Aaron William California
Growing up, I thought that being a stay-at-home mom would be boring and not very life fulfilling. I imagined that after the kids moved out of the house and mom was back to being home alone, she would have a huge midlife crisis. I used to think that, after years of raising children, moms would ask themselves “what have I done with my life?” Due to me being an orphan, I never got a role model mom or dad. Thus, I did not learn from an actual mom what it would be like to stay home and raise the children for a living. My prior assumptions about what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mom were based only on what my imagination could conjure up. Now, in my mid-twenties, I’ve thought about what it might be like to be a stay-at-home dad. I love kids, and I would love to spend every minute with my own when I have them.
I’ve never been an “alpha” male, the one in the relationship who’s seen as being in charge. I’m more of the submissive one in the relationship. For example, I want to be the one who is held in the woman’s arms at night. I’d love to marry a woman who is open to the idea of either one of us being the stay-at-home parent. After doing a little research on at-home parents, on both men and women, it’s clear that either gender is capable of be the stay-at-home caregiver. There are both men and women who have simply made the decision to be the stay-at-home parent. Both female and male at-home parents face similar personal challenges as the stay-at-home parent and can perform any task that the opposite gender can as the at-home parent.
In fact, the world of a stay-at-home mom is not dull and career ending as I once thought. Technology has paved the way for stay-at-home moms to take care of the kids while running an online career. The article “The New Stay-at-Home Mom” introduced to me the term WAHM (work-at-home mom). Until now it had not occurred to me that many stay-at-home moms are working from home while raising the children. These work-at-home moms are, in fact, working online as an attorney, a marketing guru, and a social media coach. In the words of Brooke Hall, a real work-at-home mom, “[I] get to be there for the first giggle and step…and yet working from home gives me an identity other than ‘mom.’” Learning about work-at-home moms like Brooke makes me ask myself, “Could I be a stay at home dad?” The National At-Home Dad Network estimates there are 1.4 million stay-at-home dads living in the U.S., 70 percent of whom made a conscious choice to be a stay-at-home father; certainly that’s only a small fraction of the male adult population. Knowing modern stay-at-home moms are working while still raising their children full time challenges my original notion that I’d not be able to have a fulfilling professional career.
The National At-Home Dad Network sites two common struggles stay-at-home dads encounter, isolation and identity. These are not uncommon, nor unreasonable problems. Both men and women will experience, at some point in their lives, feeling like they are all alone and cut off from the rest of society. True, women are stereotyped as being the stay-at-home parent. However, we live in a world with constantly changing values and beliefs. Perhaps in time the term stay-at-home mom/dad will be replaced by the phrase stay-at-home parent.
The National At-Home Dad Network reports the challenges real stay-at-home dads when it comes to isolation and identity. For many actual stay-at-home dads isolation comes in the form of “[feeling] ignored or sometimes, feared, by the people they encounter.” Actual stay-at-home dads report that the isolation happens “on the playground, in the grocery store,…[and] at pre-school.” Other actual stay-at-home dads report feelings of uncertainty “of their manliness.” These stay-at-home dads are contributing their loss of identity to the fact that “society still believes that childcare and household chores are “‘a woman’s work.’” Another factor that makes it harder for men to maintain their sense of identity is when “friends, family and…even their own spouses not supporting their decision to be at-home dads.” The National At-Home Dad Network points out something positive, “most at-home dads come to enjoy their unique role and get comfortable changing diapers and folding laundry instead of ‘“bringing home the bacon.’”
Taken together, the stories of the women who’ve chosen to be at-home moms and men that choose to at-home dads, both genders are equally capable of being the at-home parent. Over time perhaps the term stay-at-home mom/dad will be replaced with the term stay-at-home parent. All in all men really have no more to fear than women do about being an at-home parent. Both genders will at some point fell a little isolated from the world and lose their self-identity. Men know how to play with kids, show affection, cook, keep a house organized, give baths, and put clothes on their children. How many of us see fathers picking up and playing with their children? What, then, can a man not do as an at-home-parent that a woman can do? The only factor that should decide who stays home is the mutual choice between the parents.