While stereotyping isn’t what it was years ago, there is still the expectation that women can stay home with the kids if she chooses to, but men don’t. There is a massive shift of your self-image in a change like this. “What do you do for a living?” is one of the first question someone asks when you meet for the first time and one that others use to figure out an image of you in their minds.
What do they think of me? Do they think I’m a guy who couldn’t bring home the bacon? Do they think I wear a frilly apron all day? Am I just a lazy bum (although, if you’ve been/are a stay-at-home parent, you know that couldn’t be the case)? What would Det. John Kimble think?
Related, I have to qualify my stay-at-home status to myself. In reading a couple of books about stay-at-home dads and reading stories of stay-at-home dads, many find their ways to this role after being laid off. I find myself defensive that I was not laid off. I left my job in order to stay-at-home and to allow Vanessa to pursue her career.
This self-image ego thing has to go. Vanessa and I decided that unless there is no other way possible, one of us would be home with the kids. Not every family can do that (not every family wants to do that either!). I shouldn’t be so negatively self-conscience about us making a decision about the structure of our household and actually executing it. How many people dream of something, but don’t make it happen? While working and V was at home, I thought about how rewarding it could be to switch roles, but now that it has happened, I’m self-conscience about it?
While stay-at-home dads aren’t as rare as they once were, it still isn’t well understood. It reminds me of growing up Catholic in a Baptist town. You can’t stay defensive or afraid without driving yourself a little mad. You learn how to explain to other the what and why of your belief and how to correct their incorrect assumptions and stereotypes.
A positive difference between the Catholic/Baptist analogy in relation to being a stay-at-home dad is that the other person won’t try to convert you to their line of thought using techniques they learned at Sunday School!
Doing something against the grain or different from others’ expectations of you is an opportunity to help others understand a different way of thinking.