We live in a world where times are changing at a rapid pace and many things around us are evolving as they should be. One of the things I am talking about is gender roles and the dynamic each gender role defines today.
Gender has become a very translucent and a fluid concept in modern-day America, especially among the new generation. Those who understand the concept of gender also understand there are no established norms and rules attached to it and the roles can be defined as manhood.
Traditional manhood, the kind that many young boys and men are taught at an early age, is made up of two ingredients: bodily strength and control, and breadwinner status as a husband and father. Just asked Scott Melzer author of the new book Manhood Impossible.
In Manhood Impossible, it was studied how men respond when their masculinity is threatened, both individually and collectively where men who are acutely aware of whether they’re living up to the manhood ideal; ideal manhood are somewhat like members of a Bay Area fight club, men in an online forum who chat about their anatomy and sexual performance, unemployed men, and stay-at-home dads.
Traditionally, an idealistic manhood can be looked upon as men perceived failure at living up to the body and breadwinner ideals whereby they internalize the perceived failure, attempting to repair the failure, compensating for the failure, or rejecting it and redefining what it means to be a man.
In the context of stay-at-home dads, and in particular, those who stay home voluntarily, as men who’ve calibrated their definition of what manhood means — falling out of the traditional context of being a man. This only highlights huge changes in expectations for women being capable to be a breadwinner.
As being a stay-at-home dad is more accepted as of late. But dads still find themselves facing subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle discrimination and ignorance. Even judgment, criticism, and outright contempt.
These views other people have can make you as a stay-at-home dad feel like an outcast or some kind of loser or failure. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel beaten down by the insensitive comments that people make.
Where is his masculinity?
A man’s job is not to do the woman’s work around the house; that is the usual argument for those who firmly believe that stay-at-home-fathers are a disgrace to all the real, masculine men out there.
There is nothing masculine about taking care of your children and helping out your wife around the house. This stereotype of man’s vulnerable masculinity has been persistent in the isolating role of men.
Whether someone can choose to be a stay-at-home dad and essentially withstand the inevitable critiques and questioning from others is still at an early stage of being a norm.
As parenting young children, in general, can be a very isolating experience especially the case for them because their numbers are small, and many of them felt marginalized, or even distrusted and feared, by moms. So it’s an alien experience for many of these dads, and there are some unique gendered aspects of this experience that only other men would be able to relate to and understand.
Because of being marginalized, they’re challenging this ideal, right? Men are expected to be breadwinners, to work, not to be stay-at-home dads.
Men aren’t seen as fit to be parent
With the ongoing stigma of men as the breadwinner of the family, as a stay at home dad, it could change that label. As it is painstaking to say, it has been appalling at the way men with very young children are treated in public.
As there still seems to be a built-in assumption that a man isn’t capable of being the primary carer of a young child, let alone two kids, and therefore they don’t deserve or need a bit more space, a bit more consideration or even the occasional offer of help.
As fathers approach to parenting are with different priorities than mothers do. They tend to care less about dress, eating habits, and other details. Instead, dads tend to want to play with kids more and challenge them more, and this can help kids gain confidence. This shows dads have a more different approach to parenting it doesn’t mean that they are a bad parent.
This reiterates the fact that Dads act as both buddies and authoritarians — roles that build character and confidence. This becomes more apparent as kids get older and into their teenage years’ dads are more intent on teaching a lesson than making the conflict disappear where things go awry.
Non-traditional parenting roles
Stay at home dads have a higher level of satisfaction and described their roles as rewarding and enjoyable when faced with gender role strains, they chose to change their perceptions and disengage from the gender ideals.
As they can associate with other stay-at-home fathers and sought support from understanding friends and family members. The fathers identified with a sense of pride in shaping new masculinity roles.
Providing for their families in other forms made them feel more “manly” than just providing financially, they view themselves as individuals making decisions in the best interest of their family and are okay with not conforming to societal standards. Many fathers shared the common theme of “living in conformity of their values, which centered on empathy and the quality of life of their children.
With a non- traditional parenting role, it allows fathers to develop a range of parenting skills that are more similar to their wives’ skills, it doesn’t mean fathers are incapable of parenting.
Positive parent-child relationship
In the context of stay at home dad capable of improving their relationship with their children is that father-child interaction was consistent, strong, engaged, active, and playful. This shows a strong commitment to their involvement with their children. As the results of stay at home fathers, it means making sure their children are “happy, well-developed, well-educated, and successful at school.
By putting their families’ needs first their relationships were stronger. At the same time fathers at home have made an effort to give their wives opportunities to connect with the children at night, after being away from home all day.
Creating work-family balance
Through the exchanging role where working women are feeling of being empowered by having a “sense of pride in their ability to transmit their progressive and egalitarian values and beliefs to their children where this change the gender norm of moms plays the domestic role and dads is the breadwinner of the family.
As the stress level of both parents working outside of the home will harm the family as maintaining the home and finding time for both parents to have quality time with the children is largely difficult.
We were looking for more of a family work–life balance in our family so it’s actually meant a lot to us. My husband worked crazy long hours and travelled a lot previously to us making this choice. And it’s been wonderful. I used to have a lot of weight on my shoulders and I used to kind of go crazy because we were both working full-time and he had a really intense job. — 38-Year-old mother of 2
One way, stay at home dad manage to change societal perception is that working mom can feel more productive at work was knowing their children were well taken care of. They are feeling more secure in maintaining their job since they had a parent home to be in charge of any family issues that arose, such as an ill child or school functions as dads are more involved in activities and caretaking of their children.
Therefore work-family balance as it can be described as more family time and an improved home environment with one working parent.
It is imperative that other family members, as well as society, have an adequate understanding of the context of the decision of having stay at home dads.
As changes in dynamics occur, so do associated expectations; uncertainty around expectations may contribute to distress in families. Having a better understanding of this phenomenon may leave others better equipped for working with working mothers, stay-at-home father families. By having this understanding, they can clarify expectations, normalize, and reduce distress in families navigating this decision.
Previously published on “Change Becomes You”, a Medium publication.
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