It used to be that only men could wear the pants in the family, so to speak. That is, men were the ones who had to go out and earn their keep, and come home with the salary that they would give to their wives, for the monthly budget. Heck, in even more archaic traditions, they didn’t give all of their salary to their wives – women had to make do with what they were given for the monthly home budget.
Times, happily, have changed, and now we see more instances of men becoming “house husbands,” as the term is now known. And yet, instead of welcoming the idea, there is still a fair amount of resistance to the idea of a man taking care of the household chores.
The negative stereotype: Andres de Saya
The problem is that the Filipino culture is one that has a very strong streak of masculine pride in it. Any man who isn’t out there fulfilling his role as the breadwinner is usually seen as “damaged” or “weak.” The worst insult, in fact, would be being given the nickname of “Andres de Saya,” a play on the term under the saya, or “under the skirt.” It implies that the man is subordinate to the woman. It isn’t helped by media reinforcement like Andres de Saya, the 1980 movie starring Vic Vargas and Gloria Diaz, or its modern-day counterpart with Cesar Montano and Iza Calzado.
Even if modern twists serve to give the term a more even-handed interpretation, in the end, the term itself empowers a negative stereotype. Seriously, no man would like to be called Andres de Saya, unless it’s said as a joke that implies loyalty to his wife.
The modern househusband is much more than the guy who squats down to wash laundry in a batya.
Shifting social roles
If you think about it, the roots of the househusband are probably tied into women’s rights, as both a reflection and a reality check.
On one hand, it’s true these days that some women are now earning as much or even more than a man in the same position. It’s actually possible for gender roles to be reversed, such that the man is now the one who can afford to stay at home and take care of the children and the house affairs.
But then, there is also the economic reality: that the man would have no choice if the woman were earning more, from the point of view of expenses and child-rearing. What’s the use of both parents going to work, but having difficulty with bringing their children up, and at the same time leaving their household affairs – or the house itself – in the hands of strangers while they are out of the house? At this point, a pragmatic look at who’s earning more and has a better chance of getting a higher paycheck in the future probably plays into the calculations for a man to become a househusband.
It could also be that in some cases, the man is also better at taking care of the house and raising children. Let’s be honest, it really depends on the personalities in the relationship. If things work out better that the man takes on the nurturing role, and the woman becomes the breadwinner, then there should be no problem in doing the switch.
Househusbands are now becoming a more viable option because of other developments in technology. It’s possible now, for example, to run a business from home, thanks to how the Internet and an online presence can contribute to work.
At the most basic level, a man can work from home through the Internet, by being a virtual office assistant or a copywriter, submitting everything by e-mail. This allows him to be present at home, and still take care of the children and the house.
Some househusbands, though, do the switch later on, when they have already established a business that can work online, and then they switch roles with their wives. In some cases, both husband and wife can even stay at home, working online and making a living while staying at home together with the children.
The concept of the househusband, then, as the one who isn’t working is put into question by modern solutions to earning money.
The househusband lifestyle is not without its dangers, though. For example, becoming a househusband has to be something that is agreed upon by both sides, and one that the husband will enter into freely. Otherwise, there will be frustrations that will strain the relationship, and may even culminate in one side or the other throwing unpleasant statements and rhetorical questions at the other. After all, most men do need a focus for their fulfillment, which is usually found in work. Some men find it hard to do so, if the “work” is housework and the children.
There’s a certain wry humor in that, though, as the house husbands who do feel that frustration may be the only ones who understand the unfulfilled feelings of traditional housewives.
What are the considerations for switching roles?
If your family is thinking of switching roles, such that there is a working wife and a househusband, here are some considerations that you should talk about:
Can we afford it? – This is the first question that should be answered. If the woman’s job is assuredly earning more, and she has a stable position in the company, then switching roles can be seriously thought about.
Will it help our expenses? – If your household is becoming too much of a cost issue, then you should think about scaling back on the costs, before entertaining the idea of house husbandry. For all you know, it may just be a matter of better fiscal discipline.
Think about the kids – Always consider how the children will be affected. If both of you feel that one of you has to be there to raise the children, and the man has a better chance of doing it, then there should be no question about becoming a househusband for the sake of the children.
Think of how to keep busy at home – It’s a given that most of the frustrations that accompany being the person in charge of the house involve the empty hours, when everything is done and there’s not much to do except to wait for the children and the spouse to come home. Do see if you can get part-time work online, or even intersperse the part-time work with online education courses. Who knows, you and our spouse could probably play a tag-team situation where the man will work for a few years, and then study for another, coordinated with when the woman works and studies.
As you can see, the Andres de Saya should rightfully be relegated to the past, in period movies and jokes. The modern househusband is a family solution that can benefit all members of the family.