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HomeMagazineBerkshireBREAKING DOWN GENDER STEREOTYPES: STAYING-AT-HOME-DADS – THEY EXIST

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Mojatu Foundation

By Ophelie Lawson

There is a common belief that women are the only ones who will benefit from a more equal society.

But in reality, men would as well. Men too can face gender-specific issues such as rigid gender norms.

For both women and men, it is essential that they are aware of the benefits that gender equality can bring to them as individuals and as members of communities.

Traditional stereotypes are difficult for many men to live up to. There is a constant pressure on them to be a ‘real man’ meaning to be physically and emotionally strong, and to be the main income earner in their household.

When it comes to family life, however, many workplaces do not offer men extended parental leave or flexible hours, or worse, for stay-at-home dads, there is only little support available in comparison to moms, as it goes against the norm.

Men are less likely to seek professional help or talk about their problems and emotions with friends or family.

They are also more likely to commit suicide, because of those rigid gender norms.

They are less likely to talk or open up about their feelings, because they are not encouraged by society to do so and are more likely to be told to “brush it off” when they experience difficult feelings. 

We have all heard the saying ‘men don’t cry’.

I spoke to a stay-at-home dad about what it means to break out of the norm. It is a tale as old as time: husband goes to work; wife stays home to care for the children.

But what happens when the wife goes to work, and the husband stays at home? Do they get enough support? Is it easily accepted ? Below is my conversation with him:

Ophelie: In your opinion what are the stigma and stereotypes associated with being a stay-at-home dad ?

James: It’s not the norm, is it? Having to go out to baby groups; it’s all moms there. It can be a bit daunting to do that.

You do get ignored or only spoken to briefly. You see all the moms sitting about, chatting and all getting on.

You can feel a bit isolated. My friends all thought it was a bit weird. But I don’t think anybody really understands how much hard work it is.

They think you are just trying to get out of working where if it is the mom, it is what she is supposed to do or what society thinks she is supposed to do.

Ophelie: Do you get any support from your relatives ?

James: my mom would come down once a week. From my friends, not really. Just my mom and my first son. But no, I don’t get any real support.

Ophelie: Did you get any unsupportive comment or unsolicited advice since being a stay-at-home dad?

James: Everybody’s got an opinion, but nothing too negative, just joking around, because it is not the norm. People call you the housewife and stuff like that.

With my first son I was also helping once a week where it was only him and me, so I kind of knew what to expect.

I just forgot how hard it is to be honest. The joking around; I kind of expected, I made the decision to do this.

At the end of the day, it is beneficial for me and the kids, so I don’t really care much about other people’s opinions, I am quite happy with what I decided to do.

When I told people from the older generation they have always asked when I’m going back to work like this was the most important thing to them.

Ophelie: Do you get supportive comments ?

James: My wife, my mom and some female friends have said how well my son is doing and they know how hard it is.

From male friends not really, it’s not really something we talk about.

According to gender norms, it is the mother who should be staying at home to look after the children, but such stereotypes are really just harmful, they limit both women’s and men’s capacity to make choices about their lives and live the life they seek to leave.

For James, a stay-at-home dad, leaving his job to look after his younger son and allowing his wife to pursue her career, as well as eliminating childcare costs, was the best decision he could have made for his family.

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