SEE BELOW FOR AN UPDATE!
Get comfy kids, this will be a long one . . .
A couple of days ago, a video was posted on an at-home dad Facebook group page, of yet another incident where Seattle’s Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll makes statements that malign stay-at-home dads.
This one wasn’t the ridiculous “stay-at-home dads are worse than unbelievers” thing from a few years ago, but rather a sermon segment from last year about one “cowardly” kind of man he called “Little Boy Larry,” who stood as a representative of men who are really just boys that never grew up. Nice guys, but guys who don’t really want a wife, they want a new mommy to take care of them. The important part comes when he included in his description of this man-boy the line: “He’ll come up with dumb ideas, like ‘I’ll be the stay-at-home dad.'”
Naturally, this led to a handful of comments from at-home dads in the Facebook group, myself included, talking about how silly such a statement is, and lamenting that Driscoll’s wrongheaded, machismo-filled ideal of manhood and fatherhood is influencing so many. One of the comments included the statement that, in their opinion, the work of an at-home parent in “raising the next generation” is the “most difficult and manly job imaginable.” Somewhat hyperbolic, sure, but I don’t think the importance of involved fatherhood can ever really be overstated.
Anyhow, the video itself aside, fast forward a couple of days, and a new comment appeared that, well, I just couldn’t let go.
Rather than reposting all of it, here are some excerpts to give you an idea of what was said by this one person, over the course of two posts (emphasis mine):
For a bunch of guys that want to break out of preconceived gender roles, calling child raising “manly” isn’t the best way to go about it. So is a mother raising kids a woman doing a man’s job? . . . [I]f one was to make a list of the most “difficult and manly jobs” around, I doubt raising kids would make the list. Maybe being a soldier, or a logger, or something, but changing diapers and singing babies to sleep, probably not. While a few SAHD’s are probably sacrificing lucrative careers in finance, law and or medicine to stay home with their kids out of principle, I think more than a few may be shiftless layabouts who just prefer to let the wife earn the dough, and be what amounts to a kept man. However this “we’re so much more enlightened and in touch than the working fatherly masses” attitude is pretty weak sauce . . . I’m sure there are easier and harder days as a primary caregiver, male or female. But comparing it to “normal workday” . . . I mean, do you get the occasional nap in? Can you hang out in your pajamas all day if you feel like it? How’s the brutal commute? Oh wait, you don’t even have to leave the house sometimes. You can order a pizza if you are so inclined? Do a little blogging, etc? Catch up on Sesame Street? . . . All I’m saying is that this defensive “it’s a legitimate, tough job” apologetic that the SAHD’s seem to toss out there makes people more antagonistic, not less antagonistic. It’s a little like when rich celebrities complain about how tough they have it. The SAHD community would likely have it better if they would just sorta try to fly under the radar . . .
Clearly, a big part of why this bothered me was because it just was so nonsensical and insulting.
But mostly? It bothered me, and bothers me still, because it actually came from a long-time friend of mine.
I’m not going to call him out personally here by naming him or anything, but I figure since he saw fit to post it publicity I’m not going to worry to much about whether he wants me reposting some of his thoughts on SAHDs, here. In fact, I’m fairly sure he stands by every word, anyhow.
Although he’s never confronted me outright about it, it’s actually been no secret to me that he doesn’t like (or maybe understand) what it is I do every day, or why. Which is fine, honestly. I know that some of my friends and some of my family probably feel the same way, to varying degrees, and it’s no impediment to us being friends or me loving them and appreciating them. But when I read the line about “shiftless layabouts” and “kept men,” I truly believe that he was expressing there specifically what he thinks of me. Y’know, since as a professional artist I was obviously not walking away from a respectable job “in finance, law and or medicine” to stay home with my kids “out of principle.”
I know him well enough to know that, while he probably believes every word he said, he mostly loves getting people worked up and acting as the antagonist. Maybe he was just trolling, and me writing so much about it is just feeding the troll. So be it, I suppose.
Mostly (he says, after over 850 words of introduction), what I want to do is post my follow up responses to him.
Why? In part because it’s clearly just something I want to get off my chest.
But perhaps more so, when I re-read what I had to say to him, even though it was as a somewhat ranty response to his specific criticisms, it’s something I really want anyone who is judging at-home dads (and moms) like my friend is doing to read. As I told him, I am not saying this stuff to be a martyr or complain about how tough it can be. I love what I do. But rather, this is a response to his outrageous ideas and conceptions about what makes a “normal job” so clearly much more difficult; how those of us who make caring for our children a full-time job have it so very easy and should shut our yaps about how tough it is.
Rather than editing it after the fact to re-word anything to make myself look smarter or my arguments sharper, I’m going to just leave pretty much it as it was, and I’ll add some footnotes down below about things I wish I had included.
So, here’s my rant (seriously, it’s good stuff, but it’s definitely a rant):
[Name redacted], no one is saying that a hands-on, active role in raising your kids is “manly” because it is specifically a “man’s job.” Geez. And clearly no one is saying that one has to be a SAHD to be an active, involved “enlightened” father. NO ONE.*
But if one feels the need (like Mark Driscoll does) to preach about what makes a “real man”, and then define fatherhood mainly as bringing in a paycheck and finding a subissive wife to take care of the kids, they are so completely missing the mark they are likely to shoot themselves in the eye.
You also have a completely wrong view of what it is that makes raising kids difficult. Are there more physically demanding or dangerous jobs? Of course! Is “the most difficult” somewhat hyperbolic? Sure. This isn’t a competition. But you try spending a few days taking care of your own infant and/or a toddler by yourself and if you tell me it isn’t one of the hardest, most physically and mentally and emotionally draining things you have ever done (as well as one of the most fulfilling and rewarding), I know you’ll be lying to me, or to yourself.
And while I’m SURE there are guys who sign up to be a SAHD because they are a “shiftless layabout” (however you determine such a thing, and I’m kind of araid to ask if that is why you think I do it…), it’s BECAUSE of attitudes like yours that they do it, because you incorrectly paint the full-time care of children as “changing a few diapers and singing babies to sleep,” presumably leaving plenty of time to watch football or play XBOX or whatever it is you think stay-at-home parents do with all the downtime you think they have. The truth is, such people either don’t last very long, or learn some hard lessons, before figuring out how to make it work.
Your whole argument about how SAHDs should just stay under the radar and whatever is, frankly, ridiculous and insulting at BEST. Yeah, man, the world would be such a better place if unfairly maligned minorities stopped complaining about being judged, mistreated, ignored and minimized, right. Geez, it’s ridiculous even if ONLY because YOU are the one who came to THIS — a page dedicated to discussing being at-home dads — in order to give voice to opinion on what we do. YOU came HERE.
So, as you read this, please keep in mind this isn’t me being some sort of martyr crying “woe is me” but rather ME, your FRIEND, answering YOUR specific questions and statements about what I do.
WHO said there were not easier and harder days? No one here. I LOVE what I do and certainly don’t apologize for recognizing that I am incredibly lucky that I get to do it. You have a very wrongheaded view of what makes it hard though, particularly when comparing it to a “normal job”.
But since you ask, if I DO get a nap (which is very, very rare now), it’s not because I have ample opportunity, it’s because the stars align such that both of my boys are napping (very rare) and I am okay doing it instead of doing one of the million other things I need to do like feed myself, do the dishes, clean the dumpster-bottom-like area on the floor around the baby’s high-chair, do laundry, prep meals, take a shower, or do some of my paying freelance design work . . . or do what I WANT to do, like work on my own projects, for that matter. Anything for myself: blogging, drawing, reading, watching TV, writing out tirades like this on Facebook . . . they all have to happen during the few hours I am “off.” Y’know, just like people who go to the office every day, who also, incidentally, are known to sometimes take quick naps at their desk, in their cars, etc. during breaks. When I DO nap, it’s because I am at such a point of exhaustion after weeks of getting no more than 4-5 hours of sleep every night that my body doesn’t give me a choice and I say “screw it” to everything else.
Pajamas all day? I suppose it happens, like, when I’m sick. Y’know, just like how if you’re sick and stay home from work you get to stay in your jammies too. The difference is that while I’m living it up home sick in my pajamas, I STILL have to do my job. No sick days for me. Otherwise, I guess someday maybe you’ll get to experience being holed up with a toddler without leaving the house for a day and see how much “but you got to stay in your jammies” makes up for it.
The ability to order a pizza? Are you kidding me? As opposed to getting a lunch break every day where you can eat wherever you want? This… THIS is what defines whether something is a hard job or not?
Have you ever read about how for soldiers, a lot of the stress and weariness comes not from the actual fighting but from the hours and days of being at peak readiness for a situation that requires engagement? No? Well you should. But anyway, caring for an infant and/or a toddler all day is not unlike that. It is hours and days of being on constant guard. And man, I’m no soldier, but that ALONE is freaking exhausting.
Try having a job where in addition to 12 hours a day in the office, you are on-call the other 12 as well, during which you must do anything you didn’t get done during your 12 hour “shift” as well as anything else you want to do in your life. Typically find yourself working for 4-6 of those hours you are “off.”**
Try having a job where you have two bosses, and your entire day is spent addressing their every want and need, which are usually at odds. No, you don’t have to give them everything they want, but they don’t take “no” very well sometimes. You DO need to give them everything they need, and more often than not they do not want it and will make it a fight.***
Try having a job where your bosses do not even have the basic skills to care for themselves. YOU are responsible for feeding your bosses, cleaning your bosses, cleaning up AFTER your bosses (they love making messes), clothing your bosses, nursing your bosses’ many and frequent injuries, as well as educating them not just in reading, writing and arithmatic but in how to function in society, proper manners, sharing, anger management, how to be respectful to authority, to love learning and healthy foods and physical activity, serving others, and knowing about Jesus.****
Fail at any of these things and the threat is not that you will be fired (although you might), but that rather you will be condemning your bosses to a life without as good a chance at success, happiness, or stability.*****
Did I mention that this job doesn’t pay any money? No, no, you only do it because you really LOVE your bosses, and being a part of shaping them into good men is worth every lost hour of sleep and hair torn out in frustration.******
Now tell me again how at-home dads shouldn’t get just a little miffed when a guy who isn’t even a dad comes around telling them that they are most likely just lazy, kept men, like whining rich celebrities (seriously!?), who should just shut up and accept that no one will ever accept what we do as “natural.”
Ahhh, that feels so much better.
My friend says at one point that his main point is that SAHDs should stop being so defensive about what they do, and instead just quietly do it from the shadows, under the radar, where no one will see us. He says that when SAHDs get upset when someone attacks them, they just makes things worse.
What do you think? Whether it’s a public and influential figure like Driscoll using what us at-home dads do as the “dumb idea” of a perpetual man-boy, or someone taking it upon themselves to suggest that us at-home dads are shiftless layabouts and kept men, should we defend ourselves? Or should we just shut up, already?
* This is something I’d like to expand on in a future post, the idea that stay-at-home dads think they are in any way “better” or more “enlightened” than dads who go to work every day — particularly SAHDs like me who blog about our experiences. We don’t. Far more important to us than there being more SAHDs is that dads everywhere embrace the fullness of fatherhood. That they see that they all have an important, active role to play in the lives of their children that starts from even before they are born and is way more then bringing home a paycheck. We want dads to not to believe the lie they’ve been told, that because you are a dude that your role in parenting is minimal, competence in childcare lacking, and ability to nurture nonexistent. More on this another time.
** I’d like to add here: “The only way you get through the day is that you have a co-worker who shows up for the last couple of hours of your shift, and shares the workload on weekends.” Have I mentioned recently how amazing my wife is?
*** “Keep in mind that any time you need to do something that doesn’t directly involve your bosses (answering the phone, cooking a meal, showering, going to the bathroom) there is a 75% chance that you will have to do it while one (or both) of your bosses is screaming, crying, trying to climb your leg, trying to climb a bookcase, or figuring out how to overcome a child-lock. Good luck.”
**** “And proper appreciation for Batman.”
***** “Or even worse, they’ll literally become crippled or killed because you dropped the ball at just the wrong time.”
****** “By the way, none of this is because you have particularly ‘tough’ bosses. In fact, in temperament and behavior, and by lack any sort of unusual health or wellness issues that might make your job even more difficult than it already is, in this industry your two little bosses would be considered to be ‘easy’.”