What We Can Learn from SAHDs

July 27, 2006

Salon ran an interesting thread in its Broadsheet section a couple days ago on whether the growth of stay-at-home dads would incite a “daddy war.” (Only a chick would think of this, eh?)

Some of the SAHDs in that thread echoed what this guy told the San Francisco Chronicle recently: “My argument at the time was, ‘Day care is expensive,'” (Oakland resident and SAHD Wayne) Wilson says, as his youngest son, Charlie, naps comfortably in a car carrier. “And besides, I don’t want my babies to be raised by anybody else.”

Now I would be seething if Caitlin Flanagan or any other woman said this. But, truthfully and shamefully, it rolled off my back. Why? Because a man — actually quite a few men — said it in the Salon thread. And these men — all who broke gender barriers and purported that their stay-at-home parenting days were the best of their lives — assured readers they were speaking for themselves. No offense to anyone else, posted “Disputo” on Salon:

When a man hears another man say, “I’m not going to let other people raise my kids,” he is more likely to take it at face value as an expression of that man’s preference, and not analyze it for hidden insults or be threatened by it. Men give each other so much direct and obvious sh*t that isn’t to be taken personally, we really do not have time to worry about fourth-order effects.

Said working dad “gonnabechef:”

When a guy says, “I don’t want my babies to be raised by anybody else,” chances are he means that, all things being equal, and since he’s got the choice, he’d rather stay at home than send his kids to daycare. Period. He doesn’t mean, “Working dads are idiots.” He doesn’t mean, “I’m trying to start a broader sociological discussion by simultaneously praising my decision to stay at home while subtly deriding those who decide otherwise.”

Take him at his word. And don’t project your insecurities.

The SAHDs in the Chronicle article seemed so carefree in their parenting style that it made me envious. They didn’t sweat their kids’ scrapes and bumps like SAHMs did. They felt no guilt about drinking beer with the guys or admitting their parenting flaws. And, they didn’t give a damn what anyone said about their parenting choices, including their decision to stay home.

What say you, fellow Mt’ers? Are we just more sensitive and cattier than the guys? Or, are there simply too few SAHDs for them to feel society’s critical eye? Or, as one poster put it in an f-word laced rant on Salon, the political pundits prefer to beat up on women:

So we have men and women writing books and articles all about how women have either fucked up society or aren’t helping improve it. Mothers working is the symbol for the decline of our moral civilization and mothers at home are throwing up all over feminism and surrendering their power to the patriarchy.

Frankly women can’t win because everyone likes to tell women what to do, while men, they say shut the fuck up, I’ll do what I want.

Frankly, I will remember that priceless piece of advice next time I read an editorial blasting mothers.

UPDATE: Along this discussion, stay-at-home dad turned working father, “Rebeldad,” is blogging at the Washington Post about work-life balance issues. To show the other dark and sad side of this debate, he was immediately attacked by someone for choosing to stay home with his children: “Maybe he was fired. Maybe he really wanted another type of career (writing didn’t work out so now public relations). Fishy.”

It was an interesting discussion that showed men face great social barriers in choosing to stay home with their children because it is perceived they couldn’t find “real” work. Something must be “fishy” with them. All of this, of course, makes my stomach turn. Clearly, we place little value in fathers and caretaking, in general, even though we pay so much lip service.