When I am quizzed about my life as a stay at home father, there’s a question I invariably face. The words may vary a little, but the question remains the same: “What’s it like being financially dependent on your wife?”
I always feel this question is slightly loaded, that there’s an expectation I’ll respond by saying I feel emasculated and resentful. After all, according to gender stereotypes I should be the bread winner and provide for my family. I should hunt and gather while my wife nurtures and raises our precious offspring.
We made a joint decision
Sorry to let you down guys, but that’s not how I feel at all. Truth be told, it doesn’t bother me. Mrs Adams and I made a joint decision for our family. We decided it was in the interests of our children, Helen and Izzy, not to mention our marriage, for me to stay at home and for Mrs Adams to work full time.
I understand why I am asked this question. It may be more acceptable for guys to fulfill the caring role than it was, say, 20 years ago. That said, us stay at home dads are small in number so there is still a curiosity around us.
I’d rather be asked outright than told I am a kept man or a “house bitch” (yes, been called that before). I think my favourite, however, was the time I was asked if I was a single parent because, you know, a dad can’t do the school run every day can he?
Even so, when did you last hear a stay at home mum being quizzed about how she felt being financially dependent on her husband / partner? For women, it is simply accepted. Okay, that’s a sweeping generalisation.
I know women can’t win: they either work and get criticised for not spending time with their kids or they don’t work and get criticised for letting the sisterhood down. That, however, is another story altogether. I think I had better move swiftly on.
Isn’t it emasculating, having your wife pay the mortgage?
My answer to this is a huge, unreserved no. There’s one word that I equate with fatherhood and masculinity: responsibility.
Raising children is a huge responsibility. Taking on that responsibility 24/7, 365 is not emasculating. It’s about as masculine as you can get.
There’s one other point I must make. Sure, Mrs Adams pays the mortgage, but I make some money writing and blogging and I fit this work around my family commitments. Very few stay at home parents are economically inactive. I know of cake decorators, a photographer or two, numerous writers and a couple of Parish Clerks. All of them are responsible for house and home and all are making money at the same time. Without Mrs Adams’ income, we wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage, but she doesn’t have to buy my clothes.
My financial future
If there’s one concern I have, it’s for my future. I used to work in the field of pensioner poverty.
Pensioner poverty is an issue that disproportionately affects women because they often take time out of the workforce to raise children. When the children have grown up and mum is free to join the workforce again, she has to make up for lost time and struggles to get a job paying as much as she earned before. She often fails to make any pension contributions. The financial implications are frequently ugly, especially later on in life.
I am only too aware that I am in this very position. I was a higher rate tax payer before I became a stay at home father. I took a huge financial hit to look after family and home. This may bite me on the back side in my twilight years.
You’re happy with the way things are?
I admit, I miss the income I once had. I would like to make a greater contribution to the household budget. This, however, is partly down to the age of our children. Our youngest daughter starts school next year and I see light at the end of the tunnel.
Until that time, however, I am quite happy with how things are. Mrs Adams gets to concentrate on her career while I have taken on the main responsibility for looking after the children.
Don’t take that statement the wrong way. Mrs Adams is a great mother who is perfectly capable of looking after her kids (I spent six days in Australia) earlier this year and the wheels stayed on the bus). Making a costume for a school play, however, is simply not her thing and best left to me.
I don’t feel emasculated and resentful. In fact I feel lucky and blessed that I can spend so much time with my children. Money makes life easier, but it doesn’t buy happiness.