I shop at Urban Outfitters with my dad. Not because my mom isn't around or because I have no other choice, but simply because. He helps me find clothes, and this is far from the first time; it's just another day for my dad. Yet, as we walk around the store, the stares of others pile upon our backs.
Yes, my mom is still around and present in my life. No, she is not too caught up in her work to have time for me. The roles are just reversed. It's what works for our family and many others.
Several months before I was born, my dad left his job as a sportscaster to become a stay-at-home dad. With a wife who was quickly rising in the field of pediatrics, my dad saw the opportunity to pursue a different avenue. He left one passion and began to rebuild his professional identity elsewhere.
While my dad's initial decision to become a stay-at-home dad in the late '90s was more nuanced, this decision has slowly become more commonplace. From 1989 to 2012, the number of stay-at-home dads roughly doubled. In a world where gender roles and stereotypes are slowly dissolving, my dad tested the waters early on with his change of profession. But even with the progression of time, many of the innate prejudices have persisted.
A couple of weeks ago, my dad checked out at the grocery store during one of his weekly shopping trips for groceries. While this was just another one of the things to do on his long list and nothing out of the norm, the response of cashier to seeing a man shopping for his family is still somewhat startling considering that we are now living in the year 2016.
“Wow, you must be the best husband ever to shop for your wife. Were you able to find everything OK? She must really appreciate you doing this for her.” The last part of this statement is correct. My mom does appreciate every little thing my dad does for her.
But the first part is an assumption that continues to persist. Just as my mom goes to work every morning, so does my dad. This is part of his job. He goes and buys our groceries, along with many other duties. Buying groceries doesn't have to be the mom's job.
While my last statement may sound obvious and heavily biased in favor of the destruction of “gender roles,” it is simply a statement and observation of what is being assumed regarding the capabilities of men.
Take this Clorox commercial for example.
The mom comes home to a dad who has strewn mess upon mess all over their home. He is portrayed as lacking the proper abilities to responsibly manage for their child while his wife is out of the house.
This commercial only furthers the stigma that men can't provide and take care of their family/children on their own. The single mom is heavily praised in today's times. She should be. But how often do we hear about the “heroic” nature of the single dad?
Evolutionary predispositions lead us to believe that the mother is the only true nurturer. But with improvements in accepting the LGBTQ+ community and many others, why has the gender division and assumptions regarding what each is capable of persisted? It is time to realize that we can change this evolutionary predisposition. Progress and allow your mindset to adapt to current times.
Do women's rights need improvement? Absolutely. My championing against our unconscious stigmas regarding the role of men has nothing to do with what I feel regarding the role of women. My voice for this issue empowers men, but nonetheless aims to take nothing away from women.
While we have empowered women and their ideas which is much deserved, we have, in the process, forgotten that men are equally capable. My dad is not lost as he shops in the grocery store or helps his daughter buy clothing. These issues are smaller and obviously not the type to be debated over in Congress, but they are a part of a larger issue. Our mindfulness of our unconscious mentality must be attended to.