Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Shame of Mr. Mom

Rarely does Miss Manners swing and miss, but today is one of those occasions. It’s not as though her advice is not sane and sound. Unfortunately, it does not answer the question posed.

Here is the letter she received:

I'm a stay-at-home dad with two little boys, 10 months and 3 years old, and another on the way. At least five times a day, I'm stopped by a seemingly well-meaning person making an obnoxious, sexist comment: "You've got your hands full!" or, "Looks like Dad played hooky today to take care of the kids," or, "Mommy must be taking a much-needed break."

I struggle with how to respond. I want to model good manners for my kids, but at the same time shut down the conversation and go about my day.

Bless Miss Manners. She thinks that the problem is how to respond to a public insult:

Answer with a quizzical look, as if you did not understand what was said. After all, it is incomprehensible that a stranger just suggested you would not voluntarily spend time with your own children.

Forcing them to repeat themselves should prompt them to recognize their own inanity, if not their rudeness.

Answer the repetition by saying that there is nothing you would rather do than to be with your children. The stranger may think you are sanctimonious, but might also realize what these jibes implied.

Unfortunately, Miss Manners is unwilling to face the deeper implication. The people who are casting aspersions on this man’s lifestyle, and, by implication, his wife's dereliction, are showing him how he looks to other people. He does not look good.

As for their legitimate concern, they might be expressing some dismay at the notion that a toxic male would be made responsible for bringing up small children. They might wonder about whether or not these children are being neglected by their mother.

Keep in mind, his wife is not only the mother of two small children, but she is pregnant with a third. And she is the one who is out working.

We do not know anything more than that this couple has reversed roles. We know that most women disparage his choice. We also expect that he will be shunned by the neighborhood mothers. If you were ready to blame the patriarchy for the failure to reverse roles, you should rethink your ideology.

If he really wants to set a good example for his children, as he says he does, he should do the right thing and get a job. The shame he feels and the shame that the neighborhood women are trying to make him aware of… will only be reduced when he returns to meaningful, manly labor. In that way he will be setting a good example for his children.

Since he receives these insults at least five times a day, or so he says, he is not going to overcome his shame by policing the minds of all the women in the neighborhood. Even if they cease making snarky remarks to his face, they will still be thinking it among themselves. Eventually, the attitude will rub off on their children. And his children, when they are looking for play dates and for school birthday parties will suffer for it.

It feels unfair and unjust. And yet, it is so persistent and so consistent that the man must realize that he is doing something wrong. And that he should change his ways. It will be much easier than trying to overcome his shame by policing the minds of five people a day. And getting a bad reputation for doing so.


Sam L. said...

"Keep in mind, his wife is not only the mother of three small children, but she is pregnant with a third." If she is the mother of THREE, if she's pregnant it's with a FOURTH. But his letter sayeth "... two little boys, 10 months and 3 years old, and another on the way.

One thing, though; maybe the mother prefers to work (and makes big bucks) than to care for her children. There's a lot we just don't know.

Anonymous said...

Stuart maybe start handing out instructional pamphlets for suicide?

No wonder why you say therapy is a failure. You can call this new kind of talk 'failure therapy' or suicide-helper support groups.

Anonymous said...

This blog has it all. Ubu and his fantasies of knifing enemies and Stuart's curiously morbid talk-therapy.

Cheryl said...

Well, the guy needs to get a grip. As a housewife who at one time had four kids under six, I heard "you have your hands full!" multiple times a day. The appropriate answer is, "I know! How lucky am i!" And that sends a well-meaning stranger on his or her way. Nothing sexist about it.

Sam L. said...

Anon, I don't recall Ubu saying anything about knifing anyone. Would you give us a link or a quote?

Anonymous said...

Sam, It's a couple back, Ubu seems like a great guy and I seriously doubt he meant anything by it. I just found it to be humorous, that's the only reason I mentioned it. Strictly humor.

UbuMaccabee said...

No, I did not say anything about knifing my enemies. Anon read that into my comment.

The story was about an ongoing mob of Jew haters organized and supported by one of the largest political parties in Europe chasing Jewish citizens around for selling Jewish products in their stores. A man at one of the mob actions shows up and looking around to make sure he feels safe, cheers on Adolf Hitler in public, at the hate-the-Jew rally. Enough said.

Like a certain organization within Israel that keeps accounts, he is on one column my ledger.

The Jews in England need to leave as soon as possible, before he doesn’t even check himself before he cheers on Hitler in broad daylight.