Friday, October 26, 2007

Future Aspirations - The Desire to Become an At-Home Dad

While folding JD's clothes the other day, I made conversation with him. I started to ask him what he thought he might be when he grows up. Of course, he can't talk yet. Here were some of his options.

Doctor, accountant, nurse, garbage man, fireman, and a few others popped into my head. Then I thought, at-home Dad. I sort of winced.

I, of course, am an at-home Dad. I am happy that I am doing this for my family and for myself. However, not in my life did it ever cross my mind that I would eventually be a homemaker. Never in my educational and professional pursuits did I think, "Well, if it was right for my family..." In fact, I had always wanted to make enough money so that my wife could be an at-home mother.

What if, someday, maybe in five or ten years, even high school or college, JD said, "Dad, I think I want to be an at-home Dad, too"?

For women, there, historically, has been nothing wrong with this aspiration. The female gender has been proudly and dutifully performing this truly oldest profession since the inception of conceived life. Only in the last few decades has it become accepted, if not normal, for women to excel in a profession other than homemaking and child-rearing. However, I believe it is still perfectly acceptable for a woman to aspire to be an at-home Mom. But what about such an aspiration for men? I would say controversial, at best.

Can you imagine men dating in college, looking for a mate who not only fulfills his needs for love and companionship, but also to provide a comfortable income for his family? He takes accounting classes or maybe an education major. This way, he can make a livable income while his spouse climbs the ladder in her fast-track career, completes advanced degrees, or gets that self-owned business off the ground? Then she will give birth to one or more children for him to rear while she succeeds outside the home. That was the story for the women of previous generations, when people married in their early-to-mid twenties and became established together.

It sounds backwards, doesn't it? Maybe I'm a chauvinist. Maybe I hold some gender prejudices inside, despite my lot in life. I am certain that women are just as capable as men in competing professionally. And I am certain that men are as capable as women in rearing children and keeping a home.

The reality, at least for my urban generation, was to go to college, live as a bachelor or bachelorette for a few years, save any money that we didn't drink away or overindulge in credit, and finally meet someone in our late twenties or early thirties. Then we live together for a couple of years, get married, and have 2.2 children. We've already established our career paths. One may have to give it up to stay at home, to choose to live on one salary. The alternative is day care or a nanny. Trying to downgrade to living on one salary either requires an unbalanced collective income, good savings, or considerable consolidation. Probably all three.

While it seems I've strayed from the point, it is a discussion on how the choice is made these days, on who - if anyone - will be the at-home parent. As he grows, JD will aspire to excel in a profession (or more than one.) He will hopefully earn his degree(s) and be a hard worker. Along the way, he may fall in love with a person he wants to spend his life with. They will have to make some choices about their future. If he became an at-home parent, I would be just as proud as if he made any other professional choice. The point is, will there ever be a point where boys aspire to be at-home Dads? Would I be OK if JD told me that that was what he wanted to do with my life? I'm about as uncertain on how to handle that question as him asking me about sex, drugs, or joining the military. Despite my being in the profession, it's still controversial.

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