Male Homemakers – The ‘Other’ Option

Jul 04, 13 Male Homemakers – The ‘Other’ Option

Today I would like to do a quick survey here. For those of you who were born in the 70s and early 80s, did your mum quit her day job after you were born to become a full-time housewife? I was born during this period, and yes, my mum became a full-time housewife after I was born. So too was the case for many of my friends in my age range whose mums handed the baton completely to their husbands (i.e. our fathers) to bring home the bacon after starting their families.

During my generation, it was extremely common for mums to stay at home and raise the kids while the fathers worked to support the family, irrespective of the family’s financial situation. Compare this with the scenario today; whereby women become homemakers only out of luxury or choice, rather than as a norm. With the rapid rise in the cost of living nowadays, it has become increasingly difficult for young husbands today to be the sole breadwinner for his family, while his wife stays at home to take care of their children.

Apart from the cost factor however, there are also other factors that contribute to the trend of women preferring to stay in the working class, e.g.:

  1. The availability of mothers/mothers-in-law to take care of their little ones during the day.
  2. The general enjoyment of socialising and mingling with colleagues/workmates.
  3. Increased availability of day-care centres, some of which are specially set up at workplaces, which enables parents to leave their children at these centres during working hours.
  4. Earlier entry into nurseries/kindergartens for young children, thus enabling mothers to continue working during the day. During my time, children enter kindergarten only at age 5 or 6, whereas children today go in as early as 3 years old!

However, there are still a handful of women today who are blessed enough (whether by luxury or by choice) to have the option of quitting the office to become full-time homemakers. This can be attributed mainly to the following reasons:

  1. Increased flexibility for employees to work from home, therefore enabling women to work from their homes and at the same time be able to take care of their kids.
  2. The opportunity to spend more quality time with their children and raise them personally, rather than depend on their parents/in-laws.

This brings me to my next question – what if husbands/fathers are the ones who choose to become full-time homemakers? I believe such a question would raise a few eyebrows here and there, especially since the term ‘homemaker’ has almost always been associated with women (at least in this country and in our Asian society anyway). However, this may not necessarily be case anymore, as the increasing number of stay-at-home dads today (esp. in Western countries) has in some way or another helped to buck this gender stereotype.

Indeed, the topic of male homemakers was one of the agenda that was shared during the recent “Women’s Development Forum” at the PSDC, whereby Joan Tafoya (Senior Principal Engineer & Director of Supply Planning at Intel Technology) shared her story about her own husband of 26 years who’s now a homemaker, while she is the one who ‘brings home the bacon’. The support provided by her husband in taking care of their daily household chores and raising their two kids (now 16 and 13) has enabled her to get to where she is today in her career, while her family ties remain as close as ever.

There could be several reasons why some families feel that it would be more beneficial for the father to be the primary caregiver while the mother works outside of the home. Many women are now progressing into higher-paying jobs. In cases where the mother is the higher-paid parent, it makes more economic sense for her to continue to work while the father takes on the caregiver role. In addition, with the growth of telecommuting, many men are also able to work from home. In this regard, he is contributing financially to the family while also acting as the primary caregiver to the family’s children.

There are several advantages of having the dad as the homemaker as compared to the mum, although the benefits are mostly psychological. A study conducted in the U.S. found that a father’s parenting style could be more beneficial for a child’s physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural development. For example, mothers reassure toddlers when they become frustrated, but fathers encourage them to manage their frustration. This can help the children to learn how to deal with stress and frustration. In addition, a father’s active involvement with his children, from birth to adolescence, promotes greater emotional balance, stronger curiosity and a stronger sense of self-assurance in the child. *

The stay-at-home dad arrangement also helps parents to save the hassle of finding a good day-care centre or nanny for their children. This arrangement can help to ensure that the family’s values are being upheld and instilled in the children. Free from the stress of childcare, the working mother is able to actively pursue their career. This allows for a more relaxed working environment for the mother and allows her to focus on her career.

Despite all these intangible benefits of having the father as the homemaker, there are still some disadvantages for men who choose to become stay-at-home dads. For one thing, there is the risk of them losing their work-related skills (esp. those with technical/specialised skills), once they are away ‘too long’ from the workplace. In addition, having to become a stay-at-home dad can also prove to be difficult for men who feel as though they had no option. It will be hard for these men to adapt from being the financial provider in the family to being a homemaker. In contrast, men who willingly choose to become a stay-at-home dad are much more satisfied with their role in the family.

Do you believe that our Asian society is ‘mature’ enough to embrace the idea of a full-time housedad? Do feel free to offer your comments.

* Source: Wikipedia

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