The perils of being a kept spouse
Awesome blogger/writer/human Miri Mogilevsky has a wonderful article at The Daily Dot entitled “4 ignorant delusions people have about feminism” that you should go read right now. Really… GO READ. I’ll wait. (doo de doo doo doo de doo….doo de doo doo doop de doo doo doo doo…)
Back? Did you read the whole thing? Do I have to check with the NSA to make sure you aren’t cheating? Good, then we can proceed. I wanted to talk about something from point # 4 on Miri’s list “Feminism is not anti-motherhood” because some of it really resonated with a some of the issues bouncing around the empty, cavernous expanses of my messed up head.
In an ideal feminist world, there could absolutely still be stay-at-home mothers (and stay-at-home fathers). Except they’d also have access to affordable or free prenatal care and childcare, and their husbands would have paid paternity leave so that they can spend more time with a new baby. (Did you know that 25 countries mandate paid paternity leave, but the United States does not? It’s also the only one out of 39 countries that doesn’t even mandate paid maternity leave.)
If the father loses his job or becomes sick or disabled and unable to work, there would be adequate resources available to help families make it through. In that world, stay-at-home moms would also command as much respect as working dads, because we would know that what they do is every bit as important and vital as working outside the home. Childcare and housekeeping wouldn’t be seen as “women’s work.”
Maybe some perceive feminists as hostile to the idea of stay-at-home motherhood because they warn women of the potential downsides of making that choice. And there are downsides. If your spouse is no longer able to support you, you may face significant difficulty, because many years out of the job market and few personal savings don’t make for excellent career prospects. Women should know the risks of choosing to stop working.
The last paragraph really struck me, because I’m living it right now. I’m not just a SAHD, I’m a house husband, or “kept man” if you will. I’ve been out of the job market for over a decade at this point. With the closing of the last bookstore I worked at my entire work history is with companies that no longer exist. Even my photography degree is hopelessly obsolete, I know how to process and print color negative film, about as useless a skill as you can get in the age of digital cameras. If something (Zod forbid) were to happen to The Girl I would be shit out of luck in so many ways. Luckily my wife was raised by an economist. She knows the ins and outs of money in ways that mystify me. I’ve been assured that there are plans in place in case of the worst happening.
Still, there is an emotional burden to being a dependent spouse. Sudden expenses can be stressful. We had to have my car towed to the mechanic’s recently to replace the tires (one of which was flat). That cascaded into a brake job that couldn’t be avoided and an eventual $800 bill. Now we are fairly well off, we are lucky that way, and I’m certain that there will be no
missed meals due to my Forester getting new shoes. But still, eight hundred dollars… there is literally nothing I can do right now short of selling an organ/child on the black market to come up with that much liquid cash on my own. And that can be a really helpless feeling. Especially in a society that still looks down on men who are bread makers as opposed to bread winners. Now some might say that that is just my hang up, something I need to deal with on my own. And my shrink would probably agree. But I don’t think we can chalk this feeling up to simply my insecurities. There’s more at work here.
One of the reasons I write about Stay at Home Dad issues a lot is that I believe that making us more visible and accepted is an important part of achieving the kind of equity of respect that Miri points out in the second paragraph. We need to show people that childcare and housekeeping are valuable contributions to society, no matter who is doing the cooking and cleaning. We need to have the freedom to arrange our families in the way that best suits each family members skills and strengths as well as acknowledging each family members needs and potential weaknesses. And we have to recognize that part of creating that freedom requires cooperation on the scale of government, sorry libertarians but people across the economic spectrum deserve the right to arrange their families as best suits their situations. That means government programs to address the income inequalities that force parents into two or three jobs. That means access to childcare and health care and birth control. It means expanding marriage rights to all couples, or even beyond that to other polyamorous arrangements. All that bleeding heart liberal crap, that’s the program folks.
We are making progress, the fact that my family exists at all is a sign of progress. But we could progress with a little more alacrity
Image Credits: Blotz Photo Arts