Take your mind back to the workplace of the 60’s. Walk down the street, into the average office, down the average hallway.
What do you see? A sea of men.
Not a woman in sight.
Perhaps at the time it didn’t seem so strange, it was just the way things were. There was no choice, there was no expectation of equality. It must have been incredibly frustrating back then, to be a man.
Society gave you but one option in life, a road devoid of forks: each morning you put on a white shirt, a silk noose and a hot jacket, maybe even a vest. You would be expected to trot off before the sun rose, sit on a crowded train with your Walkman™ playing Meatloaf, to a place you hated, to sit for an eternity and two packs of cigarettes, one eye on the clock all the while. When the sun sunk below the horizon you’d head home, listening to Cats in the Cradle on your Discman™, shedding a solitary tear, before arriving home to a lukewarm dinner that you must pretend to appreciate and enjoy, say a few words to your children, who you could swear are taller than when you saw them 24 hours ago, before collapsing into your bed exhausted, knowing that tomorrow will be no different.
Stephen Hawking captured it well at the time: “the problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
In the quiet moments, you might dare to dream of a world where you don’t have to do this every day. Where another adult member of the household would be the one who is forced onto this horrid circuit they call a career.
You might dream of watching your children grow up, nappies and crying and first steps and first words. You may dream of having hobbies, making furniture in the garage, painting nudes at the nursing home, ice sculpting.
But internally you will accept with sorrow that this life is out of reach for you.
Now is not your time.
You will hope that your sons, or perhaps their sons, will be blessed with the same opportunities that are, in your time, only a reality for women.
Fast forward to 2018.
The world has seen great strides in gender equality. It’s no longer the sole role of the father to be the breadwinner. For many families, the mother too has the opportunity to bring home the bacon if she so desires.
At first, women weren’t paid as much because they didn’t have the practice at earning money. They have improved slowly but surely and now can earn the same as men, if they put their mind to it.
But hold on a moment, have we really come so far?
Sure, the law says that we have equality, on paper it would seem as though men have every opportunity that women do — to have a career or not to have a career.
Some even have the gall to suggest that since women fail to earn as much as men, this somehow indicates that men have it better — even though they’re bringing home the money for the whole family (bah!).
The hard truth is, the options for women have doubled, but all these decades later, a man still doesn’t have the option of being a househusband. Not without facing the stank eye from society.
And even though such sentiments may never be spoken, a mother who is the sole-worker in a family will feel as though she does all the work while the father stays at home “doing nothing”.
It’s no wonder that such families — with a working wife and a househusband — are 60% more likely to end in divorce.
I made that statistic up, but it sounds real, doesn’t it?
It’s a tough nut to crack: how do you change the unconscious expectations of an entire society?
And even after the flames of societal expectations have been extinguished, the embers of shame will burn deep within the man who wishes for nothing more than to spend time with his children and take to ice blocks with a chainsaw.
We need nothing less than a revolution.
It must start with a few proud men. Then a few more. Then a few more.
You may not like it, men, but it’s up to you to turn this bus around, you can’t expect women to do it for you.
You must believe that it’s OK for you to raise your desires with your wife. Have a frank conversation. Don’t be afraid. If she loves you, she will support you.
And when you tell your male friends that you’re a househusband, they will mock you (oh! will they mock you) but you must remember, what you’re doing is bigger than just you.
You’re a martyr, your suffering and shame and public ridicule will embolden future men to feel it’s OK to be a househusband. To have the same opportunities to watch Ellen and drink chardonnay at 4 in the afternoon. To experience the joys of cooking — oh! to be able to cook dinner in your pyjamas while others slave away working for the man (and the woman!).
So my message to all men is: don’t stop. Don’t give up the fight.
Stand up. Stand up for your rights.