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8 Secrets of Stay-at-Home Dads

The stay-at-home dad used to be something of a rare creature, but now, according to a study at the Pew research center, almost 2 million dads are the stay-at-home parent. That's almost double what it was less than 20 years ago. Here are 8 secrets of some of these dads. (Hint: It might surprise you how much they feel just like moms.)

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1. Dads feel just as isolated, lonely and bored at times as moms

The mindless repetitions of playing the same games and singing the same songs all day, often trapped inside for hours, is just as mind-numbing to dads as it is to moms.

"The loneliness surprised me. There have been several periods over the last eight years when the only reason I had any idea what day of the week it was, was because of a specific activity that would only happen on that day during the week. It can be kind of mind-numbing and depressing to realize that you only differentiate days between a pool day with the kids or a non-pool day with the kids because of swimming lessons."

–Mark Bedell, father of two girls, 10 and 8, and one 5-year-old boy

"The level of isolation this responsibility created for me was surprising. I never knew how much being cooped up alone in a house with a baby/toddler all day would affect me mentally and emotionally (and let's face it, physically). If you spend enough time talking to a child, you can almost forget how to talk to adults. "

–Hal, father of a 2-year-old girl

"When I started, everyone said, 'That'll keep you busy.' I guess I'm surprised how boring it is much of the time."

–Tim White, father of a 10-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl

2. Dads cook, clean and then some

Stay-at-home dads know they're not exempt from household chores.

"There's still some stigma about men cooking. People are surprised that I cook 99 percent of the meals for my family."


"I was cooking, cleaning and the guy who fixed the toilet and the sprinkler when they broke, which became too much for me. So I talked to my wife and we came up with an agreed sharing of duties."

–Justin Worsham, father of two boys, aged 6 and 4

The stereotypical gender roles are just non-relevant to me and my wife, and I see it more and more in people of my generation.

3. There's still stigma about childrearing not being "men's work"

As the recent brouhaha about basketball star Stephen Curry bringing his toddler to the post-basketball press conference suggests, the world is not fully comfortable when men do work often stereotypically (and unfairly) assigned to women. These dads have felt that sting.

"I find myself catching shit for the reversal of roles sometimes, whether it's intended or not. Circumstances called for this arrangement, yet there's a certain social stigma that is, through either reality or my own insecurity about it, difficult to ignore at times. Little off-hand jokes/comments from friends about being a 'housewife,' or just society's general attitude about being a man without a full-time job."


"I was mostly surprised at how I was still an 'abnormality.' And that you get a lot of passive judgment from moms."


4. Gender roles don't matter when your priority is raising healthy children

Parents committed to raising healthy kids worry more about who is available for what role, than who "should" stay at home.

"The stereotypical gender roles are just non-relevant to me and my wife, and I see it more and more in people of my generation. The person who does the cooking is the person who likes cooking. It wouldn't even occur to most of my friends to care about the traditional gender roles."


"I've learned to pick up some hobbies that don't involve massive blocks of time. I play guitar, which I can practice at the drop of a hat or put down and change a diaper. I also knit—again you can pick it up for a few minutes and put it down right away if you need to."


"I think that homemaking is a role in the modern family. That role can be filled by a dad or a mom or even he outsourced with the same likelihood of success or failure."


5. Stay-at-home moms are often suspicious of stay-at-home dads

Unfortunately, some stay-at-home dads are met with less-than-welcoming arms by moms.

"Usually I'd be the only male in the room. It really never felt appropriate to schedule a play date with another kid's mom—never mind getting coffee or lunch with the kids."


"I am admittedly a sort of old school dad. I think they are calling it 'tiger mom' parenting, but I could be wrong. Either way, I can't help but think that they feel like they have to feel like they need to keep an extra eye out when a kid is cared for by a dad."


6. Childrearing is hard work, no matter your gender

"Being a stay-at-home dad, really rearing children day in and day out while the wife is gone, is much harder than any other job I've ever done. I've learned a new respect for anyone who has done it, seeing how taxing it is. It's harder than having a 60-hour-a-week job."

– Adam Fuller

7. Working dads are secretly envious of stay-at-home dads

"One other thing that surprised me was how many working fathers seemed to be jealous or envious of my situation. I should clarify that statement though. It's not like they talk to me and think, 'I have to be that guy.' I've just noticed that a lot of dads, or parents in general, really would prefer to spend time with their kids and families."


"I asked my dad, who is a baby boomer, what he thought about the growing trend of stay-at-home dads. I assumed he would have some kind of quip about masculinity. But he surprised by saying it is always better to have options. He is jealous of my life with my kids. He said it wasn't an option for him."


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8. The "dumb dad" stereotype is insulting to dads (and moms)

"The 'dumb dad' stereotype is best described in television and commercials as when the wife enters some stereotyped feminine domain and finds the bumbling father in need of rescue. Usually the dad has a nearly naked baby awkwardly held in one hand (extra points if they're holding it upside down by one leg) and a raw turkey/whole fish in the other while the rest of the room is in such a state of disrepair as to imply that a gremlin outbreak had just been quelled, or the father is mere seconds away from flambéing the baby in a toxic cloud of salmonella and motor oil unless the haggard wife of this man child rescues them all immediately. God, I really hate that stereotype. I know it's supposed to be funny and humorous, but it's so far from the norm as to be archaic and stupid."


"We can be just as good at caregiving as moms."


Photo via Jordan Rosenfeld

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