My writings here mainly focus on the outlier status of being a stay-at-home father. We’re different — outside the norm. As such, we cater to the ever growing, tight-knit community of fathers who, for whatever reason, have found themselves at home in an unfamiliar position. What goes by the wayside is the fact that we are parents and part of a team, a pack, a family.
And that family is under attack.
I’m sure you’ve heard it every day, all over the news: The American family is under attack. There’s a war on families. And yet, depending on where you get your news, everything you have heard is probably wrong. We hear that “gay marriage” is going to be the end of marriage. We hear that “Stay-at-home fathers lead to emasculated young men.” Not just wrong, it’s utterly laughable.
But there is a war on families. Women are under attack.
When we undercut women and their reproductive freedom, their economic equality, and basic protections in the workplace, we undermine the family and put our effectiveness as stay-at-home fathers in jeopardy.
There is a concerted effort to roll back the rights and protections women have gained over the last hundred years. Last week the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it was cutting grant funding to Planned Parenthood. The decision was pointedly political. The outrage was immediate, the impact so harsh, that thirty years of groundbreaking work on women’s health issues were erased by 36 hours of narrow minded political hackery. his was the culmination of a year long coordinated effort to destroy one of the only places where women of any income can get the kind of life saving care they need – all because they perform abortions – which constitutes a whopping 3% of what they do.
This war on our families includes a fight over pay equality. The Lilly Ledbetter Act was passed into law in 2009. The bill’s basic assertion is that a woman should be paid the same as a man for the same job. It seems insane that it was actually necessary to make this a law, and yet it still faces opposition. How can anyone realistically state that a woman is second class; that a woman deserves to be paid less than a man because of her gender – or, for that matter, that a man is worth more?
It is also perfectly legal to fire, without substantiated cause, a woman who is pregnant. Several states have targeted unions, which have historically protected employees from these kinds of abuses by employers. This leaves a pregnant woman, in the case of a dear friend of mine, a woman five months pregnant, without an income or health insurance. Since we tie health insurance to employment in this country, many women are forced to work because the medical costs associated with having a child require health insurance. (We have not touched on the fact that there is no paid maternity leave in the United States, something that differentiates us from every country on the planet save Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.)
How does all of this affect us as dads?
I’m a writer and actor. I work freelance and my income is not steady. I have no insurance save that provided by my union and it’s tied to how many weeks I am hired to work. My primary occupation is stay-at-home parent. My wife, who works in higher education, has a steady paycheck, great insurance, and ability to provide us with the stability we desired when starting our family. Organizations like Planned Parenthood provided us with health care early in our marriage and the tools we needed when deciding to have our child. Prescription birth control allowed us to have the child when we chose and not before we were ready fiscally and emotionally. As the primary source of income, we expect my wife to be compensated according to her ability, her education, and her skill – not her genitalia. We expect her job to be protected from the kind of unscrupulous tactics that caused our dear friend to lose hers, leaving another family to scramble in an economy where the same people attacking our families through harmful legislation or backwards corporate decisions are also actively working to dismantle the very safety nets that ensure none of us fall into poverty. Our definition of “family values” includes the institutions and protections that give us the freedom to raise our child the way we do.
On a bigger scale, this is a battle against our wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. It’s one we, as men, must join.
So how do we fight back against this war on families? Vote. Be active. Find out how your representatives actually voted. Don’t listen to spin, get the actual voting record. Join local groups dedicated to protecting the health of women and mothers; to ensuring our women are equally paid and respected; fight to make sure we are always moving forward and never to the regressive past. Progress is what we strive for as stay-at-home fathers, breaking the conventional rules every day, proving we’re just as equal to the task as any stay-at-home mom, bringing our own set of unique skills to the table. Much in the same way our wives, mothers and girlfriends do in the workplace.