House Husbands – A Role Reversal

For centuries, we have been locked into gender roles of male as the provider and protector and female as home maker and nurturer. But the 21st century has seen the beginning of role reversals within the family. Men are opting to stay at home and become house husbands. The West, especially Canada, UK and USA, has accepted this new concept of stay-at-home husbands. Asian and Indian families are still a long way from doing so. Muslims believe that it is unislamic for a man to take on the role of a woman.

Reasons for Change:

• As mid-life approaches, many men feel trapped in stressful corporate jobs. They long for less demanding occupations and believe that house work and care of children is easier and will leave time for recreation and hobbies.

• There has been an unprecedented rise of women in the work force. Higher education and professional skills have shattered the glass ceiling, so that women are able to take on jobs which were once the prerogative of men. In many instances, they may be drawing higher salaries than their husbands. Sometimes women are the sole bread winners. Feminist ideologies, availability of contraception and the influence of the Media have also contributed to the rise of working women.

• Unemployment and loss of white collar jobs for men.

• Marvels of telecommunication allow men to work from home and thus ensure a regular pay packet. Working hours and patterns are flexible.

Advantages of being Full-time Fathers:

1. This eliminates the need for home help which is becoming expensive and unreliable. There are many instances of maids starving, sedating or ill treating children. Sometime ago, an Indian newspaper reported that a working woman came home in the middle of the day to find her child missing and the maid happily watching TV and munching peanuts. On questioning, the maid said she had sedated the baby and given him to a beggar woman, on a rental of Rs.100 per day.

Theft of food articles, money or jewelry has also been reported from time to time.

2. Children need not be left in child care centers during the day.

3. Participation of fathers in the parenting process is said to enhance the physical, emotional and behavioral development of children. They become more emotionally balanced and develop better coping skills. They grow up to be confident and self assured.

4. Mothers can pursue their careers without feeling guilty that children are not well cared for. Because they are stress free they are able to give their best to their jobs. When work is over, they are relaxed enough to spend quality time with the family and make up for their absence during the day.

5. Husbands become adept at managing the kitchen and discovering their latent culinary talents.

6. Men are likely to spend frugally and balance the budget efficiently. Women are sometimes prone to over-spending on things they don’t need or hoarding more than is required.

7. Housework is not discrediting manliness. Men can still provide leadership in the family.

Probable Disadvantages:

– Women may be forced to work outside the home much against their wishes. This should not be an opportunity for lazy husbands to stay at home and do nothing.

– Men have fragile egos. Their worth is linked to their ability to provide for the financial needs of the family and be in a position of authority. Vicky Larson says, “If their given identity is threatened, they may overcompensate with booze, drugs, risky behaviour, anger or become sexually aggressive. Breadwinner status is an important component of masculinity. Economic dependence threatens masculinity.”

– Feeling of isolation, loneliness or boredom may lead to romantic liaisons on the Internet. Addiction to pornography cannot be ruled out. Christian Munsch a post-doctoral research fellow came to the conclusion that the more dependent a man is on his wife, the more likely he is to cheat.

– Incestuous behaviour with children is a possibility. “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

How to be a successful, happy House Husband:

The decision must be one’s own. It should be planned and well thought out. The pros and cons should be considered. There must be understanding and agreement between husband and wife regarding child care and household responsibilities. The couple should be able to weather criticisms from family and society.

James Williams says, “Household responsibilities are not demeaning or undesirable, but opportunities for loving service.”

Household chores are not easy. They can be difficult and exhausting. Sometimes boring. But it will make men realize that women have kept at this drill for years, without whimpering or receiving any consideration from their husbands. It might bring a greater appreciation of the role of homemakers.

However, the rewards of stay-at-home dads outweigh the inconveniences. Participating in the lives of their children, watching them grow, being available and accessible, brings a great sense of satisfaction and achievement. Full time dads need to show their love and affection for their children just like mothers do. They must learn to verbalize their feelings. A cuddle or a kiss will speak volumes. At the same time there should be no overindulgence.

Men have a tendency to be rigid and authoritarian. This would be counterproductive. Boundaries should be defined and communicated lovingly. This gives children a sense of stability and security.

Pushing a toddler in a pram or buying groceries or attending PTA meetings alone may be met with sarcastic comments. A confident father will know how to deal with such situations.

When fathers stand in for mothers, it is imperative that they take a personal interest in the lives of their children, their school activities, their friends, their interests and hobbies. They should also learn to recognize anger, hurt or frustrations so that emotional support can be provided. Bonding becomes stronger and parenting becomes a joy.

Fathers need not isolate themselves from friends and become home drudges. Whenever opportunity presents itself they can meet friends or socialize, or even invite them over for a cup of tea.

Being a full-time dad is by no means a cake walk. It needs patience, love, firmness and consistency.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Contentment… comes only to him who labors and overcomes; to him that performs the task in hand and reaps the satisfaction of work well done.”