NOTHING has really changed for men. In the ’90s I did a stint promoting male issues and the fact that men wanted to be more involved in child-rearing and home making, thus enabling women to be more available for their careers.
As the daughter of an absent father, I lobbied that it was nourishing for both children and fathers if dads took the domestic reigns for a while. Women agreed, but at the same time still expected their men to be the major breadwinners. Men were deeply confused.
And it hasn’t changed. According to University of Western Sydney researcher Deborah Wilmore, men passionately want to be involved in childrearing but are often embarrassed to admit their role because they still get stigmatised by women and other men.
“Some [dads] would rather say they are unemployed than state their main duties are childcare,” she says. Often employers will discriminate against ¬single dads who need flexi-hours.
The hypocrisy of how we treat men annoys me. I fought for women’s rights; I fight for animal rights; and I will also fight to allow men to have the same choices women have. I understand that a lot of men still favour the role of alpha male and are delighted to return home to domestic bliss. But not all men are like this and it makes me sad that many would welcome the chance to spend time at home with the kids if society respected them for doing so.
My ex-husband was a stay-at-home dad many years ago. It worked for both of us. A second-time dad, he was burnt out by a long career and ready for a more nurturing role with our daughter – a role he missed with his first family. I was a lot younger than him and, despite loving being a mum, was hankering for career ascension.
It was a good arrangement. But society mocked us both. I was considered a ball-breaker and a bad mother and was overtly vilified when I told the truth about our domestic situation. He was derided – mainly by other males who didn’t take him seriously anymore. In the end we got tired of the scorn and kept to ourselves.
That was 16 years ago. And nothing has changed. My daughter will be forced to make the same awful choice I had to make: a rewarding career or a full-time mum. Her partner will choose to be seen as a man or a wimp. Gender bias still locks us in to boring stereotypes. Come on people: equal roles for all.
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