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.)
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
–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."
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."
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
"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
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."