A few days ago I realized my son will grow up with a very different perspective regarding gender norms. I grew up in a very traditional household. My mom was a stereotypical stay-at-home mom. She did all of the cooking and cleaning in the household. My father worked full-time and wasn’t expected to help with the household chores. He was responsible for the typical male chores around the house; essentially maintaining the house. But this traditional view of gender roles will be foreign to my son. I stay at home and my wife works full-time. By default, this allows me to do things like cook more frequently. And while my wife and I still perform some of the traditional roles (I mow the lawn, she typically meal plans, etc.), the majority of what we do is shared pretty equally.
Ever since my experience in college, it has been one of my many missions in life to help redefine what it means to be a male. Subconsciously, I think this is one of the reasons I wanted to become a stay-at-home dad. I wanted to show my son there is so much more to being male than what is portrayed in our society.
By staying home with my son during his formative years, I hope he learns the following things about what I think it means to be male:
Men can be caretakers
I want him to know that men can make just as good of caretakers as women. We have the capacity to be kind, caring, and empathetic individuals. When our little ones are scared, tired, or just plain old cranky, we can be there with open arms, willing to listen and do whatever is necessary to help them feel more at ease. It shouldn’t be seen as weird, or less manly, to do so in public or in private.
We can be patient and understanding. When a toddler throws a tantrum, we can let the tantrum run its course without ourselves losing our cool.
We can be firm, but fair. We don’t have to be the authoritarian figure that our fathers may have been. Above all, I want him to just see these things as normal; as if this is the way it has always been.
Men can experience emotions
I want him to be able to freely express all of his emotions. Not just the ones that are socially acceptable for males in our current society. It’s okay to be scared, anxious, sad, unsure of yourself, etc. Everyone feels this way at some point in their life, so why try and hide behind some fake bravado and pretend that somehow you are superior to everyone else?
Men can cook, clean and do any and all household chores
There is no genetic material, that I am aware of, that prevents males from doing these things; so therefore, there is no plausible excuse for why men can’t do these tasks.
Men don’t have to be the breadwinner in a family
I don’t want my son to feel like his manhood is threatened if he is not the one who earns the most money in the relationship. If his partner earns more money than him, great! If not, that’s fine too. I just want him to be happy in whatever relationship he chooses to have, and I don’t want some arcane view of maleness to get in the way of this happiness.
It excites me to know that I can make a difference in how my son will view gender roles. The best part is that I can also be a role model for his friends through my actions. I find it hopeful that I frequently see more and more stay-at-home dads (or dads who are the primary caretaker). I think it’s only a matter of time before articles like this will no longer be necessary and that revelations like mine will be antiquated, and that’s a good thing.