Stay At Home Dads – Reversing Traditional Roles

Swankie Mafoko

It’s been a while since I read a book that I couldn’t put down; in most cases I can read a book in record time and move swiftly to the next one. However, Zukiswa Wanner’s – Men of the South had me wanting to take my time just so I could spend an extra second in this beautifully illustrated world where gender roles are questioned and challenged, and domestic households just aren’t what they were at beginning of time.

An issue that one encounters in this book is that of the “stay-at-home dad” or commonly referred to as the “House Husband”.  In a world where men are expected or assumed to be the breadwinners in their households, how well is the concept of stay-at-home dads being embraced?

A House Husband refers to a father who is the main caregiver of the children and is the homemaker of the household. As history would have it, women have always worn the sashays with the titles ‘care-giver, nurturer and home-maker’ engraved on them, with the men proudly taking on the titles ‘provider and protector’. However, as family structures have evolved, the practice of being a stay-at-home dad has become more common and has been the reason for many men being isolated and ostracized in society. In some regions of the world the stay-at-home dad remains culturally unacceptable.

The act and recognition of masculinity amongst the male community is something taken very seriously. However, the reversal of roles has caused the clear lines that previously defined masculinity to be blurred. Men are no longer being seen as providers, and I cannot help but be curious as to how then this changes the relationship dynamic between man and wife. Is there an added pressure that comes from this dynamic, or has the world simply evolved so much that modern relationships where women are seen to “wear the pants” exist without conflict?

I personally believe that a lot of work was done by women liberation movements to ensure that women did not remain bare-foot and pregnant figures stuck in the kitchen, but were also allowed the freedom to be who they wanted to be- even if that meant being the breadwinner of a household. Thus, spending time ostracizing men because of their choice to remain at home and raise their children would be undoing all the work put in by these various movements.

Unfortunately, we still live in a society where masculinity is a performed act based on what is seen on the outside, and perhaps as society develops and changes, people’s perceptions of the roles that have been assigned to different genders should change as well.

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