Less than a year ago, my family and I decided to uproot ourselves and move from the South Island to the capital. With the move came a rearrangement of work responsibilities: we dropped from two incomes to one, with me taking the 'breadwinner' role, and my partner staying home with the kids.
You'd expect people to be accepting of stay-at-home dads, and usually they are - but often, people express surprise at our choice. In the seven or so years I've been a parent, I've had two negative comments about being a working mum. My partner has been an at-home dad for a matter of months, and has had an array of remarks.
There was the guy who found out we'd moved to Wellington 'for work', and immediately asked my partner what he did. There was the manager who said the part-time job that interested my partner paid wages too low for a man. There was the woman behind the counter who saw my partner with our toddler, and commented that my partner must be 'giving mum a rest today'. And then, just the other day, there was a guy who saw my partner and son shopping together. This guy said my boy had been 'spending too much time with mum' and should be given a rugby ball.
Not one of these comments was meant unkindly. Sadly, though, they made my partner feel a bit stink. It's not because he thinks that being a stay-at-home parent isn't worthwhile - more, perhaps, that other people may view it this way. It's OK for a woman to do this 'menial' work, but when a bloke does it its surprising, or even vaguely amusing.
The strange thing is, I know a few dads who stay at home with their kids, or share the childcare with their female partners equally. It's not commonplace, but it's hardly unusual either. Perhaps our gender roles are changing faster than our cultural expectations?