Based on a post written October 18, 2011.
I am still sick and bloody tired of the stigma that is attached to Stay-At-Home-Dads, and house husbands. I never like answering the following question: “So, what do you do for a living?” The people that ask it are rarely satisfied with my answers. They are usually fishing for employment status, and often they wince and writhe with uncomfortable facial expressions and gestures once they learn I am on disability.
It was worse when I was younger, and lived in a slightly more affluent part of town. The most uncomfortable reactions were at church, of course; it’s not unheard of for mothers to work, but fathers working has been the norm for LDS families for many decades. I stood out like a sore thumb. It was worse when my children were little. Oh, don’t get me wrong. My current ward (congregation) understands my situation, mostly. There were dozens of fathers taking turns looking after their babies, and I got help, mostly when my son was little (Neru was school age by the time we entered the ward). But of course they were all gone at work weekdays, and I never much enjoyed church playdate activities, as women dominated any conversations. There was only so much common ground before topics slid to things that really didn’t pertain to me as a man.
Then, of course, there were all the challenges autism presented– Cimmorene got really overwhelmed for a time, and so the Primary leadership would come to me when Boy was throwing some conflict.
The media is all about Mom
I enjoy being a parent. But EVERY SINGLE parenting magazine I pick up is “Mom.” “Mom.” “Mommy.” “Mom.” and it’s blatantly obvious in the advertisements, as if Madison Avenue believes that all dads still will have nothing to do directly with their children– because that’s Mom’s job. Sure, there are articles about SAHDs and such, but far, far, far too many keep the taboo in place.
I speak of print, but as I saw “social media” unfold, and come into the mainstream, the message persists. Note, dear readers, that what I had written previously was about WIRED– specifically about “GeekDad“, and “GeekMom”. The contributors all seemed to cling to the status quo. GeekDad contributors, if they wrote about parenting, wrote about it as if it was almost an afterthought. I cringed when Jonathan Liu demurred and said he just “happened” to be working at home to be a SAHD. So I left GeekDad articles behind and started reading GeekMom articles more, because they would talk about parenting issues more directly. But then it was the same “mom talk” drift– they’d quickly shift to topics that really were about women, and not really about men.
What… am I supposed to climb back to my video games, tools (hand or power), and assorted mannish hobbies? Please, understand. It’s pretty discouraging to see the onslaught of sites that either refer to “Mommy” or “Beauty & Fashion”, and I go and see that the voices of fathers will be pretty few. If men respond, they rarely identify themselves as fathers. It was very, very true at GeekMom… almost ZERO responses from men.
My world has plenty of yin, plenty of yang
There is this notion that women drive social media because they drive conversations in general, but I call bullshit. Men will talk for hours upon hours about subjects that interest them. Why the hell aren’t they comfortable talking about parenting? I’m also very weary of the post-war stereotype that “men do the work outside of the home, women do the work inside.” Cimmy’s helped me a ton with DIY projects (unless it’s electrical- then she leaves it to me) and I cook most of the dinners. On the stove. In the oven. I broke the grill my parents passed down to me, and I haven’t fixed it yet.
And since my back has grown worse, Neru and Cimmy help me with the yard work.
Disability has already got this SAHD feeling like an old man
I was grateful when an old family friend moved into our neighborhood. We are usually comparing notes on cooking, food preservation, music, mechanics, and many scholarly topics. His children are about the age Cimmy and I are; he was friends with my mother-in-law since childhood. He is retired, although he is miserable if he isn’t working on something. He’s an amputee since he blew off a bum leg with a shotgun (long story), but he likes to keep busy. Despite a miserable first marriage, he is happy married again to a woman that is full-time employed. He welcomes my company, and Cimmy’s, too, when he is at home, although he is rarely, if ever, idle.
Generally speaking, the only people I can socialize with during the day are retirees. (My mother recently retired, but that’s another very, very long story.) Maybe that’s just as well; the sciatica, the neuropathy, and other health issues have got me acting like a grumpy old man. I couldn’t stay in the mommy world. And I’m not in a daddy world. There aren’t many guys my age in my daily activities I can relate to. I can’t help it. Stereotypical guy stuff costs $$$– especially what many in my men’s group at church do. Firearms: $$$. 4X4 wheelin’: $$$. Fishing: $$$. Paintball: $$$. And so on.
I would write about how I was considering asking to attend the older men’s group at church, but, again, another story for another time. I’ve struggled for a long, long time to relate to men my age. There’s got to be something for the modern world. I don’t have a business to pass to my children. I was never that interested in sports. Anything I am interested in is not one of the national pasttimes. Most of the time, if I’m hitting the gym, it’s because I’m desperately trying to get better, either taking Cimmy, or Neru. And that’s growing rarer all the time. I try to be involved in my children’s schooling, but I cringe when the phone rings and someone (usually not connected to my son) makes the assumption that they need to talk to Cimmy. I guess they need to hear my stories about failing student teaching and all that. I’m aware of how schools work.
Once again, I feel like this is just a pointless rant. The more I search the Internet, the more depressed I get.