Get Inspired, Be Empowered Forums Gender Justice Our society is becoming more accepting of stay-at-home dads. Reality or illusion? Reply To: Our society is becoming more accepting of stay-at-home dads. Reality or illusion?

Mayuravarshini Mohana
Not Helpful

Fatherhood in our society is sketched in terms of stringent patriarchal norms- that it is men’s onus to be breadwinners. While the advent of women into professional careers is no longer a stigma, the same flexibility is not accorded to men who wish to be caregivers at home. The hierarchy between professional and domestic life is the governing factor. That is why it is ‘progress’ for women to have careers while a social descent for men to embrace domesticity. Men who choose to be stay-at-home dads defy the conventional concept of masculinity and to any patriarchal society that is a problem.

The patriarchal system is as oppressive to men as it is to women. It dictates strait-laced identities which men and women are expected to fit into. Stay-at-home dads are proof that switching roles as care-givers will not decimate the familial structure. They also contest the essentialist perception of motherhood, showing that gender does not determine an individual’s ability to nurture.

Scott Melzer in his interview to the Atlantic stated that men who considered themself to be failed breadwinners or those who feel they do ‘women’s work’ compensate either through competitive masculinity or intimate partner violence. This almost spontaneous response to one’s challenged masculinity exposes the intensity of internalised gender norms. To break-free from them and be comfortable with one’s own true identity is a remarkable feat. Stay-at-home dads are true rebels who break free from the shackles of stringent social roles.

As it goes with all identities, stay-at-home dads are not exempt from stereotypes. The most popular notions hurled at them are that such men are either unemployed or in between jobs. If not, the man lacks ambition. Gender socialisation has made it seem an irrefutable truth that men are destined to bring home the bacon. We are so convinced of the dogma that we label men as incapable of caregiving, and even dismiss the idea. Over the years, a small portion of urban Indian society has managed to wrap its head around SAHDs. We have rare instances of fathers choosing to take care of the family while their spouse goes out to work. They make up only a very small community in India. We, as a society, have a long way to go in breaking gender norms and normalise stay-at-home parenting for men. To do so, we must put a stop to gender socialisation and unlearn the principles of internalised patriarchy.