The celeb cult of stay at home dads

6 03 2012

This is a totally judgemental post of the day and is likely to offend somebody or other… meh. If you do not identify with the people being discussed, there’s a very good chance it’s not about you.

Why should men who stay at home to look after their children receive more praise and celebration than a mother who does the same or parents who chose to/have to work? I’ve seen quite a few new twitter accounts pop up recently where the owner claims to be a stay at home dad, *insert witty comment here* *insert manly statement to prove they’re not gay here* *insert comment looking for praise or sainthood* The Biog’s and blogs appear to be searching for praise or a special shiny ‘I’m the worlds best human being ever’ badge for doing what a parent should be doing when they have time with their children.

Now I have two issues with this. 1. SAHDs looking for special praise and 2. the Stay at home parent/working parent stand-off.

The first issue is with men who have chosen to or have to stay at home to look after their offspring while their partner works, and who are looking for praise or celebrity for doing so. Without getting into a mud-slinging, name calling session, the number of middle class dads who have stayed at home to look after their kids, making money out of doing because they are doing so, is rather alarming. There are tv shows, chef’s selling cook books,  others writing parenting for men books, ‘look how fucking amazing I am’ websites and blogs popping up left, right and centre. It’s as if virtual and media society is overly celebrating a man actually being a father and taking an active role in their child’s upbringing. What’s wrong with just enjoying your time with your children?

Now forgive me if I’m wrong, but are all fathers not supposed to do that by default? Why does it have to turn into a money-making or ego massaging session? Are we expected to celebrate men for doing what they should as soon as their wee spermies lose their head to the ever seductive egg? Why is it, the thing that women have done for millenia, often while tending house, care for elders, holding down jobs etc is to be revered in men? Are we saying they are saints for doing so? Are we actually highlighting than men generally are crap at parenting and those who can do, need to be celebrated? Or have these SAHDs just found another means of having their masculine egos massaged? According to the blogs I’ve read today alone, they find it easy, a walk in the park, in fact I’ve even read, “I don’t know what stay at home mums are moaning about’. Of course the last blogger had a cleaner and was only a part-time SAHD, but don’t let that get in the way of a good ego massage and celebratory wank.

And another thing that annoys me is when I hear of mothers “asking” their partners to “babysit” their own child for the night. While some may feel it’s a courtesy, I feel the language suggests differently. I don’t think I’ve met a man yet who asks his partner if she minds looking after their children while he goes out, and he sure as hell doesn’t use the term babysit.

When I became pregnant, Grumpyhatman offered to be a “house husband”, he revelled in the idea of lounging about playing with the baby. A week or so into parenthood, he had changed his mind. Even if I was bringing in more money, which is likely, I’m guessing he’d still find reasons to put jr in nursery.  His sanity being one of them. Not sure my sanity could take it either. A better father I have not met, and he does not want a badge or a tv show for his efforts. There is no element of parenting he cannot turn his hands to, from washing the shitty cloth nappies to cooking and cleaning. His answer to why, “why wouldn’t I, she’s ma daughter”.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a male thing. There is a whole industry of mumpreneurs who have taken parenting to a new level of money-making and I feel for some of them too, that the issues above are as relevant. I rarely go a day on twitter without meeting some mum writing a parenting book or other. However, it is now trendy for men to be doing the same and from what I see they are expecting and often getting far more notice and publicity than the women ever did for doing so.

I have a lot of respect for stay at home parents, whether they have one or ten kids. It’s more than a full-time job, its a lifetime job, doesn’t start at 9am and switch off at 5pm. When I was pregnant I joined a baby and parenting site where daily there would be a fight about SAHMs v Working mums. Now obviously this debate can be applied to men too but as it was a site populated by women that’s what I’ll discuss here.

There were a few different sides to the argument, but mainly the working mums saying the stay at home mums were smug for staying at home with their children all day, and the stay at home mums saying the working mums were smug for looking down on them. A very odd state of affairs. There were the working mothers who envied the SAHMs for being able to stay at home and the SAHMs who envied the working mothers for ‘affording’ to go out to work but often these people were drowned out by the smug-sayers. I never quite understood why it was smug to stay at home or to work. Either could be a necessity or a choice. It just seemed that either people felt inadequate or uncomfortable with their choice or that if there was no choice, they were vocally jealous of the other. There was no acceptance of choice or difference, no respect.

I hated how parenting became right or wrong. I mean there were methods discussed that were just plain weird and dangerous, and no parent in their right mind would try them. I said right mind. On the whole alternative opinions and methods when shared were pounced upon by one clique or another with such violent vigour that anyone not completely comfortable with their choices would end up questioning their parenting ability. SAHM v Working was one of the most violent and offensive debates you’d witness.

Now there’s the whole new element to add, the middle class stay at home parent who is actually outwardly smug. These aren’t usually single parents with no choice, oh no! the single parents generally don’t get celebrated and rewarded with book deals and tv shows praising their skills and they bloody well should be. Single parents, if they are lucky will be lumped in with the rest of society, who generally do the necessary parenting, and who find it hard and rewarding in equal measures but it’s what they have to do. It’s what we all have to do, male or female, working or not.

I don’t need a badge or book deal to make me feel good about my parenting. Seeing my child smile, learn a new phrase, using swear words in appropriate ways, learning to stick her fingers up at passers-by – these are the things that reward me most. Perhaps I should start feeling smug about that. So who wants to give me a tv show then?

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