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We Need To Change the Way We Talk About Stay-at-Home Dads

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Isabella Davis

2 months ago | 2 min read


If you are a stay-at-home dad, you will likely come upon terrible jokes.
Normally, they are just trite, going on about how you are "playing dad"
or providing daddy-day care. But other times, friends or affiliates
will use friendly tones to degrade you, referring to the SAHD as a house
husband with a slight smirk, as if it was the ultimate zinger.


I know this because I'm one of those dads.


At points in my at-home dad journey, it felt like I was getting
bombarded with tired jokes daily. I'd be walking my son in his stroller
and a stranger would feed me over-the-top compliments about how great it
was to see an involved dad, as if fathers were all expected to be
worthless. Then they'd tack on a wisecrack about me being Mr. Mom. Other
days, I'd be having pleasant conversations with male buds, and when
they were making plans to hang out in the future, they'd casually
snicker that I probably had to babysit the kids again.


Let's finally retire these gags. The number of dads staying home with their children has been on the rise. According to the
Pew Research Center,
16% of stay-at-home parents were fathers in 2012, compared to 10% in
1989—and 21% of them say the main reason they decided to stay at home is
to take care of their home or family.


So why are these harmful jokes still commonplace—even among men themselves?

Stay-at-Home-Dads Need Playground Friends Too

Why Jokes About Stay-at-Home Dads Still Linger


"We're just doing tradition," says Tony Porter, author, educator, and the chief executive officer of
A Call to Men,
an organization that promotes healthy, respectful manhood. "Telling
jokes to maintain male domination is what we do, that's been passed on
down. We didn't even make up the jokes that we tell."


It's so ingrained in our culture that many women participate in these
tired wisecracks, too, never questioning why. One of my most
groan-worthy experiences occurred when I was chatting with an older
female friend who innocently referred to me as Mrs. Doubtfire, but I
rolled my eyes immediately. Her seemingly harmless joke was steeped in
dated stereotypes that reinforced oppressive societal norms.


The collective socialization of manhood teaches that masculinity is
defined by men distancing themselves from anything deemed feminine, says
Porter. That includes being nurturing, loving, kind, gentle, tender,
caring, patient, tolerant. "What are we saying about ourselves as men?"
he asks.


Another reason for these ongoing jokes? "Domestic labor has been
historically undervalued, not even counted as productivity by most
economic measures," says Jordan Shapiro, Ph.D., an assistant professor
at Temple University with a background in archetypal psychology and
phenomenology and the author of the book
Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad.
"Now that it is becoming more common for men to take on more, and
sometimes the bulk, of the child care and other household duties, the
misogynist status quo is threatened. Put bluntly, if men do it, we can't
justify inequality with blatant sexism because it's not just women's
work anymore. Therefore, it's safe to assume that the bad-jokes, taunts,
and insults hurled at stay-at-home dads serve, at least in part, to
defend and fortify a system of economic oppression. It's easier to
ridicule dads than it is to rethink the entire foundation of global
economic production."

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