Anyone with a smart device these days is no stranger to online trolling or bullying. Most of it is harmless, even if the words are cutting and mean. Interacting with anonymous people out there in the aether affords you the opportunity to say whatever you want- really release your id upon the world. Not having to look someone in the eyes makes this easy; it simply goes with the territory.
This observation isn’t novel, and I’m not here to address online trolling or political views, as that goes beyond the scope of this blog. I say, keep at it, if it makes you a nicer person in the real world. But, the sexism and implied misogyny about the role of parents, here, highlights a mentality that is still very much prevalent in today’s progressive western society.
This is just trolling, and these two don’t know me as much as I don’t know them. We know nothing about each other, but seeing that I was a stay at home parent, they choose an attack my manhood (both definitions. They also inadvertently (or purposely) attacked stay at home parents and generations of mothers who’ve sacrificed careers to stay at home with the kids.
Allow me a moment to lecture any of you wannabe online bullies who may try this line of attack in the future.
We live in a busy world, especially if you live in an urban area, and if you decide to have children, it’s even busier. While many concessions have been made by corporate America to alleviate the struggles working parents go through, we still aren’t in a place where the job market facilitates family life. In fact, staying at home can be extremely detrimental to your career and your viability in the job market. Try putting your last several years as a stay at home parent on your résumé. You can’t.
The great irony here is that childcare, whether partial or full-time, is astronomically priced, and for you to afford it, you need to be well into the upper middle class. For many middle-class families and below, full-time childcare is out of the question because you’d end up doling out yearly college tuition just to use it. In DC, you pay nearly $23,000 a year to keep your child in daycare.
If you’re in the mid-middle/low-income bracket, this is cost prohibitive. You now have a serious decision to make. Does the parent who makes less money continue to work full-time, knowing that most of their paycheck will be going towards daycare or do they stay home?
This isn’t an easy decision to make, especially for a man. We may live in a fairly progressive society that doesn’t frown upon men staying at home with the kids anymore, but there is still an overwhelming stigma attached to the stay at home dad. Women are well aware of what staying home can do to your social status and income potential, but it might be worse for men.
For me, I had just moved to DC and didn’t know anyone or have any connections. I struggled for several months to find something better than minimum wage (minimum wage wouldn’t have covered the cost of childcare) and had turned down an entry-level government job for personal and health reasons.
At this point, my wife began stressing that there was nothing wrong with staying home and taking on the role as the primary caregiver. It would make better financial sense to stay home since daycare was so high and our child would benefit.
It came down to this, why work for the sake of working when I could stay home during those important formative months? Besides, my wife was well established in her career, so taking time off, having shorter days, etc. wasn’t out of the question for her. For me, however, having a new job that I had to commute to, this would not be an option. So we decided that staying home was best.
Then I got offered a job doing something I cared far more about: teaching. A local ESL school that I’d applied to when I first arrived in DC, contacted me out of the blue for a part time position. I begged my wife to let me take the job. Even though it would put pressure on our arrangement and the money, although better than minimum wage, was negligible. Yet, I felt compelled to work.
Eventually, the school offered me a full-time position, but most of my paycheck would still go to childcare, and I’d be working for the sake of working. “She’ll be going to school in a few years. Don’t worry about finding a job now, just stay at home and raise our daughter,” she reassured me.
Cool, fuck it, I thought, I’ll do one of the harder jobs on the planet for the next few years- with the caveat that I could have an afternoon beer from time to time.
A couple of years later, with my daughter in school, I’m applying to jobs and struggling to sort my reality out. Going back to work after being a stay at home parent for almost four years is not easy. Albeit not every parent returning to the workforce feels this way, many of us do feel pushed out of society, having lost some sense of our professional identity. We’ve lost confidence, but it is what it is. Catching a job that allows me to build my professional identity back up is key, but jumping into a career at this stage, and in DC, is easier said than done.
Until that time, I remain an unemployed, stay at home beta with my 2”-3” junk.
I don’t regret my decision to stay at home, Mr. Troll, and my wife and I see results of this in our amazing daughter. But, being a stay at home parent is no fucking picnic either, and if you haven’t tried it, I suggest you keep your uninformed, sexist opinions to yourself.