There have been a couple opportunities lately to gauge reactions when the stay at home dad situation came up in conversation. Both were, oddly enough, at a playground in our neighborhood.
The first was late on a sunny afternoon. There was a chance of rain but we decided to hit it while we could. Apparently I walked right into the middle of a stay at home mom play group: 4 moms all with 2 children, mixed ages, both boys and girls. Their kids, for the most part, were friendly and well behaved. Ruby was able to get in easily and led and followed in play with the others.
I didn't invite myself into their conversation but I didn't shy away when they started talking to me either. Eventually it came up that I stayed at home with the kids. One of the mothers became a little standoffish, like she couldn't imagine such a thing and left soon after. One mother in particular seemed especially interested and the questions came quick. We discussed schedules, housekeeping, etc. It was a little surreal.
There was an underlying vibe, almost like they just couldn't believe I was actually able to watch two children and keep them from killing themselves. Their comments were pretty funny at times too: "You looking like you are doing a good job," "Don't get discouraged" and "Keep your chin up." From the conversation, my best guess is that their seeming lack of faith in me stemmed from the fact that all of them had zero faith in their husband's abilities to handle children. One even went as far as to say her husband could handle about ten minutes before he threw in the towel. I've heard this from my wife before talking about some of her friend's husbands. I also expressed that I never knew how much work it actually was to stay at home and run the household on a day to day basis. This also seemed to strike a nerve, a few saying they wished their husbands could hear the conversation because they couldn't understand how the mom could be tired after "just" being home all day.
The second conversation was early last week. I ran into a friend and neighbor from the community I grew up in. She has a daughter Ruby's age. Conveniently, they live nearby and the kids played great together. Discussing our arrangements and spouses, I told her I stayed at home. Knowing me, she thought it was awesome and had no doubt I was completely capable. I told her about the prior encounter at the park and some of the mother's reactions and she laughed and said their husband's must be idiots. "All you do is wipe poop off their butts."
It isn't quite that simple...but in reality, it isn't so difficult either.