I consume a lot of news. Coming from a newspaper family on Mom’s side and a publisher/author on my Father’s, I guess it is in my blood to keep up on current events. I take in the news on a regular day about 4 or 5 times. Reading the paper in the morning, checking the AP app on the phone later, going through the second paper I get during lunch, TV news at night and some Twittering and Facebook during the day. I usually have a good grasp of what is in the news most days. One thing I have noticed in the past few months or half year is the groundswell of attention to Stay at Home Dads.
Maybe you have seen the recent cover of The New Yorker magazine which depicts a scene in a playground where Dads are shown in numbers playing with their kids, wearing the Bjorn sling with one while taking to the other, climbing steps, feeding bottles to babies and picking flowers while one confused Mom looks on. It struck me when I saw it that right now in the news there are a lot of stories being done about Dads who stay at home and raise the kids while the Moms are working as the breadwinners.
Now most of these stories have an angle that I find typically boring and most of the time completely not true. The details are always a bit different but the overarching theme of these stories is that with jobs being harder to find, men losing their jobs in greater numbers and the cost of childcare going up men are staying at home in response to the economy. I have read and watched many interviews and articles where the journalist asking the questions says, “So when you decided to stay home was it a purely a financial decision and how do you feel with your wife being the breadwinner?” I take offense to the notion that the only reason men decide to stay at home is because there are concerns for money in the household and that in some way having the woman in the family being the sole provider is emasculating.
There are in every situation details that differ but in most cases concerns for money are just one factor that go into the decision for Dads to stay home. There are many others including: which parent has more patience with unruly kids, tolerance for repetition, ability to nurture and accept the hardships of being sometimes isolated and angry. By arguing that the size of the salary dictates who stays home it diminishes the skills and dedication that mothers and fathers display every day when raising their kids.
Staying at home full time to raise kids is hard work. Lest you think that the only thing stay at home parents do every day is watch TV, eat and sleep you have another thing coming. There is activity scheduling, feeding, shopping, maintaining the household, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, I could go on and on about the things I do everyday besides dealing with teaching my daughter to count, spell, jump and treat other kids and our cats gently. It can very often be physically and emotionally exhausting.
But it is always a gift, an opportunity, and a delight to see the small things that kids master and learn. For all the hard work that millions of people pay childcare providers millions of dollars each year to do how could it not be something that is at the same time draining and fulfilling as well as a full time job. When I hear reporters asking if men are emasculated by being a stay at home dad, who is not the breadwinner, it makes me so mad. Men have been involved in rearing children for eons, in the wild there are species where the male is the primary and sole caregiver. Being a father allows me to be a more caring man, more compassionate, sympathetic, patient, funny, understanding and useful. My character as a person is far deeper now that I have had the chance to experience my daughter’s meltdowns, triumphs and fears.
So rather than viewing stay at home dads as some poor schmuck who couldn’t earn enough money and a guy who is “less than” some Fortune 500 CEO, lets all start understanding and enjoying that raising our kids is a once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to society and make the world a better place. It is a choice to do things differently, a choice to step up to the plate and accept a pretty hearty challenge, a choice that resonates with responsibility, caring and strength as a man. That will always be “In”!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jack (Jake) Howard Potter resides in New York City with his wife, Erica and (two year old) daughter, Skylar. Motivated by his study of human anatomy and movement, Howard-Potter works with steel to create large-scale figurative sculptures. His work has been on display throughout the world in outdoor sculpture parks, galleries and public art exhibitions. Aside from being his daughter’s primary caregiver, Jake is an active endurance athlete competing in multiple half marathons and triathlons each year. To view his work or learn more, visit www.steelstatue.com or visit @steelstatue on Twitter & Facebook.