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I Was Shamed For Being A Stay-At-Home Dad

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I was nervous when my son was born. I felt so much anxiety that I would often find an excuse like tending to dinner or walking the dog, all so I could avoid having to hold him. It wasn't because I was distant emotionally or didn't feel love for him; it was because I was unsure of myself.

All I thought about, and all I think about to this day, is keeping him safe. Like many dads before me, I wasn't confident that he would be safe in my arms, no matter how much I loved him.

Thankfully, that lack of parental confidence faded, replaced with an almost insatiable feeling of wanting to be close to him. The first few months require an adjustment for men. We don't have the biological bond, the nutritional components and some would argue the emotional prerequisites to make our children feel like they need us.

I would jokingly refer to myself as The Janitor, a random figure my son would see in the background sweeping the floor, periodically looking up, shrugging and then continuing to sweep the floor. My partner, Michelle, would probably laugh at that, seeing as I have to be reminded to sweep anything, but the greater point is that I felt pretty useless at the beginning.

Eventually my uselessness faded away and I became a fun loving daddy, helping Caspar to take his first steps, to mimic sounds and to not body slam the cat. Being a competent dad was not just good for Caspar, it was a requirement for us as Michelle was wrapping up maternity leave.

I'm a writer, which automatically makes Michelle the breadwinner of the household. Hell, she could be in retail and still be the breadwinner. Fortunately for our family, Michelle is a researcher and near the top of her field. After a year of maternity leave it was time for her to go back to work, and for me to assume the role of stay-at-home dad.

Of course this made me nervous again, but it didn't take long for me to find my stride.

Everything is wonderful and I honestly can't complain, except in one area that I find mostly annoying, and definitely surprising.

Strangers, sometimes men (but mostly women), would make off the cuff comments about me staying home to take care of my kid.

Every day Caspar and I go for two long walks. We usually end up at the beach or the park so he can get out of the stroller and run around, look at squirrels or people watch. On our way to the park I usually stop at the Starbucks for a piece of banana loaf and a cup of Daddy medicine (a double espresso).

And then one day, it happened. I thought it was just a random idiot, an anecdotal experience I could laugh at but not take too seriously. And then it happened again. And then it kept on happening.

Strangers, sometimes men (but mostly women), would make off the cuff comments about me staying home to take care of my kid, or me "making" my wife work, or rolling their eyes when I would tell them I was a stay-at-home parent. Most of them didn't even try to hide it. One half of a lesbian partnership actually leaned into the stroller and said to my son, "When you grow up maybe you will work and let your wife stay at home instead."

What? Really?

Anyone who knows me knows one thing for certain: I have a sharp tongue, and if you call me a jerk, I'm probably going to call you something far worse, complete with a random metaphor that will disparage your entire family tree. It's just how I roll.

But in these instances I was honestly at a loss. For one thing, I'm with my kid and don't want to call the woman with the six-carat diamond ring who isn't working in the middle of the day a hypocrite for judging my family dynamic.

Not only is it a complete shock that anyone would have to deal with that kind of conspicuous gender biases in 2016, but it is equally annoying that it impacts me so negatively when it happens.

But beyond that, I am completely floored that so many women are basically parroting the expected gender roles of the 1950s. I suppose some of them want to be taken care of, and can't fathom a man and a woman trading places and flipping the stereotype on its head.

I guess the most annoying aspect is that I would prefer being the breadwinner, and I'm fairly certain Michelle would rather be at home. So it strikes a nerve. It shines a spotlight on my vulnerabilities, like being able to provide, being a strong father figure or being a person who really doesn't want to talk about his vulnerabilities.

Truth is, if I could flip a switch and be making the kind of salary Michelle makes, I'd flip that switch in a heartbeat so she could spend as much time with Caspar as I do.

But what I really don't need are reminders that I am not providing the ideal life for my family. Not only is it a complete shock that anyone would have to deal with that kind of conspicuous gender biases in 2016, but it is equally annoying that it impacts me so negatively when it happens.

So, to all the modern parents and people out there who think it's OK to swap parental stereotypes, I salute you.

And to all the others who snicker and pass judgments, let's hope we don't run into each other when Caspar and Michelle are spending time at home, as I have a few tree-splitting metaphors ready and waiting.

But more importantly, I have a wonderful son and a strong, successful partner who values my contributions; because, to paraphrase a famous world leader, it's 2016.

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