holding the notion in the type of contempt usually reserved for door-to-door sales people and those who’ve decided to give up deodorant.
As a SAHD, I’m beginning to feel like a Betamax owner in a VHS world – ask your mum. To be fair, I do try to be quite ‘zen’ about the stupidity I encounter daily from members of the public. But there’s only so much idiocy one man can take…
Here’s five things every SAHD is sick of hearing…
1: “Are you babysitting today?”
Deep breath. Count to 10… Or maybe 100.
Ladies and gents, it’s not ‘babysitting’… it’s PARENTING!
Why do people, when they see a man pushing a pram, assume he’s engaged in childcare at the same level of proficiency as the 16-year-old neighbour who occasionally comes round to sit in your front room (while the kids are asleep upstairs) so you can nip out for a curry with your other half?
‘Parenting’ is a demanding, committed and important activity.
‘Babysitting’ is being paid to watch Take Me Out and eat Pringles.
OH AND, FOR THE RECORD, YOU DO NOT ‘BABYSIT’ YOUR OWN KIDS.
For those of you who think I’m being extreme, why not think of it this way: next time you pass a building site, why not find the fore(person) – busily at work – and ask: “Are you doing a bit of DIY?” See what reaction you get.
2: “Taking the EASY option, are you?”
I’ve genuinely had people say this to me.
The presumption is that being a SAHD is the equivalent of being a minor member of the royal family or working in PR – in that it’s easy, merely a case of showing up and looking the part.
There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, even remotely easy about looking after a child.
Childcare is nowhere near easy, it’s not even within a commutable distance of ‘easy’. Juggling chainsaws while attempting to train sheep to play the clarinet is ‘easy’ compared to parenting.
To say anything else is to show you have no idea what you’re talking about. I didn’t decide to become a SAHD in order to take it easy. I became a SAHD because it was (holistically) the best option for my family.
3: “Do you change nappies?”
What are they? (For our American cousins, ‘nappies’ are diapers.)
No, I don’t change nappies. I just let them become fuller and fuller until either
i) They explode
ii) I persuade a passing woman to do it for me.
Of course I change nappies.
How else can you look after a child without doing this simple task? I’ve changed thousands and it hasn’t turned me into a female yet.
Seriously people, how on earth has our society got this far while allowing it to be a common belief that men shouldn’t need to deal with baby poo? Men will proudly announce to me: “I had seven children, never changed a nappy in my life.” As if this is something to proud of. Pathetic.
4: “You’re brave!”
This is a surprisingly common (unwanted) commentary on my position. If nothing else, it shows a common misunderstanding of the notion of bravery. For me being brave is taking on a risk or discomfort that you didn’t cause or anticipate in order to put the needs of others first. The arrival of my son wasn’t a surprise to me, in fact I was very much part of his inception. Looking after my child is a VERY ordinary task – or at least it should be. So why am I considered brave? Is it because I appear happy to be involved in activities traditionally synonymous with women? Or is it that I’m willing to demonstrate in public that I’m prepared to parent my own child?
Parenting requires no bravery. There are brave parents out there, but that’s a different matter. Doing a basic duty to your offspring, no matter what your gender is, should be seen as run-of-the-mill.
I long for the day when this is the case.
I get a lot of this. A funereal ‘Oh…’ The type of response that in other circumstances would be followed by: “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “He was never right for you.”
Essentially, people respond to my saying that I’m a SAHD with the same type of tone you’d give if on receipt of bad news. The assumption is that some kind of perfect storm of life has occurred leaving me in the utterly undesirable position of providing childcare. As a litmus test, I listened in on some female friends telling others they are currently full time carers to their young children. In these cases smiles and congratulations are given.
Yet I get “Oh…” as if I’ve just announced to the neighbours I’m trading in the house cat for a tiger. People look concerned, then worried and then make excuses to get away.
So there are my five. Some may think I’m being oversensitive. They’re entitled to their opinion.
Perhaps I am?
What I do know is that as our government pushes to make shared parental leave a ‘thing’, men won’t take up the role in any great numbers until real change to the way SAHD’s are viewed (finally) happens.
For the full version of this piece click here