Clarifying The Stay-at-Home Dad (SAHD)

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This piece originally appeared on Daddyshome.org. Republished here with permission.

First off, I’m probably not the one to be writing this. I should just step away from the computer, take my beer with me and head on down to watch the rest of the football game. All very manly tasks done by the average male every Sunday, especially during playoffs. However, I find myself a bit perturbed, which is a nice way to say pissed off—enough to punch someone in the face, another manly activity that many men participate in. Later, I will also do some gambling, change a flat tire, and swear profusely just so that I can prove the point of this post.

Recently Business Week published an article about Stay at Home Dads (SAHDs), specifically the stay at home dads of CEO moms. It’s a decent enough article that I don’t have too much complaint against. My one beef is again bringing up how many stay at home dads became in that situation because they were laid off. While I agree with the basic argument, it does get my goat a little to ignore the many of us who actually chose to do this, or who had the opportunity to go back to work and didn’t. But that’s for another day and another debate. Read the article. It’s pretty decent and paints us SAHDS in a pretty good light. I am always happy when people assume that I am a good guy and not some drug-crazed lunatic who’s too lazy to work.

My issue is not with the article, like I said. It is with some of the commentors. This is where I switch from beer to whiskey, another very manly task. Later I’m going to skin a buffalo.

Sometimes it still surprises me when people think that us SAHDs are lazy, that we are kept men, and most aggressively, suggest that we are more feminine than the average pink skirt. I keep telling myself to let it go, to not worry about it. I tell myself to ignore the comments about the perils of “social engineering” and the downfall of the American family because Dad chooses not to work. But sometimes, just sometimes, I can’t let it slide. I can’t because I am a man, and as a man, I do not like to be challenged.

Some of my favorite comments from the article:

“I like the husband’s blouse. Very smart.” A very witty remark by one Daniel who shows his amazing ability to regress back to grade school.

“Females are reaching executive levels only through government meddling.” An astute analysis of the current American culture, revealing the fact that Mr. Toads obviously has mommy issues that we very much hope he gets help for.

“No matter how much propaganda the feminists put out, men are simply not interested in switching roles with women.” A personal favorite of mine, as I love it when one short-sighted douche bag speaks for all of mankind. I suppose we had a vote somewhere, perhaps it was mailed to me, and I didn’t open it, as it smelled of old-man bitterness. I try to throw those right in the trash.

I know that I should just ignore the trolls and again, most times I do. But sometimes one has to speak out. This isn’t some fly-by-night mag; this is Business Week. It seems to me that Daniel, Toads and the last goofball have an issue with us SAHDS and perhaps a few misconceptions that need to be ironed out. So in an effort to be cordial and adult, I have decided to help them and the others out by dispelling a few misconceptions about the whole “crazy SAHD” thing.

First things first, a feminist didn’t put me up to being a stay-at-home dad. A group of them didn’t show up to my house with a burning bra and scream at me, “Take care of your children!” It didn’t really happen that way. It might have been cool if it did though. Then I would have a story of personal perseverance. No, most of us SAHDs actually chose at one point or another to take responsibility for our family. I know it’s weird. I know that you don’t hear a lot about it. It’s all dead-beat dad this, and my husband is never around. However, a father taking responsibility for his kids? Good lord, what a novel concept.

Moving right along, let’s get this out of the way pretty quickly. I am a man. Look, I have a penis. There it is, right where it’s supposed to be. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. Speaking on a pure biological standpoint, that pretty much makes me a man. That doesn’t change once I quit my job to take care of my kids.

But then of course we get into the whole argument of “your job is what makes you a man.” OK, I’ll go that way, too. I’m a SAHD, that’s my job, that’s what I do. And you are quite right, it does define me as a man. I take care of my children, that is who I am. This is where we usually hear, “That’s not a job!” I would beg you to reconsider that fact for all parents out there, because if you don’t consider being a parent as the most important job you will ever do, then obviously you are doing that job wrong and probably shouldn’t have children in the first place. ”But you don’t get paid for it!” people will reply. So just so I’m clear, the VP that makes a million dollars in salary is a better father than the guy that works two jobs to put food on the table? That’s obviously where that argument goes. I hate to break it to the fellas, but the amount of money you make has nothing to do with your ability to parent.

Now I’m on a roll. When I hear that being at home with the kids is the easiest job in the world, I want to smack the person who said it. Seriously. It’s an insult to not only stay at home parents, but parents everywhere. I’m sure every single mother or single father out there would love to just give you a couple of belts to the face, but they can’t, because they are too exhausted from parenting. If you think parenting is easy, then, again, you are parenting wrong or not at all. If parenting was easy, there would be no Springer Show and Dr. Phil would be out of a job. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good Springer episode. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Springer by lumping him in with ignorant trolls. My sincere apologies, Mr. Springer.

Let’s talk about our wives now, the lovely ladies who make it possible for us to do this job, or non-job (should you be an idiot), that we do. My wife didn’t reach her current position by sleeping her way to the top. She didn’t blackmail anyone, and no government program put her in the position that she is in. She got in the position that she is in because she took time to educate herself and then work her butt off to advance. Her position is not the product of some lawsuit that screamed “give me a job!” She got there because she knows what she is doing, and she is good at it. She had a choice at the very beginning when we had children to stay home or go back to work. I had the same choice. We both had that choice because we are partners in marriage as in parenting, and it’s the choice that we made together. The truth of parenting is this: It’s not a gender-specific role. I know that it’s hard to understand given tradition, etc., etc., etc. But the flat-out truth is that I can parent as well as anyone else, and it doesn’t make one bit of difference if I have a set of boobs or not. I love my kids and that is pretty much the only qualification that my wife and I needed to make the choice of who stays home to parent. This may shock some, but when my daughter cries, I give her a hug. When my son is hungry, I feed him. When they do something that they are not supposed to do, I correct them. It’s called parenting. The only thing I can’t do is breastfeed, and I will wholly concede that point. I, Hossman, cannot breastfeed.

Perhaps I’m making to much out of this. Perhaps I should just head back downstairs to see who has won the Denver/Pitt game. However, I think a man also has to actually take a stand sometimes. In the four years that I have been doing this, since I left a high-stress job to parent, I have seen the negative comments on SAHDs pop up. I have seen the videos of sermons calling us lazy, and I have read the articles that suggest that SAHDs are Mr. Moms who are incompetent and who give the baby chili. I think it’s time for some push back. I think it’s time for some of us SAHDs to stop ignoring the trolls and start confronting them. Go ahead, rip on the SAHDs, no problem. But don’t be surprised if that SAHD mans up and takes the fight right back to you.

Right after I cook dinner for my family, of course.

Shannon Carpenter explains his identity as a stay-at-home dad this way: He has a college degree and had a job. He quit it on purpose to teach his two minions how to be minions. He’s not a bum, not addicted to crack, and doesn’t beat his wife. He seriously did this on purpose. And he writes about it at his blog, The Hossman Chronicles.

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