The Maclean’s Archive
Feelings And Fantasies
January 31 1994 PATRICIA CHISHOLM, JOE CHILDLEY, JOHN DeMONT, BARRY CAME
Mister Mom—the very phrase pokes fun at fathers who stay at home to care for their kids. But men who tie on the apron strings say there is nothing amusing about the social disapproval they sometimes endure.
Three years ago, Ken and Judy Toews of suburban Ottawa decided that their two sons, then one and seven years old, were suffering because both parents were too busy with their careers. Ken, now 36, quit his planning job at an Ottawa defence contractor because Judy, a 37-year-old teacher, was less likely to be laid off. When he resigned—after 17 years of continuous employment—Toews was on the verge of panic, wondering if he had done the right thing. “It’s been a sweet and sour experience,” he says now. “My father and a number of older relatives think I’m a bum. They say Judy should stay home. But I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” According to informed estimates, less than one per cent of Canadian fathers fit the Mr. Mom description. But Toews speaks warmly of the intensity of his new relationship with his children. Raising his youngest son from infancy, he adds, has created a bond between them that is “weirdly powerful.” There are also more tangible benefits. We used to eat very poorly because we were always rushing,” he says. “I’ve found that I enjoy cooking, and now there are always homemade cookies or muffins in the house and good food at every meal.”
Despite those rewards, Toews still struggles with negative feelings. “In our society, your identity is your job,” he says. ‘When I was employed, I felt like a somebody. Bringing up children is not something that society values.” In other words, Toews now empathizes with stay-at-home mothers. In fact, Toews says, looking after others has altered his own character. “Constant giving generally doesn’t suit the male psyche, which is more self-centred,” he muses. “Looking back, I can see that I’m a much more caring person than I was.”
PATRICIA CHISHOLM and JOE CHIDLEY
in Toronto, JOHN DeMONT in Halifax,