I wrote this piece for the GoodMenProject.com and I wanted to share it with the fathers and mothers of Santa Monica because it has sparked a conversation on GMP and I’ll be interested in seeing what happens here.
Last month I interviewed Lisa Hickey, publisher of the GoodMenProject.com for my Men’s Family Law podcast. The interview focused on the ways in which our society has changed over the past few decades.
As is often the case after I interview someone, I keep thinking about what we discussed. During the interview we chatted about how the gay rights movement and shows like “Modern Family” have made it more acceptable for men to be stay-at-home dads, but as I kept mulling things over I realized that was only part of the driving force. There was more, and it came from an unlikely source – feminists.
Today, men are making the choices made possible by the feminist movement. As a gay divorce lawyer fighting for fathers’ rights in a society that is still trying to figure out what being a man in the 21st century means, I can tell you there is a sea change in the way that men are being perceived and what is acceptable, but more importantly what is supported by the courts.
When women started demanding an equal role in the workforce and equal pay, they were faced with the choice of being a stay-at-home mom, or a career woman. At first, the career woman was not a popular, or even accepted choice. But time and experience have changed society’s perceptions and expectations.
Today, men across the country are the unintended beneficiaries of the feminist movement. Men are now facing the same decisions that women face: be a stay-at-home parent or be a career person? It’s still more socially acceptable to be a career man, and oftentimes more profitable for the family since women still have a pay gap. However, more men are owning their desire to be a stay-at-home dad and recognizing the benefits to themselves and their children from having dad around more.
I’m not a dad, but I fight for fathers to get more time with their children and oftentimes it is a losing battle. The losing battles are very emotionally draining for me. I want to see more men take a larger and more active role in their children’s lives and the courts and society do their best to make that difficult. From questioning the masculinity of a man who wants to stay home, to the gender bias that women are “just better” as parents, society sets men up to take a less active role in their children’s lives.
This year, a friend of mine had a daughter in March. He’s lucky in that he’s financially able to not work if he so chooses. He was offered a high-paying, prestigious position with an up-and-coming company. He was facing the dilemma that many women today, and a few men are: work, or stay at home?
It was a hard choice for him, but he decided he’d rather be a stay-at-home dad and be an emotional provider for his daughter at this crucial time in her life. I can only describe my reaction to his decision as glee. I was so happy for him and his ability to move beyond the tried and true boundaries of what it means to be a husband and father in America. He’s on the cutting edge of manhood today.
I was so proud of him for putting his family first in a way that would have been easy to avoid. Taking the high-paying job would have been lucrative and no one would look down on him. But quite a few people would question his decision to stay home.
Thankfully, the Santa Monica men’s group we’re part of wasn’t one of them. The reaction that he received and the support that he received tells me that the work I do, as painful and draining as it can be, is important. Not just for the fathers I represent but for the world in which we live.
The role of men in child-rearing is changing dramatically, and it’s because some men are willing to stand up and say they want to be the stay-at-home parent, and that will make a huge difference in the world we live in a decade or two from now.
It’s pretty funny to me that I’m writing this, as I’m often told that I hate women. Being a gay man fighting for men’s rights I suppose that comes with the territory, but the reality is that I’m just continuing the fight of Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem, and the many women who worked for gender equality throughout the ages.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.