For hundreds of years it has been understood that the job of a father is to go out into the world and provide for his family while his wife stays home with the children, nurturing them and providing the hands-on care. A feminist does not believe that this is how things should be run. A woman should have the opportunity to follow a career and make a living without relying on her spouse. Of course, this is completely true. But how is it fair for a man to be conditioned to believe he must detach himself from his family, to spend hours away from home working hard while his child grows in his absence?
Everyone knows how important constant and loving caregiving is to a child’s development, especially in the earliest years of his or her life. Babies need a consistent source of support, and someone who they can develop an attachment to. The biggest changes are happening during a child’s first years, milestones that are incredible to witness. Watching a child take their first step, or babble their first word are moments that all parents want to be present for. However, in today’s society in America it is not possible for both parents to be with their child every step of the way. Someone has to have a successful career to bring home food to nourish his of her family. Traditionally, the mother is the one who gets to take time off for maternity leave, or even put her career on hold for a couple of years if the family is financially stable enough for her to do so. The mother becomes the primary caregiver who spends the majority of her time with her baby, when the father is only around for a few hours in the evening. As a result of this, the father becomes an outsider in the child’s world.
Lately, more and more stay-at-home dads are emerging. In the past it would not have been respectable for a man to say, “Oh, I just stay at home cleaning and cooking, and playing with baby Joe. We have a blast.” No, that would not have been acceptable. It has always been believed that men must prove their manhood by working hard to get the best jobs, and make the most money.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of the New America Foundation, recently addressed such issues during a TED Talk. She is a brilliant woman who understands business, and is fighting for the equality of men and women. During her talk Slaughter said, “Women are socialized to believe that our place is no longer in the kitchen, but men are actually still socialized to believe that they have to be breadwinners and that they should derive their self-worth from how high they can climb over other men on a career ladder.” Women have the choice to spread their wings and follow their dreams. They can decide whether they want to be “a breadwinner, a caregiver, or any combination of the two,” whereas men are told by society that their responsibility is to be competitive and successful.
It is not just the collective judgment from other men that confine men to this particular life path. Women also play a part in defining what a successful and attractive mate should be.
“Women still judge the attractiveness of a man based on how successful he is in his career,” Slaughter said.
This is the year 2014, and the decision of a man to stay home with his children is not something that should be scoffed at. This choice shows that the father possesses great love and devotion to his family, especially since he is putting what others may consider his “manhood” on the line. It is really no surprise that parents would want to raise their own child instead of handing him or her over to a babysitter. I am still not sure why anyone would blink an eye at a father choosing to be a stay-at-home dad. Nothing but good things could come of such a decision. A child who has a father who wants to raise him or her himself is the luckiest child in the world.