by chrislucas on 9 April, 2014
There was a time when the term “Stay At Home Dad” (or “StAHD”) would elicit strange looks, derision or even pity. “A real man goes out to work and puts bread on the table” and “a woman’s place is in the home” are two stereotypes that are still prevalent within society today. Indeed, I used to describe myself as a “StAHD” but I’ve started to move away from the term for a number of reasons. The main reason is because actually, it’s not entirely accurate. My wife and I share the childcare arrangements. There are times when I am at home with the children and there are times when my wife takes care of them. Yet she quite righty doesn’t describe herself a “StAHM” (or that most outdated of terms, “housewife”) so I see no reason why I should describe myself as a “StAHD” (or, god-forbid, “househusband”). Secondly, I think the term itself is really clunky. Many dads these days do actually work (as in earn money) and therefore contribute to household income, but because they work from home, work for themself or have a job with flexible hours, may well be in a better position to be able to combine their work with childcare arrangements than the mother. Thirdly, whilst I know the term is meant to be both polite and functional, I now think the term is way too loose and definitely not fit for purpose. Modern family structures come in so many different shapes and sizes and whilst the father might well wake, wash, dress and feed the children, make the lunches, go on the school run, etc., this doesn’t necessarily a “StAHD” make. I realise that I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend a large chunk of my sons’ lives with them whilst they’re young. I’ve been present at every early year ‘landmark’ (first teeth, first steps, first words, first days out of nappies, etc.) and if my circumstances change whereby I am away from the home more than I currently am, no one can take this time away time from us. I know the wrench my wife feels when she leaves the house before they’re awake so she doesn’t get to kiss them goodbye before she leaves for work. I know how upset she gets when she can’t get the time off to watch them perform in the school play. I know how sad she feels when she can’t go to the children’s parties because she’s at work.
Our childcare arrangements have provided me with a unique perspective in to areas of political and social policy that are normally driven by women. The Lib Dems have long led the way on implementing family friendly policies. Shared parental leave, the cost of childcare (child minders, nurseries, etc.), 15 hours free pre-school education, free school meals, free milk at school, equal pay, job sharing, the pupil premium, child benefit, are just a few of them. I’ve always felt passionate about gender equality, but now I can empathise as well as sympathise. So, whilst “StAHD” is not as emasculating as “househusband”, it is still a term that has evolved from a polite, cool way to describe a modern, non-conformist family structure with a dad who does most of the childcare, to one that describes a lesser man whose wife wears the trousers and tells him what to do. In reality, most husbands and wives act as a team and assume different roles at different times. The fact that it’s every shirt in a man’s wardrobe that is covered in baby sick doesn’t make them any less of a man – in fact in my view it means that they are much more likely to be aware of the impact legislation might have on the family.
So to all my fellow dads I see in the morning, rushing to get their kids to school on time, I say fair play to you! We are in a fortunate position that many men just don’t have the opportunity (or to be fair in some cases, the desire) to experience. For those who work for companies that offer shared parental leave, I urge you to look in to it. The time with our children is so precious and childhood only comes around once. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.Leave a comment