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When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, touted mothers as the ones who “really hold the country together,” at the convention last week, she touched a nerve for a lot of us, and not in a good way.
Not only did women who are choosing to be childfree wonder where they stand in mattering to their country, but stay-at-home dads (SAHD) were equally pissed. As Mega SAHD blogger Mark Greene wrote for the Good Men Project, “We modern dads are not the stereotypical disengaged working men of fifty years ago who dismissed the work that mothers do. We do this work too, and we know it can be an ass-whipping.”
You bet today’s men aren’t like our dads were! There are more hands-on dads than ever before; some 1.8 million are single dads and 154,000 men are stay-at-home dads, according to recent Census figures, which means more men are “holding the country together” — or at least their family!
As Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care and Brock University sociology professor Andrea Doucet writes in an article for Ottawacitizen.com, there were 60,875 Canadian stay-at-home dads in 2011.
These numbers indicate a three-fold increase since 1986, they also belittle the numbers of fathers who provide much of the daily care for children.
If you don't think that's a lot, keep in mind that this census excluded secondary, irregular, flexible, or part-time earners; part-time students; work-at-home dads (WAHD); unemployed job-seekers, the underemployed, and discouraged workers. Moreover, statistics that follow only husband-wife families exclude a growing number of single, divorced, and gay fathers.
But the question that needs to be asked is how many of those SAHDs actively chose that role and how many were forced into it by the economic recession.
After all our talk about the “new dad”, we still expect men to be the provider, although that is proving harder and harder for men in this economy. As journalist Hanna Rosin writes in “Who Wears the Pants in This Economy?”:
“It used to be that in working-class America, men earned significantly more than women. Now in that segment of the population, the gap between men and women is shrinking faster than in any other, according to June Carbone, an author of Red Families v. Blue Families. . . As the economy fails to fully recover, it’s unclear what will happen to traditionally male or female jobs, generally."
So what does that mean? Certainly, we should be celebrating more men being the hands-on caregivers, right? Not so fast!
According to Christin Munsch, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford’s Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, the more economically dependent a man is on his wife, the more likely he is to cheat.
Munsch is among those contributing to a growing body of research on threats to masculinity, and is working on a book, Man Up: Masculinity Threat and Compensation in Young American Men. According to her research, Some men who experience threats to their gender identity overcompensate by resorting to booze and drugs, engaging in risk-taking behavior, become sexually aggressive, and express anger and aggression. And yes — they’re more likely to have an affair.
In an email exchange, I asked Munsch if we’re liable to see more cheating men as the numbers of SAHDs increase. "Probably," she notes. For men who “voluntarily, happily left the labor market to stay at home, they would not experience it as threatening to their masculinity or feel the need to compensate in response.”
But, she adds, “if more men are staying at home out of necessity, for example because of of job loss during times of economic downtown, then according to the theory they would be more likely to cheat.”
Of course, working women have many more opportunities to cheat (and are acting on it).
This article was originally posted on omgchronicles.
Editor's note: We all know why men might feel emasculated by being the stay-at-home dad – they were raised by a generation who still hang onto that macho, bringing-home-the-bacon mentality. Many men are changing the culture of masculinity, but others aren't ready for that yet.
For all the stay-at-home dads out there, you are doing your fatherly duty. You are providing for your family by taking care of it. We live in a society where our character is measured by income and wealth. Your masculinity can't be counted in dollars or hours of work. Man the stove, protect your children, be men, and be proud to be a stay-at-home dad.
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Vicki is a divorced co-parenting mother of two wonderful and tall sons. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her time hiking or biking around when not behind her desk at the Marin Independent Journal, writing for numerous columns: Single Edition, Mommy Tracked, Huffington Post, ModernMom, and The Working Chronicles.
She is co-writing a book, "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers" - a cutting-edge book challenging our one-size-fits-all, till-death-do-we-part version of marriage while offering a new model for who we are today. She is a ravenous observer of people and explorer of places and reader of things and loves to write and share her findings about marriage, society, children - life.