All of us go about our days wearing different hats as we transit from one role to another.
When at work, we’re the power executive in tailor-made Armani suits. After work we change into our Lululemon sports gear for that weekly HIIT workout. Then afterwards, we’re home in our Alex Mill PJs tucking our kids into bed.
[For the record, I’ve never worn any of those designer togs nor the “hats” each of those roles entailed, safe for tucking kids in bed. But borrowing the multiverse concept from pop culture – thanks Stephen and Wanda – theoretically, those scenarios could all be me in other universes. Right?]
Different roles. Different hats.
I recall many years ago an ex-colleague of mine posted on his Facebook that though, just like me then, he was a full-time lecturer moulding minds, he much preferred being addressed by another title he goes by in the school: a Care Person or CP.
That’s the other role he, me, and all the other lecturers got when specific classes were assigned to us to handle students on all curriculum and non-curriculum matters. No surprise the idea of calling us CP rather than say Advisor or Mentor had more “heart than head” in its ultimate intent.
We were encouraged to show care and concern for our charges; to see them as individuals needing emotional shepherding and support. Not merely another student seated in our classrooms being taught by us, and prepared for tests and exams, before being “shipped out” upon graduation. Then rinse and repeat.
But here’s the thing.
Hats are worn on heads, where they can be seen. Not hearts. So it stands to reason we identify a person by what we can see him or her do or behave, rather than any invisible motivation or intent that drives that person’s outward performance.
I was reflecting on this over the past few weeks as, for one reason or other, things happened that made me rethink what it means to call myself…
…a stay at home dad (SAHD)
Since starting the blog, I’ve made it my mission to speak, among other things, about everything I know about being a stay at home dad (SAHD).
After all, this was an unfamiliar hat I started to wear back in 2018 when I left full-time employment to look after my kids. And so writing helped me make sense of this hat; this role as the man about the house. (If you’re new to my blog, feel free to read that first post I wrote about it.)
Along the way, I also drifted into various gig work, mostly part-time teaching and the occasional writing assignment. All the while remaining mostly at home, especially these past two-and-a-half years thanks to Covid.
In the beginning I felt that calling my hat “SAHD” seemed appropriate, since I was no longer bringing home a regular pay check as the family’s main breadwinner. That’s been my wife’s role since 2018.
But lately, I’ve started to wonder if this hat might no longer rests so comfortably on my head.
I’ve started to ask myself…
…so what, really, is a “stay at home dad”?
According to the “ever-reliable” Wikipedia, stay home dads, well, stay home! They are also known as a full-time father, stay-at-home father, house dad, househusband, or house-spouse.
The point seems clear. Such a man stays in the house 24/7 and is identified as the man who takes care of everything at home. From caring for the kids full-time to taking care of the household, including maintenance and repairs.
In short, the permanent DIY guy at the family’s beck and call.
So going by that definition, I would as a SAHD have to cook, clean, chauffeur, and care. I’m the fixer-upper guy around the house when anything breaks down. I stay on top of my kids’ schoolwork, schedule and overall well-being. I ensure a well-stocked fridge and clean, well-ironed togs in every cabinet and wardrobe in the house. And I make sure there’s a scrumptious dinner on the table every evening awaiting the rest of the family when they return home.
In short, I’m the domestic demi-god!
Well, if those visible actions I just laundry-listed are the very definition of who a SAHD is supposed to be, then I’ve clearly been a fraud parading myself as one on this blog these past four years!
Before you throw at me sticks and stones to break my bones, allow me to ask this question…
…Is being a SAHD more about “action or intent”?
About a month ago, I was interviewed on video by a local daily. It was about my role as a stay home dad and the issue of masculinity in the 21st century.
This happened shortly after several meaningful conversations I had with various men about our lives and daily struggles.
And then a few days ago, I was in a phone chat with an editor I didn’t know about my proposed book-length memoir. In that chat, the question of who I was and my role as a SAHD popped up.
For some reason, I felt myself cornered by that editor to defend my SAHD role. All because, technically, I didn’t check most of the boxes in that laundry list I mentioned earlier. Plus, I’m now in the midst of several short-term teaching contracts like any diligent gig worker in this modern economy.
Somehow, I was made to feel I could no longer lay claim to this title of SAHD anymore. Perhaps it’s high time to hang up this hat.
Or is it?
When it comes to a person’s identity, do actions matter more than intent? Or is that a false dichotomy I just set up?
Let me mull over this issue some more and hopefully return with more insights in the near future.