Saturday, March 2, 2013

Yes, My Husband is Full-Time Dad Right Now

Aaron has been a full-time stay at home dad since the end of December while trying to figure out his next step in school and career. I have no idea what it's really like for him and he insists, "I don't care what other people think." But you'd be surprised the kind of comments I get about him staying home with Aidan. I don't think he's had very many comments directly, but I know he's aware of others' looks and possible perceptions about him.

In the past 3 weeks, I have had some stunning comments when talking to people. The conversation usually goes something like this:

"What do you do?"
"I work full-time as a therapist treating women and girls with eating disorders during the day. I'm also trying to finish a PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy."
"And what's your husband doing?"
"Right now, he's at home with our son full-time trying to figure out the next plan for school and work."

And that's when the comments get interesting to me.

"Wait, he's not working and you are?... and you're 7 months pregnant?"
"He's not in school or working?! He needs to be pulling some of the weight- don't you think?"
"Well, that doesn't seem fair."
"Um.... oh...... cool....."

I usually respond with something diplomatic like,
"Yes, our son is so lucky to have this opportunity with him. Many kids don't get this much time with their dad. They have an awesome bond. And I'm lucky to have a job I love."
"This is what works best for our family right now. It was getting a bit crazy with us both working part-time and doing school full-time and neither having benefits. This was a great fit for us right now."
"I don't expect this to be permanent nor do either one of us want it to be. I know Aaron would rather be working, but right now we're still working together on getting there."
"Yeah, isn't it great that we were blessed with this full-time job opportunity and that I've been able to receive a good education to help me get this job? Many couples are just working crazily with scheduling and neither get much time with their kids while they're in this stage of life and in school."

I don't think any of those previous comments would be said to a father who said his wife was a stay at home mom. Okay, maybe some people, but it wouldn't be as socially acceptable- right? You'd never say a SAHM wasn't pulling her weight without some repercussion.

In searching for experiences from other LDS SAHDs I came across this and enjoyed reading a first-hand experience from a dad that worked through a lot of the social stigma.

Aaron tells me about how he takes Aidan to the zoo or other places and many women look at him like "Please, don't steal my child". A child ran away from his mother the other day at the zoo and came near Aaron and his mother quickly chided him and insisted he get away and come back while flashing Aaron a panicked glance.

Or how if he's at a playground, people look at him like he's crazy for being there playing with his child.

Aaron doesn't get to just go hang out with other stay at home parents during play group. It's just not socially acceptable.

He can't just go knock doors around the neighborhood of other stay at home parents when he's feeling overwhelmed and find somebody to hang out and talk to while the kids play together.

I believe his job staying at home is actually much more difficult than it would be if it were me. There is such a support network readily available to moms- especially in the church around here.

It's just so interesting to me that there are still such firm stereotypes against men that they must be fulfilling their duty to provide for their family to "be a man". I think this is going to be a lot harder to break than women being in the workforce. Men probably do get a lot more judgement than a woman breaking from her traditional role as a full-time SAHM if they go against their traditional role as provider. Maybe men just don't whine about it as much as people like I do and that's why it's not getting as much attention? Think about how hard it typically is for a man to get time off work for a sick child or something else.

I guess the bottom line is, I'm grateful that Aaron is such a good dad and doesn't seem to care what other people think. I want to acknowledge how difficult it is for him and I think he deserves a lot more credit than people give him (and even what I give him at times) and other stay at home dads or even just fathers involved in their children's lives. Parenting isn't easy. Every child deserves a good father and mother actively involved in their life.

"HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations...

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation..." (here)


Emily said...

Its so funny that some women are scared of him stealing their child. Now, it would be creepy if some guy was just hanging out at the zoo with no kids, watching everyone else's, but a man with a little boy at the zoo is just not creepy to me. We have some stay-at-home-dad's here....I often see them at the park during the day or story time at the Library. I got a funny comment from a neighbor a while back about being a SAHM. The couple has two little boys as well and had just moved in and we were introducing ourselves. They asked what we did, James told them about his job and then I said I stayed at home with the kids. The husband then said,"We've been there too, I had to do it for a while myself when I got laid off, but luckily it didn't last long." It didn't really click in my head what he was saying until later when I was at home and I realized that they didn't know it was my choice and just assumed that I was currently unemployed and that's why I was staying home. Its funny how some people just assume that a parent wouldn't want to stay home with their children full time. I think its great that Aaron is staying home and that your able to use your education, have insurance and love your job! More power to the SAHP's!

Emmy Rae said...

I think it is wonderful that you and Aaron found something that works for you. I don't think it matters what parent is staying home, as long as both parents are fulfilling their duty as parents and spouses. Good on ya mate! ;)

Jon Ulf said...

"Or how if he's at a playground, people look at him like he's crazy for being there playing with his child."

This upsets me no end. Whenever I happen to take my daughter out during the week, there's no end to the looks, and attitude I seem to be getting. Just the other day we were at the Orem Mall to let her play around in the play area, it's insane how a stay at home mom can treat a dad spending time with his kid(s).

I really like the points you raised. Because it's nice to have a mom speaking up for us involved dads. Most of the bloggers and writers I come across talking about this issue are other dads, so I appreciate the solidarity from the "other" side.

Roberta Barnes said...

I am proud of Aaron for choosing to be the amazing dad he is. The relationship he has with Aidan is beautiful to watch. I admire Lauren as well for making decisions for her family in concert with her husband and Heavenly Father rather than public opinion.
Proud Grandma

yogamama said...

I 100% agree with the comments here. Division of labor in the home needs to be reasonable. Parents need to take care of their kids. When you combine these two truths then sometimes dads stay home. Sometimes there are households like mine where we both work some and stay home some. And a dad getting weird looks actually has nothing to do with him staying at home, since those moms don't know if it's a permanent situation or an outing for a day. Why would women who supposedly want involved dads give a man a dirty look for being involved with his child? But I know it happens. Lame.

Ally said...

There are a couple stay at home dads at the music class I take Jack too. It never even occurred to me to think its strange. So maybe it's just a few moms giving dirty looks because I have seriously never had one uncomfortable thought about having those dads there. I do notice they tend to be very quiet and don't participate in conversations with the moms. I wish they would. Anyway I think it's great you guys are doing what works best for your family. That's all any of us can do. It doesn't look the same for every family and that's okay.