Father and daughter on beach / Sarah Bernier / Pixabay
For all the stay at home dads (but specifically my own),
I’m glad you were my first male role model. The definition of love I have in my head (selfless, unconditional, consistent) I learned from you. We don’t talk much, partly due to a language barrier but mostly because we’re not deep-and-meaningful types. Your care transcends words.
The cup of sliced fruit that you brought my siblings and me, every night, without fail. Be healthy.
The countless times you’ve driven me across the city to ballet performances, science competitions, to and from school, here and there. Be happy.
You sent me to China for the first time in sixteen years to reconnect with my extended family. You stayed in New Zealand despite being apart from them just as long. Be loved.
Stay at home dads are awake earlier and up later than the rest of the household. Breakfast was always ready for me when I emerged from my bedroom. The gate was always open when I stumbled home late at night.
It’s not easy, what you do. I know you’ve sacrificed a lot in terms of your social life and career. Putting others before yourself for years is no easy feat, especially without the mum support networks a lot of mothers can access. It seems being a stay at home dad is a spectacle and a novelty still (can you believe it) because I’ve had to defend your decision to people — parents, even.
One was a grown man and in no way close enough to me to judge, yet neither of these points stopped him. I mentioned that you don’t work and instead stay at home to take care of the household and the children.
“Then how does he provide for the family? How can he be the man of the house?” (Multiple separate conversations have also taken a similar turn.)
Please let this be the last time I say this.
As far as I’m concerned, stay at home dads are men, in a house. If you are loving, supportive and dedicated, that makes you extremely successful men of the house. Whatever gender roles are leftover can go in the bin.
Stay at home dads provide nutrition, stimulation, company, love, discipline — all necessary things for a child’s development. It’s easy to forget how critical these factors are when they are abundant (as they have been in my home) and when women have traditionally been assigned to the task.
By acknowledging the contributions of stay at home dads, I was drawn to the contributions of stay at home mothers. How many men throughout history would still be legendary if they had to cook all their meals, do all their laundry, groceries, buy and mend clothing and care for their children?
Performing domestic labour is one of the most invaluable ways of enabling someone else to perform mental and emotional labour. Performing domestic labour is important and it is a service to society, no matter who performs it.
That being said, I have yet to see the contributions of stay at home dads celebrated and normalised like those of stay at home mums are. There’s still stigma around it, pathetic paternal leave in some countries and not nearly enough stay at home dads represented in the media.
Stay at home dads are hard workers. You showed me that providing isn’t always about providing money. Labours of love don’t require compensation. Work isn’t necessarily clocking in and out of an office. The best rewards can sometimes be intangible.
So whether you enjoy being a stay at home dad (and all the ups and downs that come with the job) or not, I am grateful you are mine.Support Villainesse