Sometimes it is best to pick your battles. And sometimes dirty looks are justified. Just ask Oren Miller.
When I first found this article on the Babycenter blog, my reaction was predictably defensive. After all, this is how it starts:
The discriminated dad has been getting his day in the press lately. There is a new story about stay-at-home dads almost every day detailing the unique issues that they face. To those gentlemen – you have my respect, admiration, and slight jealousy (for being able to spend so much time with your kid). That said, can you please shut up about the dirty looks you are getting?
There are plenty of charged words there, dismissing the difficulties of stay-at-home dads who want only what’s best for their kids, which in many cases means being accepted into parenting circles populated by moms who may disapprove of dads infiltrating said circles. Also, using words like, “shut up,” is meant to end the conversation, rather than to contribute to it.
That said, once my immediate defensive reaction to the article subsided, I had to admit he had a point. Sure, I wouldn’t have used these words (that may or may not be there only to get a reaction from a potential angry commenter), but I had to agree with a lot of it:
The gentlemen profiled in [an article the writer cites earlier] mentioned that he had to switch play groups because he didn’t feel welcome. Good. There is a fine line between sucking it up doing the best thing for your child and forcing something to work when you don’t have to. If people are not welcoming in a kid’s group, find a new group because the apple don’t fall far from the tree.
Damn right. If you’re not accepted by the other parents, then you’re better off without them, and more importantly, your kids are probably better off without their kids.
I talk about the way institutions and marketers continue to equate motherhood with parenting, while relegating dads to a secondary care provider status. This is bad for dads, as well as for the moms who are already often riddled with guilt for choosing to concentrate on their careers while giving up their “natural” place at home, and it’s bad for kids who may spend their days with two parents who feel judged and ostracized by the institutions and by popular culture.
Saying that, I’ve been at home for nearly six years, and I don’t remember any mom not welcoming me. Maybe I don’t look threatening, and maybe it’s because I live in a progressive area, but I’ve never felt unwelcome.
Well, except that one time.
I went to the park with my then-toddler son and infant daughter. I rushed there from home, trying to deal with two kids with different agendas, and finally, when we somehow made it to the park in one piece, I couldn’t help noticing the stares. Why was that? Why were they looking at me like that?
Two things came to mind. One, this was a class thing. The park was in Roland Park, where the rich people in Baltimore lived. And they could probably tell I was living in Hampden, where the working class people lived. Rich people can tell stuff like that!
Or two, I was a man. With a beard. I was a man with a beard, who dared to step into the moms’ territory, and these poor women had to share their precious park with a guy, and now they would feel uncomfortable gossiping about their nannies, or whatever it was these rich moms did. Yes, it was a combination of class and gender discrimination against me. And well, if they didn’t want me there, I didn’t want to be there anyway.
So I left about 20 minutes after I got there. And when I got to the car, I realized my fly was open.
This article first appeared on A Blogger and a Father