It's no secret that traditional gender roles are still present in many households today. But, attitudes toward stay-at-home dads have improved over time, with two gay dads leading the movement. Being a stay-at-home gay dad challenges traditional masculinity and provides an opportunity to build lasting relationships with family members. In this article, we'll explore how being a stay-at-home gay dad is becoming increasingly accepted and discuss some of the unique challenges it presents.
In 1976, there was only one stay-at-home dad for every 70 families surveyed by Statistics Canada. But in 2015, the ratio narrowed down to 1 out of 10, indicating more women taking over the breadwinner role in the family. And what’s more surprising in the evolving nature of parenthood is that more Canadian fathers would like to spend more time with their children by taking longer parental leaves and staying at home if given the option to do so.
Men are expected to provide a larger share of the household income in cultures that still hold traditional beliefs. It’s what the “good father” concept is all about according to researchers Linda Haas and Philip Hwang. A husband is considered more successful if he can better provide for the needs of his children but in return is not expected to perform the roles of mothers rearing their children.
But the gradual improvement in labor opportunities for women in the 20th century has altered the role of men when it comes to work-home balance (or how a person divides his time for work and the family). The nature of fatherhood has evolved since then, with more men opting to stay at home taking over domestic responsibilities and women pursuing their careers in different industries.
But what about gay dads? Does the concept of stay-at-home parenting work for same-sex couples? Who gets to decide who’ll do the daily 9-to-5 grind, and who stays behind to take care of their child?
The answer is that it comes down to their own personal preference and financial situation. For some gay fathers, the idea of staying at home is a great opportunity to build lasting relationships with their children while challenging traditional masculinity along the way.
I must confess that Stefan and I have thought about this arrangement too. As of this moment, we’re still very much into getting our engineering careers on track, without compromising our attention and focus on Maya. We want the best of both worlds - balancing career and family duties at the same time, and we’re determined to keep it that way for now.
But we’re not closing our doors when one of us decides to be a stay-at-home dad.
Traditional households advocate the male-breadwinner, female-homemaker model. Family responsibilities are left to the care of mothers. But if two husbands are earning for the family, can they find a middle ground when deciding who becomes a full-time stay-at-home parent?
No doubt about it.
Attitudes have progressed over time. With more stay-at-home dads, feminists consider this as a contributing factor to gender equity by challenging stereotypes in patriarchy. And with two gay dads that believe and support this movement, having one of us look after Maya 24/7 while the other is at work would still support egalitarianism if both of us are happy with such arrangement. In fact, it may turn out better for our daughter.
We’re currently at the stage where Stefan and I are both playing the “good father” role. And we’re lucky to be earning and having the time to take care of our daughter. But if there’s a question as to who should give up his career when transitioning from a dual-earning couple in the future, I believe it won’t be a cause of conflict when the time comes.
Don’t get me wrong. We both love our jobs and we’re more than delighted to have careers that support our needs as a family. But if it’s about entertaining the idea of having the work-home balance that our family deserves, then we’re willing to work it out.
The key is, if one should stay home, it has to be grounded on our choice. The moment we became fathers, Maya has made us think less of what we want for ourselves but more of what we can contribute to building a wonderful, healthy family. We do things not out of obligation but out of love and compassion for each other.
Deciding who will become a stay-at-home parent in the future will be based on what’s best for our daughter. This leaves out any question hanging in the air as to who becomes a stay-at-home dad and who gets to go out and work.
When I took my paternity leave to take care of Maya, I entertained thoughts of what it would be like to stay home and just be on the clock for my daughter.
I realized that just like most dads who are adjusting to the work-at-home setup, the pressures of the pandemic have challenged them to realize that it’s a tough job balancing work and family life if you’re not willing to fork out hundreds of dollars on childcare services.
I’ve learned so many things during my paid time-off at work and spending my time at home to take care of my daughter.
While the current situation doesn’t allow us to be in physical contact with fellow parents, one way of finding emotional support is from fellow dads and moms who have also taken the role of being primary carers through like-minded online communities. Emphasis on “like-minded” here because, truth be told, there are social groups that still find it hard to welcome stay-at-home dads to their circle. So, make sure to join a support network that understands your situation.
Having the support of these folks also eases the feeling of isolation when spending the entire time at home and waiting for your husband to come back. You get to feel more confident getting by every day in moments when you need advice on what’s the best way to keep your child busy when you’re doing the laundry.
As a gay dad, my stay-at-home parenting experience has made me realize that traditional masculinity shouldn’t limit us from being the best dads we can be. Taking on this responsibility doesn’t make us less of a man and shouldn’t define our worth as a parent.
Being a stay-at-home dad has also made me appreciate how I can build lasting relationships with my family members and see the world through different eyes as I watch my daughter grow up every day.
It’s not just about helping out around the house or looking after Maya during the day, but also setting an example of what it means to be a good and happy parent regardless of gender.
In the end, I’m glad that my husband and I are able to work together in building a strong foundation for our daughter's future, with the help of both of us being present at home. Masculinity need not limit us from being great dads, and we both understand this.
We’re looking forward to seeing our daughter grow up in a world where traditional gender roles are just part of the past and all parents can strive for the work-home balance that their family deserves.
This will help your kids know when it’s time to eat, take an afternoon nap, finish their homework and get ready to bed at night. You’d be better at finishing your housework tasks and finding time to take a rest too.
It’s also important to plan fun activities for your children in between the daily routine. Have a family movie night, go on a picnic or take them out to the park and let them explore nature.
It’s okay not to live up to your expectations all the time. Some days will be smooth sailing spending knee-deep in the garden with your child, while there are weekends that you’d end up wondering how other parents make it look so easy on Instagram. Relax. Everything’s a learning process until you find your groove, and it doesn’t make you less of a parent if you’re not meeting the expectations that you set for yourself.
The more time you spend with your kids, the more you realize how different your parenting skills are. You can’t put pressure on yourself by comparing how you raise your child. Your situation is different from mine, so we don’t have the right to put others down just because we’re doing much better at raising our kids, or feel so low just because nothing seems to be going our way. So, forget about comparing yourself and just focus on doing your best at parenting.
Being a stay-at-home dad doesn’t mean you’re grounded all the time. Talk with your partner about sharing the responsibilities by taking split shifts to get yourself some free time for yoga, gym, sports, spa session, dinner with friends and even a sound sleep! This gives you time to recharge and avoid getting overwhelmed by parenting and housework.
When one partner is earning and the other is not, it can be intimidating for the partner in the long run. Stay-at-home parenting is unpaid work with longer working hours and no health benefits. It’s important that you also have a share in the family budget to pay for your expenses and needs such as gym fees, dinner dates with friends or wellness treatments.
Soon, my partner and I will find ourselves being the dads waiting at the school gates on time, preparing Maya’s bags for summer camp, and framing her artwork from school. And in a few years, Maya would be doing things on her own and be independent of us. Being a stay-at-home dad won’t be a long-time career so don’t forget to improve yourself or learn new skills should you decide to re-enter the job market soon.
Today, stay-at-home dads can also be financially independent thanks to self-employed contractual work opportunities that they can do at home. This means you can also have the flexibility in your working schedule to accommodate time for your family while earning extra cash and getting yourself on a better financial footing. I’ve written some great side income opportunities in this previous blog post to give you a good idea.
Dads who choose to stay at home challenge social norms that stereotype men as less than capable of nurturing and raising children. It’s an opportunity to build a strong relationship with their family and ensure that they remain supportive of building their loved one’s future through responsible fatherhood contrary to the notions of traditional masculinity.
Although it can be a tough balancing act, there are many advantages that come with stay-at-home parenting, such as having more quality time with our kids and financial independence. Ultimately, being a stay-at-home dad as a gay father is an empowering decision that strengthens the bond between parent and child.
Whatever your situation, don’t forget that you are the best judge of yourself and your family. And only you know what works best for you. So, have faith in yourself and keep being an amazing dad!