Why aren’t there more Asian stay-at-home- dads?

According to new figures released today, there has been rise in the number of stay- at- home dads. Official employment statistics reveal that there are now 227,000 men in the UK staying at home to look after the children- that equates to ten per cent of the total number of people who look after children full- time.

Experts claim this is due to the economic downturn causing more and more redundancies, particularly in male-dominated sectors such as banking. They claim that men are either failing to find new employment or simply deciding that it makes more financial sense for their wife to be the main salary earner while they stay at home with the children.

When I read the story in this morning’s Telegraph, I thought how wonderful to see the beginnings of a cultural shift in the area of full- time childcare.  I gave up work almost four years ago to be a full- time mum and I still find myself saying having to apologise for this or explain what I do with my time: when I tell people of my day job, it’s always quickly followed by “but I’m also a freelance journalist”, and my listener always looks a little more at ease, that I’m not just out lunching all day- as if full- time childcare is that easy or that fun. (It can be, but it’s also tiring, lonely and hard work, but that’s a separate post.)

While reading through the Telegraph’s write-up, I noticed the photo that goes with it- and then it clicked. It shows a white dad and a white baby.  The figures only tell half the story. This rise in full-time fatherhood- is this mainly amongst English middle-class families?

My brother was made redundant last summer. This is in itself was taboo, that- shock horror- he had lost his job. It flew in the face of his status as the head of the household, the bread winner. Thankfully he found something else very quickly and all was right in the world again. The idea that he would send his wife out to support the family was never ever considered. My parents would never allow it and her parents, well they would see it as he was doing a disservice to their marriage vows.

In the Asian culture, still today, there hasn’t been a blurring of the gender roles. Men are the bread winners, women raise the children. Sure, women are ‘allowed’ to do something on the side, continuing a career is not entirely frowned upon. But where there are children, it is still considered her responsibility, her duty in life to be the primary care-giver.

I simply cannot imagine an Asian family where it would be acceptable for the husband to stay at home with the children while the wife worked full time. I’m not saying this is right- followers of my blog will know I’m all about the mixing up of traditions and the blurring of cultural expectation. My husband and I often joke about swapping our day jobs- if it made financial sense we’d seriously consider it. (Oh if only my writing made me enough money to live on!)

But frankly, in the setting of a traditional British Asian family, if the man stayed at home, our culture would think there is something wrong with him. The Telegraph article points out that there is still a taboo in mainstream British society around female bread- winners and stay- at- home dads, saying that “it’s something that’s kept quiet or treated as a bit embarrassing”. How much more would this be the case amongst British Asians?

I’d love to be proved wrong! Are there any of you where the traditional gender roles have been swapped?

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7 thoughts on “Why aren’t there more Asian stay-at-home- dads?

  1. I live in Midwestern America. I guess I was “blurring” gender roles in the early 90’s, when my second daughter was born. Entering into my second marriage at the young age of 23 with a 5 year old daughter, my “then” husband chose to stay home and raise my oldest daughter. It just didn’t make sense for him to go to work when dependable childcare was too expensive and I made more money than he did. I ran an automotive repair shop (again, bending gender roles) and my husband was a “chef in training”. It took awhile to get used to but eventually my husband became the perfect “Mr. Mom” and house husband. He even cooked, did laundry and cleaned! Woo Hoo! lol This went on until after I delivered my second daughter. Eventually, my husband did go back into the work force and he was able to make more money than I could. It was VERY hard for me to get used to staying at home with my children. I think I liked it better when our roles were reversed. Funny thing is that my husband did too! He often said how he wishes he could stay home with the girls again.

    Now, my own 4 children are raised and I stay home and help with my brother’s girls. My brother had his second family (meaning he also has a 20 year old who’s in college and out on her own) in his 40’s. He has a 3 year old and 7 month old. His 44 year old wife is in the medical field and makes far too much money to justify her quitting her job. My brother was a master mechanic and made quite a bit in his own right. They made the decision that he would quit his job to be with the little girls. It just makes more sense. HE doesn’t enjoy it like my husband did and he’s counting the days until he can go back to work. I’ve decided to stay at home and take care of my nieces when that day comes. Until then… my brother does NOT cook or clean (much). He tries but he’s just not that good at it. lol

    You’re right though… I’m seeing more and more gender role swapping these days and I’m EXTREMELY proud of the men who aren’t afraid to stay with their children when the situation calls for it:-) GOOD post!

    • Oh I so agree- there is a dad at my daughter’s nursery who is full-time at home with his two girls while his wife works and I think its great, very admirable. He chats to all us mums at the gates and seems very comfortable with his role. It’s great to see the bending of roles and blurring of lines, as you’ve put it. It will/would be great when society is comfortable enough too with it that it ceases to be a big deal!

      • I hear you. I think women are very comfortable with it but my brother still catches a lot of slack from his male friends and other men. It seems like other men just don’t understand why he would CHOOSE to stay with his daughters. I applaud him for what he’s doing:-) Have a fantastic day!

  2. I agree, while I don’t see what is the big deal in role swapping, I totally don’t see that happening in an Indian household! Can you believe how the society in India will react! Hahaha it will be fun to see their reaction! 🙂 But on a serious note, that was a well written post.

  3. Reading this post made me realise how so many concepts are hardwired in a lot of minds(like mine) and we don’t even realise the same. I am an Indian, and I think, it would be very unacceptable for the traditional indian mentality to accept the “swapping of roles”. I find nothing weird in swapping the roles. Funny how we are trapped in so many restraints when we think. Each time I read something like this post, I urge myself to unclutter my mind. 🙂

  4. Thanks Avani, I’m so glad this post spoke to you. You’re right that it would be unacceptable to even think about swapping roles, let alone actually go through with it! We could all do with little mental de-cluttering couldn’t we?!

  5. Pingback: Summer holiday survival pt 1: Desi Gender Stereotyping | British Asian Woman

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