Stay at Home Dads

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • We, as a society, are continuously going through changes. Years ago, when women entered the work force en masse, articles were written, studies were done, questions were asked. Why were so many women going back to work? Was it simply economic? Was there a deep desire to be productive, outside of the home? Was raising children unfulfilling? Was this good for the children? What would happen to our society when women weren’t at home? But now, even if we don’t have all the answers, women in the workplace is commonplace, as a matter of fact, recent studies have shown that women are the family breadwinners, or make more money than their spouses, more often than not. And now, the new change is that men are opting to stay home with the kids.

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    The role reversal in some households brings up some additional questions. Can men be happy and fulfilled staying home and raising children? Are men seen as less masculine because they are stay at home dads? The answer appears to be answered, at least in part, in the reasons a man chooses to stay at home.

     

    For some men, staying at home is purely economic. They may have lost their job in the mancession. Going from a two-income household to a one-income household didn’t leave money for day care and so, someone needed to stay home and obviously that was the parent without the job. For these men, staying home may seem like a losing proposition, after all, they didn’t ask for it – it was forced upon them.

     

    Other men, however, choose to stay at home. They gladly pack their wives’ lunches along with the kids’ lunches and send children off to school and kiss their wife good-bye as she heads off to work. They manage the food shopping, the laundry and cooking just as stay-at-home moms did for years. And they find it suits them just fine.

     

    The Growing Trend

     

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 176,000 stay-at-home dads in 2011 with 17 percent of preschools regularly cared for by their father while their mother was working.  [1] But some believe the number is much higher.  Beth Latshaw, assistance professor of sociology at Appalachian State University believes there is closer to 1.4 million fathers at home taking care of their children full-time [2]. She thinks the discrepancy is due to the U.S. Census Bureau’s criteria of who is considered out of work.

     

    No matter what the number, they continue to grow. There are now support groups and play-date groups aimed specifically at men staying home with their children. For those fathers that don’t stay home, the trend toward doing more around the house and caring for the children more often is increasing as well.

     

    A Blow to Manhood?

     

    When men are forced into the role of stay-at-home dad, it can be a blow to their self-esteem. Society still, despite recent statistics, see men as the main breadwinners of the family. And men often see the ability to financially provide for their family as a testament to their masculinity. When this is taken away, some feel they are losers. They see staying home as “women’s work.” Despite the advances women have made over the years, despite the financial need in many families for both spouses to work, taking care of the home and the children is still considered a woman’s responsibility and the men are still considered the providers. And even when a man understands why he is staying home – and it makes sense to him – he still needs to get past the reactions of his friends, family and neighbors. Some may see it as novel or interesting. Some friends may  think staying home is a great do-nothing job and view him as lazy.

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    Studies show the road ahead is difficult for those who haven’t come to terms with their role as stay-at-home dads. One study shows that when a man is economically dependent on his wife, he is more likely to cheat. Other studies indicate men who feel their masculinity is threatened may engage in more risk-taking behavior, become sexually aggressive or express anger more often. [3]

     

    Staying Home By Choice

     

    Not all men who are at home raising their children have been forced into the situation. Some do so by choice. They see it as a way to be involved and shape the lives of their children. They see it as an opportunity to be around, not just for the important moments of their children’s lives, but for all the small ones as well.

     

    Other fathers may have not had a choice but found that staying home suited them. In an article on NPR, Jonathan Heisey-Grove explains that when he lost his job as a graphic artist, there wasn’t any money for day care so he stayed home to save money. But him and his wife soon found that staying home solved more than just financial problems. According to Dawn, his wife“And suddenly the world just became much calmer and quieter. Egan (her son) wasn’t as upset and he wasn’t as tense anymore. And our relationship, even though we were stressed about not having money, we weren’t rushing around when both of us got home. And so, it was just a happier place.” [4]

     

    As more men opt to stay home, society’s view will slowly change. But that probably isn’t going to happen for quiet a while. Peggy Drexler, in the Time Magazine article, “Stay –at-Home Dads Will Never Become the Norm,” states, “There is simply not a large enough cohort to reduce the social stigma and force other adjustments necessary to supporting men in this decision, even if only for a relatively short time.” [5]

     

    References:

     

    [3] “Infidelity,” and “Gender Identity Threat and Gender Violence,” Date Unknown, Christin Munsch, Research Papers

     

     [2] “Is Fatherhood a Full-Time Job? Mixed Methods Insights into Measuring Stay-at-Home Fatherhood,” 2011, Spring, Beth Latshaw, Fathering 

     

    [1] “Profile America Facts for Features,” 2012, May 2, U.S. Census Bureau

     

    [4] “Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinner Moms and Making It All Work,” 2013, May 15, Jennifer Ludden, NPR

     

    [5] “Stay –at-Home Dads Will Never Become the Norm,” 2013, Aug, 21, Peggy Drexler, Time Magazine

Published On: August 27, 2013