The Stay-at-home Dad as Pariah

An interesting, though unscientific, survey from author and stay-at-home dad Jeremy Adam Smith:

Atrocity stories circulate, but how widespread are actual “parenting while male” experiences, really? To start to get the answer, on Monday I created this survey, which as of this morning had been taken by 74 guys—60 percent of whom spend 31 or more hours a week taking care of a child. Here are the results so far:

  • Three men—4.5% of the participants who answered this question—said that they had been asked to leave a playground by a caregiver.
  • Twenty-four percent said that they had been refused entry to a gathering of parents and children.
  • Fifty-five percent said that their parenting skills had been criticized or corrected in a public setting.
  • Fifty-eight percent of participants felt that this criticism or exclusion occurred on the grounds that they are male.
  • Twenty-eight percent of participants reported that they had experienced these incidents on five or more occasions.

I’m a bit uncomfortable with the term “parenting while male,” but the numbers sound about right to me. While I’ve not experienced any overt prejudice myself, I have felt excluded on many occasions.

It began when we enrolled our daughter in Gymboree. At first, we attended the Saturday morning class as a family, but after a few months we realized that a regular Saturday morning commitment cut into the only free day we had together as a family. So I began taking her to a weekday class, and to open gym times as well—Julia went to those about half the time.

That’s when I first noticed how the moms in the class would congregate together and all but ignore me. At times, I felt like a pariah.

Our local Gymboree closed almost two-and-a-half years ago. Since then I’ve noticed the same attitude, here and there, in parks and play areas. It’s not universal—many moms seem totally comfortable with me and treat me just like any other parent. And the situation seems to be improving as more and more dads become primary caregivers either by choice or necessity.

So perhaps a combination of a more open-minded generation of parents and a lagging economy will soon bring us to the day when a stay-at-home dad is no more unusual than a working mom.

In the meantime, I’ll give the last word to Matt Coburn of The Good Men Project’s Good Feed Blog:

Just do the best you can. Love your kid shamelessly, and don’t hold back. Reach out and build relationships. Be a big boy and rise above the playground squabbles—hard as it may be. The kids—and the country—will be better off for it.

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