Our housekeeper came yesterday. K’s been trying to work half-days to prolong her time off since I’m off work for a few weeks, so I had the kids by myself.
She kept calling me “Mr. Mom” because I was tending the children. I tried to shrug it off—I’m spending a lot of time lately learning to choose my battles. But it really bothered me.
You see, I’m not a babysitter; I’m not a guy playing at being a mom. I’m a father. That means caring for the children, spending time with them, being present, and doing all of the not-so-pleasant things that come with parenthood. It’s not a burden only for the female sex, nor are the privileges and the accomplishments of parenthood reserved for mothers.
We often say, “It takes a village,” to raise children, but we seem to mean that it takes a village of women. Predetermined societal roles and expectations do not appeal to me much; in fact, I find many of them detrimental to living life in ways that would be more meaningful, fulfilling and joy-inspiring.
I am pleased by the prospect of more stay-at-home dads in the world, both because it empowers women to be the breadwinner in a family and allows men who are excellent caregivers to take on that role within the family. This arrangement shatters pretenses of bygone ages that a man’s role is to make money and a woman’s is to bear and raise children. The fall of these societal obstacles allows us to be more complete people, to use all of our skills and fulfill more of the life-roles to which we’ve been called.
Even more, we live in an economic era where single-income families are less and less feasible—particularly if both spouses want to have work-life balance. Y’know, that phrase, “work-life balance” is a very telling one, when you think about it. There’s work and there’s life, and never the twain shall meet it seems to say. I’m not sure that that’s entirely true, but it’s something worth keeping in mind.
Neither does a such a gender-defined set of roles allow us to understand same-sex couples or other non-cisgendered parents in any respectful (or even truly understanding) way. My experience tells me that anyone can be a great parent. Sure there are aspects of personality or expertise in certain skills that make some better suited than others, but neither of these have anything to do with sex or gender.
I consider myself a pretty traditionally masculine guy. Not the most masculine to be sure—I’m not much impressed by bodybuilding or machismo and such—but I do fit a lot of traditional male roles: I like the outdoors; I like to participate in martial sports; I’m a “identify and fix the problem, let’s not talk about it too much” sort of guy.
Gender definitions aside, I could see myself being a stay-at-home dad. If I could make a living writing and spend much of the rest of my time focused on the kids, I would find that very fulfilling. I like practicing law, and I do a lot of good work for people about which I can be proud. But pondering big thoughts and writing about them is my passion, and I’m very excited about the role I get to play in raising our children. To combine both would be amazing. Realistic? I’m not sure; making a living as a writer is extremely tough and not necessarily based on skill. But maybe it could happen.
My own desires aside, let’s keep in mind that parenthood is a calling for both parents; and our expectations of parents should follow suit with this: we should both expect fathers to be active parents and then not treat them as second-class surrogates for mothers.