My father was a stay-at-home dad, and it shaped how I view the world

Growing up, I know that I took my home life for granted. It’s true that my family was far from perfect. But still, I had no idea until I was older how much tougher my peers had it. Many of my friends grew up in households with either a single parent or their parents were divorced. But on a grander scale, I saw that most of my friends didn’t feel particularly close to their parents, especially their dads.

That was not my life. I was and still am close to both my parents. When I was 11, my dad made a decision. Both he and my mom were working full time and my brothers and I were at a day care after school. My little brother was only seven at the time and my dad felt like it was important that someone be home with us. After careful consideration, my dad left his job and became a stay-at-home dad.

After he left his job, my dad’s presence in my life became more pronounced. My dad was always crazy about movies and after he quit, my at-home film class began in full force. I was introduced to all sorts of movies: delightful, funny ones as well as somber, difficult ones. It was routine in my house to have a full analytical discussion after we watched something.

And in a way, that practice of discussing and analyzing movies related to all aspects of my life. I always felt comfortable telling my dad what I going through and he always seemed to have the answers, or at least he did a good job pretending to. On more than one occasion during my childhood, I remember telling a parent or teacher that I had a stay-at-home dad. It was never in an obvious way, but I noticed their judgement and eye rolls. For some reason, it was okay for a mom to stay at home with the kids, but when the roles were reversed, it was weird.

I think it’s because we’re taught early in life about gender roles. Part of that message includes the idea that men are supposed to be the breadwinners. We’re taught to view the world in that way. Now, obviously, our society has changed a lot in this way over the last few decades. But, still, it’s difficult not to make judgements based on these gender stereotypes.

In 2014, Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations, launching her gender equality initiative called HeForShe. In it, she said, “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.” Since this was something I routinely saw in my childhood, her words were comforting. Someone else noticed. It seemed crazy to me that society valued my father’s role in my life less than my mother’s because he was a man. His presence in my teenage years had a huge impact on the person I became as an adult.

Emma also spoke about how fortunate she was to have people in her life who didn’t treat her differently because she was a girl, saying, “They [her mentors and parents] may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are changing the world today.” My dad is one of those inadvertent feminists. He taught me good values and how to stand up for myself. He always encouraged me and never made me think I couldn’t accomplish anything I wanted to. His passion for film and storytelling led to my deciding to pursue a career in writing.

President Harry Truman was once asked how he felt about his father being a failure. His father had struggled through many failed business ventures. Harry responded, “How can my father have been a failure when his son is President of the United States?” While my dad was not the one supporting the family in my teenage years, his influence on my life and person cannot be measured.

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