Struggles of being a father
With today’s technological advancement where people can “virtually” work by telecommuting, and more job opportunities are being made available for women, the number of “Mr. Moms” or “househusbands” are steadily increasing. This trend or change in how some families function is still in its infancy and, just like any process of change, has its own share of struggles and difficulties.
Gender roles: Going against the grain
In modern civilization, the male persona is the one who goes out of the house to work. Even those little picture books our schools provide for our children show the father either carrying a brief case, or the wooden plow. Man’s greatest source of pride (and main responsibility), since time immemorial, is his ability to provide and protect his family. Full-time Dads, like me, are breaking this mold—and not without their share of awkward and difficult moments.History and culture (both Western and Eastern civilisations) have portrayed the male persona as the provider. Even before civilisations were formed, pre-historic man is depicted as the large burly type brandishing a wooden club. He is the brave hunter who brings home food. He is the warrior who protects his brood from invading hostiles and other wild animals.
Lucky are those stay-at-home Dads who have a household helper at hand. First-time stay-at-home Dads without help at all could very well experience the travails of the “Mr. Mom” shown in this video clip!
Isolation: Losing your old self
I just felt that one of the worst part of being a full-time Dad is to feel being isolated from the rest of the world. Being a stay-at-home Dad is a complete 360 degree turn from the razzle-dazzle of a corporate world where you once belonged. You are no longer surrounded by fawning staff or power players in the water fountain; you only have the house help who wonders why you’re not going to work like everybody else.
There are no more complicated corporate mumbo-jumbo; just domestic chatter about the trash, leaking faucets and, sometimes, even laundry. You are no longer concerned with quarterly reviews, performance assessments, and bottom lines; instead, you only rant about how the daily menu isn’t giving the children a balanced diet. You don’t need to wear signature clothes and your shiny Florsheims anymore as you don’t have important meetings with important people anymore. And the only few times you have to make “critical” decisions are when the wife asks you if it’s ok to let your son sleep over at the in-laws for the night.
The upside to this is that the stay-at-home Dad no longer has to contend with daily traffic grind. Imagine commuting two to four hours each day on heavily smogged city streets? You save on gasoline, or taxi/bus/MRT (or jeepney in the Philippines) fare. One of the best parts of working at home is the dress code—you can practically work even in your boxer shorts!
Full-time dads are on the rise
The best way to fight this isolation is to try to get out of the house each chance you get. Instead of letting the wife do the grocery shopping from work, you may work out a schedule where you and the kids can go instead. You can attend PTA meetings at school and meet new faces. While at it, you may even do some volunteer work for kids like coaching, organizing field trips, etc. Network in your community too where you can also do volunteer work, or join civic clubs and organizations. On-line forums, websites that cater to full-time Dads could be of great help.
You may even go one notch higher by attending seminars to learn some new hobbies, career-related seminars, and other skills upgrading forums. You may also want to consider attending classes to further your education. Let us not discount the possibility, however remote, that you may need to find another regular job in the future, and these volunteer works, skills developed, special courses and seminars would make your CV look sturdier. Read journals, and stay in contact with old work buddies, and make new ones. The last thing you should neglect while being a full-time Dad is keeping yourself “employable.”
“No! That’s too much TV already!” vs. “Go and watch TV!”
The kids! Aren’t they the most horrible things on earth? When I was watching the “Mr. Mom” video, I just saw my life story in a nutshell! They can be very terrible one moment, and at a bat of an eyelash, they can become the most adorable and cutest things in the universe.
When I was still working in an office, I confess, I rarely see my kids. I worked in the broadcast industry where it is necessary for me to work long, irregular hours. I am always at work and when I get home late at night, everyone’s already asleep. Now, I have too much of them. If not for the Barney, Dora, and “Smart Kids” videos, I would have lost my wits a long time ago.
But one thing for sure, after several months of being a full-time Dad, I can no longer imagine a day without seeing them or hearing their laughter and the occasional, out-of-the-blue, “I love you, Dad.” I’d still want to be where I am right now. Never mind the Barney tunes or that “did-di-dit-dit-di-Dora” tune that goes on endlessly in my head.
Salute to the super-moms
And yes, being a full-time Dad made me see Moms in a better light. After experiencing what I am going through right now as a full-time Dad, I’d laugh at anyone who would say, “The female is the weaker sex.” They are far stronger and tougher than we guys think they are.