Fellow stay-at-home Dad Brent Brookhouse over at The Good Men Project site shared his upset over a Facebook at-home dad community and how it’s left him with a perception that SAHD’s are chauvinistic pigs and need to aim for a higher level of consciousness. Your best place to start is to go read what he wrote: What led me to abandon my stay-at-home dad community, sloppy and overgeneralized quotes like “a group of fathers who railed against the stereotyping of men, while marginalizing and harassing women” and all.
Part of me wanted to just dismiss what he says with a snarky “sorry we’re not good enough for you”, but here’s what bugs me: I also see the same traits with some of the at-home dad communities I’m involved with. There is a grain of truth to what Brent is saying and there are a subset of guys in these groups who come across as being sexist, crude and even somewhat misogynistic.
What Brent’s missing is that venting, the metaphoric “letting off steam”, is a critical need for all human mental health and while some people, I assume, can do so through deep meditation or daily communion with nature, others find that someone to commiserate with is far better and more satisfying. The tougher things are, the more we need someone to share our challenges, whether it’s for some tips on how to deal with it (the “fix it” approach that us males are so famous for offering) or simply someone commiserating with us about how, yes, it’s hard. Sometimes a cigar, an hour at the batting cage, a high-intensity workout at the gym (my drug of choice) or a hug is all you need to keep moving forward in your life.
Life as a parent isn’t easy, and life when you’re bucking a lot of cultural and global stereotypes is doubly stressful. It’s hard enough for families when women decide to stay at home with their children — since the mantra of the last 30 years is “you can have it all” to women, leaving them all guilty, either guilty that they’re at home, not working, or guilty that they’re working not taking care of their children full time — but if you’re in the minority of families where it’s the dad who stays home, for whatever reason, it’s crazy difficult. Where’s their masculinity? How can the woman be so selfish as to work while dad’s stuck at home? What’s it going to do to those poor children? And one that I have experienced again and again as a super involved single dad: the suspicious looks from the moms who are baffled that you’re at kindergarten pickup or the playground with the little ones and the hostile glares from the working dads who are convinced you’re that dangerous, “sensitive” superdad from down the street who has designs on their wife while they’re out earning a living.
It’s tough to be a stay-at-home Dad, and some of the guys have it incredibly hard, so difficult that I can’t even imagine what their life is like. No car, no time off when the mom gets home, little ones that are in their high-need phase, and even that classic 50’s archetype of a spouse who comes home from a long day at work and doesn’t want to know how it’s going, doesn’t care about what happened that day, and sure as heck is in no mood for a “quickie” while the kids are down for a nap.
And so enter Brent into this difficult, stressful world of SAHD where the only place some of these guys have to vent is the Facebook group. Sure they say stupid things, and sure there’s sexism and misogynistic remarks but even a moment’s thought would reveal that it really doesn’t mean anything. If these guys really felt this way, would they be home nurturing their little ones and taking care of the household while their wives were out working? Of course not.
I am empathetic towards the Stay-At-Home Dads, even when I don’t entirely agree with the discussion, and sure, there are things I just ignore or skip. But I have empathy towards my fellow dads. Not judgment. And as for Brent, well, sir, I hope you can find a suitably enlightened community of men who support you in your at-home dad experiences and help you be a happier, better person. Clearly you’re still on that quest. Good luck.