This piece by Dean Reynolds was on the Channel 3 News yesterday morning. It peeked my interest because I am a huge fan of diversity, Progress, and blurred gender roles. However, this clip proved to be a downer filled with stereotypical gender role nonsense.
I found even the title a little jarring: “More men choosing to put kids ahead of careers.” Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think very few parents, men included, actually put their careers AHEAD of their kids. Careers and jobs are just something that we have to do and some folks are simply unable to make all the T-ball games AND stay employed. The fact that a parent has to work, has to take an important phone call, or has to stay late doesn’t automatically mean that work is the top priority. I think getting food into that kid’s belly is top priority and working gets that done. Yet, when we notice a man interacting with his kid we get all warm and fuzzy inside, because, you know, it isn’t very manly.
I know the segment was meant to shed light on the growing numbers of stay at home dads and trying to normalize it, but the tone and phrasing did anything but that. At one point the reporter states about a specific family, “she’s the bread-winner, but that’s fine.” As if there were another option? Would it really, ever not be fine? What the article doesn’t focus on, which is what makes this whole “unconventional” stay at home dad thing so great, is that the numbers are rising due to the fall of sexism. The fact that 16% of stay at home parents are fathers is absolutely wonderful because it means that there are better options for WOMEN. Women are being paid a fairer wage now, so much so that they are now able to out-earn their husbands. More careers have opened up to women, and more women are advancing in careers that have traditionally been male dominated. This is great news because even just a few generations ago this wouldn’t have been possible for families, no matter how much the father may have wanted to stay home.
But they didn’t talk about that. Instead they talked about how great it was that dads were willing to make a “commitment to parenting”, be unconventional and put their kids ahead of their careers (or themselves) and stay home with babies to do laundry, cooking, cleaning, and car pooling. Don’t these dads just deserve a pat on the back–after all, these things are very womanly! The reporter wraps up his interview by asking the wife/mom (who works full time at a kick ass job) “Now, do you pinch yourself and think about what a great deal you’ve got here?” And I would have to say, “Would you ask a man that?” Has anyone ever asked a man that about his wife who stays home with his children? Or his wife who works but still finds the time and energy to take care of the house and kids? Does this woman have a “great deal” because her children get to be cared for by a loving parent instead of being shipped off to daycare and after school programs? Does this woman have a “great deal” because the misogyny and sexism have begun to calm down so that she is no longer underpaid for the same damn job a man would do? Or does this woman have a “great deal” because she is married to a man who is willing to be so unconventional as to take on the role and duties of a woman?