I have a couple of friends who have put careers on hold to be the primary carer of their children, and they tell me they are asked one question time and time again:
“Why would anyone want to be a stay-at-home-dad?”
They have plenty of answers, but perhaps the most pertinent thing is why the question is asked at all. Why would men want to stay at home with children? Implicit in the question is the view that it is not a man’s job, and that the best thing we can do for our families is to earn the money that pays the bills.
A positive choice as primary carer?
In this view, our staying at home with children is either a temporary situation while we look for work or a begrudging acceptance that a higher earning partner is best placed to bring home the bacon. It is certainly not a choice a man would make if everything else were equal. And yet – increasingly – it is exactly that.
The cliched view is contradicted by the latest figures from the US, which make it clear that not only are more men leaving work to look after children, more of them are making a positive choice to do so. The figures show that, since 1970, the share of stay-at-home dads not looking for work has risen from less than 1% to about 4% of all married fathers with a child under 18.
Figures also show that, in 1989 only 5% of stay-at-home dads said caring for family was the main reason for staying home. By 2014 that figure had risen to 21%.
Economics play a part
Obviously, there is an element of pragmatic economics to all this. The rise of the stay-at-home-dad has come at a time when more mums are choosing to go back to work. Sticking with US statistics for a moment, the Center for American Progress has reported that, in 2015, “…42 percent of mothers were sole or primary breadwinners, bringing in at least half of family earnings.”
But the giant strides working mums have taken in the last 30 years is not the whole story. Writing in The Atlantic, stay-at-home-dad and dad blogger Chris Bernholdt states:
“While many men lost their jobs and fell into the role as the primary caregiver, many of us made the conscious decision to be home with our children instead of having a stranger raise them in daycare. For many of us, this choice has meant everything to our relationships with our children.”
For Chris, and many others, the choice is a positive one. So do UK figures confirm this trend? It’s hard to make direct comparisons, but figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, in 2014, there were 229,000 stay-at-home-dads, a figure that had doubled in a decade.
Meanwhile, a 2015 survey found that 70% of men questioned would be willing to stay at home with children while their partners went back to work.
Of course, there are still many more stay-at-home-mums than dads, but the gap is slowly shrinking. It would appear that more men are taking the life-changing decision to ditch the rat race and take on the difficult, exhausting but deeply fulfilling role of being the primary carer of children. Economics plays a part in some of these decisions, but the appeal of raising their family is clearly another significant factor.
The best of August. Whwre has this month gone??? I’m looking forward to seeing what September has in store for us. ________________________________ #stayathomeparent #SAHD #stayathomedad #dadblog #ukdadblogger #ukdadbloggers #dadblogger #blogger #parentblogger #ukparentblogger #instadad #dadofinstagram #instachild #childofinstagram #lifeblog #familyblog #dailyparenting #parenting #dadofdaughters #toddlerlife #instatoddler #toddlerofinstagram #toddlerfun #honestparenting #instafamuk #BPNfam #igdadteam
What do real stay-at-home-dads think?
We asked a few stay-at-home-dads across the Daddilife community for their opinions on why more men are sacrificing careers for kids. Here’s what they had to say:
“I think that society is changing and boundaries are being broken in many different areas. Being a stay-at-home-dad is one of these areas. As women are progressing more in the work force and stereotypes are smashed it is only a natural progression for the scales to start to tip. Men are realising that their dads did it one way, and they can do it another. What is the point in having kids if you never spend any time with them? I think my generation believes that if you don’t like it, change it. Why should you miss out on your child’s upbringing because of your sex? There is always a balance to be found, and flexible working and shared parental leave should be mainstays.” Simon of Dadofboy
“Though we stay-at-home-dads are still a rare species, maybe more dads nowadays are having the same realisation that I did: I could graft my way through 50-hour work weeks, rarely seeing my family, but earn some dough. Or I could be present, and be a formative influence on my daughter’s life. I gave up lining someone else’s pockets, and that decision has made me richer than a salary ever could.”
Eoin of The Walking Dad
“More modern dads are choosing to stay at home because of two simple facts. The pay gap between men and woman in some work places is closing, meaning that financially some families are better off with mum going to work full time. The second is that some women feel penalised for wanting to go off to raise children and have a family, and feel like their careers will be affected if they either don’t return to work shortly after giving birth or choose to work part time.”
Carl of Dadtastic Voyage
“It has taken a very long time, but attitudes have shifted. With that comes the comfort of new experiences. Media may still be a bit behind, but my belief is that any healthy couple knows that men can nurture a growing child as assuredly as a woman can “bring home the bacon”.
My wife and I came to our decision for many reasons, but primary among them was a quite simple and honest one: we both believed that I would be better at it.”
George of SAHDness
All we can say is Big Up the SAHDs!
Yes! Great post man. I am not a SAHD but grateful for the flexibility my company gives me to be around my daughter a lot more than I could’ve ever imagined!
Thanks Jeremy. That’s great to know. Is that something your company does for other dads/parents more widely?