PARENTING – “Back Off, Stay-At-Home Dads” – In Praise of SAHDs


I don’t know who Amy Ruble is, but I love her. She has an article up at Dad or Alive that is both clever and substantive. Basically she is faux-lamenting the demise of the cult of Stay At Home Moms.

This is how she starts off:

“Outwardly, I’m supportive and feminist. Inside, I’m more like Kit De Luca in Pretty Woman when she confronted that hooker for encroaching on her Hollywood Boulevard turf: “Yo, the moms and me, we work Mickey Mouse. We work Elmo. We work Barney. We work all the way down to Dora the Explorer. This is our turf. We got seniority. You better get off our corner.”

So she starts off by comparing SAHMs to street hookers, and since there isn’t one stray word in her article, this cannot have been by chance either. This is going to be interesting.

She identifies men’s competence as Stay At Home Dads (SAHDs) as the source of the problem in a tone that is anything but accusatory or critical:

“The number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, partly due to the economy. But rather than bumbling through an awkward shift brought on by circumstances, the stay-at-home dads I know seem to be taking it all in stride. Thriving, even. Seriously, stay-at-home dads, your ability to just ease into the primary caregiver role like it’s a job folding sweaters at The Gap is making the rest of us look bad. At least Michael Keaton’s Mr. Mom had the courtesy to feed the baby raw chili and overflow the washing machine.”

And this competence is eroding the mystique of the worn-ragged, sainted mother who somehow does the magic of keeping a house and kids going. And that is starting to have real consequences! My God, what if everyone figures out how it compares to other work!

“My partner and I have a fairly traditional arrangement. He wins the bread and I butter it, staying home with our 21-month-old daughter. I like it this way. But if I complain about anything — a missed nap, a melt-down, a chunky bout of car sickness — instead of sympathy and appreciation, I get wistful jealousy. My man swears up and down he’d switch places with me “in a heartbeat.” And that’s your fault, stay-at-home dads, ….”

Wistful jealousy…. That is going to make it kind of hard to extort a baby ring or whatever the latest Golden Uterus gimmick is these days. SAHDs, you are subversive and transgressive!

And then not content to heap praise on SAHDs for their easy competence by way of staring down self-aggrandizing mommy-blocking SAHMs, she goes on to make a really insightful point:

“The modern stay-at-home dad’s evolution from clueless cartoon to sexy superhero is not the only part of this whole trend that annoys me. I’m bitter that since you’re men and not women, you’re easier on yourself and each other. How nice that must be for you.”

…as in “Why can’t we mothers show the same common sense?” She goes on:

“Moms, am I wrong? Take an alpha male out of the boardroom and put him in a parent/toddler class and you will see a parent who is not afraid to take pride in his accomplishments: “Yeah, potty training, I crushed that bitch!….. That’s why you never hear about “daddy wars.” Stay-at-home dads don’t have to judge and disparage other fathers just to make themselves feel better about their choices. They already feel fine. Because they’re guys. And that’s just not fair. “

Actually SAHDs do face special challenges that you could call daddy wars, as one of her commenters points out – they get their manhood challenged, as, thank God, no woman gets her womanhood challenged much anymore for climbing the corporate ladder (yes, I do know better than that.) and no SAHM gets suspected of being a sexual predator just for taking her kids to the park, or frozen out of support and social groups, or has notes from school addressed to her husband. But she’s making another point, I think. I think she’s saying that dads just roll with this better and moms would do well to imitate that a bit more.

And then to nail the tone:

“Plus they don’t have to lose the baby weight. “

Don’t you love writing like this, that uses tone to convey its message. IDon’t you especially like it when someone says something really substantive in a light-hearted way. And when you see someone who is clearly not the least bit threatened by any of this making fun of those who do, it’s priceless.

Of course there are plenty of mom’s already who parent the same way as these dads do and have been since long before Ms. Ruble offered her advice. My own mother was certainly on this same page and so were all her friends, so long, long ago. But Amy is preaching to the not yet converted.

The only thing that would make this better would be different timing, but that’s not even a quibble. This should come out around Fathers’ Day, as a counter-balance to all the dad-bashing chin stroking we are used to.


Jim Doyle
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<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="2988">6 comments</span>

  • Maybe I missed it (sort of busy here with construction crews) but a lot of stay at home dads also have the knowledge and skill to accomplish many of those manly jobs too. Like landscaping, painting, whatever. Jobs that some woman simply refuse to engage in. So a man staying home can often perform a double duty of doing the parent/housework stuff and doing home/car repair, etc. And yes I know many women who can outperform me on such tasks. I am speaking very generally. (for example my aunt can do home remodeling but I also know women who don’t know how to ride a bike or swim…american women, born and raised in suburbia…not poor people without access to a pool or bike. And yes I know men who never held an infant, refuse to change diapers and stuff too.

    There’s this double duty thing but couple this with the fact that my wife has an easier time finding a cushy office style job, is not expected to stay late or go in early, has no issues taking off for family time, etc. IMO it’s a great arrangement. When I was working I was doing the graveyard shift, dealing with dirty noisy potentially dangerous machines, crawl around under floors, no vacations (just OT), expected to work 2 days straight (literally), drive in blizzards, etc.

    Thanks for the link.

  • Obviously you hang with a better class of women, Paul. There are certainly out there. My daughter-in-law has never even heard of this shit, but she would just roll her eyes and make gagging motions.

    A baby ring is one a father is supposed to buy for the new mother for all the hassle of pregnancy and birth, probably to mark the occasion, but it can’t help looking like a tip you give a servant or a bonus to an employee. It just comes off as really tacky and transactional.

  • Yeah, debaser, i imagine you have been busy. How badly were you hit?

    I had you specifically in mind when I posted this.

  • The article offers a few backhanded compliments to men, but it’s still very gynocentric. Absolutely no mention of the insane levels of discrimination that fathers face. How about the British PM who was forced to change seats on a flight because of unaccompanied children – his children? Oh, but how nice it must be that fathers don’t have to deal with all of the super-duper double-plus-hard hardships of being a woman and a mother.

  • New Rule. Anytime I hear a woman say that she is as feminist as it gets, I’ll preemptively dismiss whatever she says next as passive aggressive otiosity.

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