Monday, July 23, 2007

The "Myth" of the Stay-At-Home Dad

Jason from Daddy in a Strange Land was nice enough to forward me on the latest latest blog entries by the always interesting Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk. It was titled, provocatively "My own marriage and the myth of the stay-at-home dad," and it detailed how her husband's shift to at-home fatherhood may have accelerated the troubles in her marriage.

She suggests that the great "myth" of at-home fatherhood is that the really happy at-home dads are the ones who are secretly or not-so-secretly doing some part-time work. This is not entirely untrue: it was case for me when I was doing the SAHD thing, and I can list a number of at-home dads who do substantial nonprofit work or write or maintain servers or whatnot. But full-time fatherhood is *not* a one-way trip to divorce court. (And, indeed, the University of Texas data appears backs me up.)

In every marriage -- no matter how the wage-earning and child-rearing is split up -- there has to be a premium on doing what makes you happy. At-home fatherhood can't just be a choice that looks good on paper. It can't be only because "it'll be good for the kids." It has to be a move that both mom and dad are enthusiastic about. And the same goes for at-home motherhood (or any other family choice for that matter).

Penelope notes her discomfort that her husband has described himself (accurately, apparently) as a SAHD on his LinkedIn page. A family that views at-home fatherhood as something objectionable or shameful might not be ready for SAHD-dom. I always got a kick out of describing myself as an at-home dad, and I've purposely refused to update my information in my college directory, where I had myself listed as a homemaker. Different strokes ...

I'm sorry to hear that Penelope's family is struggling because of the some of the roles (and that they may not be the only family with at-home dads that feels the same way). And while I object to the idea that at-home fatherhood is somehow a risk factor for divorce, it's not a silver bullet, either -- it's just another (under-used) choice in figuring out the work-life thing.

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