Tag: sex roles

Primary parenting dads take a lot of crap (and I’m not talking about diapers)

Increasingly, dads are choosing to play a primary parenting role in the lives of their kids and families. And they’re doing it for a variety of reasons: emotional, cultural and economic. But don’t for a minute think that society’s attitude to what has traditionally been […]

4 reasons I love being a working Mr. Mom

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Primary Parental Unit” which was recently reprinted on Role/Reboot. Prompted by the reprint request, I reread the original post and felt it deserved an update. When we originally came west to Alberta from Ontario, […]

If we want more mom execs, we need more dad homemakers

There has been lots of media coverage over the past days about the Conference Board of Canada’s report on the deplorable absence of female executives in Canadian corporations,  but little discussion of the real issues underlying the grim statistics. The situation is not much different in the US, where women executives have also appeared to hit a glass ceiling.

Executive roles are very demanding. The hours can be long and the accountabilities significant. You are expected to be available at any time your role needs you which means you often miss important events in your family life and can start to feel you have little control over your time. This fact, combined with the often crushing responsibilities of executive roles, can be very stressful on a person.

For people who want it all – a healthy marriage, a rich family life, a social life, etc. – in addition to their high-powered executive life,  they need support.

Behind every successful married male executive is a spouse, usually female, who ensures most other aspects of their lives are managed effectively – kids, home, finances, social, etc. Even if there is help in the form of extended family or hired staff, one parent needs to take the lead in directing and managing this help. And that parent way more often than not is the mom.

There are lots of reasons for the lack of women executives – and solutions to this problem – but this is not a complicated problem to solve. It’s not at all about lack of ambition or capability on the part of women, as some media reports suggested. It is partly about a persistent and rank chauvinism that still thrives in macho executive circles.

But, in my opinion, this problem is fundamentally about social organization. As long as women bear the brunt of family management duties, they will be limited in their executive roles.

In order for there to be more moms who are executives, there needs to be more dads who are homemakers.


Parental power-shifting is tricky business

Marriage and parenthood is about nothing if it isn’t about compromise. But there are some unique and significant adjustments that usually have to happen when men take on the role of primary parent. First, expect to meet some resistance – from your kids, your spouse […]

I am a home made dad

It took me a long time to get here – married, primary parenting, homemaking and blogging about it all. You might wonder why I call this blog home made dad and think of myself that way. Here are some reasons: 1. I am a home body. […]

Primary parental unit

Primary parental unit

In my search for accurate descriptors of my role in my family’s life, I have settled on this one (for now): primary parental unit.

It is clear and descriptive. I am a father, a parent, but without the traditional absentee breadwinner connotation that ‘father’ holds. While my wife backs me up as a co-parent, I am the primary lead on most of the home-making and child-rearing stuff. On the home-making side, you have the big four: cleaning, laundry, cooking and shopping. On the child-rearing side, you have stuff like:

  • school – delivery to and from, plus attendance at all important assemblies and concerts;
  • social – playdates and social coordination among school friends and their families;
  • medical – coordinate appointments for doctors, dentists, optometrists, etc.;
  • arts and skills – seek out and coordinate participation in after-school programs to enhance life skills (swimming and skating) and artistic development (piano lessons and daily practicing).

Am I missing anything? Oh yeah, there’s also the part about just being there. Amidst all this home-making and child-rearing, one needs to stop and just listen. Sit down and play with Lego blocks together or a make-believe game. That’s when the day’s most cherished moments reveal themselves.

So that’s what the primary parental unit does. In many contemporary households, I think the home-making is more evenly shared between mothers and fathers today than ever before. In some homes, the home-making tasks are outsourced to nannies, even grocery delivery services. But the child-rearing generally still falls on the shoulders of the mother, even in situations where the mother is working too.

As important a role as we all might agree home-making and child-rearing is, it is devalued somehow. I have felt this devaluation and not necessarily coming from what people say to me, but from what I hear in my own head. I have a deep-seated lack of respect for home-making and child-rearing and that feeling confuses me. When asked what I do (as all professional men and women will eventually ask in social situations), I hesitate to say clearly what it is that I do. Partly it’s a lack of terminology, but more and more I realize its a lack of respect for the role. Though I should qualify this. Women typically understand how important this work is (obviously, because it traditionally falls to them) so they seem to give some added respect to a man in a primary parental role. But men don’t understand the work and tend to look down on the work as woman’s work. No matter what they say, most men have a hard time concealing this lack of respect.

My discomfort comes from this internalized feeling that it is woman’s work I am doing and somehow not worthy of respect in a professional context. But I am confused by this feeling because I really want to be doing this work now. I want the intimacy in the relationships with my kids that comes from being there. Generally, I love being around them. I like their personalities and learn things about myself by being with them so much. And I like the lifestyle and the work style. It fits with my general approach to work – which is to be flexible and fit it in around the important moments in a day. Things can get done when the kids are at school or in the evenings, so that all the other kid stuff happens when it needs to.

In the end, this feels like the right path for me. I was never career-obsessed. I’ve always made decisions to spend my time working at things that felt important and interesting to me: advocacy for ecological change, development of the internet, my own evolution as a corporate manager, financial planning for the future and now parenthood. Yet, even now as I wax eloquent about home-making and child-rearing, I am dipping my toe in the waters of new work opportunities in Edmonton. So as my kids grow and become more independent from me, so do I need to start to re-establish my independence from them.