Fathers who quit their jobs to prioritize family are universally acknowledged to be good parents while ladies who head back to the office after birth are suspected of being not dedicated mothers. Yet, a stay-at-home dad over at the Motherlode has revealed some anxieties about having split famial roles into clean dependent/independent categories. Even though the gender roles have more or less reversed, SAHD fears that the example of family his daughters are being raised with still echoes that of tradition, in which one partner makes all the money and the other doesn’t.
Vincent O’Keefe writes:
…I thought yes, it is good that my daughters see a professionally successful mother and a father who takes childcare seriously. And yes, it is good for them to see that I am now a part-time writer working on a parenting memoir. But am I somehow setting an example of dependence that could backfire in the future? In larger terms, is a stay-at-home father actually anti-feminist in some ways, since he contributes to traditional breadwinner/homemaker roles, just with different genders — roles that will most likely continue to put more pressure on women than men to tether their ambition for their children’s sake?
O’Keefe’s worry reads valid, but choosing to prioritize family (regardless of gender) can absolutely be a feminist decision. So often, breadwinner/homemaker debates fail to recognize that parenting and domestic responsibilities are work. Cooking meals, doing laundry, changing diapers, keeping tabs on doctor’s appointments is a vital contribution to families that deserves just as much respect as bringing home a paycheck. To assume that stay-home-parents are somehow “not working” by assuming a domestic role slights both men and women who have devoted themselves to maintaining a home. That assumption alone has been central to many feminist debates as “women’s work” is hardly ever deemed work in the first place. But with more and more dads actively co-parenting, perhaps we can now changed that to “domestic work.”