Friday, October 29, 2010

The “Kept Man” or Mr. Mom

I was listening to the local Seattle talk radio this morning, and the guest host was talking about a recent study he read where it stated how men who are not the primary bread-winners in a household have a tendency to cheat on their partners.  This brings up several thoughts on the ideas of roles in the household, and it is also something I can relate to.

Mr. Mom
For the last two summers, since I work as an educator, I do not work in the summertime.  Last summer my wife was pregnant with our second child, and I stayed home with our older child instead of picking up any part-time or seasonal job.  The hours I would have been working would have meant more time needed for childcare.  The same thing has happened this summer in that I am staying home with both kids now as my wife is the one who leaves for work.  This has led to me doing activities with the kids where I am one of the only guys around.  My 8-month old child has grown super-attached to me, which I like, because he has become my little buddy.  I am able to be involved with my kids and they get to see a stable, solid, and engaged father-figure.

Kept Man
My wife and I were married in 2004, and at the time I was working two jobs from 6 in the morning until 11 at night.  In 2005 I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree and went straight into a Master’s in Education, which I finished in June 2010.  During that time, I worked in several school districts as an aide and a paraprofessional.  This allowed me to gain an immense amount of experience as  I am now a new teacher, but I was not bringing home the bacon… more like the bread crumbs.  When we got married, my wife found a paid internship with a local hospital, and she is now a lead in her department.  The pay has been enough for us, and the hours have made the need for childcare minimal.  I love her for this sacrifice, because she is very maternal.  Granted this situation is not that of a “sugar mama”, but there is the idea of a kept man.

Chauvinistic Insecurities
So what was the point of this post? Well, there are definite positives to being home and not on the daily grind; whether it’s connecting with your kids, or letting the burden of bread-winning fall on your partner’s shoulders.  But I find myself caught between ideals.  On one hand, I want to think I an a forward-thinking man of the new era, and that I am not living in the 1950s.  However, I find that I feel this burden should be mine as the man of the house, and that by not doing this, I am less of a man.  Add children into the situation, and you have a scenario where someone can feel even more emasculated.  Not only is he not making the money, but he’s doing the woman’s work of raising the kids.  Where manhood and dadhood intersect in our society is a horrible mix of immaturity, recklessness, cluelessness, and a non-instinctual lack of backbone.

What we praise as a real man, is just an old boy, but what is manliness is often overlooked.

Youthful Aspirations

As a boy, we often want to become MEN. I knew I was a family-oriented person, but I did not think of it as becoming a Dad, but a Man. In all reality, there should be no distinction between manhood and dadhood, but there is. Now, rather than blame society, which would be to easy and has become cliche, I want to think about how I can rectify that distinction in my own son.

There is a stigma about the road men take through life.  The more independent, adventurous, spontaneous, and reckless we are, the more “manly” we are.  Now I know that people say it takes a real man to raise their children, and i agree with that, but no child says he wants to be a dad when he grows up?

Hmmm….  Maybe this is not the right way to explain what I’m trying to say.  I think that the conflict comes when there is an implication that you are less of a man because you are a good dad; that you are less of a man because you are smitten by your wife; that you are not a “Real Black Man” because you have not walked out on your kids and you are planning to pay for them to go to college and not get a “contract” and buy you a house.  As if I’m doing something wrong by letting my children’s dreams hinge on my actions instead of my dreams hinge on their successes.  This is where the conflict lies.  Maybe these are all common insecurities, but if I had a DAD of my own, I could talk to him about it.  But I don’t.  I was told that a father is never done raising his children; that he will always be available to help them out, well, I lost that when I was still in my teens.  So who is supposed to help me continue my growth into manhood and dadhood?

A Quick Background

This is my first post. I’m taking a minute to say hello while one child sleeps and the other is outside playing.

I was raised by my mom and my step-dad who, it turns out, dropped the ball to the point that I cannot look to him for an example of dadhood. I met my bio-dad about 7 years ago, and he’s been out of the picture so long that he doesn’t know how to pick up the ball to even drop it. So how do I make sure I won’t screw my own kids up in my efforts to try and raise them without any lasting damage? I don’t know how to answer this question, but maybe you can help me as I start this venture.