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0937 Being a Stay-at-Home Dad

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 937 – Being a Stay-at-Home Dad.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 937. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

This episode, like all of our episodes, has a Learning Guide. You can find that at ESLPod.com on this crazy thing called the Internet.

Our dialogue today is between Gladys and Dan about the father in the family staying home to take care of the children while the mother goes out and works. Sounds like fun. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Gladys: Hi, Dan. I’m surprised to see you here at the supermarket in the middle of the day.

Dan: Why?

Gladys: I thought you’d be working.

Dan: I am working. I’m a stay-at-home dad and I take care of the kids while my wife goes to work.

Gladys: Oh, did you get laid off from your job?

Dan: No, my wife works full-time out of the house and I work full-time at home.

Gladys: You mean that your wife is the breadwinner and you’re a househusband?

Dan: If you want to put it that way, yes. I’m the caretaker for the kids during the day and I do the household chores.

Gladys: Oh, your wife must be a feminist.

Dan: No, my wife is just a modern woman with modern sensibilities.

Gladys: Well, I know that some families like to live radical lifestyles these days, changing up gender roles.

Dan: We don’t think of it as radical. In fact, it’s quite common nowadays.

Gladys: if you say so. Tell your wife I’d be happy to share my recipes with her when you go back to work and she’s a housewife again.

Dan: [sigh]

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Gladys saying to Dan, “Hi, Dan. I'm surprised to see you here at the supermarket in the middle of the day.” The “supermarket” is the store you go to, to buy food. The “middle of the day” would be sometime usually between, say, eight in the morning and five in the afternoon, when people are normally working, at least Monday through Friday.

Dan says, “Why?” Why are you surprised? Gladys says, “I thought you'd be working.” Dan says, “I am working. I'm a stay-at-home dad and I take care of the kids while my wife goes to work.” A “stay-at-home dad,” or father, is a dad who does not work outside of the house but instead takes care of the children. In the traditional family, in the United States and in most countries, the mother would stay home to take care of the children and the father would go out to work.

Times have changed, at least in some families; not in most, but in some families, the father may stay home. I think this is still probably fairly rare in the United States, but it does happen. I had a friend of mine who was a stay-at-home dad. His wife worked as a lawyer, and he stayed home to take care of the children. Dan says he's a stay-at-home dad and he takes care of the kids while his wife goes to work.

Gladys says, “Oh, did you get laid off from your job?” “To be laid (laid) off” means the employer said that you no longer have a job at that company. The employer said, “I'm sorry. We need to let some people go.” We need to dismiss you from your job. Normally, when we use the expression “to be laid off,” we mean that the person didn’t do anything wrong. The company let the person go – ended the person’s job – because of some problem in the company or some change in the company.

If we say someone was “fired” (fired), then we are saying that person did something wrong and the company got rid of them. If you're fired from your job, it's because you did something wrong. If you're laid off from your job, it's because the company decided that it needed fewer employees, or somehow you were no longer needed at the company.

Dan says that he was not laid off. He said, “No, my wife works full-time out of the house and I work full-time at home.” “Full-time” means you’re working at least 40 hours at a job. “To work outside of the home” would mean to go to another building and work during the day. “To work at home” would be to stay in your house or apartment and work.

Gladys, however, has having a little difficulty understanding the situation. She says, “You mean that your wife is the breadwinner and you're a househusband?” “You mean” is short for "Are you saying to me? Do you mean?" Gladys is saying that Dan's wife is the breadwinner. “To be a breadwinner” (breadwinner) is to be the person who earns the most money or the majority of the money for a household. The breadwinner would be the person who is making the most money and therefore supporting the rest of the family.

A “househusband” is a rather new expression. The traditional term for a woman staying home would be a “housewife” (housewife) – one word. A “househusband” is a husband who stays home and takes care of the house and family. Dan says, “If you want to put it that way, yes.” The expression “to put it that way” means to say something in a particular way, especially in a way that you hadn't thought about before or that you hadn't considered before.

Dan says, “I’m the caretaker of the kids during the day and I do the household chores.” A “caretaker” (caretaker) is someone who takes care of someone or something. In this case, Dan is referring to him taking care of their children. “Household chores” refers to things that you do in a house in order to keep it clean and working properly – to make sure that everything is getting done that needs to be done. “Household chores” would include washing the windows every once in a while. My wife tells me once every three or four months. I think really once a year is enough, don't you?

Doing the dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the house, fixing things that break – all of these would be examples of household chores. The word “chore” (chore) is something you’re required to do that is usually somewhat unpleasant. If you say something is a “chore,” you mean it's difficult and not very fun to do. “Household” just refers to things done in a house – where a “house” refers to an apartment, a townhouse, a condominium, or an actual separate home.

Gladys says, “Oh, your wife must be a feminist.” A “feminist” (feminist) is a difficult word to define. Everybody has a slightly different definition. In general, people understand the word to mean a woman who is in favor of equal rights for men and women, who doesn't believe in the traditional roles or responsibilities and duties that a woman would have, for example, in a marriage. However, the term has taken on all sorts of political meanings as well. So, when someone uses it, you have to be very careful to understand what exactly they mean by it.

We’re not exactly sure what Gladys means by saying that Dan's wife is a feminist. It might be a criticism of Dan's wife or a suggestion that Dan's wife is somehow unusual in wanting to work outside of the home. Dan says, “No, my wife is just a modern woman with modern sensibilities.” That's an interesting response. Dan is saying, “No, my wife is not a feminist” – again, because the word feminist can sometimes be used negatively as well as positively.

Dan doesn't want to use that term to describe his wife. Instead, he says his wife is “just a modern woman, with modern sensibilities.” “Sensibility” refers to the way you think about something, the way you feel about a particular thing, or a particular way that something works. The word “modern” refers to the way things are done now, in comparison perhaps to the way they were done 20 years ago or 50 years ago or 100 years ago.

Many people believe “modern” means good, that if it's something we do now, then it must be good. This, of course, is a rather naïve way of looking at the world. “Naïve” (naïve) means innocent but not very intelligent. I'm not saying, of course, that it's a bad idea that Dan's wife works outside the home. I'm just pointing out the use of the word “modern” here means more than just the way we do things now. It's meant to be a very positive description of something, typically.

Gladys says, “Well, I know that some families like to live radical lifestyles these days, changing up gender roles.” Gladys is saying that what Dan and his wife are doing is “radical” (radical). “To be radical” means to be very extreme, to be very different than what normal people do. A “lifestyle” is just the way that you live, the style in which you live, the manner in which you live. A “radical lifestyle” would be living in a way that almost no one else does. Gladys talks also about “changing up gender roles.” “To change up” is a phrasal verb that here means to change something in an unexpected or unusual way.

“Gender roles” refers to the way that men and women, boys and girls, act and behave. “To change up gender roles” would be to have the man do things that traditionally the woman has done and the woman to do things that the man has traditionally done, and in a way, that's what Gladys is talking about here with Dan and his wife. Nowadays, the most common situation is not always the woman staying home and the man working, but both the man and the woman – both the wife and the husband, the mother and the father – working outside the home.

Dan says, “We don't think of it as radical.” “In fact,” he says, “it's quite common nowadays.” “Nowadays” (nowadays) means currently – this year or in the past five years. Dan is saying it's quite common for women to work outside of the home while the father stays home and takes care of the children. I don't think that's true, although it might depend on what you mean by “common.” How common does it have to be to be considered common? I'm not really sure, but that's what Dan thinks.

Gladys says, “If you say so.” That expression, “If you say so,” is said when you don't believe what the person has just said, but you don't really want to argue with them. Gladys says, “Tell your wife I'd be happy to share my recipes with her when you go back to work and she's a housewife again.” A “recipe” (recipe) is a set of written instructions about how to prepare a particular type of food. Normally, again, in traditional gender roles the woman, the mother, would stay home and cook food and would use recipes.

Gladys is perhaps making a little joke here, or perhaps trying to criticize Dan by saying that when Dan's wife goes back to being a housewife and Dan goes back to working outside of the home, then she can share recipes with the wife. I'm pretty sure she means this as a criticism of Dan and his wife. Dan just sighs at the end. He goes (sighs), meaning he's frustrated. He decides perhaps that it's not worth continuing to argue with Gladys.

Now let's listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Gladys: Hi, Dan. I’m surprised to see you here at the supermarket in the middle of the day.

Dan: Why?

Gladys: I thought you’d be working.

Dan: I am working. I’m a stay-at-home dad and I take care of the kids while my wife goes to work.

Gladys: Oh, did you get laid off from your job?

Dan: No, my wife works full-time out of the house and I work full-time at home.

Gladys: You mean that your wife is the breadwinner and you’re a househusband?

Dan: If you want to put it that way, yes. I’m the caretaker for the kids during the day and I do the household chores.

Gladys: Oh, your wife must be a feminist.

Dan: No, my wife is just a modern woman with modern sensibilities.

Gladys: Well, I know that some families like to live radical lifestyles these days, changing up gender roles.

Dan: We don’t think of it as radical. In fact, it’s quite common nowadays.

Gladys: if you say so. Tell your wife I’d be happy to share my recipes with her when you go back to work and she’s a housewife again.

Dan: [sigh]

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter works full-time trying to give you the very best scripts on the Internet. That is, of course, our wonderful Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
stay-at-home dad – a father who does not work outside of the home, but instead takes care of the children and the home

* More and more men are becoming stay-at-home dads while their wives go to work.

to be laid off – to be dismissed from a job; for an employer to say that one no longer has a job

* If the company closes the factory, about 200 people will be laid off.

full-time – working 40 or more hours per week

* How do you manage to be a full-time employee and a part-time student and still find time to sleep?

breadwinner – the person who earns most of the money used to pay for a family’s expenses

* Xavier is proud to be the breadwinner for his family, but he often worries about what would happen if he lost his job.

househusband – a term used to describe a stay-at-home-dad, sometimes used disrespectfully or to show one’s disapproval

* Meghan’s husband told her that if she gets the promotion and raise, he’ll become a househusband and take care of their kids.

to put it that way – to say something in a particular way, especially in a way that one hadn’t considered before

* I never realized those paintings could be offensive, but now that you’ve put it that way, I guess I can understand that perspective.

caretaker – a person who takes care of something or someone, making sure it is safe and protected

* A caretaker looks after their home in Wyoming each summer while they’re in Florida.

household chore – a duty that must be performed in the home to keep it clean and working correctly, such as washing dishes or vacuuming

* Once the kids were old enough, we assigned household chores to each of them so that everyone was helping out in our house.

feminist – a person who believes in the importance of helping women feel able and powerful, and reducing inequality (not having the same opportunities, benefits, etc.) between men and women

* Janice is a feminist who advocates for women’s right to vote around the world.

sensibility – a way of thinking about something; an ability to feel a particular way about something

* Even as a young child, Jacques seemed to have artistic sensibilities.

radical – very extreme; not standard or common

* Jamie has always had radical political ideas, believing that no government is necessary in any society.

lifestyle – a way of living, referring to how one spends money and what activities one participates in

* People who live in this area tend to have a healthier lifestyle, with greater balance between work, family, and play than in many other parts of the country.

to change up – to alter something in an unexpected or unusual way; to switch something around

* After the merger, management decided to change up a lot of our internal policies and procedures.

gender roles – expectations about the behaviors and responsibilities of men and women

* Karina grew up in a family with traditional gender roles, so her dad always did the yard work and her mother always cooked and cleaned.

nowadays – in modern times; these days; currently

* Nowadays, it seems like everybody has a cell phone.

recipe – written instructions for preparing a particular type of food

* These cookies are delicious! Could you please give me the recipe?

Comprehension Questions
1. What is a breadwinner?
a) The person who cooks for the family.
b) The person who earns most of the money.
c) The person who goes grocery shopping.

2. Why does Gladys ask if Dan was laid off from his job?
a) Because she thinks he was fired.
b) Because she thinks he got a new job.
c) Because she thinks he is too lazy to work.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to be laid off

The phrase “to be laid off,” in this podcast, means to be fired or for an employer to say that one no longer has a job: “Kensuke was laid off four months ago, but he still hasn’t been able to find another job.” The phrase “laid to rest” means to be buried after one dies: “Aunt Gina will be laid to rest on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the cemetery.” The phrase “to laid waste” means to destroy or ruin: “The battles laid waste to the farm lands.” Finally, the phrase “laid-back” describes someone who is relaxed, calm, and not worried about anything: “If you seem too laid-back in the office, the boss will probably give you more work to do.”

to change up

In this podcast, the phrase “to change up” means to alter something in an unexpected way, or to switch something around: “It’s time to buy some new furniture and change up the living room.” The phrase “to change (something) out” means to exchange something or to replace something with something else: “How often do you change out the batteries in your smoke detectors?” The phrase “to change (one’s) mind” means to change one’s opinion: “Nothing you can say will make me change my mind.” The phrase “to change places” means to exchange positions with another person: “I’d prefer to have an aisle seat than a window seat. Do you think anyone will change places with me?” Finally, the phrase “to change hands” means for the ownership of something to change, or for something to have a new owner: “This car has changed hands four times.”

Culture Note
The Fathers' Rights Movement

The fathers' rights movement is a “movement” (an organized effort to change society in some way) to help fathers “obtain” (get; have) the same “rights” (abilities to have or do something under the law) as mothers. The most active members of the movement “generally” (usually; normally) tend to be “divorced” (with a marriage that has ended) fathers or fathers who never married the mother of their children.

The fathers’ rights movement is “primarily” (mostly) “concerned with” (interested in) family law, making sure that fathers are considered for “child custody” just as much as mothers are. In other words, when a “married couple” (husband and wife) divorce, the judge should consider “awarding custody” (stating that a child will live with a particular person) to the mother and/or the father, without automatically “assuming” (believing something without having all the facts) that the mother should “have custody” (be allowed to have the child live with her).

The fathers’ right movement is also concerned with “child support” (payments made to an “ex-spouse” (a former husband or wife) to help pay for the expenses of raising a child). The movement wants to make sure that the amount of child support payments are “reasonable” (not too high) and that those payments are used to “benefit” (help; provide advantages to) the children rather than the ex-spouse.

Another issue that is important to the fathers’ right movement is “paternal rights,” or the idea that a father should be allowed to stay home for a period of time with a “newborn” (a very young baby) without “jeopardizing” (putting in danger) his job.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a