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Friday, March 25, 2005

Traditional roles undermine fathers too

Frustration is a given for at-home parents. There's frustation because there isn't enough time in the day. There's frustation because we're exhausted and often don’t have any help. We're frustrated because our partners work too much. We're frustrated because we wish we could have more qualilty time together.

But often, women are frustrated because we were thurst into the role of Chief Operating Officer of the house, when we signed up to be a Parent, first and foremots. But what often happens, which is a HUGE source of frustration, is that the role of parent becomes second to the role of COO. As a result there is resentment, guilt, and an overall unsettling feeling that things aren't the way they were supposed to be. Because, after all, we were too smart to get stuck in the rut of traditional domesticity.

But it happened anyway.

What's interesting—and I'm not surprised; it's just not my experience because I'm a woman—is that dads feel unsettled and disappointed with their traditional role as primary breadwinner. Chip commented that his experience was oppressive, but that his feelings could have been exacerbated by the fact that he had been an at-home parent for a while.

I agree that the traditional division, mom at home full-time and dad at work, tends to push both toward tradition roles in an oppressive way -- both moms and dads -- even if we that's exactly what we don't want…I felt shut out in a way, pushed toward a more traditional male role that I did not want, though it was not conscious or intentional on her part.

He wrote an extentsive post about how it was difficult when he was working and his wife was at home with the kids. Because he had previoulsy been the primary caretaker, he felt shut out of the relationship with his kids. Not because he didn't make the effort to be an integral part of their lives, but kids tend to gravitate towards the person who is with them most of the time.

But when I was at home full-time, the balance seemed better. I never felt trapped or "desperate" when I was the one at home with our daughter, running the household, while my wife brought in the income. I actually liked the balance that that role reversal brought. Ideally we'd both work part-time and full-time parent part-time, but that's hard to arrange. Interesting how gender roles and expectations can undermine the best of intentions and plans...

So it seems that finding a balance between family live and family chores is just as important as finding a balance between family and work.

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