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Jury’s still out? What jury?

Submitted by on Tuesday, 3 November 2009 2 Comments

For years, decades even, we’ve heard the pious preaching: Children should stay at home with a parent instead of being palmed off on a day care. Except no one ever said “parent” – they said “mom,” because the anti-day care rants were just another way to criticize working women.

Then the recession hit – a downturn where men have accounted for 78 percent of the job losses. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported an increase in stay-at-home dads since 2002, a trend it says is due to the recession.

Is this “trend” a good thing? “The jury is out on that,” one blogger proclaims in a post that has nothing to do with stay-at-home dads.

Um, what jury? Whose place is to judge an individual family’s decisions, be they made freely or forced by economics. Unless those decisions involve physical or emotional abuse or neglect, it’s really no one’s business.

Oh, I forgot. It’s the same jury that sentenced working mothers for years. Turns out, the jurors weren’t really concerned that a parent stay home with the kids. They wanted to make sure that it was the mom, because women are better at that nurturing stuff and men are hard-wired as the bread winners.

It’s actually more brain-washing than hard-wiring. Just watch a couple with a newborn baby and see which parent is offered more undermining “advice.” The assumption, too often for this century, is that men shouldn’t be trusted with their young.

Which is ridiculous. I know men who are far better parents than I am. I know other men who, with a little less criticism, could be far better parents than I am. And every man I’ve ever met has the potential to be just as nurturing and caring as, well, a mom.

Yes, men suffer ego blows when they lose their jobs because a great deal of their self-identity is build around their professions and their roles as bread winners. But women who lose their jobs go through the same thing.

Yes, it’s a tricky transition from full-time worker to full-time homemaker. Women have to negotiate this as well.

Yes, a stay-at-home dad turns cultural traditions on their ears – and if a couple wants to travel that path together, more power to them.

So let’s just dismiss the jurors. Their services really aren’t needed.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • halloran said:

    “Whose place is it to judge an individual family’s decision?” Well when you get laid off, it’s not a “decision” is it? You might want to rethink that. But as to the question of whether anyone has the right to criticize a family in which a father stays home, I would say definitely yes. The reason is, women, or specifically feminists have been criticizing families in which mothers stay home ever since Simone DeBeauvoir said housewives were parasites, about 60 years ago. That was followed by Betty Friedan, et al, joining in to insist that women could only be fulfilled, respected, independent individuals by having a career outside the home. So you see the jury is not out at all. We already know that men who stay at home are doomed to be miserable and unfulfilled because women have been telling us that that’s been true for them for the past 60 years or more. Surely you’re not suggesting that men and women are different? Because that’s the other thing that feminists have told us: that men and women are not different. So if you insist that women should be independent and have their own career we must insist the same for men.

    And if a couple wants to travel the path of a stay at home MOM family, do you also say “more power to them”/

  • Debra said:

    Actually, in the article I linked to, the husband wasn’t laid off. He decided to close his business because it wasn’t doing well in the current economy. As a result, the couple decided to take the kids out of day care and let them stay at home with their father. Most things in life involve a decision or choice – one option might be so unpalatable that it’s not a realistic possibility, but rejecting that option still involves making a decision. Besides, you cleverly left off a clause in quoting the post. The full sentence reads: “Whose place is to judge an individual family’s decisions, be they made freely or forced by economics.”

    I wasn’t alive 60 years ago, so I really can’t be held accountable for what was said then. As far as Friedan – and I hadn’t been born yet when she wrote “The Feminine Mystique” – I believe her point was that being solely a homemaker could be stifling. Her argument was that women are just as capable as men of pursuing a number of professional options – and I wholeheartedly agree with that.

    Interestingly, in a later book “The Second Stage,” Friedan addressed issues such as the social evolution of masculinity – how men’s roles would change as a result of changes in women’s roles. That’s where we are today.

    And, yes, if a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom, more power to her as well. I’ve said and written that many, many times. For me – and for many others today – feminism is about choices. Being strictly a stay-at-home mom is not the right thing for me – I’m an Army wife whose husband is headed to a war zone so abandoning a career that might be the sole source of support for my children would be incredibly irresponsible in my mind.

    But if other women or men choose to stay at home, so be it. Whose place is it to judge? Not mine.