I give props to this guy for writing a good, authentic piece about his experience as a stay at home father.
But, does he think that a woman- sorry, mother- doesn’t feel the need to throw “hatchet into a tree” or to find time for some solitude in a boat, in the middle of nowhere, just like him…away from her children, to reassert her independence? (Most of the time, this becomes the derivative experience of locking the bathroom door, and calling to Calgon for some solitude.)
The experiences he shares in this piece strike me less as a “man’s experience” than just the experience of parenting. As I read it, it seemed no less similar or regular than the hundreds of stories from my friends who are mothers (minus the being stared at like an exotic animal part).
I think as a society we make this mistake so often- delegating things or experiences as “male” or “female”, “manly” or “feminine”, when they are merely human experiences. I think our society, and species, is just on the verge of moving in the direction of taking people as individuals, and not an embodiment of a set of gender values. Very much on the cusp- with a long way to go; but, I do see the glimmer of what I consider to be an enlightened perspective.
Does he as a man process things differently than a woman? Oh yes, I don’t deny that. We are most definitely not the “same”. But, we are so much more the same than different, and I think we’re catching on to that.
Reading this article, there were places where it struck me that the writer was only suffering through any small amounts of questioning his manhood because society has told him all his life that what he’s doing is women’s work. It’s only women’s work because women have been doing it. And, from that repetitive behavior have our social norms been born. Regardless of how progressive he and his wife- or his readers, or me, or you- are, we’ve nonetheless been fed these “rules” and stereotypes all our lives in a thousand subtle ways.
Is the “female energy” more nurturing naturally? Yes, I believe so. But, the spirit of masculine and feminine, I believe, is less about whether you have a penis and more about who you are. We all carry masculine and feminine within us.
What I’d argue is that what he was really recounting was the struggle of an individual against the all too powerful pull of losing yourself to your children and their needs. Again, his experience didn’t seem much different than what most mothers experience, especially ones with a strong sense of self, who also have other goals in life. It’s a balancing act between individual and family unit, rather than some sort of pioneering experience for men. He just chose to frame it in what I would consider the more traditional framework of men jumping into traditional female roles. And, I’m not even sure he realized that.
It might not look it to the casual outside observer, but stay-at-home dads are a tough breed. Behind all of the dangling diaper-bags, strollers, children’s songs, and dried-up drool is a very capable man. A man who can transfer two snoozing children, one on each arm, from the mini-van through the heat of the day — unlocking the door to the house and slipping them into their respective beds without waking them up. A man who, on little to no sleep, must plan for any and every situation, magnificent or mundane. A man who must learn not to panic through bouts of uncontrollable backseat tears and screams while driving in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. A man who truly knows the value of taking a long, deep breath.
Stay-at-home mothers feel these same stresses. But the ways men deal with them are another matter entirely. As proud and contented as I feel with my children, and as comfortable as I am with the choices my wife and I have made, there are definitely times when I find myself desperately needing to do something specific to assert my manhood. I daydream about spending weekends with a few buddies in the mountains, throwing a hatchet into a tree, or finding the time to grab a paddle and spend hours of solitude on a river in a canoe.
Read more. [Image: Melissa Jordan]