March 11, 2010

A father who stays home with his child while his wife works struggles with feelings of isolation and shame.

This was the story of my life, 25 years ago. My ex-husband wrote a novel about it. I couldn't believe, back then, the way this problem persisted. And now, here's this guy writing about it and getting an Instapundit link as if it's a fresh problem yielding new insights.

These deeply embedded sex roles... they don't change so easily. Being large-minded and flexible and into change isn't enough. It doesn't get at the root of what you really feel, and you can't just feel what you want to feel.

61 comments:

CatherineM said...

That was also part of the story line in the movie Little Children.

Scott M said...

I think either gender being the stay-home parent would feel isolation. Shame is another matter. For men, it's certainly part of the identity of being the provider and primary bread-winner. This is not an easy albatross to unload. For women, well, the fems have definitely seen the error of their ways, it seems, as the anti-housewife rhetoric has been dialed back of late. However, there was an entire decade of housewives that were demonized and criticized for nothing other than the fact that they wanted (yes, many of the CHOSE) to stay home with their kids.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I've been trying to get Mrs. Hoosier to work harder for that big promotion so I can stay home and take care of the house but she's not having it.

Henry said...

Some people struggle with isolation and shame more than others.

campy said...

The isolation never bothered me when I was a SAHD. Other people mostly suck.

ricpic said...

Hey, human nature - male nature, female nature - can't be engineered out of existence. Next up: the reinvention of the wheel.

Gentleman Farmer said...

Headline: "Sales of out-of-print book skyrocket inexplicably."

k*thy said...

LOL. Hoosier Daddy, my husband tried the same thing. Didn't quite work out that way, either.

It's one thing to have that seed of change, and quite another, for it to actually happen. 25 years or so, is a big chunk of your life, but not so much in the life of long practiced sex roles. Time takes time, as they say, and that real change takes a long time - is evolutionary.

Sloanasaurus said...

Maybe it depends on how much your wife is actually making. If the wife is pulling in $500k, then you would not be a stay-at-home-dad, you would be a day-trader. However if the wife is bringing in only $100k, well then... that would suck.

Besides, I don't think its the actual staying at home that benefits the kids, its the fact that the kids have two parents in the same household that matters most.

traditionalguy said...

Men's role includes the provider/protector, since we don't bring the children, or the decorating, or the social networks that the woman does. It is normal for an unemployed man supported by his wife to feel worthless to his wife no matter what she says to him about not blaming him. We are our own worst enemies sometimes.

knox said...

Hey, human nature - male nature, female nature - can't be engineered out of existence

Nor should we want it to be.

It shouldn't be too surprising if a man feels unfulfilled staying at home. If he wants to, and enjoys it, great. (It doesn't make him less of a man.) But it would be unusual, I'd think. Guys are hard-wired to go out and hunt and bring home the spoils, are they not?

knox said...

Besides, I don't think its the actual staying at home that benefits the kids, its the fact that the kids have two parents in the same household that matters most

Having both parents is probably more important, but I think having mom or dad at home, especially in the very young years, is critical. As Scott M noted, we're coming around a little bit, but there are a lot of people who are still in denial about this, because they don't want to sacrifice their lifestyle or (they think) their career.

rhhardin said...

Telecommute.

The trouble with working to support a family is that you don't get to selfishly optimize for personal job interest.

Isolation is a feature to guys.

chuck b. said...

Many women struggle with feelings of isolation staying home too, and a different kind of shame.

Peano said...

"These deeply embedded sex roles... they don't change so easily. "

The unbearable heaviness of human nature.

SarcastiCarrie said...

I have the small kids. I am at work right now. I stayed home for a while. I was bored to the point of hating every day. So, I went back to work and felt guilty and missed my kid. At home, I felt isolated.
I make marginally more money than my husband but he never does more than joke about staying at home.
And I'm an engineer, so the fear of losing my career is somewhat real.

The Crack Emcee said...

How did that go again? Oh yea:

"Feelings, nothing more than feelings,..."

Never really caught on in group-think circles.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Glad that I clicked the link, because it was a lot more upbeat about it than Althouse makes it sound. He basically said "yeah, there are struggles, but I deal and I'm happy," which is pretty much a good life in my opinion.

My husband and I decided that I would go to law school with this same plan in mind. Don't try to scare me away from it now that I've already incurred the student loans and done the work! (I graduated last spring and am clerking now.)
- Lyssa

Mark said...

I guess I'm just very comfortable in my masculinity.

I haven't found it to be much of a social issue. When I have it's been moms who don't know me at the playground giving me and my twins odd looks.

The fact that I still do all the man's chores around the house (car work, carpentry, bug killing, etc.) probably helps...

Salamandyr said...

I don't really get the shame thing. Shame arises when a man is not contributing. But cooking, cleaning, home repair, driving the kids to school and soccer practice, probably keeping up on the lawn work, all the homecare stuff men traditionally do, on top of the homecare traditionally considered "housewife work", and then, like this guy, pursuing a stay at home career like writing on top of it.

Well, where's the shame in all that? As to the opinions of the "housewives", who cares? You're married, the only female opinion you ever have to care about is your wife's. It's not like the dating scene where you have to make yourself look good in hopes she'll sleep with you.

Take pride in what you do, get over the shame, and spit in the eye of anyone who looks down on you for it!

lyssalovelyredhead said...

"I have the small kids. I am at work right now. I stayed home for a while. I was bored to the point of hating every day. So, I went back to work and felt guilty and missed my kid. At home, I felt isolated."

Life involves tradeoffs. I can never understand why so many people don't get that.

(Not you specifically, Carrie, sounds like you get it fine. but a lot of people don't.)

Henry said...

At the link: "You do the grocery shopping too?"

I have to say that the guy's lede is kind of weird. Is grocery shopping gendered?

I wonder if there's an unexpected breakdown in gender roles when you go from one or two kids to lots. (I have three. I come from a family of 7). When you have lots of kids, there's no way one parent is going to handle all the domestic stuff. My very traditional dad did all the grocery shopping when I was growing up. Now my wife and I put in about equal time on almost all aspects of parenting and home life. Our roles are still very different. She's better at the skilled work. I do the grunt work.

There are some things lost in the division of labor. My wife and I used to cook together a lot. Now, since she's a thousand times better chef than me, she does it as I wrangle the kids through their homework and chores.

Joan said...

Haha: they posted a link to paterfamilias.com which is apparently not this guy's blog but a site about Roman (as in Ancient Rome) culture.

Staying at home with children after being in the workforce and earning serious money can mess with anyone's head. I was laid off from my high-paying software job when my daughter was an infant (10 years ago) and I still feel repercussions. It's a big adjustment. Changing roles so drastically and dealing with isolation can be a recipe for depression.

Raising kids is an awesome job, though -- I doubt there is any other out there that can give so much satisfaction. You have to learn that the compensation is not monetary.

Scott M said...

I remember reading fairly recently about gender roles in the US vs Canada and Europe. One of the findings was that men and women in the US divide the household work far more equally than Europe with Canada, as always, somewhere in the middle. There was also a bit about opinions European men had about that fact, ie looking down on American men for doing what's perceived as women's work.

I thought we were supposed to be more like Europe...

This division of labor is certainly generational in nature, as the younger parents are dividing more equally. One area this impacts, and which the ad companies are very, very slow to pick up on, is that division includes spending decisions. Men in advertising are portrayed as oafs, clods, foils, etc, primarily because the perception in the ad world that the woman still makes most of the purchasing decisions in the household. This is simply no longer the case and, frankly, I'm sick of it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

25 years or so, is a big chunk of your life, but not so much in the life of long practiced sex roles.

Well I pride myself on being a very liberated male and have no problem that Mrs. Hoosier makes the big bucks. Then again she knows that I can get the house completely cleaned spic and span and be on the bike trails or golf course by 9:30AM and she just can't have that.

Pogo said...

Who needs men, anyway?
You know, fish and bicycles and all that.

"...a new pattern has emerged of three generations of mothers without a man in the house — lone granny, lone mum and fatherless children, all expecting the state to stand in for daddy, as of right. These women are not so much welfare queens as matriarchal dynasties of welfare Amazons.

The culture is passed on, as you might expect. Lone grannies are significantly more likely to have lone and workless daughters than grannies with husbands or employment, and the same is true of their daughters’ daughters. Baby daughters (and baby sons, too) are imbibing with their mother’s milk the idea that men, like jobs, are largely unnecessary in any serious sense.

The problem with this new type of extended family, Dench says, is that it is not self-sustaining but tends to be parasitic on conventional families in the rest of society. In fact, it appears to lead inexorably to the nightmare of an unproductive dependent underclass.
"

edutcher said...

Ann said...

These deeply embedded sex roles... they don't change so easily. Being large-minded and flexible and into change isn't enough. It doesn't get at the root of what you really feel, and you can't just feel what you want to feel.

One point not raised so far is that the people who pushed all of this in the first place, the feminists, are the ones who have the "First I look at the purse" mentality. In the final analysis, they like "deeply embedded sex roles" perhaps more than men.

They want a man who has greater social, professional, and financial status than they, but they don't want a man who would be in a position to be a househusband - someone making less, possibly better at doing things with their hands than with a computer, etc. As Lyssa notes, life has a lot of tradeoffs and the woman "who wants it all" may be the least likely to make them.

here's this guy writing about it and getting an Instapundit link as if it's a fresh problem yielding new insights.

The reason it's viewed as a fresh problem is partly because there's a Depression on which is hitting men harder than women and partly because the situation hasn't really been addressed up to now, except for a few cutesy movies and the occasional condescending feminist piece on local news.

Having been a househusband myself, the big problem is the fact that the wife may not get the point that finding a job in the Great Mancession is not simply a process of applying in the classifieds or on Monster. This is a situation our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents faced and how they dealt with it hasn't survived, it seems.

former law student said...

I couldn't believe, back then, the way this problem persisted

That was the story of my grandparents' life, 70 years ago. He worked in what today we call new product development, and few consumers could afford the new products his employer made. So he stayed home with my mother as my grandmother went to work.

As the war approached, his factory was converted to military production, and he started working twelve hour days while my grandmother stayed home.

prairie wind said...

In the comments at the link, a SAHM explains that she doesn't do grocery shopping or cleaning during the day. "I want to give my full attention to my baby and toddler and if I am cleaning and doing chores all day I can't do that."

Isn't she precious?

lyssalovelyredhead said...

edutcher said: "They want a man who has greater social, professional, and financial status than they, but they don't want a man who would be in a position to be a househusband . . ."

That was the general impression I got in law school. When I commented to many female classmates that my husband was going to stay home or that he didn't finish college, while no one said anything negative, I always got the impression that there was an unspoken "OK, but I would never do that."

We had a "Law Women" group (I didn't join), so a group of guys decided they were the "Law Men" and put together a party w/ a sorority from the undergrad campus. They called it the "Sec(ratary)s and Exec(utive)s" party aka the "Trophy Wife" party. The Law Women got mad. I said they should have a party with one of the frats. They didn't think that was funny.
- Lyssa

John Lynch said...

I stay at home and shop for groceries. It wasn't supposed to work out that way, but I got laid off.

Thing is, it's got its points. My son always has someone around. He gets rides to and from school. I have time to talk to all of his teachers and therapists, and can go to all of his school events. I think he's benefited from the extra attention. He's significantly delayed in a lot of ways and he needs all the help he can get.

Money is a means to an end. Sometimes time is more important. One should remember the ends that money is supposed to advance.

For me, that's my son. He's the most important part of my life. The worst thing that happened to my family growing up was divorce. Everything went to hell as a result of my father's decision to leave when I was five. He had a lot of good reasons, but the results are still playing out thirty years later, even now that he's dead.

My wife makes enough to keep everything going, and I wouldn't mind a good job. Not at all. But staying home really has been better for my son and we're all better off for it.

I've had people (read men) think I'm lazy or worthless for living off my wife. It's funny, because they have no idea what it's like to watch over a small child or the effort required to keep a household functioning while paying the bills and staying out of debt. I'm actually pretty good at it. I've lost one friend over it, which is too bad, but family is more important. Women, as far as I can tell, are more understanding, especially if they've had children. Men, I think, care more about what other men think of them.

Being autistic-spectrum or whatever it's called helps in this case. I'm USED to people thinking I'm strange. I'm USED to violating social norms for my own reasons. Still, it took a long time to admit to myself that this wasn't just going to be a month or two, and that I was still a man and a good parent for doing it.

I still have a lot of friends. I see all of them at least once a week, and usually one of them a day. I also have habits that get me out of the house every day. I go on a 2 1/2 mile walk along the Animas. I also write two pages. Doing nothing and not leaving the house leads to depression.

Finally, I love my wife. She's a wonderful woman, and we couldn't do this without her. When I was working and she stayed home, I was not nearly as helpful as she's been now that the situation is reversed. It's really cool of her to come home after a day at work and watch our son. I can be pretty frazzled after 10-12 hours of four year old.

CyndiF said...

prairie wind: "In the comments at the link, a SAHM explains that she doesn't do grocery shopping or cleaning during the day. "I want to give my full attention to my baby and toddler and if I am cleaning and doing chores all day I can't do that."

Isn't she precious?"

Yes, I read that comment and thought, another helicopter mom in the making.

Scott M said...

"I want to give my full attention to my baby and toddler and if I am cleaning and doing chores all day I can't do that."

Isn't she precious?"

Yes, I read that comment and thought, another helicopter mom in the making.


Far more likely is that this is the line she's giving her husband while she plops the kid in front a dvd and spend most of the day playing WoW, Aion, or Hello Kittie: Island Adventure. God help their family if she stumbles across Eve Online

peter hoh said...

Isolation was not a big part of the experience for me. It's true that some stay at home moms look at you as if you were from Mars. Nonetheless, I managed to make some good connections with some stay at home moms. There were quite a few more at home dads in the neighborhood when we moved to St. Paul.

Here's one of those books from 1979.

Meade said...

Great comment, John Lynch. In my opinion, you (along with RLC) deserve to take much pride in you way you've lived your life.

Synova said...

On the helicopter mom thing... I don't think that our grandmothers (and fathers) paid nearly the attention to babies and toddlers that we feel is required. Heaven help you if you stick your kid in a play pen (I refuse to say "play yard") and let them fuss while you do chores that need to be done.

It is hard to do chores with kids around, though. Some people manage it better than others but having a little one undoing everything and getting into some other mess while you're cleaning up the last one wasn't something I ever managed to solve. It helped to have more children, actually. By the time I was on three and four the little ones essentially followed the older kids around and did what they did. Since the older ones were 5 and 7ish and more or less past the age of actively trying to do themselves in, the two youngest seemed to skip over the stage of allowing their own ingenuity to lead them about unfettered.

If I spent most of my time directly interacting with my children, or at least watching them instead of trying to multitask, it wasn't because I had some high minded goal of spending quality time with them "helicoptering". It was more to be certain they didn't destroy the house or do themselves in.

former law student said...

For those whose curiosity has been excited, Amazon.com says the Hope College (MI) bookstore has a paperback copy of Say You Want Me for sale.

Henry said...

It is hard to do chores with kids around, though.

Depends on the chores. And it's easier to do chores than "work."

Outdoor chores are easiest. If there's something needs doing outdoors, that's where I go and the kids too.

Chris said...

A very Schopenhauery observation. "Der Mensch kann machen, was er will, aber er kann nicht wollen, was er will." Man can do as he pleases, but he cannot want as he pleases.

The tragedy of living in a society where right-thinking is the greatest virtue.

ALP said...

Scott M:

"Men in advertising are portrayed as oafs, clods, foils, etc, primarily because the perception in the ad world that the woman still makes most of the purchasing decisions in the household. This is simply no longer the case and, frankly, I'm sick of it."

YES! I am female and can testify that dumbing men down does NOT make me want to buy any product advertised in this way - far from it. Ads like this make my blood boil. I can't imagine what I'm *supposed* to think or how I'm supposed to respond - the mindset is simply beyond me.

The clearest example of this is an ad for Progressive car insurance. A group of potential customers is being given a tour of different insurance products, and the tour guide is giving examples of how Progressive insurance will help you in the event of different car-accident scenarios. At the end, one 40-something man raises his hand and says: "But what if Mother won't let me drive?" WTF? I can't even begin to fathom how that bit helps sell car insurance to *anybody*, let alone adult women. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when THAT concept was pitched.

Enraging on so many levels.

jamboree said...

Except how to explain the isolation and shame I felt when I did left the workworld to have a child? "Retired" as I put it...and I'm female. It's only been one generation of women (my mother) who actively wanted the nextgen (us) to work, but that's how deep it goes already.

This only applies to decent careers though - not the crap isolating and shameful jobs the workworld often puts women in - yes, housewifery is better than that. That's death in public.

And guys - I don't know how guys would do it. I really don't. I was always aware that since the workplace wasn't terribly accomodating when I graduated, that I'd always have the mom excuse if I wanted it. But I know that I didn't. No one else does though - except for all of you anonymous types, others like me and, of course, my mother. :-)

And we are legion.

traditionalguy said...

The man needs confirmation of other men that he is good at the man's role. The wife cannot make up for a father that has told the son that he is an embarrasment and always a problem. Men need to produce good work in order to feel accepted...that used to be a feature and not a defect.

Freeman Hunt said...

No one thought I would quit working when I had kids. Joke was on them.

But after the kids grow up... watch out.

Being a stay at home dad is much more isolating than being a stay at home mom. Luckily, in our area there are lots of community activities, and dads can go to those and socialize with other parents. But as for day to day interaction, I can't imagine. Is somebody else's wife going to invite you to hang out at her house while her husband is at work? You going to become chummy with other men's wives apart from those men? Doubtful.

Why is it that the stay at home dads don't connect with each other? Or do they even want to?

As for the shame, I don't know that I think that's all just social conditioning. Perhaps men as a population are biologically more achievement driven. Conquer, command, and all that. If so, it would be more likely that a man would feel unfulfilled not pursuing work outside the home.

knox said...

"I want to give my full attention to my baby and toddler and if I am cleaning and doing chores all day I can't do that."

Isn't she precious?"

Not only that, but it can't possibly be true. With young kids, the house will become chaos, and fast, if you don't get any work done all day.

It's better to put your kids in front of the TV for an hour than to lose your mind trying to pay bills while being interrupted or having to check on them every minute.

lucid said...

Why did people ever think that your brain and nervous system are unrelated to the kind of reproductive gear that your body is carrying?

MikeDC said...

I hate to use the term "whiny little bitch" but that's what comes to mind when I read that guy's stuff.

To me, those things come down to matters of self-confidence. Why should anyone be ashamed of taking care of their kids, teaching them, and guiding them in the right direction?

Historically, and I'm going well back behind the twentieth century stereotypes here, the typical father spent quite a bit of time raising and guiding his boys into whatever

I'm a guy, and I'm more or less a stay at home dad. I quit a nice full time job four and a half years ago, and I certainly don't feel any shame over it. I guess I'd feel isolated if I never interacted with any adults, but there are plenty of outlets for that. I'm a better adjunct professor than Barack Obama was, and that still has me spending most of my time with my kids.

So, I guess I don't get it. Maybe I'm just confident that, when the kids are in school full time I'll be able to go out and find something worthwhile to do.

Borepatch said...

No on Youtube.

MikeDC said...

Why is it that the stay at home dads don't connect with each other? Or do they even want to?

I can only speak for myself, but I think there's several reasons.
1. A big % of the stay home dads out there are just plain unemployed and don't really want to be stay at home dads.

Like, I took my kids to the park the other day, and there are two other "stay at home dads" there who struck up a conversation with each other. But it turns out all they talked about was finding work.

2. Which gets to another question. What would stay at home moms talk about to "connect"? In my experience, they either talk about their kids, or they talk about their hobbies or part-time activities.

But they rarely connect. You start talking about your kids with someone, and, regardless of gender, it's often a matter of comparison, and that doesn't build connection. Jobs and hobbies are hit or miss. When talk about men. Men talk about women.

My guess is many, if not most women don't "connect" much in this way either.

3. I'll confess I'm maybe not the best person to consider this question though, because I've always tended to be independent and to be happy with a few close friends and plenty of alone time.

peter hoh said...

Freeman wrote: But as for day to day interaction, I can't imagine. Is somebody else's wife going to invite you to hang out at her house while her husband is at work? You going to become chummy with other men's wives apart from those men? Doubtful.

I did it. In most of those cases, the husbands already knew me from church or through some other connection.

Why is it that the stay at home dads don't connect with each other? Or do they even want to?

I was able to connect with several dozen other at home dads when my kids were young. I still keep in touch with a few of those guys.

Some of them re-entered the traditional workforce, but others find that part-time work or home-based work is what's best for their families.

peter hoh said...

MikeDC raises an important point. The dad away at work, mom at home model is fairly recent. I won't pretend that the the blacksmith, the cobbler, or the farmer took primary care of their infant children, but they weren't commuting to some distant workplace, and when their boys were old enough to be useful, they were under their fathers' tutelage.

Mark said...

John Lynch, I've found in my case that the only disapproval, and it's rare, has been from playground moms. That may be a function of where I live (Brooklyn) and my general age and appearance (wrong side of 45, going grey.)

Which brings up a point; I became a dad relatively late, and had plenty of opportunity to see the world and accomplish some nifty things professionally. Had the decision of who should stay home and who should work faced me 20 years ago, it might not have been as easy even if the same financial factors been in play.

Synova said...

There is a sub-group of religious homeschoolers who hold to the ideal of having both parents at home, and encourage people to find a way to work from home. They tend to cite Deuteronomy whateveritis about teaching your children... I can't remember it right... something about when you get up and lie down and walk along the way... or something.

In any case, the idea is that you can't do that if your kids aren't with you and you aren't with them.

And the Historical precedence is that only recently in History did fathers (or mothers) tend to go away from home every day to work. Which isn't actually quite true. I think that men and women both tended to work separated from their families for months at a time throughout History. But many people didn't and certainly farmers and craftsmen did not and a great deal of industry was centered on women in the home, so children would be part of both parents daily lives as a matter of course.

Kathy said...

I'm a SAHM. I don't really fit in with a lot of the SAHM crowd, so not all the social outlets are available to me, but I don't feel isolated. Maybe at first, but I looked around for activities and started going and actively sought out other moms with similar outlooks. Problem solved! It does seem to be different for men, especially in places where the women don't welcome men at their activities.

I agree totally with Synova. Once you have multiple kids (3 or 4 at least), you don't feel isolated and you aren't so tied to them. The older ones keep the little ones busy a lot. I try to involve them in my activities, when necessary, rather than always coming up with entertaining activities for them to do. And I teach them to play by themselves some of the time.

Yes, having a stay-at-home parent is absolutely necessary for certain aspects of child-rearing. It's counter-culture to say that, of course. Yes, I've given up the career I had; I can't possibly go back to it, and since I'm homeschooling I'll be quite old when I'm not taking care of kids anymore. That's ok. If I didn't think it was important work, I wouldn't have undertaken it to begin with!

Almost Ali said...

Women want.

Even if it means squeezing a man through the eye of a needle.

kentuckyliz said...

I have nothing to add except

WV mistr

LOL

My dad didn't interact well with children including his own, so he hid behind a newspaper.

Him being SAHD would have been a freakin' disaster.

I know he loved us, he just didn't know how to deal with kids and left that up to Mom.

Freeman Hunt said...

What would stay at home moms talk about to "connect"?

Usually kid talk is a gateway into other subjects, though kid talk always looms large. It's like shop talk for stay at home parents.

At the playdate I went to earlier this week, there was discussion of fitness, IVF, educational theory, higher education, philosophy, politics, parenting, blogging, home safety, and the perils of home improvement.

I have very close friends that I've met through stay at home parent activities.

But just like in any other environment, most people you meet aren't going to become your close friends.

Men talk about women.

They do? My husband and his friends have a weekly get together at our house. Sometimes I can hear them. I don't know that I've ever heard them discuss women.

Deborah said...

My mother did not work outside the home but took care of two kids under the age of 5 while also caring for her mother, who had dementia at a very early age. At the time, my mother's two sisters also lived with us, and my mother cooked, cleaned, and did everyone's laundry. I won't even go into my grandmother's life - eleven kids, a husband, and various other relatives off an on. Not much money, no car, at home, alone, small kids, sick mother. What are we complaining about?

kwood said...

...but there are a lot of people who are still in denial about this, because they don't want to sacrifice their lifestyle or (they think) their career.

So true. I've heard many folks say, "I would do ANYTHING for my kids." Really? Take a pay cut? Drive a used car? Not get divorced?

Everyone's happy to jump in front of a train or donate a kidney for their kids, but those other things? (shudder)

Suburbanbanshee said...

Re: men as hunters

What about men as the guardians of the campfire and the women, and mighty crafters of tools? Until modern times, anybody male with a job was either working the same place he lived, or had some kind of migrant job like being a builder. A family business included the whole family, and that meant the women -- and the kids, as practicable. Farm families were all out in the fields and barns working, too.

Isolation alone at home was for Moslems or other cultures with purdah, or for extremely wealthy Europeans of noble status -- until the Victorians, and modern American home conveniences, and the atomic family, and mobility away from family, all came along.

At work, no relatives, servants, children, or dogs. At home, no servants or relatives to talk to, nothing to produce unless you make yourself a job, and no place to go, either. Very artificial, both for men and women.

Lileks seems to have done okay, but he was very good at doing both job and dad things, at explaining himself on the Internet and in his paper, and at being personable.

I suspect, though, that if you weren't a day-trader or writer or ISP guy, and you were a vintner or leatherworker or smith or other artisan, there's probably a lot less discomfort for both others and himself. Then he's a guy with a real workshop job at home who also takes care of his kids, isn't that nice. When somebody asks him what he does all day, he can throw that person something heavy as well as point to the kids.

I suspect that if the guy homeschools heavily, there's also less worry. "Today we learned about naval warfare and learned the Latin words for the parts of a ship", that sort of thing.

A lot of men like to have something definite to point to. They may not need the validation, so much as being prepared to prove validity. Then they can scoff at what the world thinks and draw up the drawbridge. It's not feeling able to answer that makes them uncomfortable, and that makes them make other people uncomfortable. Vicious circle.

Like... one of my brothers wanted a sportscar and got one. The other one didn't want a sportscar, but wanted to know that women wanted him because he had a sportscar, so he got one. (Ironically, he then found out that he didn't want to be wanted by those women.... The woman he found liked his telescope....)

So some guys (and women) have a non-home job at home, and others just want other people to know that they're the kind of people who have a non-home job at home. Shrug.

ken in sc said...

I do the grocery shopping. My wife hates it and told her I would do it when I got out of the Air Force. I also do the laundry. I did my own laundry before we were married and it was no big deal to keep on doing it. I’m retired now while my wife still works. I volunteer at a local library and museum. I spend very little time on my volunteer work, but it gives me something to add when people ask, “And what do you do?” I understand that this is a particularly American question. I am told that such a question is considered rude in many countries.

Tom Watson said...

He was a good guy. Gave us samples of his cheesecake. Mrs Junior looked down zee nez at us arriviste (though she had obviously been in the same position 30 years earlier), especially when she saw me doing my own home repair work. plumbing walnut