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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Top Five Things You Shouldn't Say to the Wife of a Stay-at-Home-Dad

This was originally published back in June 2011, but unfortunately it still stands...

1: But does he do the cleaning/dusting/washing/ironing etc?
Er, yeah  - that's clearly part of the deal. (Not to mention none of your business! I bet stay-at-home-Mum families don't get quizzed about the nitty gritty of their domestic arrangements).

2: I'd still have to clean the toilet myself. Don't you?
Er, no. (Strange as it may seem, men are just as capable as women of getting things actually clean).

3: But don't the kids want you when they're sick? It's natural, isn't it?
It's probably natural if you're the one who's done the bulk of the caring. The kids are perfectly happy to have Daddy look after them.

4: Did he lose his job? / Can't he get a job?
Although this is often said in a sympathetic way, commiserating with me, it's still pretty rude. This is our choice, not an accident; if he were unemployed, that's probably how I'd describe it rather than saying he stays at home. Again - I doubt husbands of stay-at-home-mums get this question.

5: Wow, that's a lot of pressure of you to 'keep' the family.
This is also very often a sympathetic comment, but one I doubt male single earners get.

Generally speaking, many people still find our situation either hard to understand or fascinating. I always answer questions as though I'm happy to, but really I'm sad that in the 21st century a family with a working mum and a stay-at-home-dad is enough of an oddity to create interest. Clearly, many people believe in 'natural' gender differences, especially when it comes to parenting.


  1. I never thought about this, but I guess there would be rude comments whenever anyone goes out of the norm. Sounds like you have a wonderful man!

  2. Yeah, Karen, you're right: it's all about norms and expectations. I may have been a little harsh in saying it was rudeness, and I really do know people don't mean to be rude. It amazes me really that it is still unusual enough to be comment-worthy.

    And yes, I do have a great husband. We're lucky in that what we each want fits effectively to make things work well for our family.

  3. This subject gets me wound up in so many different ways I don't know where to start. I like working, but I did take a year off when my child was born. The thing is I wanted to take the year off and my partner didn't, but either one of us had the right to take up to three years parental leave. I think that until it is legislated that either parent can STAY AT HOME that the assumptions will continue to be ingrained. Even here in France where either parent can stay at home, 9 times out of 10 it's the mum. But in Scandanavian countries where the society is much more equal nobody bats an eyelid who stays at home. And interestingly enough Aussies and Kiwis don't seem to bother too much who is the breadwinner.
    Well that's me off the soapbox now.

  4. It constantly saddens me to think how ingrained old fashioned attitudes still are....


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