The 1983 film, Mr. Mom made it a little more okay to be a stay-at-home dad for parents of the 80’s. Still, it’s remarkable how idiotic they managed to portray the diaper-duty-dad, Jack, played by Michael Keaton. At one point, the washer machine was going rogue, the stove was on fire, the baby was eating chili, and the vacuum (named Jaws) was trying to eat the middle child. The movie resounds with the stigmatization that men are inept in the home and that elements of the professional world do not transfer into the realm of child-rearing.
Such stigma propelled by blockbusters like Mr. Mom, Three Men & A Baby, and Junior creates an unfortunate barrier between men and home-life. Even in more recent representations of patriarchs like in Modern Family or Family Guy, the father figures are portrayed as basically incompetent, funny as they are. Consistently, men are depicted in media as idiots, especially in the father role. Though culturally we want engaged fathers, the surging notion that men don’t belong in the home suggests that a career is their only means of worth in this world. As such, working men cling to their jobs, and often look back on the years of child-raising as missed opportunities to establish relationships with those who matter most.
Men Can Be Stay-At-Homes Too…And Still Be Men
Mr. Mom did serve a cultural purpose in its time as it not only introduced a stay-at-home patriarch, but it represented a progressive voice for women. It showed that females are more than capable to achieve success in the business world, and that staying home, raising kids, and maintaining a house is not the easy way out of responsibility. The film does a superb job blurring such lines between gender roles in a manner that especially supports the females of society. However, just as women are more than capable of slaying a career, men are capable of maintaining a household, and the assumption that they are not is harmful to men’s mental health, as we see played out in Mr. Mom.
Jack clearly slipped into a state of depression. He had worn the same flannel for weeks, grew a gnarly beard, and chugged a beer for breakfast while watching a Soap Opera on a ten-inch. He became detached, apathetic, and irritable, clear signs of a depressive state. Indeed, there is a heavy amount of pressure placed on men to be the sole breadwinners of the family, and when that expectation is not met, the sense of “failure” leads a man deeper into darkness. A man believes that he should have a certain career and provide for his family in a specific way. He believes that he shouldn’t even entertain the idea of staying at home, lest his masculinity be threatened. Ultimately, however, manhood is determined not by what a man does but by what he is willing to do for his family (Check out my post, Are You Man Enough? for more on true masculinity). At times, the guy staying home simply makes the most sense.
What Is Best For The Family?
I have had an impressive amount of jobs throughout my eleven years of working. A certain career has never lured me into anchored success, and I wasn’t born with a specific dream in mind like a character in a Disney movie. I hopped from one payroll to another in search of a purpose, and the pressure I placed on myself to buckle down in a job worthy of my manhood became heavy on me. Working hard for family is noble, but I wasn’t doing it for them. I was killing myself, robbing my family of the fullest me, for the sake of society, an ambiguous community full of people I didn’t even know. I allowed outside pressures to dictate my inside life.
According to the Myers-Briggs test, people with the personality-type of my wife are the most likely to make the greatest amount of money throughout their career. Those with my personality? The least. Of course, we are not destined to fulfill such expectations based on our generalized personalities, but it is important to consider that we are each unique, male or female, and every one of us is on a different path of the same journey. It is vital that we take into account, not gender, but each individual and the needs of his/her respective family. For the sake of my mental health, the health of my family, and the life-stage we are in, it is best that I work from home to chip away at a freelance writing career while my wife brings home the bacon. I’m happy to cook it for her. I just hope I don’t burn down the house…
Supermoms v. Mr. Moms
The label Mr. Mom was adopted into culture after the 1983 film. Men sacrificing careers to serve their families as stay-at-homes took on a name that degraded their masculinity, fueled mental health issues, and disregarded efforts and ability. Mothers who stayed at home were called supermoms while dads at home were labeled Mr. Moms. Should we not commend such men who are willing to serve their families? Perhaps, if we did, we would see more involved fathers who are not afraid to engage for fear they’ll be pinned as an idiotic Mr. Mom. Or maybe men would be liberated from the societal pressures that contribute to mental illness. Our children and rising generations certainly don’t need more harmful stigmas; they just need more good dads – men who are willing to do what is best for their families, no matter the cost.