Since science has never, ever been used to justify treating people badly, it's important that us women seize the fresh opportunity upon us to capitalize on new studies showing that a man's testosterone level drops when he becomes a father. There's never been a better time than in your man's current weakened, non-roving-eye state to manipulate him into becoming the good little woman you always thought he could be.
So ladies, sit him down, tell him it's time for a come-to-Jesus, and explain to him all the benefits — not to mention pride he'll feel — in being the one who "takes one for the team" this time by staying home to raise the kid. He'll try to resist, but will find his biceps have suddenly deflated, his once thoroughbred-like legs have turned unwieldy and his formerly robust ability to deflect your every nagging argument has been replaced by a powerless sense of welling-up tears. Hot ones!
Sure, no one bats a heavily-sunglassed eye anymore when you mention your dude is a stay-at-home dad, such progress that we've made, but you do still find yourself on the receiving end of the occasional twitching brow, as if you're being summarily looked over for signs of what exactly it is on his or your part that may have led to this so-called progressive arrangement. Here's what they might be thinking:
Oh, he just couldn't get a job.
Newsflash: The economy is in the outhouse, women outnumber men in college and the idea of a job that supports you, gal or guy, through life with a pension on top is about as solid a bet as hearing Michelle Bachmann correctly define superstring theory. Guess what? Dudes aren't sure what a satisfying career looks like these days any more than broads are, and decades of feminist mothers and increasingly less-distant fathers have produced a breed of man who actually wants to be involved in his kid's life. And one who, by the way, thinks "involved" means "actually integral to the development of" and not, "around sometimes on Saturday for lunch."
He'll be the laughingstock of all his buds.
Sure he will. Until they call him up and find out he's actually hanging out at noon having a beer and building out elaborate castles made of cardboard bricks and putting together tricycles while they are still working at Sir Pizza making $7 an hour.
He won't take care of the baby as well as you.
In some ways, a man has to do twice the work to be half as good as a baby's mother (gee, sound familiar?). It's true, he can't always be the insta-comfort mommy can be, at least in the beginning, nor can he, say, whip out a boob to nurse when she's sick. But this motivates most men to find creative solutions to parenting problems, like making up twice the number of silly songs off the top, re-reading Bunny Eats Lunch till their voices go hoarse or figuring out how to carry a squealing baby in a stroller up two flights of stairs while also carrying three bags of groceries — and two coffees.
He won't clean the house as well.
OK, fair enough. It's an epidemic, amirite ladies? I can't count how many theoretically adult men I've known who seem to have no idea that cleaning a kitchen involves actually wiping off the counter or sweeping the floor. This one takes a helluva lot more than lower testosterone to conquer, such as it often is due to a lifelong lack of training (ahem, looking at you, mothers of sons everywhere). But the coddling must end, and there's no better goddamn time than goddamn now to give a man a goddamn tutorial and tell him how to clean a goddamn house like a goddamn adult. Take one for the team, indeed. Zero tolerance on this one, ladies! No man is allowed to call himself an adult who cannot properly clean a bathroom. Wahhhh, sounds like I'm nagging? Do. Not. Care. Grow. Up.
He'll just sit around doing nothing.
Contrary to popular stereotypes and even current, well-reviewed TV sitcoms about parenting, this is precisely when he WON'T be as likely to waste the day playing video games, browsing the Sizzler Steakhouse buffet of online porn or lamenting the state of his unfinished lifelong project, An Amateur Investigation Into How Everything in the Universe Works. For one, surprise! Babies take WAY more work than that idealized state of loafing ever allows. For two, cleaning is a quantifiable measurable task! For three, it's time to stop this dumbing down of the American male and give him actual credit for being a person, a whole, complex person. Or at least three-quarters of a complex person and one-quarter emotional fugitive. They still need our help!
He'll lose valuable footing in the workplace.
What workplace? What footing!?! Hard to have much footing in quicksand, my friend. In my admittedly anecdotal experience, a year-long absence for my husband as a stay-at-home dad was regarded with unequivocal understanding - not to mention admiration at his amped-up multitasking and organizational skills - upon his return to the working world, which is more than plenty of women can say. True, he was hired at his new job by women, but, last I checked, we're not going anywhere.
He'll feel threatened that you're the one earning all the dough.
You know what, reportedly a lot of men do NOT feel this way at all and are proud of their wives and girlfriends and baby mamas for pulling it in on this front. Of course, there are the other types of men, the type who will feel threatened, and, you know, what? So what. He can sulk about it until right about dinnertime, when he'll be serving up a fresh hot meal earned by YOUR paycheck. But seriously, it's all gonna be OK, mama's gonna learn to fix the garbage disposal, too. Maybe you'll talk it over and realize the times they are all a' tire-changin, and with that comes the space for everyone to be a little more fleshed-out and real and all that crap.
Everything will be harder for him.
Sure, it's an adjustment period, but no moreso than it is for any new mother, who often battles healing and postpartum hormonal hell in addition to parenting challenges when she's the one at home. Out on the town, my husband soon realized that men and women alike were eager to help him navigate the grocery store, coffee shop or post office, sometimes to the point that it was actually insulting at how often they seemed to think he needed a hand. Grandma types in particular were relentless in telling him when the baby wasn't properly dressed or needed more or fewer layers. To say nothing of all those single women who suddenly eyed him with more interest the second they saw a sweet little baby in tow. Thank Science he's practically castrated hormonally right now, and wouldn't even have the testosterone to do anything about their advances even if he wanted to. Uh, right?
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her husband cleans like a fully formed human.
Image by Steve Dressler.