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I knew it: Anytime you talk about men and infidelity, people want to remind you that men aren’t the only ones who cheat.

And they’re right.

So of course my HuffPo story this week, The downside of being a stay-at-home dad?, based on my article here last week, Do stay-at-home-dads cheat more than other dads?, got a few responses along those lines.

But that was just missing the point. 

Both articles were based on studies I read about threatened masculinity, including one study on men whose wives made more than they did. For men who weren’t secure in their masculinity, a high-income woman created a problem.

OK, staying at home isn’t for every man — or woman, for that matter. But it’s evidently not OK for a lot more men than women; a just released Gallup poll indicates a huge proportion of men — 76 percent — would chose to work out of the home than “stay at home and take care of the house and family” while just 51 percent of women said the same.

I wonder why so many more men are disinterested in caretaking, especially since many men who stay at home to watch their kids work part time and see it as a temporary phase; is it because caretaking isn’t valued all that much? If that’s so then we need to ask valued by whom because if it’s valued by the couple in the relationship, who cares what anyone else thinks if you’re doing what’s best for your family? Except that those who look into gender identity threat realize that no matter what we may want — or say we want — others often make us feel conflicted about our choices.

And sometimes those of us who enter into those agreements willingly and happily suffer for our decisions.

I recently heard from a friend who was a SAHD (by mutual choice when his wife wanted to go back to work full time). It seemed like a good way to make a marriage work, switching the roles at some point. But he wouldn’t do it again — “The double standard is just too entrenched,” he says. ” I would advise any guy against it.” Another mutual friend, also a SAHD, wouldn’t either.

Both are divorced now, both former wives cheated on them and both now have primary custody for various reasons, although the custody battles continue.

His comments made me think of other SAHDs I’ve known (and interestingly I know quite a few) and how those marriages played out. Out of six SAHD marriages, five have ended in divorce.

Those are not good odds. In fact, they’re much higher than the divorce rate of all my friends.

So it was interesting to read about Brit novelist Rachel Cusk’s new memoir, Aftermath, in which she details the breakup of her marriage. She convinced her husband to give up his successful law career to care for their daughters, and he did.

As a Slate review states, it didn’t work:

“Instead of finding unconventional bliss, Cusk comes to hate her husband’s ‘unwaged domesticity’ just as she had hated her mother’s. As she and her husband take on the traditional roles of dominant husband (her) and submissive wife (him), she found her regard for him plummeting.”

She says that as her marriage fell apart, “the whole broken mechanism of feminism was revealed.” She not only doesn’t want to pay her former husband child support, but she also doesn’t even want to share custody with him.

All of which makes me wonder if many marriages can handle a total reversal of gender roles.

The media keeps trumpeting the “new dad,” and yes many men are more hands-on with their kids than ever before; this is a wonderful and welcome change, especially for the kids. (Although as I have written before, “good dads” are increasingly rare.) But I still think we’re a long way from seeing men — and women — totally embrace men as full-time caregivers. What do you think?

  • Are you in a marriage with a stay-at-home dad?
  • Do you know a lot of marriages with stay-at-home dads?
  • How are they working out?

 

 

 

6 Responses to “Do we really want men to stay at home?”

  1. Chad says:

    If you haven’t looked at it yet I suggest checking out the study by Boston College on at-home dads and their spouses.

    http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/centers/cwf/pdf/The%20New%20Dad%20Right%20at%20Home%20BCCWF%202012.pdf

    If you want to meet some men who are making it work I suggest coming to the At-Home Dad Convention in Washington, DC. http://athomedadconvention.com

    You said you know 6 at-home dads and 5 of them ended in divorce, which is terrible odds. I know 60 at-home dads and 2 have ended in divorce, and it didn’t necessarily have to do with the role reversal. Which are much better odds. I have more friends than that in more “traditional” marriages who have gotten divorced.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles
      says:

      Chad, thank you for the link. I hadn’t known about this center’s work, and it is highly illuminating and also offers hope for those of us who’d like to see men feel accepted and embraced in that role My only concern is that of the 31 fathers in this study most were at home with babies/young children (meaning they probably hadn’t been married too long) and the mean number of years spent caregiving was slightly greater than 5; I wish the authors indicated how many had been doing it for 17 years.

      As you probably know, many marriage don’t make it past 10 years — not to sound cynical but perhaps these marriages won’t either, and perhaps for reasons that will result from the role switch; no way to know.

      And I am wrong — I know 7 at-home dads (this one was solely because of the recession); they are now in the midst of a divorce!

      • Black Iris says:

        Vikki, I was an at-home mom for 10 years and had many, many full-time parents as friends. The only moms I know who have done it for 17 years were homeschooling. The norm in our society now is for mothers to get some form of paid work once all their children are in school all day.

        Perhaps the more relevant statistic would be how many couples where the father was a full-time parents for a few years are still together?

        In any case, looking at the people we know is weaker evidence than a study of new dads.

  2. V says:

    I have been with my wife for 27 years. I’ve been a stay at home dad for over 14 yrs now. I love my kids, but would not recommend this life.

  3. V says:

    I have been a stay at home male for 14 years now. Your questions do not apply to me.

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