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On the eve of Mother's Day weekend, I just want to bring up the altering of parental roles.

People give me strange looks in the grocery store. Or at least I think they do. I think they think I'm talking to them or maybe myself because as I go down the aisles I'm constantly jabbering away. But not to myself.

There's always this little boy in the cart, staring back at me. Yeah. That's right. I'm s stay at home dad. You got a problem with that?

There's more and more of us. We are legion. And as I shop I talk at my son:

"Today we need rice. Do you like rice?"

"Yeah...like rice, da-dee. Mmm...yu-mee rice."

"Good. Good. Rice is good. And cheap. Holy smokes. This rice is not cheap. Let's get some different rice."

"Yeah...di-frint rice."

"Abso-freakin-lutely. Let's get this rice, yeah, that's more like it. Should we get some apples?"

"Yeah...geTT apples."

"Okay. Apples."

Stay at home dads are on the rise.

And I'm one of 'em. I work from home and watch my 6 year old and 2 year old.

And it's becoming increasingly normal.

Nearly half of pre-schoolers receive care from another relative other than the mother, according to the Census bureau...and up to 25% of those kids receive care from their fathers during the day.

The series of tables, Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005, showed that among the 11.3 million children younger than 5 whose mothers were employed, 30 percent were cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent during their mother’s working hours. A slightly greater percentage spent time in an organized care facility, such as a day care center, nursery or preschool. Meanwhile, 25 percent received care from their fathers, 3 percent from siblings and 8 percent from other relatives when mothers went to work.

[snip]

Preschoolers whose mothers worked a night or evening shift were more likely to have their father as a child care provider than those whose mothers worked day shifts (39 percent and 18 percent, respectively).

And that info is from 2005...PRE-recession before men were the ones losing the most jobs.

Now, you know me...you know I'm loathe to suggest that recession and the economic suffering, that the crushing of the middle class is a good thing by any stretch of the imagination.

But there is a fundamental shift in the family structure going on right now and as generations go on it's is bound to create a fundamental shift in how our children view and understand the concept of family...and there will be a long term change in how their children, and their children's chidlren will understand the concept of family.

My son feels it's natural that I make him breakfast. Wash his clothes. Put beans and rice and beef stock in the crock pot in the morning. Tend to him when he scrapes his knee. Inspect bumps and bruises and complaints of pain.

Daddy stays home during the day and watches the boys, while mommy gets up, kisses everybody goodbye, and goes to work on her moped (which takes only $2 in gas per week!)  

A friend of mine is in a similar boat, but he works from home with his wife as a partner. They're both home. All the time. Jobs have been scarce for well over a decade and people eventually create their own businesses...there's often only a semantic difference between "unemployed" and "self employed."  Their son will grow up not knowing the concept of a mother in the home and a father off at work.

The traditional, middle class family as I have known it. As my father has known it. As my grandfather has known it...it's fading away. It has met what could be its last generation.

And I guess I feel like that's a good thing. Overall.

Men can be nurturing. Loving. Warm. Good with children.

It's a good thing that men can feel increasingly safe to be nurturing people.

Thought I'm not as positive about the cause of this positive shift. If it's a choice for the man to be the home keeper and child raiser, that's fantastic.  But more often than not, I feel, it's not a choice as much as a necessity.

I feel it's a rare positive side effect of an attempt to dismantle the middle class. One person can no longer get a job and reliably support a family. Rather, the family either has both people working full time to make ends meet, or the family relies on whichever parent happens to have the greatest earning potential because there's no such thing as reliably finding a job that gives you Enough to make a living.

And it's frustrating.

With the boys, it's frustrating. And as frustrating as it is, I wouldn't go back in time and un-do ANY of it, even if I could.

It's definitely a new world, though. Not all bad.

Originally posted to Muskegon Critic on Fri May 07, 2010 at 11:30 PM PDT.

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