“B*tch, you wasn’t with me shooting in the gym”

– Drake on Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe, in Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin”

American society does not value childcare and housekeeping. Oh, we say we do. Last week, Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, got het up when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen questioned her ability to advise her husband on women’s issues since “[Romney] hasn’t worked a day in her life.”  Mrs. Romney countered that raising five children is indeed working–hard work, in fact. And I agree, though I note that as the privileged wife of a millionaire, Ann Romney should hardly be the voice of the average stay-at-home-mom. But I don’t believe all the Conservatives rushing to voice their support of mothers everywhere. And I believe few of the Liberals saying of course parenting is just as valuable as working outside of the home mean it either. That is just not the society we live in.

We live in a society where childcare providers–mostly women–are barely paid living wages. American parental leave pales in comparison to that of most European countries (Parents in Sweden receive a whopping 16 months to care for newborns, for example). And when a woman forgoes a career to help a man reach the pinnacle of success by tending to home and hearth, and then divorces in the face of infidelity, some folks greet the idea of equal division of family wealth with, “Bitch, you wasn’t with me shooting in the gym.” I guess child-rearing skills just aren’t as important as tossing a ball through a hoop with amazing accuracy.

You know when I will believe that our society values housekeeping and childcare? When men do it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of men who are involved spouses and fathers, but few who take primary responsibility for maintaining home and family. That is why childcare providers are unfairly compensated. That is why single mothers without outside employment are not applauded for working hard raising their families. That is why America doesn’t give a damn about affordable and reliable childcare. Housekeeping and childcare are not important because men don’t do it. Because what we really believe is that these things are “women’s work.” And as long as this is true, and we all still live in a sexist society, then these things will always be undervalued.

Say you run into an old college classmate at the corner coffee shop. He was a smart guy back in the day. Sharp. Everyone knew he was going to be somebody. You ask him what he’s up to and he says he’s a househusband. He cares for his two young children while his wife works in a high-powered corporate job. If you find this news anything but admirable–if you find it at all emasculating–ask yourself why.

The idea that keeping house and raising children are unimportant is a product of a sexist culture, but to change this, it’s not just men who will have to adapt. If women believe nurturing is as important as providing, well then, we have to be okay with potential husbands and life partners choosing the former and not just the latter. We have to let go of the idea that the most important thing a man can bring to a committed relationship is a paycheck. Now, this is not some endorsement of shiftless, lazy men with no life direction, but we should equally admire the brother who is a captain of industry and the brother who stays home and raises future captains of industry.

In an ideal world, a couple could make decisions about work and childcare, based on their family’s unique needs and the strengths and desires of both parents NOT based on worn ideas of femininity and masculinity.

What do you think? Would it be okay if your man was a stay-at-home-dad?

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66 Comments

  1. Dreaming

    Let me start by saying that at this point in time, I am not interested in marriage or romantic relationships with men, BUT should something change and life takes me in that direction, I would not mind if my husband was a stay-at-home dad. If my life keeps going the way that it is, I doubt I’d be making enough income to support a family, so I would at least need for him to have some type of income.

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    • Terrence

      interesting comment but you’d probably be surprised to know men probably aren’t checking to be in a relationship with you.

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    • Sasha

      @Terrence- And why might that be?

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    • Dreaming

      Terrence Please do tell how you have arrived at such an erroneous view, because I have experienced quite the opposite.

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  2. Socially Maladjusted

    admire the brother who is a captain of industry

    I don’t.

    I admire the brother who understands that we live on a planet with finite resources and that proper resource management rather than resource consumption is only way the earth can survive.

    Bout captains industry. And which countries in Africa are you proposing that your children invade so they can steal the resources to be captains of industry in america?

    Captain of industry my ass – would that be like bankers and financiers on Wall Street who produce absolutely nothing of value to sociey – just imaginary profits on an electronic balance sheet?

    The world hasn’t got enough resources for any more captains of industry, who are only “captaining” extreme consumption and environmental destruction.

    This is confused nonsense. Captains of industry means someone has to be the foot soldier of industry – right? So we’re challenging the hierachical structure of the family but not the hierarchical structure of society as a whole.

    Nah – don’t so think coz us foot soliders of industry is gonna fight back.

    “In an ideal world, a couple could make decisions about work and childcare, based on their family’s unique needs and the strengths and desires of both parents NOT based on worn ideas of femininity and masculinity.”

    As long as the couple’s decision is not exploitatative of either party in the couple – placing more burden on one than the other.

    The ideal to strive for is an EQUAL division of domestic labour, EQUAL division of child raring, and EQUAL division of BREAD WINNING.

    We’re not getting around EQUALITY by leaving it up to the people involved, because when we leave it up to individuals, we find “traditional” patterns asserting themselves.

    This new egalitarian policy should be enforced by law and custom. Everyone goes in knowing that everyone is EXPECTED to contribute EQUALLY.

    simple.

    This is why no one who is truly seeking to transform the world, takes movements like feminism and gay rights seriously, because neither challenges the global power structure. Neither dares go up against the real POWER. Such movements only want deeper integration into the existing system.

    This is why they came down so hard on the Black Power movement and have targeted blacks ever since. BP fought for self determination – it was a truly transformative movement, the very thing that whites fear most – because they know that once blacks are free and independent they lose –

    everything.

    No compromise no sell out

    What?

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  3. chanela

    Very interesting article! i never realized just how underappreciated women are! hell, we should get a check or some coupons or gift cards or some type of compensation after giving birth. that ish is work! no esta facil!

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  4. Sasha

    It would not be okay if my someday husband was a househusband/ stay-at-home-dad because I would like to be a housewife/ stay-at-home-mom.

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  5. Mamareese

    Well as long as he didn’t feel imasculated by doing so…hold it down. My experience was this fool let me go to work all day and then was waiting for me to come home and take care of kids, home AND HIM. Yeah, I ran to sign them divorce papers!

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    • Steamer

      I’m so glad that you stood up for yourself. I admire that. I noticed in the list of things you mentioned that you weren’t one of the priorities that were expected for you to care for. Well, I’m assuming that you were expected to do all of those things, AND keep yourself healthy, AND presentable while not becoming burnt out from all of those demands on your psyche or complaining about these imposed expectations.

      You can only do the juggling act for so long before things start to fall and before you know it, you aren’t juggling anymore.

      Self-care is so important because if you can’t take care of yourself you aren’t effective in taking care of others.

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