“Does your husband ever feel emasculated?”
t’s a question that my wife gets from time to time from women when they find out she’s married to a stay-at-home dad. It’s not said with malice or judgment, but it’s based on the experiences of many of the women. Women who have been married to men who made less money than they did or men who pretend to not understand the hidden mysteries of the diaper. Men who are obsessed with “women’s work” versus “men’s work.”
I never get this question, and I wonder why. Even when my wife is asked, it’s away from the earshot of others. As if it might get back to me and my fragile ego will explode.
I’ve been called a lot of things. Over-bearing, too handsome, and an Ox with the smell to go with it. I can handle people asking me if my masculinity is intact despite the fact that I’ve been home with the kids for the last 13 years doing “women’s work.”
So, let’s set the record straight, on this, and a couple of other things. No, I have never felt emasculated as a stay-at-home dad. I’ve felt worthless, broke, tired, horny, ignored, valued, championed, dirty, sexy dirty, sore, loved, and once I felt like I was almost rested. But never emasculated.
Why is the idea that loving and caring for my kids is somehow not my job or responsibility? Deep down, that’s what that question has always felt like to me. That it is considered by some that being an involved father is somehow “feminine”. Honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of it.
These are my kids. I want to raise my kids. Why would that affect my masculinity?
I find that men who are offended at the thought of changing a diaper or cooking a dinner are often fragile in their own confidence. In their own sense of who they are. And they seem to put a lot of stock into what others think about them. I’m not above the machismo that often runs through men’s circles. I’ve certainly puffed my chest out when challenged and done stupid things. But caring for my kids on a day-to-day basis is not one. I would argue the opposite. That I feel like more of a man because of the time I’ve spent with my kids.
Diapers don’t care about genders. And I’m going to let everyone in on a secret. If you’ve ever heard “I can’t change that diaper. I don’t know how,” here’s a truth. That’s a lie. Look, it’s just not that complicated. Guys I’ve known who have used that statement really mean that they think it’s women’s work and they are above that. And therein is your problem. They are not secure in their own self so they must make imaginary boundaries that mean nothing.
You often hear men who are like this use terms like “beta” and “alpha.” They have taken the entirety of humanity and reduced us to feral animals. That a man must lead and bite the heads off the ones that challenge him. Again, these terms mean nothing in the real world. It’s a way to make yourself feel self-important while at the same time ignoring the truly important around you.
Are your kids important? Is a father’s involvement with them important? Of course, it is, and it’s been backed up by study after study. Those with an involved father tend to be more confident and get better grades. Is that alpha? Is that beta? Or do those terms mean absolutely nothing? In case you’re wondering, it’s that last one.
Yes, we are getting into toxic masculinity a little here, and that’s fine. I deal with it on a pretty frequent basis. As a stay-at-home dad who writes and gives interviews, some of my comment sections can be quite colorful. I’m usually asked if I ever wear a dress, or if my wife has a real man as a boyfriend. And my personal favorite is that no woman would ever want a stay-at-home dad. I don’t think they see the irony in that last one. The primary way that you become a stay-at-home dad is because a woman once wanted you. And in my case, at least three times.
The simple truth is that no one gets to decide what my masculinity means to me. If it makes certain people uncomfortable that I can sew a pillowcase, I’m fine with it. I can also build a Queen Anne chair from a couple of planks of wood. Does that make me masculine? I can cook a hell of a lemon tart, too. Does that make me feminine? If I was a male professional chef writing books and making TV shows, is that masculine even though the job is the same? You see, there is no definition beyond what it means to you.
No, being a stay-at-home dad is not emasculating. For me, it has been the best way to discover what being a man is truly about. It’s about taking care of what’s important in your life regardless of what other people may say or think. It’s about having the confidence to not only embrace myself, but my role in my children’s lives. It’s about cooking a bitching lemon tart.
You know you’re secure in your manhood when you stop caring about it. When who makes the most money becomes immaterial. When you step up and change a diaper and quit making excuses why you can’t. That’s what it means to be a man, and if you can’t do that, maybe it’s time to stop questioning others.
And for the women that have dealt with men who are threatened because of your bigger paycheck, or that doing the dishes is not their responsibly, I truly am sorry. You deserve a real man.
See the Publisher’s Weekly Review and buy Shannon’s book here: