Nobody denies that being a stay-at-home mom is a tough job. They wear many hats: chef, chauffeur, nurse, secretary, care-giver, maid — just to name a few. The term is worn as a badge of honor, something that little girls are taught by society to aspire to from the time they’re given their first baby doll.
There is, no matter how much we deny it, a fundamental difference between the male and female sexes: a stay-at-home mom is presented as a self-sacrificing warrior. A stay-at-home dad is a bum.
And that’s messed up.
If a woman chooses to pursue a more, shall we say “domestic” role in her life, she is praised. She is lauded as “putting family first” and recognized for her “sacrifice” of having given up a career to raise children. If a man chooses the same route, he is often ridiculed and accused of not supporting his family.
This all comes back to gender norms in the American society, but the real problem is that the “norms” haven’t caught up with the modern age.
What is the “typical” American family anyway? A married couple who own a house with a yard, a white picket fence, a dog and 2.5 kids?
Not even close.
That may be the stereotypical ideal, but in reality, even in 1960 (according to the U.S. Census), only 37 percent of households included a married couple raising their own children. Nowadays, that percentage has fallen to 16 percent.
So, the whole “Leave it to Beaver” lifestyle was never the norm here, simply the more publicized. Propaganda, if you will. The reality is that low wages and a high cost of living, for many families, living on one income simply isn’t feasible. Compound that with the fact that (like it or not) men typically earn more than women, and you’re left with only one solution that makes financial sense: if a parent is going to stay home, it’s probably going to be the mom.
But times are a changin’.
Today, more men than ever before are choosing to be the primary caregiver for children while more and more women are pursuing higher educational degrees and attaining employment in traditionally male dominated fields. It’s not so much that the gender roles are reversing — more that the lines are becoming blurred.
And I think that’s awesome.
In 2009, a study published by the Sociology Department of Appalachian State University estimated the number of stay-at-home dads in the United States to be between 1.4 and 1.75 million men — double what it was a decade ago. The 2010 US census pegged the number of stay-at-home dads closer to 2 million, but as it relied on employment status alone to make their determination, most sociologists fall back on the App State numbers as a more accurate representation.
The bottom line is that if we are to have a society where men and women are truly equal, it needs to flow both ways. If women can wear lab coats, hard hats and flight suits without raising eyebrows, surely it follows that a man can wear an apron.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.