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In Defence of Mr. Mom (From a Stay-at-Home Dad)

'Mr. Mom' (1983) poster, Mr. Mom, stay at home dads, stay home dad, being a stay at home dad, stay at home dad blog,
‘Mr. Mom’ (1983) poster

It seems a lot of us stay-at-home dads don’t like the term ‘Mr. Mom’ being applied to us. Well, when I say us, I don’t mean me – I’m fine with it. In fact, I encourage it.

I have fond memories of Mr. Mom, and I have no reason to believe it to be significantly better or worse than its 80’s comedic peers, such as Police Academy, Bachelor Party, and Stripes.

I read a nice piece by Nicole Shanklin called ‘Modern Parenting: Mr. Mom Style‘. Her husband was a stay-at-home dad to their daughter for 2 1/2 years. Lots of fellow (blogging) dads while complimentary about the post were less so about the inclusion of ‘Mr. Mom’ in the title (check the comments). So much so that it was changed to ‘Modern Parenting: Stay @ Home Dads Rock‘, which I think is a shame.

What are the arguments against calling a stay-at-home dad ‘Mr. Mom’?

Well, fairly valid ones: Working mothers are not called ‘Ms. Dad’; being a stay-at-home dad doesn’t make you a male mother; what’s wrong with just calling us dads?

And yet… When I became a stay-at-home dad in 2012, I relished the moniker of ‘Mr. Mom’, and I still do. While stay-at-home dad is a fair description of my role, as is the shorter at-home dad, they lack the wordplay of Mr. Mom, and honestly – they simply fail to conjure up that image of Michael Keaton holding up his baby’s bottom to a hand-dryer.

Perhaps this is a clue to why I like the term. Keaton’s expression in that image exudes confidence. Many stay-at-home dads will tell you of being judged – often borne out through experience – about our ability as primary caregiver, because we are dads. That we are perceived as less able parents because we are men, that our ‘male’ methods are inferior to ‘female’ ones – which from memory is also a theme of the movie.

Parenting Mr. Mom style

In some aspects, I do parent differently from my wife. Not better or worse, just different. Is this because we are male and female? I have no idea. My daughter wears a lot of superhero t-shirts, knew more Star Wars characters at age 2 than my wife does at age [REDACTED], and will respond to food made with scotch bonnet chillies with an enthusiastic ‘More!’. Have I introduced these things to her because I am a man? I’m sure all the chilli loving fangirl mothers out there would disagree with that notion (you know who you are…).

But for me, to feel confident about my way of parenting & to introduce my daughter to things I am passionate about is fundamentally important. I don’t want to second guess myself and be consumed with self doubt about whether this is really the right or wrong thing to do – or even worse, to change my behaviour because I am worried about how others might judge me. Is drying a baby’s bum on a hand-dryer unorthodox? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do (although I’m not advocating it).

So I like to channel the Mr. Mom in that poster, the confident dad parenting his way.

Perhaps the main reason that I don’t have a problem with it is this: I’m English. We don’t use the word ‘Mom’ – it’s ‘Mum’. To us, ‘Mom’ is basically an exotic word from a foreign culture, so when someone calls me ‘Mr. Mom’ (which people do) I simply think of Michael Keaton in that poster. It’s a pop culture reference that makes me smile, and I don’t think I’m being made to feel like any less of a dad.

However, if anyone asks me if I’m ‘babysitting’? Grrrr…

13 thoughts on “In Defence of Mr. Mom (From a Stay-at-Home Dad)”

  1. I really don’t care for the moniker but it isn’t my place to tell someone their title is bad. Most of the complaints came before the article was even read. I didn’t care for the title but read it and appreciated the good things she had to say. Well said on the confidence part…I’ll try to keep that in mind.

  2. Great article, made my husband and me chuckle. You are not alone in teaching your passions, our daughter developed an early affinity for outdoor programming (read hunting shows)! I would like to see an article about the babysitter title, that one grates on my nerves as well.

  3. This is the first time I read one of your posts, and I really loved this one. This is something I never have much thought to, and had I heard someone use the title “Mr Mom” I would’ve probably thought it was cute. And now after reading this and considering what it would’ve felt like if someone called me Ms. Dad, it would’ve hurt. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

      1. Well you know, like I said, my initial reaction would be “that’s cute”, and I think that’s because I’m a mom myself, and the word would come with positive connotations of course. And I guess the reason why is be hurt if someone called me Ms Dad back then would probably be partly because of the guilt I felt for being at work and leaving my child with someone else, and partly for the exact same reason a man would be hurt by Mr Mom. And clearly you’ve gone and confused me.

        Also I think we tend to take ourselves a little too seriously 🙂

      2. (I thought I replied yesterday, but I guess baby made sure he deleted everything before it went through)

        I still don’t feel like it’s terrible to be called Mr. Mom, and I’m not really sure why I’d be hurt if I were called Ms. Dad. I guess it would be for the same reasons a stay-at-home-Dad would be offended by Mr. Mom. Being a mom is a wonderful thing, as is being a Dad.

        I guess the implication that it’s “strange” that we assume certain roles despite our gender can offend us. That and I think we take ourselves much too seriously sometimes 🙂

  4. The problems I’ve got with the “Mr. Mom” term are technical. The term puts a lot of pressure on moms – they’ve got to be perfect, and have to be the standard. Then, for dads, they’re trying to measure up to Mom, instead of having their own parenting style. Like you said, you’ve got a different style than your wife. It’s not just that you’re a man doing her “job.” It’s your job too, and you get to do it with all of your own personality and style. Then, of course, there IS the punchiline based on the movie – that a man is TRYING to take care of a kid. Laughs! Blunders! Frustration!

    Anyway…I appreciate your opinion on it all.

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