Roy works for the Post-Office. Luisa, his wife, having recently earned her Associate Degree in Nursing, used to work as a part time caregiver. Now that she passed the board exams, her possible income could be much higher than that of a mail carrier. With three young kids, however, the only way she could maximize her earnings is to find someone to take care of their children, ages 7, 6 and 2. Her parents back home are still taking care of her younger brothers and sisters. On the other hand, Romy’s parents who live in another suburb, are too old to run around with a First grader, chase a kindergarten and cuddle a toddler. Linda has to act fast. A new Nursing Home with a promised sign in bonus is waiting for her decision. After careful thought Roy had to sacrifice. It made an economic sense for him to take an indefinite leave of absence.
At work, Luisa met Sally, a Physical Therapist. She was so excited to let Luisa know that her husband and her eight-year-old daughter were finally arriving from the Philippines. Manuel had to retire early from his position as a mid level supervisor at a provincial Social Security office. Both Sally and Manuel are in their mid 40’s. When he arrives, he will have to stay at home for a while until he figures out a new career.
Jim was a licensed lawyer and a certified public accountant back in the islands of Panay. Fortunately for him, although he never got licensed in the U.S., the Company he works for does both legal and accounting services. In his mid-fifties, he got laid off. His entire division had to move to another State. Jim was also forced to stay home. Financially, it does not matter. Martha, his wife, is an Internist working as the head Physician in a nearby Acute Care Center.
According to the latest Government statistics, in 2001 there were around 155,000 men staying at home full-time to take care of their offspring, 60% of them doing so voluntarily. They did the laundry, scrubbed the floor, went shopping and prepared the meals. From the eyes of traditional male honchos, they were quite odd. The social stigma of giving up a career among males for the sake of rearing up children is still there, but is actually waning. With the changing roles of the female workers, there are more and more men who leave the corporate world to be enlisted in domestic work.
For Filipinos – accustomed to the traditional values of being the main, if not the sole provider, staying at home because the better half is more in demand – life as a stay at home dad still has its taboos, social stigma, and chauvinistic pain. The entire dynamics as immigrant parents are a complete turn around from the dynamics of our town. The father was the chief, the head captain, the big Cajuna, and the ultimate Leader. And his better half was really his better half, the virtuous manager of home economics, the follower, and the care giver of his kids, who need not worry about finances.
As an immigrant Filipino father, either Roy, Manuel or Jim was happy being left behind while the wife drove the car and did not come until dinnertime. I think I saw them once having lunch with other intentionally and accidentally unemployed Filipinos huddled in the middle of a Food Court. Their kids happen to be schoolmates and will not be out of school until after 2:00 p.m. No, they are not battered husbands. They are just having a tough time adjusting to the demands not only of a young family, but also those of a new environment.
Don’t get me wrong. I am neither recommending nor encouraging men to give up their jobs and be a daytime soap opera junkie. They have not yet designed an apron that looks good in the male torso. And according to the Bible, even God mandated men to provide for their household as head hunters and sole providers. For this reason, when we do so, the merits for staying at home becomes debatable for the stay at home dad. In the same token, the merits of a working mother are questioned for giving up the traditional role of being the home manager.
Many of our Fathers and our Grand Fathers have never done the laundry, changed diapers or stewed the meat at broad daylight. Many of them have never mended the hole on the sock, arranged the flowers on the coffee table nor dusted the furniture. I salute you all!
It would be nice to know how many stay at home Filipino Dads are there in Illinois. It would be nice for these immigrants to share their challenges, their struggles and their victories just so those who might come next would have some thoughts on how to survive. Most probably, we will not. After all, how many men would have the courage to admit that their wives are the sole bread winners and they are a full time husband? I hope that changes. It would be good if they could be man enough to stand up and share us what they do. Send me your story at email@example.com. I promise to keep things between us.
I came to the U.S. to fulfill a promise and that promise culminated to my son’s birth. Although I really never gave up an eight-hour daily job to rear a child, I have not had a job before that obliged me to render a straight eight-hour block of work on a daily basis. I did have days when I was at home the whole day while the wife worked. And I did drive her around, did the laundry, cleaned the house, and attempted to cool. Many Filipinos have opted to seek for flexible employment because their wives can only work based on the time allotted for them. I did the same. On the other hand, within the medical field, a Filipina worker’s dominant role, there are not much options for a mother. Although flexible, they are sometimes caught working on times when no one else does.
So on the next Father’s Day, to all the mothers and wives who read this, do not forget to greet your old man, your hubby, your buddy, that odd person who mows the lawn twice a day and throws garbage even before the pick-up day who is currently unemployed. To that gentleman who had no choice but to watch the baby and drive Junior to school daily, to all of you dudes, whatever your situation is, you are actually the “Man”. You have given so much to support your wives and take care of your kids. You drive them around whenever she needs to and you swallow your ego before the question, “What do you do for a living”. Take it easy though and don’t mind the teasers. Down the road, when trends change, there will be nothing for you to regret. The home bound dad is still the leader, the head captain and the honcho of his own home.