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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?”

Kept man, stay at home dad, house husband, house spouse, John Adams, dad blogger,
Life as a stay at home dad (…or mum) is very, very rarely like this. Call me a kept man, and I will stare at you in disbelief.

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.

17 thoughts on “Kept man or stay at home dad? You decide.”

  1. *Round of applause*. I’ve also had the ‘kept man’ jibe and been asked if I’m a single parent because I took my daughter to have her haircut. For us it’s all about keeping our family unit working and it was pretty strained before.

    I must say I’ve found it pretty difficult to be economically active. My daughter demands involved play and sleeps less than average so short of dumping her in front of a screen, I only have a small window before bed to get much done. Preschool has helped though and as with you the prospect of school next year has got me chomping at the bit to get involved in new projects.

    I’ll never regret the time I’ve had with my daughter though and the relationship we’ve built up which simply wouldn’t have been the same if I’d only seen her evenings and weekends. It hasn’t always been easy – 24/7/365 childcare takes its toll – but it’s been good for the family unit.

    Retirement is also a concern. I really need to sort something out – when I get the chance to sit down and work it out!

    1. I too will never regret the time I’ve had – still having – with my kids. It is priceless and I feel for the mums and dads that don’t have this option. Interesting that we’ve both had the “single dad” jibe. Good luck sorting out your retirement. When you have done, tell me the secret!

  2. It’s lovely to read about shared parenting. I think it’s a generational thing, most modern men are happy to go to work or to raise the kids 0 why should it just be left to Mum?

  3. I take my hat off to you just the same as I take my hat off to stay at home Mums! It’s a bloody tough job. I go to work for the break haha 🙂

  4. Great piece. It’s a team effort I say. And as you say it’s about taking responsibility. I would love the privilege to be able to be a Stay At Home Dad (under no illusion going to work for me gives me the opportunity for a rest) but at present that is not meant to be, for the moment anyway but hopefully that’s going to change….. 😉

    1. You should see me at the moment Tom. Six weeks of school holidays has left me ragged! GOing to work is indeed the easier option sometimes. Good to see you back on the scene.

  5. Totally agree John. Like yours my family made a very practical decision that I would be the primary carer for our son, as my wife was much better positioned in her career. I’ve only been doing it for 2 years but the positive impact it’s had on my son is clear for all to see. I too am economically active, taking on consulting work that I can generally fit in with the school calendar. I get the funny looks and quizzical questions from others but who cares? We’ve just enjoyed a fabulous summer, visiting lots of places and doing lots of fun things. The bond it has forged is immense and, I hope, long lasting.

    1. Good to hear from you Jason and I love the fact you are economically active. Mums have been doing this since timer immemorial. Why not dads? As you say, parent and child get so much out of the situation it is a win / win for all concerned. Do visit the blog again.

  6. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t judge people by their role titles? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to qualify every other sentence? I’m tired of the questions about if I have kids and why I’m not working and what I do with my time. I don’t have the reason that I’m a ‘Stay at home parent’ and it looks as if I’m just a slacker but it’s just what was needed for a while. I know people are often just trying to make conversation but it doesn’t make those sorts of questions any easier. At least I’m not asked about when we will have children any more.

    1. I feel for you. The whole “when are you going to have kids” thing is just so, so wrong. It’s such a personal thing to ask about. Thanks for commenting and keep doin’ yo’ thang.

  7. I believe that this is a heroic act of the dad to raise children 21/7. Men often little give attention to child-rearing. And Dad at home can do much more. And solve children’s problems calmly and reasonably.

    1. Thanks Marilyn. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel heroic but I appreciate the sentiment! Stay at home fathers should just be normlaised, a part of every day life.

  8. I am so glad to see this blog.

    I took over the role of full-time parent over 7 years ago, and I am at ease with being wholly reliant on my wife’s income. It has been the most rewarding time in my life. However, now at 55 with our twins aged 10, I’m on the verge of panic. I have little in the way of job skills, the industry I was expecting to re-enter in due course has irrevocably changed since I became a parent, and I feel there are few future prospects for me.
    I have little pension provision outside the State, and have no clue what to do. I took on a part-time job as a postman to get fitter and healthier, but am fretting about whether I’m too old for anything long-term.
    I imagine this has been a dilemma faced by countless thousands of mothers, but I am clueless where to turn. There isn’t the support network for men in my position, and although my wife continues to be the financial provider I know she dearly wants to improve her work-life balance, too.
    I have considered re-training but in what? I feel hamstrung by my sense of self-worth, the limitations I feel on account of my age, and a complete lack of ambition.

    1. I am sorry you feel that way Nico. That must be very tough and an awkward situation to find yourself in. I can totally see how it has happened though. I really don’t know what to suggest, but your post demonstrates there is a lack of support for men in out situation and this is something that needs considering at a public policy level.

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