A reader recently asked me about misconceptions relating to stay-at-home dads (SAHDs), more specifically, if I have encountered these misconceptions. And, if so, what would I say to the people who hold these misconceptions?
I am not sure I have a long list of misconceptions about SAHDs that I have encountered in my relatively short time being one myself, but there is one that comes up almost every time I tell someone I am a SAHD. It is that people assume that being a SAHD is a temporary, unwanted responsibility and, as soon as I can, I will put my child in daycare and go get a job, because that is what “adults” do.
In 2013, I remember reading an article in the NY Times about a subset of SAHDs, whose wives were CEOs, hedge fund managers, CFOs, or in another upper-crust executive job. One SAHD who was interviewed for the article confessed that he felt no pride at all when announcing to people that he stayed at home with his kids while his wife went to work. A part of me understood that at the time and, I guess, a part of me still does, but a bigger part of me was troubled by this SAHD carrying on that way. Clearly, the family seemed to have plenty of money to put all the kids into daycare or to pay for a nanny, but he and his wife had made this choice for him to stay at home with the kids. It may not have been his dream job or what he thought he would be doing at this point in his life, but why wasn’t he choosing to embrace it? Why be shameful about it?
Staying at home with a baby is certainly not what I thought I would be doing when I was 31, but I am. Why not embrace it? I would tell those people who expect me to be a little disappointed with my post in life that I love it. I will do it as long as my wife and I think it is a smart decision. It is a job, yes, but do not assume I would rather drop my girl off at a daycare to hang out with strangers everyday, go sit in a cubicle for 8-10 hours, and then pick her up at sunset. Some families do not have that choice. I completely understand that, but I am here because we do and do not have that choice.
We do because my wife is an extremely hard worker and quite successful at what she sets her mind to. We do because we are able to support our small family on one income.
We don’t because we cannot risk London being around a bunch of little kids who are carrying all sorts of germs that, for them, might keep them out of daycare for a few days, but for London could send her right back to the hospital.
Please don’t assume I am not happy with my occupation. Don’t assume I am a bumbling, know-nothing dad, who shirks as many domestic duties as possible because he believes he is above them. That is the dad of old, the mythical head of the family, distant and mysterious.
I am none of those things. When you next meet a stay-at-home dad do not assume he is either.