2/05/2008

Gender roles: Changing the 'rules' slowly

Stuff seems to change so fast that it takes me by surprise when peoples’ attitudes don’t keep up with what I perceive to be reality. Woow, talk about an intro. Be warned I am going deep tonight with this post. For some reason I’ve had this post running around in my head and maybe putting it down on 'paper' will clear my head.

Actually the attitudes that I am referring to pertain particularly to my status as ‘stay at home working dad’. As I mentioned in one of previous posts that status allows me the privilege of looking after the littlest member of our clan on a full time basis while mommy is at work. He spends time hanging out with me, while I make money working on the computer. I think this is a great deal, although there are moments when it is tough to balance being a dad and business person - especially when you have a conference call coming up in 15 minutes and the little monkee doesn't want to fall asleep for his regularly scheduled nap.

Ok, so third paragraph and you're still wondering what I'm on about, right? What annoys me is how many people are amazed and sometimes skeptical that a man can and does take care of kids while the woman is at work. The other day I was dropping a Fedex package off and the woman remarked that this must be daddy's day to watch junior. I replied that every week day is daddy's day. She looked like she had just witnessed the second coming..... I get the same thing when I go to the pediatrician. If my wife is with me, they almost exclusively speak to her and then when she asks me a question related to his routine they look very puzzled.

Maybe I'm being silly and this is as uncommon as people make it out to be. I figured with telecommuting being pretty prevalent that my scenario would be pretty common. Maybe I should be flattered by peoples' responses. What annoys me is that they automatically assume that men aren't good care givers and based on my experiences with my friends I think it is totally incorrect. Yes, some men do portray the average stereotype, but most of them don't. In fact in some cases I think my guy friends are more calm and collected when it comes to dealing with crying infants.

For the most part I try to keep my posts related to birding/nature, but I needed to get this off my chest. If you're still reading I look forward to a quick comment or insight.

5 comments:

Lynne said...

Rant away Owlman! Fifteen years ago I quit my job to become a full time stay at home Mom. I had worked for 20+ years in a health care profession dominated by female workers and I was shocked and disappointed by the negative response I received from many of my coworkers at my decision to quit work and stay home full time. I felt that raising my kids full time was seen as a "less than admirable" profession by my peers. Nowadays there is so much press about absentee fathers- both through a lack of child support and kids growing up without a father's influence. People's perceptions change slowly. Even though it may be frustrating, get out there and chip away at those perceptions. Your children are lucky to be spending their early years in their own home under your wonderful care. I applaude you and you wife for choosing to keep your kids in such a nurturing environment.

Owlman said...

Hi Lynne,
Thanks for the words of support. I realize there is some similar to my situation and the gender discrimination that women faced entering and then leaving (as you did) the market place. The only reason that I didn’t bring it up is because my situation pales in comparison to the harsh working conditions and social interactions that women initially faced.

It has been an interesting experience coming face to face with gender discrimination. I guess being a white male I face very little overt discrimination in my daily life so actually experiencing it has been a little cultural shock for me. I realize that only a small minority of dad's do what I do, but I figured people would be more open to it and less surprised. Wow, a guy being able to take care of little kids - holy crap! I just think the whole nurturing instinct is a little overblown and it really relates to how much you buy into the whole socialization process.

Having said all this, I am biased too and I am currently falling off my high horse - BOINK! I came across a dad who was dropping his daughter off at the same day care my daughter goes to and we started chatting. He mentioned that he had been laid off some time ago and he was now taking care of the kids while his wife was working. From the sounds of things he had it pretty good, as he was going golfing a lot..... Anyway, I found myself judging this guy as less manly because he was letting his wife bring in the bucks. I'm pretty liberal, but I guess I am too mucho to be a full time stay at home dad. Maybe some people judge me the same way and possibly think that working from home may just be a cover and that I am actually a stay at home dad bringing in a few bucks here and there. I think we have a LONG way to go before both guys and girls accept stay at home dads as a legitimate 'job'/family contribution. Having said that, I take my hat off to stay at home dads for having the balls to fly in the face of conventional norms-I just don’t think my ego could handle it ;-) Maybe the concept of a stay at home dad is more acceptable to women because they don’t have any ego/emotional investment in the role (unlike guys) - your thoughts?

Lynne said...

As long as you're admitting bias, I'll join you. I'll admit to making assumptions when I see Dads (but not Moms) with their kids at restaurants eating dinner out. I find myself assuming that they are divorced Dads perhaps overcompensating by taking their kids out on Dad's custodial days. We all have a ways to go to put down our suspicions and biases.

I think nurturing is a verb- an action and a choice. Fathers can be every bit as nurturing as Moms. I know several Moms who are sorely lacking in the nurturing part of their childrens' care giving. I don't believe it is a sex-linked characteristic.

Two of our friends are stay at home Dads who don't work outside the house. They are great guys and fathers and have mentioned several times that they have felt like they are perceived as under-acheivers because they don't work outsde the home.

Conversations like this remind me that I need to be less judgemental and to question both my assumptions and society's biases.

Wasn't it Felix Unger from "The Odd Couple" who said that when we ASSUME it only make an "ASS of U and ME"?!

Lynne said...

One more note- my husband Art is an actuary and we spent a lot of time discussing and trying to decide whether he should quit work and stay home to home-school the kids while sending me back to work full time. It would have meant a substantial drop in our income but he was willing to go for it. While I think he has plenty of the other "male ego" traits, this was not one! Everyone is different and totally their own.

Owlman said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Just to proof me right the little monkee is not napping today, so I guess I have to get him up and running.