I feel compelled to address an issue that affects us stay at home fathers; our perceived emasculation. It’s something I’m occasionally asked about and having read a dreadful comment elsewhere on the subject, I feel the time is right to respond.
The comment was in this article on the Guardian website. It was written by a husband and wife called Sarah and Jaron who recently had a second child. They’re exercising their right to shared parental leave and daddy has taken the reigns at home while mummy has gone back to work full time.
Note this comment from Sarah;
“A female friend recently asked me if we were still having sex now that Jaron had been so completely emasculated.”
I may have a biased opinion, but I think that’s an appalling thing to ask. It reveals a complete lack of understanding of what it’s like to be a stay a home father. Would you ask the male partner of a full-time working woman mum if they still had sex? I would wager the answer is probably no.
Neither my wife or I have ever faced quite such a blunt question. Nonetheless, I have had to tolerate the occasional quip along these lines. I also recall a headline in the Daily Mail a few months ago that sated; “You can never fancy a man who becomes a househusband.”
The anecdotal evidence suggests increasing numbers of men are, slowly but surely, becoming stay at home parents. Even so, the numbers are small and often overstated.
A while ago I spent some time investigating how many stay at home dads there in the UK and the conclusion I came to may surprise you. You can read about it here.
The parenting world, especially the early years environment, is very heavily biased towards mums. If you are male and going to enter that world and thrive, you have to be a thick skinned, confident individual. Far from being emasculated, you have to be tough and very sure of your masculinity.
Stay at home dads and mums have one major thing in common; they’re trying to do the best for their kids. If you happen to be male, I think this adds to your masculinity, it does not remove it in any way whatsoever.
Last September I spoke at the launch of a marvellous book called Pioneering Stories About Men and Boys. I had three minutes to outline how I thought masculinity has changed.
I said there was one constant regarding masculinity; responsibility. From the time of the hunter gatherer to the modern stay at home father, good men, responsible men, take care of their families (yes, of course there are some useless men out there, but not every guy is).
Let me make it quite clear; I do not and have never felt remotely emasculated as a stay at home father. I enjoy being the main carer for my kids and I am very comfortable in my gender.
I am going to leave the final word to Miriam González Durántez, wife of the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Back in 2014 she interrupted a speech being made by her husband to say men that were active in this field had big, ummm, cojones. You can watch the video here, it’s priceless.
Should you ever be tempted to question the masculinity of a man doing childcare, think about the stereotypes he is fighting against. He is not a figure of fun. It’s not the easy option, far from it.
Pic credit; Pixabay