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There's Something Missing From The Debate About Stay-At-Home Mums

Stay-at-home dads.

17/02/2017 12:04 PM AEDT | Updated 17/02/2017 12:04 PM AEDT
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"Though there are things I cannot see through my wife's eyes, I don't think my experience has been lessened by being a father and not a mother."

I read the article "Can We Please Stop Telling Stay-At-Home Mums They Suck" and felt there was something missing.

And it's not about gender.

I'm a stay-at-home dad while my wife works at her full-time job. We have three children. For every family there are different variables: parenting styles; family support; finances; children with a need for greater independence and those with children with greater dependence, etc.

The negativity has made my wife feel she is not much of a mother for spending less time with our children, and pressuring me to feel like I'm less of a man because I'm not working more.

We've found with us both working full time in the past, there are too many pressures on our family for it to work. Our relationship started to fray and our kids started looking for our attention more than usual and often in negative ways. Then there's the lack of opportunity to exercise (or even the energy to) and not being able to fit in any extra-curriculars for the kids or yourselves. Date nights? Please.

Now, I'm sure there are plenty of others out there proudly proclaiming their godlike ability to manage everything we couldn't, and just as many with samurai fingers poised for a deathstroke above their keyboards with a cutting rebuke of my above statements, but this was the case for our family. So save your condescension for someone close enough for you to witness their shame in the shadow of your glowing halo.

There has been a lot of negativity about our choice, mostly from those we love and whose opinions used to matter to us. The negativity has made my wife feel she is not much of a mother for spending less time with our children, and pressuring me to feel like I'm less of a man because I'm not working more. There has also been cold silences when I share my experiences at baby groups (mothers' groups?) and awkwardness when some at those groups spend the entire time bagging their kids' fathers... and don't get me started on cracked nipples.

Though there are things I cannot see through my wife's eyes, I don't think my experience has been lessened by being a father and not a mother. I can't say it's always easy to reconcile what I perceive as society's expectations about how our family should be operating, and we second guess ourselves a fair bit, but this is the best situation for us right here, right now.

The issue for us isn't about gender roles. It's about what is best for our family. We struggle with shift work and the more mundane and common issue of just trying not to screw up our kids lives by being too harsh, or equally, too lenient. And I think we've had it relatively easy compared to some.

We were together for a long time, had a chance to shore up our finances, buy a house and both have careers before having children. Sure, there are plenty out there earning more than our household from one income that feel the need for both parties to work and a desire for things we don't, such as new cars, expensive holidays or, um, cosmetic surgery. I think, though, those people are outnumbered by those like us who are just pretty much average Joe's; wanting more, happy with less and buying the occasional Powerball ticket.

What all this is about, really, is the loss of the status of the family to the prestige of feeling like a valued member of today's society and identity because we work. And that is sad.

There's just so much pressure on people to work, and often in the face of a happy and functional home environment. People working for things they don't need, trying to keep up with the Joneses/rat race/Donald Trump/Kardashians/Twitter feed... whatever. We did it for a year, not realising until our tax return was finalised that we'd spent $28,000 on childcare for our three children. I earnt a fraction more than that working part time, and we would've been better off if I'd quit and stayed at home full time. Even then it took us three more years and all the kids in school before we felt we could face society and say, "nah, it doesn't work for us, financially or otherwise".

Then we have Malcolm Turnbull's plans for families on $65,000 or less to receive coverage of 85 percent of their childcare costs. Wow. Do the maths on that. If a family has two parents working full time and bringing home a combined $65k, that means the most they are getting paid before tax is $15.63/hr. Less than the minimum wage. So basically no family with both parents working full time will benefit. Those who will benefit are single-parent families and those working part time, on a diminishing scale of return as they earn or work more.

What all this is about, really, is the loss of the status of the family to the prestige of feeling like a valued member of today's society and identity because we work. And that is sad.

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