As a man staying at home with our little guy, it’s been interesting and wonderful to meet others in the same situation. There is little variation – 100% if those new friends I have made are moms. There are dads out there too, but I have not yet found them.
A new friend asked me yesterday if there is anything that other people say or do that makes it difficult as a stay at home dad. I told her the main one is people assuming I don’t know my child and his needs, or that I am not informed in general (after all, dads are clueless, right?).
This question got me thinking later in the day. Who cares if I am a stay at home dad, or if someone is a stay at home mom? Aren’t we both parents, who have made the decision to stay home to take care of our children? Who cares if I am a man, if the woman next to me is a woman, aren’t we both equally capable of caring for our little ones?
We all live in an international community worldwide working on recognizing the equality of men and women, in all things. I believe in this equality without exception – there is no way a reasonable person could say a man is a less tuned in parent than the mother, any more than they could say that women can’t work in business. It’s these archaic stereotypes that bother me – when will we learn to just get over the gender divide, and own up to the equality we all share, regardless of gender, race, class, or any other separating factor?
In graduate school one key element I studied was the concept of “hegemony”. This term is often misused by mainstream media who don’t understand it. Hegemony is a power asserted not by force, but creatively, almost under he radar through accepted norms. There is no leader, there is no hegemonic monarch – it’s simply the accepted norm of popular culture. One way hegemonic mainstream power dynamics operate is to marginalize the non-hegemonically dominant groups – and one way of doing this is to label everyone except for the dominant group, and to celebrate those groups. That would mean in essence, “international women’s day” actually serves to keep pushing women into a lower position (otherwise if there truly was equality, why would there be a need for it?). And the same goes for all the other non-normative groups – which in my case applies to the label of “stay at home dad”. Why the label that divides us? Why classify and stereotype my character based on my gender? What is the assumption that comes with that label – that I couldn’t find a job in Hong Kong (not true), that my wife made more money so we had to do it this way (also not true) – and more important, why does it matter?
So I am making a call out to all the stay at home parents – we are stay at home parents – let’s come together to be parents. We are made up of mothers, fathers, and maybe aunts, uncles, and other family members – our gender does not matter, it does not matter why we are home with our little ones – we are home with them, we care about them, and together we can work to stop the gender divide for our children. It starts with us.