It starts when we’re babies ourselves. We can barely walk, and we’re presented with a tiny plastic humanoid dressed in a cute onesie that, truth be told, looks mighty like how we looked a matter of months prior.
Girls grow up nurturing babies. Or pretend ones, anyway. We push them around in mini-prams. We rock and cuddle them and put them to sleep. We’re encouraged to become ‘little mothers’ before we’re even out of nappies.
And boys? They’re busy playing with cars and trucks.
All of these are sweeping generalisations – and we’ve written about the ridiculousness of gendered toys before – but beyond the stereotypes, there’s no getting away from the fact that society, generally, expects women to be into babies. So into them that they’d happily leap into the role of stay-at-home-mum when the time came.
Recent evidence, however, suggests that it may finally be time to start giving dolls to little boys. Why? Because one day they might become fathers. Father who actually do more than bedtime stories, discipline and weekend parenting.
Societal ‘norms’ have taken a rollercoaster ride recently, following the news that Clarke Gayford, the partner of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will be putting his career on hold to be a stay-at-home dad.
In a country (and let’s face it – a world) that still broadly sees raising children as something that mums do the bulk of, while dads get back-slaps and effusive praise for doing the most basic of parent-things (“isn’t he a wonderful father, giving mum a break?”), the news that a man – a manly man with a fishing show no less – will be the one dealing with nappies, bottles, bedtime, bath time and the general chaos of life with a baby in the primary carer role is fairly revolutionary.
We’re galloping into a brave new world, with a pregnant Prime Minister and a Kiwi bloke by her side who has publicly declared that he is looking forward to taking on a role that has been ridiculed in the past. And I’m SO HERE FOR IT.
This conversation is so overdue. While most parents, out of financial necessity, divide childcare in such a way that they can try to retain two incomes, it is often assumed, in heterosexual relationships, that the woman will be the one who takes a step back professionally – working part time, or giving up work entirely. It’s time those assumptions effed off. (Although I fully acknowledge that those assumptions could also be tied to the pay gap. Which can also go and eff off.)
It feels like a confession to talk about this stuff, because there’s so much judgment attached to motherhood (and parenting in general), but I personally don’t want to be a stay-at-home parent. I’m still ambivalent about becoming a parent full stop, but if I do decide to add a tiny human to the mix, I don’t want to be a fulltime primary caregiver.
I’m a career girl – always have been – and while I’m sure I’d strive for that elusive family/work balance, I am fairly certain that stay-at-home-parenthood is not for me.
Which is why, when I’m dating, in the very back corner of my mind is a niggling worry about the way society expects women to want to be primary caregivers. What if someone I’m dating has very traditional ideas about family arrangements? I have never met a man who has expressed a desire to be a stay-at-home dad – although that could be because it’s been risky to say so. I hope that the PM’s announcement, and Clarke Gayford’s progressiveness, changes that.
Because it’s time to debunk the assumptions around parenthood (particularly in a heterosexual context). Just because the mother-homemaker, father-breadwinner situation has been the traditional way things have been done doesn’t mean it should stay like that forever. Some women don't want to stay at home. And some men would love to be able to be with their children 27/7.
Let’s face it, we’ve done the bulk of the childcare for the last… hundred thousand years or so. It’s time for the dads to have a go.Support Villainesse