On Sunday, I said I had taken a respite from posting due to college basketball, but that is only half true. The whole story is that I was occupied Friday with a Free Study Inside (FSI) course for Employment-Frenzied Mates (EFMs) about finding jobs (or careers, for the lucky) at posts.
I gathered lots of interesting data and advice during the daylong course (in fact, somehow I was in class longer than Natalie even though she is learning Spanish as a requirement and her only job right now. Also, this was flag day for the 151st A-100, and one of our friends, and EF'M reader, got assigned to Belize; we will be visiting.)
One piece of datum the presenters shared was that are 9,743 EFMs as of November 2009. Of this group, 7,901 (81%) are women compared to only 1,842 (19%) men. Within the class I was attending, of the 23 in attendance, 16 were women (69%) and there were 7 (31%) men*. The asterisk is there because there actually were only six men there, but one of the women was the FSO, and she was there gathering information for her husband.
Also, during the event, one of the men I met took the nontraditional step of adopting his wife's last name and dropping his. And as recent as yesterday, while researching on how readers were finding EF'M, I found that someone Googled "what is it like being the wife of a fso," and that brought them here.
Now, I'm not too proud to be a "stay-at-home" husband (it does help that I'm actually a work-from-home husband) and never really considered my masculinity to be at risk. Yet I should admit occasional feelings of discomfort on the topic.
It is not that I mind taking a financial backseat to my industrious, ambitious wife while putting my career on hold. Far from it. Part of the reason for my signing off on this whole deal stemmed from the fact that I was not getting any satisfaction from my career.
Rather, I can sense judgment in others - friends, family, and even the foreign service community. What is wrong with this guy? How can he watch idly from the sidelines? And from the foreign service, why doesn't he take the tests, too, and become a tandem?
Maybe this paranoia stems from cracks in my self confidence. Maybe I'm more proud than I once thought. Or maybe I subscribe to 1950s stereotypes more than I knew.
At least within my circle of friends, family, etc., it still is fine for the man of the house to be the sole (or dominant) breadwinner while the woman stays home and tends to the household duties. But when you challenge this norm by reversing these gender roles, there is some awkwardness.
Now it is up to me, and my fellow male EFMs to make peace with that judgment until the rest of the country catches up. For me, that is why having some source of independent income is so important. Not only does it let me maintain an identity separate from the foreign service, but it is part of my claim to my manhood. I'm bringing home some of the bacon, too, even though I'm also cooking it.
So if you'll excuse me, I have to go to the grocery store now, and I'm fine with that.
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