Is a progressive homeschooling mother a walking oxymoron?

... This is one of several interesting questions being asked by Bitch writer Maya Schenwar in: Learning Curve ... Radical "unschooling" moms are changing the stay-at-home landscape.

From the article:

Not long ago, homeschooling was thought of as the domain of hippie earth mothers letting their kids "do their own thing" or creationist Christians shielding their kids from monkey science and premarital sex. ...

These days ... parents are homeschooling for secular reasons as well as faith-based ones: quality of education, freedom to travel, their kids' special needs, or simply a frustration with the educational system. Most significantly, many progressive parents are taking their kids' education into their own hands to instill open-mindedness and social consciousness along with reading, science, and math.

For these parents, "unschooling" is an attractive option. In this approach to homeschooling, kids choose what they'll study and investigate their questions outside the confines of a classroom. In traditional homeschooling, parents play the role of teachers, determining the curriculum, handing out assignments, and administering tests. Unschooling parents, on the other hand, act as facilitators, guiding their kids' explorations. Even though the diy approach may appeal to progressives who identify with the anti-establishment ethos of the punk movement, homeschooling still raises tricky questions for progressive mothers.

Namely, this one: Can women trade their careers for their families without sacrificing a few of their feminist values--the very values that inspired many of them to homeschool in the first place? It's no wonder that punk feminist moms like Kim Campbell, who has homeschooled her kids for seven years, occasionally feel like walking oxymorons.


As the feminist homeschooling movement gains momentum, mothers will increasingly be faced with tough, identity-defining questions: Does being a feminist mean you have to have a paid job? What does it mean to raise a feminist kid? Is there a feminist definition of success, and should there be? It's important to keep in mind that a homeschooling mom is many things besides a homeschooling mom--even if she can't stop talking about her kid's latest papier-mâché dinosaur. Forging these more complex identities entails recognizing all the hats they wear besides "homeschooler."...

This puts a very fine point on the questionable balance between progressive ideals for women (the men are somehow not involved in this process) and the privilege issue in homeschooling: You can homeschool because either mom and dad are high SES or because your family lives in a trailer and staying home is OK with mom.

I have to say, the level of discussion on this article at Bitch is of a far higher level, on average, than on my site or the sites of any of the loony home . schoolers. Worth a look.

Hat Tip: Mme piggy

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Sorry, my bad. Should have spelled it out (I hate when people do that)

SES = Socio-economic-status

I have to say, the level of discussion on this article at Bitch is of a far higher level, on average, than on my site or the sites of any of the loony home schoolers. Worth a look.

That would be because most of your posts about homeschooling consist of little more than baiting and scathing comments. Great way to set the tone.


Blaming the victim?

By Elizabeth (not verified) on 05 May 2008 #permalink

As a serious question, not to insult any self-identified feminists/progressives out there (or any hippie earth-mothers out there, for that matter), but is progressive really *that* different from hippie earth mother type?

I mean there are definitely cosmetic differences (I think of progressives as less granola-happy, less likely to be influenced by 'woo', and more comfortable with aggression in their political activism). But, particularly in the homeschooling community, I've seen the "progressive feminists" and "hippie earth mother" types find a lot of common ground (though they may sometimes annoy each other, temperment-style).

I was blessed in my homeschooling experience to interact with homeschooling Moms who fit both sterotypes- I think they both had good aspects to emulate as role models (and not so good aspects, for that matter). I learned a lot of important lessons about resilency from my ass-kickin feminist-progressive Girl Scout leader. And I learned a lot of useful things about getting along with people and facilitating diaglog from my bread-makin Earth-mother type drama group facilitator.

And, for the record, they were also both single Moms, neither in the land of new SUVs and Surburban entitlement, nor in the land of trailer parks and welfare (not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with either end of the SES, despite what might be implied by some).

Of course, from my own experience, I'm always going to think that if we (collectively) really want to advance the feminist progressive agenda, we'll need more homeschooling dads. And if we are focused on a pro-education agenda, I do think more involved fathers would not be amiss in almost any context.

I have some pretty mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I think it's nice if "progressive homeschoolers" can actually pull off their "unschooling" of their children. OTOH, why does the burden of "unschooling" have to fall on women? If you're going to school your kids at home, shouldn't this be a cooperative effort? This is what Becca complains abuot? Worse, as Greg shows(and what I've observed), most homesechoolers are pretty much confined to those whose incomes are sufficient to support a stay-at-home parent. And, in current economic conditions, that's really a small number. I'm all for the concept of "unschooling? --- I think I (quite accidentally) did a lot of learning on my own, but there are problems even here. If you go with a child's interests --- which again is all to the good --- and teach from those, you may end up neglecting other important aspects of learning needed to function in today's world --- like math and science, for example. Some kids just don't have a natural aptitude for certain subjects? Should they avoid them because they're not "interesting"? Because they're too "formal"? I should think even the most radical, feminist parent would want to think long and hard about this. I would think that even the most radical and feminist parent, would want, at the least, to have a reasonably well-rounded child, who can function in the world of today.
Anne G

"punk feminist moms" got the moron part right anyways...

"not to insult any self-identified feminists/progressives out there"

yeah: if you do they will *label you* and call you a "massage-assist" or...maybe even blackball you from the "progressive" blogs with a legion of Eve-Enslerian coochie snorcher kid lovin' "it ain't rape if a woman does it" rhetorical ploys...buncha' Kants...

"I've seen the "progressive feminists" and "hippie earth mother" types find a lot of common ground": note to self--> see comment directly before this one, re: Ensler...

"if we are focused on a pro-education agenda, I do think more involved fathers would not be amiss in almost any context."

yeah, right: rule one for any idiot (read 'man) that would step into a "feminist" single mother HS household: don't mention the sleeping arrangements or the maternal focus (and encouragement) of masturbation in public (public defined by who mommie dearest thinks is "cool and righteous" that day..)

By Napoleon Ourbo… (not verified) on 05 May 2008 #permalink

In today's economy, there are a lot more flexible career options then there used to be. I know a number of homeschoolers (moms and also some dads) who combine paid employment with homeschooling. Many work from home and some others work outside the home evenings and/or weekends. I'm planning to do this myself when my kids get older and more independent.

I don't see why "feminist" means having to conform to the traditional male career model. I always thought feminism was supposed to be about opening up choices for women so they can do what *THEY* feel is best for *THEMSELVES* regardless of gender stereotypes.


No, restating the obvious. Becca, myself and others have posted commentary and questions for Greg which chooses to ignore in favor of posting intentionally polarizing comments and baiting people. If he wants a higher level of discussion, then perhaps he should write posts that don't cater to the lowest common denominator.

If you want discussion, then you might solicit opinions in ways other than, "Look what these kooks are doing now!"

I liked the following comment: I've seen the "progressive feminists" and "hippie earth mother" types find a lot of common ground (though they may sometimes annoy each other, temperment-style).

I found that very true when homeschooling. I had more in common with the "tree-huggy" folks who were homeschooling than the religious variety. (Although I was too structured for the hippy types and too eclectic for the religious ones.) It was rather frustrating, though, because I was going to school part-time while homeschooling. This presented some unusual problems that neither SAHMs or working moms could completely grasp. I very often got, "Why don't you worry about school later?" from one group and, "Why don't you just put him back in school so you can finish school?" from the other. Fortunately, I've found people online who also manage to do the working/homeschooling thing...and they've had some pretty helpful ideas. And none of it would've happened without a very helpful husband. He would use his lunch breaks to take care of the kids while I went to class. Unfortunately, him staying home was out of the question as he makes my salary a couple times over.

Becca, I'm not sure why more dads don't homeschool. I thought about it after the last time you asked (I think that was you), but the two stay-at-home dads I know are probably not good samples. One has an autistic child who's really being helped by the school system, and the other's wife is a teacher. If you see someone answering elsewhere on the topic, please point to it. I'm curious too.

By Stephanie Z (not verified) on 05 May 2008 #permalink

Scathing and baiting, yes, I'd say so. This is a nice change Greg. My wife homeschools our 1st grader. I'm in grad school -- does that make me high SES b/c I'm a computer science grad? Or starving student with 2 kids and wife to support? Well, we qualify for just about every low income tax break there is, WIC, etc., so at least the guv'mint thinks we are poor...)

My wife (and I) are progressive skeptics. I don't buy "unschooling" at all -- around here there is a lot of it, and it seems to be an excuse to not spend time teaching your kids things they may not immediately like or discover on their own (like math, or writing, or anything the parent doesn't model enthusiasm for themselves).

We have no problem with our local public school -- it is fine, really. We wanted to teach our kid french (planning a move to canada someday soon, maybe), and wanted to push it more than we thought we could outside of school.

I'm also a certified 8-12 math teacher. My wife's curriculum is just dandy, and very typical of anything a decent 1st grade class would be doing, but with lots of extra time for hands on stuff, outside things, etc., just because it is one-on-one.

As a SAH HSer, I have to weigh in here:

My husband is an enlisted man in the military--not exactly a high paying job, although we do get good benefits. I quit a job making more than he did to homeschool. I am a "feminist" because I have the freedom to choose what I do and not have it forced upon me. I spent years building a career, and then I decided to spend years building a child...and both were my choice to make. He was 15 years in, so to leave early--and lose the retirement and medical benefits--just didn't make sense.

Money was very, very tight at first. We adapted, even though we had never planned to be a one-income family, and I had never considered being a SAHM. I've come to realize that we needed much less than we thought, and we could thrive on a 50%+ reduction in income. It took adjustments, it took budgeting and planning, but we did it. We were, in fact, ready to sell our home and move into a smaller place to accommodate our budget, but we discovered that we didn't have to. We also discovered that most of the things we "just had to have" we actually didn't need at all. New cars? Plasma TV? Every cable station? It's not a choice for everyone, but I do believe that when you CHOOSE to have a child, you have a responsibility to that child that supersedes any personal wants. A family is a we, not an I, and what might be best for me personally may not be best for my family. And for me, personally, I couldn't look myself in the mirror had I chosen a personal want over a family need.

My husband is involved with our homeschooling. He can't teach everything, but he checks work at night, he talks about what happened during the day, they do science projects on the weekends...and he does a large portion of the cooking, laundry, and cleaning, even after working all day.

Unschooling has a bad rep as "letting the kid do whatever". I have met many unschoolers, and they display the same range of learning and skills as more traditionally schooled kids. Personally, I need more structure, and so developed a curriculum that is slightly more traditional, but we incorporate unschooling into it. When my son finds a new idea, we run with it. We'll drop everything for a few days and focus on one area, and explore where it leads to. For example, he recently became interested in comic books. So we watched a special on their history, and that opened up discussions on what was going on in the world that impacted what people wanted to read: the Depression, WWII, the Cold War. It also lead us to what was happening in science, what advances were being made, what makes a hero...and, incidentally, it required breaking out the art supplies to make our own comic book, which means drawing skills, handwriting skills, creative writing, spelling... It was a detour of a few days that taught him a tremendous amount, but he never would have had that chance in a traditional or more rigidly structured environment.

Some kids thrive in an unschooling environment, others need structure. Some kids thrive in a public school, many (about a third) won't even graduate. To think that there is just one way that will fit across the board is misguided. Each of us should work to find what works best for our own family, what model of education works best for our own kids. And being able to make that choice is what makes us "free". It's always about priorities and balance.

@ Stephanie Z- part of the relative dearth of fathers homeschooling is, I'm sure, that many families are in precisely the place Cherish spoke of... where the father simply makes a very large amount more than the mother, so simple economics can dictate it.
That said, most homeschooling families are making at least some financial sacrifices in order to homeschool- as Yvonne attested to. If money is not the make-or-break factor, what is it?
I suspect part of it has to do with gender roles in our society for teaching- if you want to know why there are fewer homeschooling dads, part of the answer is the same set of factors why there are fewer male elementary or even secondary teachers.
I suspect part of it also has to do with individual families and their ideas about gender roles for the family itself... this gets very complicated. Some of it is the conservative Christian very not-progressive flavor.

Of course, in some cases it may be simply because of what is practical for a particular family- for example, military retirement packages are a difficult thing to give up. That said, I wonder if there are always other factors influencing it- gender socialization is sometimes subtle. It may be women feel more free to make the choice not to financially directly support their family.

@ Anne Gilbert- I understand your concerns about unschooling- and I don't think an honest unschooled person would ever admit to having no holes in their knowledge (of course, the same is equally true of an honest traditionally-schooled person, but the potential for gaping holes is more alarming in unschooling).

For young kids, two basic principles can go a long way- the Brownie bite and Sam-I-Am . They're both food stories that can be extended to learning. At girl scout camp, they let kids eat whatever they wanted from what was being served- they made sure nutritious food was available, and mostly didn't intervene unless kids were eating shockingly little (not a common problem with active young kids who were still a bit young for diet-mania). But they also did one more thing- they highly encouraged/semi-required the "Brownie bite"- you had to try foods, it wasn't enough to say you didn't like them. I think a small amount of this sort of guidance makes a big difference. Second of all, we all know Dr. Seuss and Green Eggs and Ham... I think it is widely regarded as an important lesson to kids (in general, regardless of schooling environment) that you need to get over your fears about some icky-seeming things. I'm sure many parents- homeschoolers, unschoolers and beyond, ocassionally feel like a cheerleader, trying to get their kids to just *try* green eggs and ham. Sometimes it takes persistence. And sometimes they *won't* like it. But given a strong enough champion, and enough trys, most kids will pick up a stunning variety of things that are genuinely useful. And some battles (Latin?) will eventually just be lost- being an unschooler means you have to be able to deal with that. And it can be a little scary, I think. It takes a tremendous amount of trust in kids.
As for when kids get older, it becomes easier to communicate what 'minimum' standards are for the goals they want to achieve. It also becomes, I believe, more important to take that leap of faith and trust that they will be responsible. If you demonstrate what it is to be a lifelong learner, and you have ensured your kids are so inclined, students *can* remedy their own gaps in knowledge. If nothing else, it's good training for being a grad student.

Also, I'm not complaining (per se) about the lack of homeschooling fathers. I'm saying it is detrimental to certain goals I would have for society, and I think homeschooling can be done extremely well by fathers, but I can understand a bit why it is rare. Mostly, though, imagine it as me waving my hands and jumping up and down to attract attention- yes, some of us *were* homeschooled by our fathers! Hello, I exist, nice-ta-meet-ya!

I'll have to take issue with Becca's comment about homemaker moms not directly financially supporting the family. In business, there are two ways to help the company's bottom line- either bringing in revenue or saving the company money. What my DH does is the former, what I do is the latter.

If I were not a SAHM, we would have to pay for private school tuition for our oldest (since our local government-run school is mediocre academically) in the neighborhood of $15k-$23k/yr, daycare for our youngest at roughly the same cost, the costs associated with needing a 2nd vehicle, a cleaning service at ~$100/week (since neither of us would have the time or energy to do the heavy housework), costs for takeout meals & convenience foods, costs for a work wardrobe and dry cleaning, and so on and so forth. I made a decent salary at my last paid position, but after taxes and the above costs, there wouldn't be much left over...

It strikes me that there is a bit of compartmentalization going on. In the homeschooling families I know, it's not like the dads just sit back and tell the wives, "It's all your deal." Most of the dads find ways to be involved as well, just perhaps not as much as the mom. As I mentioned before, my husband helped out a lot so that I could take classes. He also took over homework help and other things when I needed to study. He didn't plan out the big picture, but was involved in the day-to-day stuff.

Likewise, as Crimson Wife noted, it's not like moms are not contributing to the economic well-being of the family. I know that, personally, the desire to hire people to handle some of work we can't handle as a two income family has been a constant temptation. when I was home, we didn't need to worry about it as much.

As an FYI, the homeschooling Mensan SIG discussion group has a lot of homeschool dads on the list. Not all of them are regular posters, but there are a few who contribute frequently.

I find this idea interesting that homeschooling is somehow suspect or an invalid choice because only people with high socioeconomic status can afford it. Under that paradigm, a degree from Stanford should be more suspect than one from the local community college, since the latter is the only one open to all. Privilege does not speak to the quality of the result in that way.

The lack of homeschooling fathers speaks to feminist issues of much broader scope than just schooling. Three things will be necesary to start seeing men in those roles: a) women will need to outearn their male partners about as often as vice-versa; b) societal definitions of success will need to expand again to include child-rearing/housekeeping as a viable choice; c) men performing domestic activities will be need to be accepted rather than scorned as some sort of weaklings.

Empowerment should be about choice. If a woman chooses to be economically dependent on a man (interdependent would be a better word, as Crimson Wife illustrates above), and she chooses a man who is reliable, then she has made a successful life choice. (Likewise for a man opting for financial dependence on a woman, at least at such time as equal pay is achieved.) Others really have little to say on the matter. Being forced into the workforce for feminist ideological reasons is no better than being forced out of it by chauvinistic ones.

Are we saying that homeschoooling is suspect because it is high SES only? I'm not sure anyone is making that argument.

@ Crimson Wife- right you are. I attempted (rather inadequately, I see now) to use "directly" to indicate that "bringing in the company revenue" type contribution. I never meant to remotely imply a SAH family member is not contributing in an economically critical way.

@ Cherish- yes, compartmentalization is definitely evident. I think this conversation is partially reflecting some common ways people distinguish their own role in a family- but in day-to-day realities, in every family I know people routinely pitch in beyond their 'role'.
I think notably absent in this particular discussion are the ambiguous cases where both parents have chosen more flexible careers and both spend approximately equal time on both types of contributions (at home and in the workplace). I do suspect that particular arrangement tends to be rare (I don't have any anecdotes to share on that one), and I wonder why.
I mean, some of it is exactly the sort of thing Tom refers to- it will be easier for women to stay home than men until that stuff changes. But why is it easier (or at least more common) for men to stay home than for both parents to 'half' stay-home?
The advantage of specialization on a micro-societal scale?
The fact two half-time workers only make as much as a single full-time worker in very particular cases? Some innate preference in people for carving out a niche? I'll have to ponder this one.

Becca, that one I can answer. The biggest reason, at least in the U.S., for one parent to work full time is benefits. For part-timers, benefits that are picked up by the company are generally not proportional to the hours worked (compared to 40 per week). Health care is often not offered to part-time employees at all.

Another reason is that eyeball time (time seen on the job) is still very important for promotion and raises in most of corporate America. It's a problem for those working from home too.

There may be some major changes in this situation soon, since there's a good chance that the baby boomers will shift to a part-time workforce before they retire (if they can afford to retire). On the other hand, ageism may make progress slower.

By Stephanie Z (not verified) on 06 May 2008 #permalink

Kevin: "around here there is a lot of it, and it seems to be an excuse to not spend time teaching your kids"

Do you know that this comment would be considered by many to be scathing and baiting if Greg said it?

Ton L.: "The lack of homeschooling fathers speaks to feminist issues of much broader scope than just schooling"

Tom, you got that right, but your folowing analysis is wrong. The actual issues that prevent fathers from having this choice AT ALL is that the 'collective' woman, the womnens health/welfare/ lobbies, so-called feminist groups etc. want the cake and have it baked and want to eat it too.

1)Single parent households are largely a womans "choice" in America,with 90% led by women; men do not have the option of cuckoldry; and single parent fathers (not always by "choice")have it ten times as hard to get custody of their child because the presumptive "tender years doctrine" that maintains that mothers are more likely to care for a child, and better equipped(biological destiny) for the first five years of life.

This grants prima facie custodial rights to women, and it is still an operative in most states in America today.

2) Then, men who are with children have not only the stigma of being atypical, but also have to fight the feminist-incepted, junk science backed double stigma that males are sexually perverse, and again, unfit to raise children.

3)Your last point "men performing domestic activities" is the biggest loophole in your schema. Whereas you are correct that this is a necessary social improvement, good luck with that! If there is one thing that men who have taken that route have discovered it is that women shop "upwards" not "downwards" when choosing a mate--i.e., successful women choose MORE successful men--that's where the money is at.

Again--men do not have the option of cuckolding a woman--which is often the case the other way around, as a baby is a direct benefit to a woman, bringing in the very least a gub'mint check, and at the high end, a Michael Jordan, or a ?

So "domestic man" is just pabulum to feed the feminist left, or a cartoon that adorns the imaginations of progressives.

By the real cmf (not verified) on 06 May 2008 #permalink

Greg: "Are we saying that homeschoooling is suspect because it is high SES only? I'm not sure anyone is making that argument. "

Maybe I am misunderstanding your reasons for bringing up the privilege angle. It looked like you were pitting the stay-at-home aspect of homeschooling against feminist ideals. Given your other stated misgivings about homeschooling, I took that as another mark against it in your view.

Clarification is, as always, welcome.


I'm just raising it as an interesting complication. Both things, realy, that at the lower SES end you are more screwed, as usual, and that the female is usually the one who stays home. Which is probably good, because women are smarter anyway.

@Stephanie Z- I do think you've hit on a very important component. The benefits thing is huge (certainly it was a critical factor in how my family decided to set prioroties).
I wonder if moving toward universal healthcare will have an equalizing effect on the distribution of labor by gender? I rather hope so.

@the real cmf- I'll be sure to tell that to my SAH formerly homeschooling Dad. Nevermind what he thinks he was doing, he couldn't possibly be "domestic"- he must be a sort of mythical creature.
Also, I will probably poof out of existance, since I've never dated a male who made more money than I did... or who didn't cook for me. Of course, you could simply argue I'm not successful. ;-)

FWIW- I'm personally very concerned about men's parental rights, but I'm not sure you're bringing them up in the most effective way.

Becca: your dad must be one great guy--even if he was a homeschooler;-) So now we know there was exactly "one" man who was able to overcome the social stigmas of the last several decades of fauxminism...

he must have had to hide out during the day from those destructive leftern white female privilege holding character assassins long enough to get you raised! Or maybe your mother was a real revolutionary who went to work, and not some talk-a-mile-a-minute-about-equality-and-oppression-because-of-patriarchy feminist.

White female privilege usually ensures that men who have nurturing skills, and less than higher end SES are obliterated by social policies, and the dualistic paradigms of so-called fauxminism.

By the real cmf (not verified) on 06 May 2008 #permalink

Stephanie is right on all counts. Most places won't allow benefits unless you're working 32 hrs/wk. and advancement is difficult except for places that are very progressive.

I've been lucky in that my MS advisor knew that I would only be working on school part time, and I think that's really an ideal arrangement for homeschooling. (Of course, timing can have an effect on that, too.) I had a tough time going all day without the opportunity to talk to "big people" (preferably big people who know about differential equations and Maxwell's Equations, so the play group option didn't work well for me).

I also think that men are a little more tied into their jobs as defining themselves. My husband has said that had the financial situation been reversed and I was making more money, he would have had a tough time staying home all day. My dad was a SAHD for a while, and I know he felt like he wasn't doing anything important. But I think that comes from not valuing the work that's done at home. Going back to the original point, I don't think there's any conflict between feminism and SAHM unless one doesn't value the work done in the home.

"My dad was a SAHD for a while, and I know he felt like he wasn't doing anything important."

Isn't that just one hell of a message to send to your children? That taking care of them is nothing important?

I'm not blaming your dad specifically; it's pervasive in our culture. Feminists contribute to it, with their ideas about a woman's career being more important than her home life. My pet theory is that it is a message that has been distorted over time. It started out as "Don't LIMIT us to home and hearth, let us into the workforce too," and slowly morphed into "Home == limited, domestic == domesticated." Chauvinists also contribute to it with the idea of "womens' work" and that men who do that are girly men; that automatically puts caretaking into a category of contempt. And cmf is right about successful women seeking to partner "upwards." This is not surprising, in that a woman who values her career more than her home life will value the same thing in her partner, and will not value domestic contributions.

It's something of a perfect storm, beating on motherhood as a valued and viable choice. We are the generation who want to outsource the caretaking of our children. It will be entirely appropriate for the children of these families to return the favor when their parents are aged.

@the real cmf-
My Dad *is* a great guy. That said, be assured I'm not trying to hold him up as an example and saying "look how easy it is for men to be homemakers"... that makes about as much sense as holding up Marie Curie as an example and saying "look how easy it has been for women in science".
My Dad is also something of an exception- got along with everyone in the (tremendously-female-dominated) homeschooling support group we belonged to. I think the group tried to be welcoming to all Dads, but I do think my Dad blended in more than anyone else I can think of. He had three sisters, and grew up (due to a heart defect) somewhat excluded from aspects of the rough-and-tumble world of young boys- I've always wondered about the long term impact of those things on his personality.
He once mentioned to me that when these women stereotyped about men, the women would also almost always hasten to tell him "oh we don't mean *you*". My Dad can laugh about that- I think he's a master of fitting-in-while-being-special.
@ Tom L- I agree, it's a very weird message to tell your kids "taking care of you isn't important". That said, I think the underlying assumptions are *really* prevalent in our culture. I have to admit, as a kid I sometimes struggled with describing my family to others. And I know most of the time, I didn't appreciate the sacrifices my parents made for me, including my Dad staying home.

Becca: "He had three sisters, and grew up (due to a heart defect) somewhat excluded from aspects of the rough-and-tumble world of young boys- I've always wondered about the long term impact of those things on his personality."

Your dad wasn't Nietsche was he?

"when these women stereotyped about men, the women would also almost always hasten to tell him "oh we don't mean *you*"."

Aha! He was a "token man," not prone to controversy,or challenging matriarchal systems of control...;-)Reminds me of my granpa Jacob, who was " the nicest man" by all accounts--largely because of a family history of fleeing controversy like pogroms, and bolsheviks who liked burning folks up...and his wife, my sainted grandmother chewed his ass daily about what a half-man he was; real tame;-)

By the real cmf (not verified) on 07 May 2008 #permalink

Isn't that just one hell of a message to send to your children? That taking care of them is nothing important?

I agree, but I don't think that's the way it was meant. He never said anything directly. It was later that my mom told me, and in retrospect, he became a lot happier once he went back to work than when he was at home.

I think society's message is that men take care of their families by providing a paycheck. It wasn't that he didn't view taking care of us as important, it's more that he felt like he wasn't doing it the way he was *supposed* to be. He was a very real victim of the stereotypes that a man who stays home is not "a real man" or some nonsense. It was finances that dictated he stay at home (at the time, my mom was about to finish her AA and it made more financial sense for her to finish). Despite the fact it was a logical choice, it hurt him a lot.

Of course, I actually do understand a bit because raising kids does require the ability to deal with children all day...which, for some people, myself included, is a bit understimulating. However, being a man who stays at home requires a redefinition of your role in society (something which I never had to deal with as a mom)..and that's really hard for some (a lot!) of men to deal with. I think people are starting to realize that traditional gender roles are hurtful not just for women but for men, but I think it's going to take a long time before they completely erode. Until that time, the stay-at-home dad is going to continue to be novelty.

Becca: p.s.
I wasn't trying to sound snipy or mean up there--just relating a story about what "good men" are to the "collective woman" diss of your very good sounding father intended.

By the real cmf (not verified) on 07 May 2008 #permalink