Saturday, June 20, 2009

What's in a name? Father? Mother?

We're getting ready to leave in a couple of days and I'm up to my eyeballs in o-miyage (souvenirs).

But I wrote this the other day and didn't get a chance to post it so please read and discuss while I'm away from my computer indefinitely. Did anyone see this article about fatherhood? My husband is currently a stay-at-home dad (or “work at home dad) whichever term you prefer or perhaps depending on the day. Some days he’s actively working on starting his own business, other days, he really just concentrates at parenting responsibilities. Either way, since we’ve been in Japan, he’s done a lot more childcare than ever before and far more than many dads.

I recognize that financial limitations make it more practical in many instances for the guy to work and earn an income, esp. in cultures where women still don’t make as much as men even for the same work (are there cultures where that isn’t the case?!). Anyway, the problem as I see it, is that even if a family is lucky enough to have a situation where the father can occasionally be an involved parent on a weekday, the expectation is that he won’t be around and mom will. This would certainly explain all the "mommy and me" classes and so few "kid and parent" experiences.

There’s a nice little daycare/preschool here in Japan that we might ultimately send Peanut to, but the mothers are expected to pitch in once a month or thereabouts. I’m all about helping out and being a homeroom parent – but I’d like the same opportunity and expectation for fathers. We were informed by my sister-in-law that this would likely make the other mothers very uncomfortable so despite the fact that my Japanese isn’t all that great, I’d be the designated hitter in this situation. Huh. Wouldn’t it be just as nice for my daughter to have her father helping out in her school? And I recognize that while there may be far more stay at home mothers in Japan than there are in the U.S. this isn’t an unheard of situation in the U.S. either. Sad but true.

Frankly, I love that my husband wants to be so involved and it frees up some of my time to do other things. Like go back to work part-time as I’ve mentioned before. It’s an arrangement that in some ways may be unique to us. But I’m sure there are families out there with two dads, or single dads, or divorced dads – families for which the mom can’t be the designated hitter all the time. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate "girls' night out" and some "no men allowed" experiences every now and then. But honestly, the more open-ended arrangement for more parent + child experiences sounds kind of nice if you ask me.

Update: I've finally closed the comments for this post. The spammers were hitting this post hard. If you've come here purposefully - welcome! Please feel free to email me with any thoughts or comments you might have; I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Amen sister! I wish there were more men on the PTA and such. It kind of irks me that the school system is so female orientated. Like you, I don't mind doing that stuff, but it would be nice if it was more "father friendly". Good points!

  2. Bean and I attend a co-op preschool, where the moms attend class with the kiddos. There is only one dad (that I know of) who comes with his daughter. It's super sweet! Personally, I prefer to stay at home and have my DH do evening/weekend parenting, but I do agree that it should be "normal" for dad to be active during the week too/instead.

  3. It's not as bad as all that, my husband's been involved in the kindy\school extra activities from the start, no-one has anything but praise for him! The notices are diligent about calling for 'o-uchi no hito' never 'okaasan'. And now he's the PTA VP.

  4. My husband is a stay at home dad while I work full time. He doesn't really do the "mommy and me" type things, or even library story hour, but he has a friend who is also a stay at home dad who does do those things occasionally, and he hasn't had any sense that he's unwelcome there. In fact, it's the opposite reaction that sometimes bugs me. People are often so quick to praise men for being involved in their children's lives, as though it's optional.

  5. The best thing about being a stay-at-home dad is having the freedom to do what you want with your time. You can spend time with your kids and do other activities.

    BluePixo Entertainment - A place for mom and dad to share topics about parenthood

  6. Using this post as my Blogger Bingo longer than 4 paragraphs in June 2009 entry...

    I know lots of highly involved fathers in the U.S. who aren't treated as an equal parent by the outside world (for example, the school calls mom when the child is sick even though father is the designee). But in Japan, where parenting tends to be even more mother-focused, I can certainly see your husband getting strange looks as the Classroom Mommy.

    I have expat friends who live in Japan, and they get a lot of criticism for the mother choosing to work and the father being so involved (either the father is too involved or the mother is not involved enough, depending on who you ask).

    Both my husband and I will be work-at-home for most of the first year after our babies arrive (if not longer). I look forward to sending him to Mommy and Me -- how many dads have to join before Mommy and Me gets renamed? :)