I have seen a bit of controversy stirring up in the stay at-home dad world lately. First I saw one of my dad friends post this video about “Little Boy Larry” by Mark Driscoll a few days ago. In it, Driscoll describes at-home dads as less than manly lazy asses who live off their wives and what they really want in a wife is a mom because they are deep down mamas boys.
I am not that familiar with Driscoll. I may have heard the name a few times, but this is the first time that his name has really caught my attention. Wikipedia has him as a Christian pastor from Seattle, so the sense of patriarchy does not surprise me. There is a lot of patriarchy justified in the Bible, but I will get to that in a minute. I have have to wonder if, since he calls relationships where the man stays home with the kids while the wife works a mother/son relationship, he then considers a more traditional relationship where the wife stays home with the kids and the husband brings in the income a father/daughter relationship. If he does, he has a lot more psychological issues going on than I care to comment on.
The friend that originally posted that video on his Facebook stream then posted a letter of apology to Driscoll on his blog, Go Ask Your Mother, where he rightfully points out just how ignorant Driscoll is with his assessment. There he says that Driscoll routinely takes the Bible out of context, which I agree with although maybe not for the same reason. The only context the Bible should be in is that it is an ancient text wherein the New Testament was written by first century rulers to help control the peasants of the time, and the Old Testament is a bunch of distorted stories passed down that resemble Pagan and other polytheist gods from up to 6000 years ago. The Bible is nothing more than a 2000 year old game of telephone, also known as Chinese Whispers or grapevine, in which a message gets passed around from person to person through whispers to one another. Any child who has played that game for five minutes knows that the message gets completely distorted in almost no time, let alone for 2000 to 6000 years (depending which part we are referring to) of translating and retelling and translating up to the many various versions and interpretations we have today.
Using the Bible as a guide to live ones life by is at minimum useless, and at most highly irresponsible and dangerous, let alone telling other people that they should live their lives by it too. Sure, a person could live by only the sometimes good messages of love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek presented in some of the gospels, but then they have to ignore all the murder, genocide, rape, hatred, bigotry and other evil perpetrated by Yahweh and his followers that is also presented throughout just as much if not more than the peace and love hippie jargon. By separating those elements out through their own interpretation, one has to admit that no moral sense comes from the Bible, but from their own genetic sense of altruism. At that point the Bible is completely useless to those who are already good and an excuse for hatred of people different from them by a large number of people who support war and bigotry based on select messages from it.
I could probably rant on about the Bible for awhile, but as it is only tangential to the point of this post, I will move on for now.
Chad goes on in his “apology” to describe his own situation which lead to him being a stay at-home dad, which drastically contrasts to the picture that Driscoll paints. Actually, I have met many at-home dads since becoming one myself and most of them have been similar to Chad’s situation and absolutely none have been anything like Driscoll’s version. I am not saying that lazy stay at-home dads do not exist, but that they must be far and few between from what I have seen in my own experience. Even dads that stay home because they have lost their jobs in the recession do not fit Driscoll’s picture. I have met a few of them too, and the ones that I have work just as hard at taking care of the kids and the house as the rest of us while they continue to look for work.
I also came across another at-home dad’s blog called The Daddy Doctrines which had a post that also mentioned this Driscoll video. The rest of the post goes on to talk about how he saw a reaction from a friend of his agreeing with Driscoll and even going a bit further. I can understand the author who had no idea that this friend felt that way about what he as an at-home dad does. He then goes posts one of his own rants about how wrong the biased gender role perception of parenting is and I completely agree with most of what he said too.
To be honest, I would not be surprised if some of my own friends and family keep their own quiet reservations of their feelings about the arrangement that my wife and I have decided on. At first I was a bit affected by much of society’s negative perception of dads who stay at home, but I have since found many others through the At-Home Dad’s Convention and forums such as AtHomeDad.org who have helped me vent frustrations and get over those issues rather quickly. Think a bunch of guys talking about feelings is not manly? Too bad. You are wrong, we do and it does a lot of good for us. Try it sometime.
Moving on to another post by another dad friend of mine, Robb, posted on Daddyshome.org, which is the organization that runs the convention and the forum mentioned in the last paragraph, an organization that I am proudly a member of. In his post, Robb talks about two articles that he has seen which he thinks are casting at-home dads in a wrong way.
The first article he talks about is from Forbes in which Frieda Klotz seems to think that stay at-home dads may be temporary affectation due to the recession and that the public perception, based on the response to an earlier article that she wrote, is that husbands staying at home are not well equipped to rear children, although she admits in the article that she is happy to entertain a fanciful marriage to a child rearing man.
The other article that Robb talks about is one from Bloomberg Businessweek. In it the author, Carol Hymowitz, talks about the stigma of stay at-home dads.
Even as the trend becomes more widespread, stigmas persist. At-home dads are sometimes perceived as freeloaders, even if they’ve lost jobs. Or they’re considered frivolous kept men—gentlemen who golf. The househusbands of highly successful women, after all, live in luxurious homes, take nice vacations, and can afford nannies and housekeepers, which many employ at least part-time. In reaction, at-home dads have launched a spate of support groups and daddy blogs to defend themselves.
I do not know about the luxurious homes, nannies, and housekeepers. Perhaps there is some of that out there, but I have not met those guys either. This article also paints at-home dads as a result of the recession.
There is another part of this Businessweek article that hits home for me where there is the story of a mother who works while the dad stays at home where the mother seems to feel a bit guilty about not spending as much time with the kids as the husband. I know that my wife goes through this as well, but I do not see how this is odd. When the father works I would imagine a father who wants to be involved with his kids feels the same way. I know from experience when I was still working for the first three months of our first son’s life that I felt that way.
Robb goes on to argue that in his case it was a conscious decision based on the desire to have a parent at home raising the child rather than have a daycare do most of the raising and the difference in earning potential at the point that they had kids between he an his wife. He talks about having Dr. Laura as a source for some of his desire to have one parent in the home. While I agree with some of what Dr. Laura says, and indeed have spent some time in the past listening to her myself, I am not too sure she is necessarily speaking too highly of stay at-home dads in this video.
I can echo Robb in the conscious decision to stay at home. Chris and I compared our earning potentials at the time and it was immediately obvious that I would be the likely candidate. I quit my job as soon as Chris’s maternity leave was up and have been staying at home ever since. Chris herself says that she would not have the patience to do it, so the arrangement works better despite the earning potential difference. I hold what she does for our family in high regard as she does me for what I do. It is a partnership that works very well for us.
Robb also talks in his article about how men and women parent differently and how one way is not necessarily better than the other. I agree that different parents do it differently and that, while there is certainly some wrong ways to parent, there is also more than one right way to parent. I do not agree that this is a gender thing, but an individual difference. I am sure that there men who make the same parenting decisions a mother would and vice versa. Maybe currently there are more similarities in the way men parent and more similarities in the way women parent, but as time progresses and the idea of gender roles becomes less common, I think there will be more of a mix of parenting styles in both genders.
This whole stay at-home dad controversy is part of the a larger effort to stop unnecessarily defining gender roles that was coined with the feminist movement decades ago. Many of the goals of the feminist movement have been partially realized, but the male parts are still quite a bit behind in redefining their roles. We still have a long way to go in both female and male role definitions, but progress is being made. There is always backlash against any progressive movement which is strongest at the start. It was that way with slavery, racial minority rights, feminism, gay rights and those still have some pretty large mountains to climb. One of the other movements that I spend a lot of time paying attention to, the atheist movement, is one of the most hated groups there is. In recent polls, atheists are regarded on par with rapists by religious types. While I have gotten into being a stay at-home dad later in the anti-gender-role movement, it is still far from over and in the grand scheme may turn out to be that this is just the beginning.