A CNN Money article reports that the number of men who choose children over their career is rising.
This is partially a result of more men being out of work, and, increasingly, the growing rate of women earning more than their husbands. But it’s not just about economics. Brad Somerfeld, a school teacher interviewed for the article, explains that, while his wife earns significantly more than he does, there was more behind his decision to become a stay-at-home father than dollar signs.
“Too often, we hear that it’s the economy that forces dads into these roles and that’s certainly a part of it, but I would love to shatter that stereotype,” Somerfeld said. “Being my son’s primary caregiver is something I have truly cherished and embraced and never looked back.”"
The topic of men assuming the role of primary caregivers while women serve as breadwinners, and the underlying stigma that often goes along with the decision, makes me think of an unexpectedly-progressive novel, written by Dorothy Canfield Fisher in 1924, called “The Homemaker.”
The Homemaker tells the story of a wife and mother of three, who feels miserably trapped in her role as housewife, and her husband, a gentle father, who is also ill-suited to his role as a businessman with a stagnant career.
It’s only when the husband has an accident, which renders him unable to work, that these two are “free” to change roles. Remarkably, the new arrangement– the husband at home, and the wife at work– improves every aspect of their lives, though both feel conflicted about the “social inappropriateness” of their new roles. It also improves behavior of one particularly tantrum-inclined toddler who responds more favorably to the father than the mother.
The family thrives on this temporary role shift, which can only continue as long as the husband is considered physically unable to work. The final solution, I won’t spoil it, in case you want to read it, will surprise you. I’ll just say it is a far more drastic “excuse” than unemployment. And it speaks volumes about just how stuck society was, and maybe still is, on gender roles.
The ultimate message– only when a man is somehow disabled would it be considered acceptable for him to stay home and raise the children– is glaring and surprisingly still relevant today.
The book blog, Things Mean a Lot, gives an more complete review, if anyone is interested.
I’ve always fantasized about my husband being the primary caregiver to our children. He’s better suited, in many ways, especially domestically, than I am. Alas, I have yet to figure out how to earn enough money to support that arrangement, not to mention proving unable to hand my infant children over, so my fantasy has proven to be fallacy.
I like hearing the perspective of fathers who are committed to staying at home with young children. It can open up our imaginations and, whether we admit it or not, our somewhat closed minds when it comes to child rearing.
Have you noticed more dads staying home with the kids in your community? Is there one living in your house?
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