Upon coming up with the idea for this article, I decided I should expand my knowledge by doing some research. The first few headlines I read were along these lines: “Should you let your husband be a stay-at-home dad?”, “Is it okay for men to be stay at home dads?”, “Real lives: I’m happy to be a stay at home dad!” 40% of the Google results were enough to keep me shaking my head for days.
A stay-at-home dad is essentially what happens when the stereotypical role of the stay-at-home mother gets a new character: the father. Usually, the role is switched when the female head of household (commonly a mother) earns more than her significant other, so the father assumes the position of the stay-at-home dad, usually for the sake of taking care of the children.
The issue of stay-at-home dads, in our Arab world, branches from a broader topic that desperately needs to be discussed. Commonly, when a woman happens to earn more than her better half, (which barely happens in the Arab world as the wage-gap difference would never allow such a “horrific” act to take place) she is usually shamed, discouraged and made to feel guilty for how successful she is.
Our society has normalized and accustomed its female inhabitants to being the underdog in the family, the one who takes the least responsibilities in the work field, the one who faces inequity in her profession, no matter how profitable and fruitful her contributions may be. It has become abnormal for the female to be the primary provider for the household, unless that is, if she is providing babies, three meals a day and a 24/7 maid, which happens to be herself. You get the idea.
In the Arab world, the term “stay-at-home dad” is almost non-existent, too embarrassing to admit, too shameful to be. The label is almost as horrific and humiliating as saying you committed a crime. Even more surprising, the issue of the stay at home dad is not only a taboo for men, but it has also become a taboo for women. Studies have shown that many women with stay-at-home-husbands tend to keep quiet about it.
Whatever the reason may be, I think it’s crystal clear that even women are having a hard time accepting the reversal of the traditional roles of husband and wife. What a time to be alive.
And truly, what a time to be alive. A time when a man’s worth is defined by the amount of money that goes into his bank account at the end of the month. A time when his honour depends on being the primary bread winner. A time when his worth relies on petty things that society has deemed the epitome of manliness. If your wife or significant other earns more than you, then you are deemed a failure, a disgrace to yourself, to your family, to your society and to your entire gender.
When the woman happens to bring in more money, two cases usually happen: either the husband is ignorant, so he doesn’t allow his wife to work anymore and, if this isn’t the case, then t man tries to cover this oh-so-dishonourable situation up as much as he possibly can. Both cases are as pathetic as pathetic can get.
We live in an age where issues like these are very sensitive to men and tend to take a toll on their machoness and ego. The greater the pressure from society, the more fragile a man’s sense of masculinity gets and the frailer a man’s ego becomes, but should these things really stand in the way of making the right decision for your family?
There is nothing wrong with a man pursuing his career to the fullest, everybody wants to be successful. But as a parent and a family member, it is always important to put your family’s well-being first. There is nothing unethical or despicable about letting your wife provide for your family if she’s bringing in the bulk of the income in a house where you have children in need of full-time care, attention and guidance.
However, there is everything to admire in a couple who works as a tag-team to provide the best and most beneficial options for the happiness and welfare of their family. More than admiration, there is something respectful and inspiring about a duo that battles the weight of the stress and constant aggravation that a couple would doubtlessly face from an ignorant society on a daily basis — mothers and fathers, who are the embodiment of love, patience and sacrifice, who push down ego and pride on the list of priorities, replaced by children and proper parenting.
To all men: If you happen to face circumstances that may lead to you becoming a stay-at-home father, I can assure you that your children will grow up to be grateful, cared for and, most importantly, well-balanced young adults. They will know their worth and their place in society, have strong family values and morals and will grow up in a house safe from sexism and stereotypical gender roles — things school would never teach them.
You get to demonstrate to your children what REAL masculinity is. You get to show them yourself that masculinity isn’t about dominance or control or power, but about love, magnanimity and bravery.
Even better? If you were blessed with daughters, these girls will grow up knowing that there is no boundary to their success, that if they reach for it, the sky is the limit. They will grow up knowing that they are able to do anything they set their mind to, to become the woman of their dreams. They will be able to reach peaks of success that most of their gender can only dream of.
Bonus: You get to build a strong bond with your children, you get to make unforgettable memories with them. I can almost guarantee that you will not be the stereotypical mean parent and it’s also a guarantee that your children will have a great relationship with you. The blessings never end.
If we put our ego and pride aside, we would be astonished at the amazing results we can gain from breaking down the walls of the gender norms that the patriarchy has imprisoned us in.
WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss 12 Signs You Have an Egyptian Dad.