Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Do SAHDs Subvert the Paradigm?

The measure of success of the wicked interesting San Francisco Chronicle SAHD story is the fact that it alone along the hundreds of SAHD stories published in the nearly four years I've been blogging has prompted the blogosphere to do some navel-gazing about whether rosy at-home dad stories do any good. Salon, as you may remember from last week, suggested the Chronicle story was based on a certain traditionalist bedrock and disguised it by talking about caregiving men. I didn't see it that way: stories about SAHDs are not stories glorifying '50s-style housework with a new twist, they're stories celebrating the end of '50s-style gender roles.

But Elizabeth over at Half Changed World (full disclosure: Elizabeth may be jealous of me, but I have some envy issues with the fact that she managed to get in the Times), who I respect a great deal, comes down on the side of rebel dads being, well, not that revolutionary when it comes to changing the workplace:
We don't challenge the "ideal worker" model -- the idea that employers are entitled to employees who are largely unencumbered by family responsibilities, who don't have to run out the door in the middle of the day when the daycare calls because a child is sick, who can stay late without hesitation.
While it's certainly a worthwhile reality check, I'm not sure I see things the same way ... while I would love to see more workers from both genders fighting against the ideal worker model, I think that moms (even moms with SAHDs at home) are probably doing the best job of it. Law prof Joan Williams once suggested as much in a Washington Post op-ed, claiming
Employed mothers typically are less willing to consign all child care to the stay-at-home spouse. So children in families with stay-at-home fathers may well receive more parental attention than children in households with stay-at-home mothers.
Regardless of where you come down, it's an interesting question: do at-home dads/reverse traditional families simply allow moms to be saddled with the onerous 'ideal worker' stereotype, or are they a more humanizing influence on the work world?


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