I had lunch yesterday with a friend I had not spoken with in more than 20 years. We filled in the gaps of the past two decades: our marriages, our children, our careers.
She said she was surprised I was not a stay-at-home dad.
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"Because," she replied "it was what you said you always wanted to be."
I remember always wanting children, but I don't remember hoping to marry a good provider who would enable be to stay home and take care of our children full time. I don't remember having said it, but it doesn't surprise me that I did.
I am 42 years old. If I did, as a teenage boy in the eighties, want to focus (and make public) my intentions of becoming a stay-at-home father, how would that have manifested itself?
During the 1950's, a young woman would be encouraged to seek out a 'good provider'. The understanding was, once married, their husband would earn the household's only income, and the woman would housekeep, raise children, and take care of their spouse.
There was nothing unusual about verbalizing those intentions. In fact, expressing an interest in becoming a career woman was largely discouraged.
According to a U.S. Census quoted here by the National At-Home Dad Network, there were 214,000 Stay-at-Home Dads in 2013, more than double the number from the 2000 census.
Might young men begin to voice aspirations of becoming a full-time caregivers to their children?
Today's future fathers have the social freedom women of 50's did not: they are admired whether they choose to have successful careers or also if they commit themselves to the care of their children full time.
How would society react to 17-year-old boys openly admitting that marrying a woman with strong career potential was a high priority? What if they kept their eye out for a good provider?
I am an advocate for hands-on, present, in-the-home parenting; whether by a mom or a dad.
But how would I react if my son said "I don't want to strive to have a professional career; I want to raise my children."
My reaction, in 2014, would be similar whether that point of view was expressed by my son or my daughter. I would encourage them both to have a marketable skill which they can set aside if they choose - and have the luxury to be able - to take care of their children full time.
There are two reasons I don't predict a wave of young men bucking their career search and instead advertising their interest in finding a rich wife. First, society's pendulum is far from having swung away from 1950, and second, the new normal is becoming a household with two working parents rather than a working mother and a stay-at-home father.
According to HealthyChildren.org, a household with two working parents has its benefits:
When both parents are occupied with their jobs for eight or more hours per day, there are obvious effects on the family. On the positive side, the family has an increased income and thus fewer financial stresses. Also, when both parents work, there is a potential for greater equality in the roles of husband and wife. Depending on the nature of the parents' work, as well as the family's values, fathers may assume more responsibility for child care and housework than has traditionally been the case.
So how about that young aspiration of becoming a Stay-at-Home Dad?
Logically, I would never counsel any individual to not work towards skills which can eventually be transformed into a lifelong career. However, if my son - while hopefully excelling at school - said "This is great, but I really home to be a Stay-at-Home Dad." I would consider that a source of pride, perhaps more so even than being half of a successful pair of working parents.
Could it be I don't remember my high school declaration about wanting to be at home with my kids full time because even I didn't take myself seriously?
If my son echo's that sentiment when he is in the 9th grade, I'll be sure to hear him out. The question is: will the rest of the world be ready to listen?