The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Blame the patriarchy

It turns out that the trouble Mtoto and I have making friends and meeting up with women, who are the vast majority of people looking after children in this city, is all down to other men.

A friend got in touch. She and her husband read my “Man Friends” post the other week. I paraphrase. He said: “Typical of women isn’t it?” She said: “Hang on, don’t blame the women.”

She and I bumped into each other today and while we walked (that’s my Janathon exercise for today, folks) our kids to sleep we talked. And she told me that this business of women not wanting to meet up with stay-at-home Dads might be because of the husbands (read partners etc). It’s just a theory she said. But what are the wives going to be telling the husbands about their day? That they were meeting up with some chap? The husbands are going to be getting jealous about who exactly these chaps are that their wives are hanging out with. So it isn’t worth the hassle for these women. Much easier to simply hang out with other women.

I conceded a point. Both she and another friend who I had been meeting with today know me and my whole family. They’ve met L, they’ve met me. They’ve met Mtoto. They’ve seen me with their wives and their kids and they’ve seen me with L and Mtoto. I’ve been for beers and football with one of the husbands. Maybe when other men don’t perceive me as a threat to their relationships, it can all work out. Other women who I’ve hung out with for an hour or two, I met at a French class. We’re fellow students, it’s okay.

Assuming that my friend is right, I took it on in a different way. The problem isn’t me, it’s what I represent and how that might make people question themselves and how they’re living.

I’m a guy and who has chosen to spend every waking hour with my kid. After all, I encouraged L to apply for the job that she got, knowing that it would force all kinds of change upon our family. I’m having lots of fun. You might see it as a career break. I see this as an opportunity to explore all kinds of different paths that I might take in life. Are other Dads spending enough time with their kids? Have they got the right balance of time with their families? Is it okay to admit that they would rather not spend time with their kids?

I met a guy recently who works in commodities. He asked me what I did. He told me that although he doesn’t have any kids, my job is his second favourite choice of everything, coming only after being retired. He doesn’t have any kids yet, so he hasn’t had to make the hard choices about pursuing that dream. But other men have and hearing about a stay-at-home Dad can make other men uncomfortable about the choices they’ve made.

And all of that is why lots of women are uncomfortable around a stay-at-home Dad.

2 Comments

  1. I’m sorry that a generation on (or more) you are still finding this prejudice. Regardless of the parenting issue, I’ve mostly found as a woman that the “sisterhood” (i.e. “stick with me and don’t go talking to my husband/male partner”) is a very strong force. 40 years ago my bloke was a “new man”, sharing the parenting when I was doing unsocial hours as a freelance musician. He got lots of “ah, isn’t that sweet” as he pushed the pushchair around the district but was never included in the group of playgroup mums, etc. Oh, except as chair of the playgroup committee! Dads did share a group babysitting rota though as there was a brief historical period when they were equal and also trusted with each other’s children.
    Just to say that being retired isn’t a job, it’s a state.

    • jez

      28 January, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Thanks for your comment Judith and sharing some of your and your bloke’s experience. It’s fair to say that I’ve suffered little or no prejudice in my life being male, white and so on, but I am intrigued by, and want to, explore my experiences here further.

      Also, when I used to visit a playgroup in south-east London with Mtoto, I didn’t come across these situations as I have in Geneva. It’s like being in a different country.

      And yes, I get the retirement point.

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