Disney — and Pixar, in particular — has always been known for tackling heavy, family-related subject manner in a way that’s simultaneously mature and funny and still accessible for children, and the upcoming Incredibles 2 appears to be no different.
I caught the trailer for the Incredibles sequel this past weekend before seeing the thoroughly mediocre Solo, and the thematic crux of the film is that it’s fucking terrible being a stay-at-home dad, a fact we’re intimately familiar with here at MEL.
Incredibles 2 takes place immediately following the events of the first film and finds the Incredible family grappling with a peculiar arrangement: Mrs. Incredible has turned into an internationally-renowned crime-fighting superhero, and the face of a pro-superhero social movement. Mr. Incredible, on the other hand, has been relegated to the domestic sphere in her absence, and everyone seems to resent him for it. He doesn’t even seem to respect himself. One part of the trailer shows Mr. Incredible looking haggard and disheveled and rocking a three-day stubble. Bogged down by the rigors of homelife, he’s let himself go.
It’s something every stay-at-home dad can probably relate to, as stay-at-home dads are some of the least-respected dudes on the planet.
This isn’t to say that the stigma stay-at-home dads battle anyway approximates the historic injustices women have suffered. Or that men are subjugated by women on a general level. But it is to say that we’re experiencing a pretty seismic change in regards to gender, work and family life, and the transition is so abrupt, jarring and outside our typical mental framework that we often look down on the men who heed the call to be a stay-at-home parent.
Here are some examples of just how much it sucks to be a stay-at-home dad:
- People assume they’re creepy. Stay-at-home dads are shunned by stay-at-home moms when they (the dads) take their children to the playground. Women are so unused to seeing men in this context that when they do see a SATH dad pushing his kid on a swing, they immediately assume the worst — that he’s a pedophile, that he’s there to pick up MILFs, that it’s “daddy’s day out” with the kids or that the dad doesn’t know what he’s doing and needs help parenting his own children.
- People assume they’re untalented. If the choice is between one of the two parents staying home with the kids, and it ends up being the dad, the implication is he’s the less talented and successful of the two. This has a profound negative effect on a man’s ego.
- They’re fat. Stay-at-home dads often struggle to keep the weight off.
- Their wives don’t want to fuck them. Many men who stay home while their wife works report that their sex lives dropped off precipitously after they stopped working to stay home with the kids.
- Other men mock them. Here’s a quote from a piece about men whose wives and girlfriends make more money than them: “I have this neighbor, a self-described ‘redneck,’ who’s very set in his old-school masculinity ways. He’d say, ‘Are you gonna have dinner waiting for her?’”
- They die younger. The stress of being out-earned by their wives sends stay-at-home dads to an early grave, research shows.
The ironic thing is this the arrangement people supposedly want. We want more men to want to assume their share of the household and child-rearing duties. Gender equality dictates it. And in some cases, it means the father assuming the vast majority, if not all, of those, duties. But our idea of the father as the primary breadwinner and chief authority in the house is so ingrained that the sight of him staying home is odd for all of us, no matter how progressive we might be (or think ourselves to be).
Hopefully, this will change as dads staying at home becomes more normalized in our culture. The pay gap is diminishing, and as such, wives are now more likely to earn more than their husbands than at any other time in our history. There’s also evidence that among recent college grads, women are earning more than on average. So it only stands that the number of stay-at-home dads will increase accordingly.
Whether the collective side-eye we give stay-at-home dads will lessen remains to be seen. Until then, it’s a mostly thankless existence playing Mr. Mom. Because for now at least, no one respects you, even if you’re a retired superhero who once saved the world.