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Why Is There So Much Shame in Being a Stay-at-home Dad?


On the heels of Price's Man-cession post, I suggest everyone read this excellent essay for Salon by Aaron Traister. In it he discusses how a worsening economic landscape sent him into what he thought would be a temporary role as stay-at-home dad.The decision to stay home was a fairly easy one. My 1-year-old son displayed early warning signs of being part tornado, and our household was beginning to crack like a trailer home under the strain of 175 mph winds. My wife had the degree, the full-time job, the benefits, and most important, desire and ambition. When you compared that to my mishmash of part-time contract work and my unique inability to function around other humans, it was clear who would be the one on the front lines in the constant battle against diaper rash.The first year of full-time fatherhood improved his physique, his psychological health, and his household's finances. However, after his wife became pregnant again, it became clear that the situation was permanent. Traister's sense of manhood was tested, and he quickly crumbled.Realizing that I was stuck brought about an ugly change in me. The financial penis envy that I had so assiduously avoided began to creep into my relationship with my wife. I got shitty and sulky when she told people in passing that I was staying home with the kid. I qualified her statements by letting whoever she was speaking to know that this was a temporary thing, and that I had held several very butch jobs up until the last year. For instance, did I mention that I worked in a prison, or that I was a bouncer? Who's a big tough guy? That's right, Aaron's a big tough guy! Yay, Aaron!Ultimately, though, he rediscovered his resolve, and re-embraced his fatherhood. His conclusion is poignant:As we step, or are forced, into the new roles that are presented to us, perhaps we should not lament, or vainly grasp at the responsibilities we feel we should have, but instead sack up and embrace the ones that are right in front of us.The point's well taken. With incredible stubbornness, we (men) tirelessly cling to irrelevant, antiquated definitions of what it means to be a man. But most of us aren't bear-hunting CEO prize fighters, and if you ask me, being a good father is just about the manliest thing in the world.
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