There are role models for women who want to stay home and be homemakers. Many of them would look to their mothers for inspiration and guidance – either in how to do it or how not to do it.
Similarly, for men who wish to be traditional working fathers, they need look no further than their fathers as role models to learn the tricks of the trade in terms of managing their responsibilities and emotional lives. Like women, men build their own variations on these role models. They can choose to be more involved in their kids’ lives or a be a better partner to their spouses than their fathers might have been. But they still have a framework within which to work.
Our lives are filled with role models of men providing and women caring and our personal and cultural experience reinforces these expectations.
So what happens when a woman becomes a provider? Who who is to be held up as the role model? A woman can model herself to some extent on her father or male provider roles around her, but she seeks out women who have blazed the trail before her because there is an assumed shared experience.
But what about the man who assumes the role of caregiver and homemaker? Who is he to model himself after?
This question has been causing me much introspection over the past while. It seems obvious to me that I model myself on my mother in my role as caregiver and homemaker, to a large extent. Who else would I look to? Yet, as a man performing the role of homemaker in our society, I face a unique set of challenges. I wasn’t groomed to be a stay-at-home dad. I wasn’t trained nor did I take it upon myself to learn how to manage a home – cook, clean, sew, iron and repair clothing. Add to that the fact that when push comes to shove, the vast majority of society still treats this as woman’s work and me as, well, some sort of freak of nature.
Men are not conditioned in the same way as women. Our expectations of what we should do and our role in the world is different. There is a bit of nature and a lot of nurture at work here conspiring to make it harder, in a way, for a man to be a primary parental unit.
I’m not making an excuse or saying that men aren’t built for the job of primary parenting. I’m just saying that we’re not properly prepared for it. Or supported in it.
Men need guidance and assistance in order to be proud men that provide loving care and make comfortable homes for their families.
This blog is for those men. And, ultimately, their families.