This week's What Works Wednesday post is written by my husband.
My name is Andrew Bowen, and I'm a stay-at-home dad.
Eric Hoffer once said that “When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”
Heather launched the Upside Down Homeschooling blog because little of our family dynamic fits within traditional norms. This includes my role as a stay-at-home dad.
My wife invited me to offer my point of view on what it means to be a stay-at-home dad and so, because I am a storyteller by trade, let me start at the beginning of what made us the mold-breaking family we are today.
Once Upon a Time…
When Heather and I attended college at East Carolina University, we both took a class called “Intro to Marriage”, although we did not take the class together. She joined the class with her roommate, ostensibly (and seasoned liberally with jest) in hopes of meeting their future husbands. I was going for an easy A.
One day my class broached the topic of roles in marriage and how they corresponded with gender. The instructor prompted the class to write down various chores and responsibilities common in most households and asked us to assign either their future husband or wife to each. The answers were typical. Wife does most of the housework and child care while husband brings home the bacon and handles home repairs.
I refused to complete the assignment.
“Mr. Bowen,” the instructor said with my blank paper in hand. “Why didn't you complete the assignment?”
“Because the premise is faulty,” I said. “Why should we equate tasks with gender? If there's a dirty diaper nearby, a sink full of dishes, or the oil in the car needs to be changed, why should what hangs between your legs or the lack thereof qualify whom the task belongs to?”
Heather in fact met her future husband via another student in her marriage class. And I walked away with the first F of my college career.
Making Our Family, Our Way
As homeschooling parents, you're already breaking conventions and declaring independence for your family. You also understand the social pressure of such lifestyles. We've heard the insults and dealt with the stereotypes, but what happens when the subject of stereotypes transforms into the propagator of one?
Heather tossed around some interesting numbers and sentiments in her last post regarding stay-at-home dads. Interestingly enough, it's usually the folks who fight against homeschool stereotypes that in turn propagate negative views and stereotypes against the growing population of stay-at-home dads.
“Dad goes to work, Mom stays home and takes care of children and housework.”
Of course, popular media doesn't help. Give me a movie, television show, or commercial with a stay-at-home dad or at least one temporarily assigned “Mom's” duties, and I'll give you a mindless drone, cast as the standard, clueless male for everyone's comic relief.
Convention tells us that males are messy, would rather spend their time playing video games or watching sports, and we have no clue about teaching/raising children.
Like I said earlier, my family has a knack for breaking convention.
In our home, I take care of all the housework. Dishes (washing dishes is actually one of my favorite meditations), laundry, cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, etc., mopping floors–often on my hands and knees–, mowing the lawn, coaching soccer, cooking meals, vehicle maintenance, all the domestic territories once held by America's standard mom, I not only take care of, but relish.
Bringing it Home
What many folks don't realize is that many stay-at-dads are also work-from-home dads. We homeschool families ask why our kids need to be educated away from home, so why can't we (Mom and Dad) work from home? Isn't the whole idea behind the homeschool movement to spend more time with our families? I'm a blogger and authorwho writes about interfaith/religion issues, and so while I'm helping care for my family, I'm also building a career. Dads want to be around Mom and the kids too, and I (along with thousands others) feel the same way.
So, what does a typical stay-at-home dad look and act like? That's about as silly as asking what a typical homeschool family looks like. We live in a place where we are free, free to go against convention and teach our children in our homes. Sure, you could use your freedom and imitate every other family, but around here we do things like we always have, Upside Down, and there's no place like your home.
What works for your family?