Written by Caroline Meyer
Something that was almost unheard of 40 years ago has increased tremendously over the years. Stay-at-home Dads have more than doubled in the past 30 years, with some of them actually running a business from home at the same time. While this is still a fraction of the number of stay-at-home mums, these men face the same challenges as well as a few more.
Stay-at-home Dads have discovered it isn’t all fun and games. There are groceries to be bought, laundry and housework to be dine, kids to be fed and entertained as well as the fetching and carrying to school and activities. It takes endurance as you end up being on your feet a lot and seldom get a break during the day. This is more than a fulltime job as it doesn’t really end until sometime after the kids go to bed.
On top of this, there is still a stigma around men that are fulltime caregivers. Some of the parental support groups, which are often composed mainly of women, may not feel comfortable having a man joining in. Their partners may also not appreciate other men socializing with their wives during the day. This can also limit playdates as women might not want to be alone with a male while the children play together. Stay-at-home Dads may feel rejected by their peer groups and may need to persevere harder for acceptance into support groups. This difficulty in making social connections is one of the toughest challenges stay-at-home Dads face. In some areas there may be very few males that are carers and it can be difficult to find others that share the same obstacles, that they can talk to.
Most women who have partners that take care of the children at home while they work out of the house understand the pressure of taking care of the children and appreciate the men who choose to do so. Having someone at home they can rely on may help them grow and prosper in their career choice. This can be of huge benefit to the family as a whole. There is the benefit of an income and future prospects for the one parent, with security and stability from the other one being at home to attend to the children’s every day needs. It is also important that the working parent give the homemaker added support when they are at home, as well as there being time for the two to be together without the kids as well.
For most stay-at-home Dads, this was a conscious and thought out choice, although there are some that fell in to the role due to job losses or similar situations. After all these years of legislated gender equality, stay-at-home Dads are still facing stigma. They will generally not list their occupation as a “fulltime parent” or “homemaker” even though around 1 in 15 stay at home parents is male.
Although more than 50% of millennial males say that if their spouse was the breadwinner, they would consider staying at home with the kids. The reason this seldom occurs, if it is in fact what they actually believe, is that there is generally still a large income gap between men and women. Women still get paid a lot less on average than their male peers. This makes the choice for the woman to be the one who stays home with the children a lot more common. Most companies will also actively discourage males from taking time off to be with the children and will usually not keep a place open for a father that chooses to spend more than 6 months at home with the children.
Stay-at-home Dads that are able to find groups that are welcoming and allow for groups of parents of any gender to interact and spend time together will usually find the experience more rewarding. Women usually find it easier to talk to other women about their child rearing experiences. Many men will find it uncomfortable to open up to anyone when it comes to questions they may have.
This will often be reserved for discussion with their partners. Groups like this encourage open communication and even if they don’t ask questions themselves, they are able to listen in on other questions and perhaps gain insight into challenges they have been facing. There are a few groups for Stay-at-home dads that allow male caregivers to get together with others and share experiences or simply just hang out while the kids play together. This can be very empowering for Dads that are feeling rejected and cut off from their counterparts.
Taking care of children has many ups and downs and involves constant work and vigilance. Stay at home Dads have to learn how to deal with everything and priorities direct needs. If little Jonny has stubbed his toe, the dishes will have to wait until it’s been attended to. A clean floor can be a mess 10 minutes later. This is all part of the experience and a set routine can help with most tasks but the unexpected can be dealt with as it occurs. Most men find this side of things difficult to deal with as they expect things they have already done to stay done, but with kids this is very seldom the case.
Parenting can be quite lonely, especially for Dads that are taking care of a small child. There is interaction such as cleaning and feeding and a little playtime, but not much else. During sleep times, Dad may feel lonely and lost especially if coming from a pressured environment at work before becoming a stay-at-home Dad. Being accepted in to a social group with other stay at home parents can go a long way to reducing the feeling of social isolation. While there may still be a stigma and stay-at-home dads may have to work a bit harder to get into a suitable social group, it is worth persevering. If worst comes to worst, track down some other stay-at-home dads in the area and start your group.