Yes, It’s Different. Accept It. Move on.

And so it has come to this: I’m not sure where I fit in the social order, but I’m sure I fit somewhere.

Last week I posted a video clip of Lou Dobbs’ show on Fox Business Channel where the panelist Erick Erickson made an ass out of himself by stating that the breadwinner mom/nurturing dad dynamic goes against the norms of biology. His point was, basically, that all throughout the biological world, the males are dominant and the females are the nurturers. (If you’d like to see Fox News’ own, Megyn Kelly, take Mr. Erickson to task on the subject, I recommend spending 10 minutes on this little video.) Needless to say, although I’m happy to say it, I disagree with Mr. Erickson.

However, I’m not sure how other men feel about the subject of breadwinner wives/mothers.

I’ve been a SAHD for a little over two years now. Most of the people I meet respond positively to my being at home full time. There have been a few, however, who fall into one of two categories:

Category 1: Does Not Compute
On a recent flight, I had the good fortune to sit next to an older gentleman who was headed to Albuquerque for a weekend of golf with some friends. He took a long look at my Texas A&M t-shirt and playfully asked, “So did you actually go to A&M or did someone just buy you the shirt?” I assured him that I did go to A&M (I don’t wear my Aggie Ring very often, but for most A&M grads it’s as compulsory as a wedding ring). We shook hands and exchanged the typical Aggie pleasantries — class year (him: ’70, me: ’02), major (him: finance, me: a little of everything with a diploma that says agricultural development…don’t ask). Then, what do you do for a living?

Class of ’70 has been in sales since he finished his time in the service and will retire as soon as his youngest daughter graduates from college in a few years.

“And you?” he asked.
“I’m a stay-at-home-dad.”
“Oh. Well, what does your wife do?”

Had I answered the question with a traditional answer, would Class of ’70 have asked about my wife’s job? I didn’t ask about his wife’s job; not to stick it to him or anything, but simply because I didn’t care and it wasn’t relevant. I don’t think Class of ’70 meant anything by the question, and I don’t really mean to judge him for it — although I admit there is a tone of judgment throughout this post. I’m pretty sure it’s biologically allowed — I just think he didn’t know how to handle the answer I gave him. 

Category 2: Don’t work? You’re useless
I sat down for lunch with a friend of mine about a year ago. We got to talking about some of our mutual acquaintances and somehow he came around to saying, “Show me a man who doesn’t work and I’ll show you a useless son of a bitch.” First, don’t nobody talk about my mama that way! Second, you’re entitled to your opinion and all, but c’mon, man. Are you really going to say that to my face? Maybe he didn’t know that I stay at home with the kids (or kid, at the time). Maybe he did but didn’t care. Maybe he just didn’t think before opening his yapper. There’s even a chance he didn’t mean anything by it and considers being a stay-at-home-parent work.

Honestly, I’m not one of those SAHDs who will try to convince you that what I do is, in fact, work. Like most people, when I think “work,” I think of some kind of job where you earn a wage. I’m not saying it’s not work, but it’s not work-work. Get it? No? Don’t worry, I don’t even get it sometimes. Bottom line: Wife works. I stay at home with the kids. The question is, do we spend as much thought denigrating women who choose to stay home with their kids? Yes, some people do, but overall it’s widely accepted if a woman doesn’t work.

I guess what I would say to people — men, especially — who fall into either of the above categories is learn to live with it. The number of stay at home dads in America has doubled over the past decade. With the percentage of wives/mothers (I’m excluding single mothers here) earning more money than their husbands, I’d expect the number of SAHDs to continue to rise. It’s different, but it’s becoming normal.

In the words of the hippie who works at Uriah’s Heap Recycling Center on The Simpsons: Sounds like someone’s livin’ in the past. Contemporize, man!

What’s your opinion on SAHDs? Worthless dungheaps, regular dudes or uber-handsome-badass-childwranglers?


  1. Jenny "best fish camp partner ever" McCumber

    I think it’s funny how much of a stigma is associated with SAHDs. I run a play group in our neighborhood and had a SAHD email me for information. I thought it was great and was disappointed that he never showed up for anything. Oh but the drama with some if the moms, worried about what their husbands would think… Staying at home is hard work – way more than I expected and to be honest I have hella respect for a fella that doesn’t believe society’s hype that feeds the ridiculous stigma of SAHD-dom.

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      I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t run into the disapproving husbands problem with any of my SAHM friends (as far as I know), so I’m fortunate in that regard. I suppose the disapproval could go both ways. I wonder if the Wife has ever had issues? Probably not. She knows I don’t have any game, anyway.

  2. Donnie Clapp

    I would give $1,000,000 if I could become a SAHD. Also, if I had $1,000,000, I could just keep it and be a SAHD.

    Also again, is SAHD pronounced sad?

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  3. Donnie Clapp

    I’m commenting again with nothing to add because I forgot to check the “Notify me of followup comments via email” box the first time.

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      Never let it be said that I don’t take your advice. Except we use plastic bottles despite what your list says.

  4. Lynn Bridge

    Stay-at-home moms never got much respect as persons, but they got/get respect as a cow might. A stay-at-home dad doesn’t get respect as either cattle or as a person. I respect ya, man, and let me tell you, I’ll work 60-80 hours a week to keep from having a job. Always have, always will.

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      I do want to make clear that these aren’t the only responses I get. In Austin reactions are definitely different than elsewhere…sometimes it can be too positive. Let me put it this way: SAHDs aren’t lazy, but we’re not martyrs, either.

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  5. PJ

    Hey Matt! Long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for reading my comment.

    The new blog has been entertaining and educational, especially since Donna and I now have our own little 3.5 month old. Before the arrival of El Farto we discussed the possibility of me being a SAHD, going so as trying to list the pros and cons (as much as possible), especially within the context of Donna being a lawyer and but living in an expensive a$$ city like Washington, D.C.

    I’d be really curious to read some follow-up posts to this one about the decision making process between you and the breadwinner and all the factors at play…

  6. Emily

    uber-handsome-badass-childwranglers!! First, love the blog and soo glad you are doing this!! My husband and I have had many conversations about this topic and if we ever did have kids…he would definitely be the SAHD. It really bothers me that anyone would snub their nose at either parent for staying home and raising their children. To me that is one of the most important jobs there is and we totally underestimate it…any family that has the opportunity for a parent to stay home is extremely fortunate. Congrats on having the badass family that you do and keep up the hard work!!!

  7. kevin

    This is interesting because I just got into a debate about this over in a dad bloggers group on facebook. publishes an article every year about “What mom is worth” and “What dad is worth”, where they survey SAHM’s and SAHD’s, and come up with a imaginary salary of what each would potentially make if they actually got paid for what they do. Women claimed to “work” around 94 hours a week, where SAHD’s claimed only 53 hours per week. The debate was about why SAHD’s seem to claim less time than SAHM’s… This post reminded me of that debate.

    1. Lynn Bridge

      Hmmmm, I can’t even begin to understand why, on average, there is such a dramatic difference between men’s and women’s views of homework. My child-rearing years all seem such a blur now. I do remember years of having to keep a palm pilot to tell me what I was doing every minute of every day because my schedule was so complicated and time-sensitive. I do remember pulling laundry out of the dryer at 2 a.m., only to find that someone’s pocket had hidden a black crayon which melted in the heat. Three children were involved, my husband traveled and worked a lot, and I was the stay-at-home mom who longed to just stay at home. But, I certainly knew fathers who were the primary music-lesson parents. And ballet dads. And band fathers. And orchestra chauffeurs.

    2. The Wife

      Regarding the number of hours per week that SAHMs report working versus SAHDs, I wonder if the wives (assuming a male/female couple) of SAHDs are more conscious of the number of hours per week the dads carry the load, and, to alleviate the number of hours, maybe those wives chip in more than their male counterparts who are married to SAHMs. I have no clue whether that’s a fair thought- actually, it’s probably pretty sexist. Like anything, there are probably a multitude of factors that contribute to the disparity between SAHDs and SAHMs when reporting the number of hours worked per week. I guess I’d be interesting in a study/survey that assesses the working partner’s perception of how much work their spouses do per week and to what degree the working spouses feel compelled to help around the house and with the kids.

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