Friday, 4 November 2011

Does being a stay-at-home dad make you less of a man?

I've been listening to this again - a recording of an item on Victoria Derbyshire's Radio5 Live show that I took part in. The reason isn't narcissism (well, not totally) but another interview I've just done - this time for a newspaper feature - which has set me thinking about the question all over again.

Does being a 'stay-at-home dad' make you less of a man? by dotterel

This is a blog about a stay-at-home dad. One who has always felt fine in his own skin, not worried unduly about his identity, been ok with his own brand of masculinity. I've done this job - the stay-at-home dad bit - for three years now. But it's only recently I've thought seriously about this question.

Ok, I've been something of a curiosity at times. I was once invited to the local breastfeeding support group ('if you feel it would be useful') by a lovely lady who I think felt sorry for me - lone dad among a group of mums talking about something he couldn't really comment on. That was then, of course. Now, I can and do comment - and in writing. I've written an entire book on the subject (just in case anyone has missed it!) And I'm no longer 'lone dad'. I've made some good friends among the other mums; but there are also more dads around taking their kids to toddler groups. I'm no longer in a minority (locally) of one.

Of course, being something of a one-off can be advantageous and I can't say I haven't enjoyed some of the attention. But if I'm honest, I've always had this nagging feeling that - vital as it is, important as I know it to be and as enjoyable as I find being at home with the children - it wasn't, well, 'me'. At least, not all of me.

How we define ourselves is a complex issue and no doubt stay-at-home mums have known about this problem all along. But it's taken me some time to appreciate that the other part of my day-to-day existence - writing - is a useful cover. I can tell people that's what I do (a bit like Andrew Watson, the other guest on the programme) instead of own up to being nothing but a house husband. Because that does carry with it certain negative connotations - 'kept' man (I'd like to add 'toy boy' but age prevents me) and so on. The expectation is that I should be out there hunting, bringing home the bacon and then going to watch the football and having a beer. And this expectation isn't confined to men, either. So, with my sensitive antennae tuned to perfection, I pick up on the negative vibes and change my definition -of myself - according to the person I'm addressing.

Thus I'm sometimes Tim Atkinson, stay-at-home dad; sometimes Tim Atkinson, author; sometimes both.

But why can't I simply be 'me'?
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