Dad Played Dolls with Me while Mom Fought for the Rights of Others in Court

The following is a guest blog from Valerie Hassinger. Valerie is a Copywriter at best essays.com and is currently working on a YA novel. She spends her weekends baking or watching her favorite shows on Netflix. Follow her on Twitter to see her thoughts on pop culture, politics and life in general.

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Image from Search on Creative Commons

Image from Search on Creative Commons

In a few weeks’ time I will be celebrating my fourth year anniversary with Brian, my best friend and the love of my life. While many of our friends seem to be competing against us each other who will get to the aisle first, we are just taking our own sweet time and just enjoying each other’s company in the house we both share.

Not that marriage is out of the question for us but we do talk about it every now and then.

In one of our downtimes I opened up the possibility of him becoming a househusband. I am a writer by profession while he works in engineering and construction. I’m also currently working on a book and my plan is to eventually publish and have it promoted. If and when response is good then I would build a whole new series around it. I joked that he might have to stay at home and care for our future kids when I’m off doing tours for my book.

He looked at me like I was asking him to travel to the moon and back.

His response is not out of the ordinary, unfortunately. Most people still aren’t comfortable with the idea of having the father stay at home while the mother is away from home. I blame traditional gender roles that have been ingrained to our brains since time immemorial.

Having grown up with a stay-at-home dad and a career woman for a mother, I was raised to see past stereotypes and assigned gender roles. In the first few years of my life I thought having my dad make my lunch and play dolls with me at home while my mom is off at work was the norm. Not until I reached pre-school did I realize that we were the oddballs (alien-like even as this all happened in the ’80s) of the community. I remembered the other children’s moms were all whispering to each other whenever dad drops me off or picks me up from school. The rare sightings of my mother during school presentations elicited smirks and judging looks from the close-minded crowd.

I applaud my parents for going against the flow. It was a necessary decision that didn’t come easy to both of them. My dad got discharged from the army for an injury he sustained while he was on duty. Mom, on the other hand, was slowly rising up the ranks in her law firm and had to make a decision on our family’s set-up fast. I was only two years old then and my older sister was six. Our parents agreed that it will be best for dad to stay at home with us while she works.

I was too young to remember anything when this set-up first started. I do remember Nana (my dad’s mother) checking up on us once in awhile to help around the house. Dad became our sole caregiver once he was well enough. All the while mom was managing the finances and dealt with the family’s expenses. It was a set-up that lasted until I was 10 when dad secured a job as an artist for an ad agency.

That upbringing exposed me to a lifestyle that is unconventional but that is no less loving than any other normal family. It didn’t create any sense of confusion nor resentment in me for my parents made me understood the need for that kind of set-up. It made me more accepting of other “oddball families” (gay parents, single father/mother households) who are also misunderstood by the general public. It taught me that gender is a concept that you can mold into whatever you want it to be: that a man is not a “sissy” or a “doormat” if he stays at home with the kids; nor is a woman “selfish” for choosing a career over homemaking. My experience showed me that traditions are good but that you are not a bad person either if you decide to go against the grain. Ultimately it has made me into the woman that I am right now: strong, hard working, loving and empathetic.

Right now I’m seeing more and more families with stay-at-home dads and breadwinner moms so times are changing. There’s still a lot of work to be done though, but I’m hopeful for the future of these types of families.

On my own, I’ll start the work with my boyfriend.

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