"The Pew Research Center finds that the number of stay-at-home dads in this country has risen from about 1.1 million in 1989 to 2 million in 2012. More significantly, the number of dads who are staying at home primarily because they want to take care of their kids has risen from 5% to 21%. This represents a sea change in attitude, as more than four times as many stay-at-home dads are at home because they choose to be.” – Brian Gresko, Babble
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term “stay-at-home dad”? What are some characteristics that come to mind? Maybe you’re thinking that they lost their job or were unable to find work or that they work remotely. What thoughts come up for you about the stay-at-home mom? Are they similar? You see where we’re going with this.
In Denmark, parents get 52 weeks of paid parental leave. Generally speaking, the mother gets 4 weeks before the due date and 14 weeks after. The father then has 2 weeks within the first 14 weeks after the birth of paid leave. After that, both the mother and father have 32 weeks to share the leave. You can then apply for an extension of paid parental leave after that where you’ll receive less pay but will still get paid.
Enter the United States: the only industrialized country without guaranteed paid parental leave. In fact it’s one of the only thing both political parties can agree on, with 84% of voters supporting a comprehensive national paid family policy for all workers. And yet – we still don’t have a policy in place.
As a society, we’re sent mixed messages about parental leave. Despite the overwhelming support of the need for family leave, there still seems to be a stigma around stay-at-home dads. A study from PEW found that 53% of Americans (breast feeding aside) think mothers do a better job than fathers at caring for their newborns. Only 1% of Americans said that fathers do a better job than mothers. And the rest believe they do it equally well.
Traditional gender roles support the stay-at-home mom. There’s programs designed to help them get back to work. See: returnships. And though, maybe these returnships are open to both men and women by law – who are those that are hiring more sympathetic towards? We can imagine it’s probably not the dads who chose to stay with their children while their wives worked full time.
So if you’re a dad who’s choosing to stay at home – here’s your plan of attack.
Own your decision.
That’s all there is to it. You are taking the path less trodden. You owe no one any explanations.
Stay-at-home father Mark Tyler recalls when “a fellow non-traditional couple came over for brunch one weekend. ‘It was probably funny and ironic enough for a fly on the wall to witness two dads talking about the travails of raising preschoolers while their wives talked about business,’ says Mark. ‘But the real ‘aha’ moment came as they were about to leave. Carol and I both wished Diana well as she navigated the pregnancy and impending birth with her career, and jokingly warned Bill that he was about to have his hands full. ‘Don’t feel sorry for Bill,’ Diana joked, ‘He’s got total job security now.’ With that, she gave him a loving pat on the rear end. It was funny, and we laughed, but I couldn’t help think I’d just witnessed a scene from the 1950’s except in reverse.’
Enjoy the irony of it all and hope that eventually stay-at-home parenting on both ends will be more normalized. Until then, we see you, we support you, rock on.