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Stay at Home Dads: Not Just Mr. Mom Anymore!

Katlyn Joy |23, July 2012


Stay at Home Dads: Not Just Mr. Mom Anymore!

Remember Michael Keaton as the bumbling out of work dad struggling to take over for his wife in taking care of kids and home in "Mr. Mom?" Today's stay at home dads shatter that stereotype.

Many fathers are part of a growing group that choose to stay home and care for their families. The numbers of such men are definitely on the rise. In 2001 81,000 men were stay at home parents. By 2011, those numbers had swelled to 176,000 or from 1.6 percent to 3.4 percent.

As the numbers have risen, the possible stigma attached to switching from breadwinner to caregiver has decreased. Men today are met with less raised eyebrows or ribbing than men of earlier days as it has become more commonplace than before.

Reasons for becoming a stay at home parent are more varied as well. While once nearly solely due to economic necessity such as Mom had a job and Dad lost his, today the motivation is often multilayered.

Many dads may be earning a smaller check than their wives, or they are nearly equal earners. For these families, the decision to stay at home is perhaps based on reasons like dad missed out on earlier years home with the kids and feels due to take his turn enjoying more focused family time.
Sometimes the woman is on a career path that is on a sharp incline and would lose more ground in her work advancement should she stay at home, while the man is more established at the point when he jumps out of the rat race.

Many stay at home dads relish their roles and are reluctant to give them up even when economic factors which may have lead to their staying home reverse. They find they enjoy their time at home with the kids and are not willing to go back to the daily grind of a 9 to 5.

How to Decide Who Should Stay Home

1. Economic factors: who earns the most, who is on the most focused and time-consuming career path, who enjoys their work the most and who has the most demanding schedule at work.

2. Emotional factors: is one parent feeling left out in parenting time, has one parent lost more time with the kids due to previous work or military deployment, is one parent more motivated to stay at home.

Work out an agreement by looking at the long range goals of your family and each parent's careers. Some parents may opt to work out a schedule that provides for each parent a set number of years or months perhaps as the primary caregiver while the other parents earns a paycheck.

In today's technological environment, it may be possible that one parent earns an income, maybe a parttime one, in a flexible telecommuting position while staying home and caring for the children.
It's important for families to have regular family discussions about their arrangement and their feelings about the caregiving and wage earning. Sometimes the decisions made become out of date and must be adjusted along the way.

However, very few fathers seem regretful about their decision to spend time as the primary caregiver. The opportunity to be a strong daily presence in their child's life in a measurable way seems to outweigh any losses at the job front.

Tips for Stay at Home Dads

- Get support. Find a group in your area of other stay at home dads. This will be invaluable to you in finding your social outlet, your understanding ears and your validation when days are heavy on poop and playdough and short on camraderie and kudos.

- Get organized, man-style. While your wife may have had her special color-coded lists for grocery shopping and doctor appointments, you may utilize other systems or concoct your own. This is your world now, arrange it to fit your personal style.

- Don't let the jokes, stigmas, or ignorance pull you down. Remember why you do what you do and have a mental list at the ready to reassure yourself on the rough spots.

- Keep close with your partner. Don't let the role-reversal shake up what is the foundation of your family, your marriage. Spend time being grown ups, all together and nourish that primary bond to strengthen the entire family.

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Chase Jul 26, 2012 03:12:02 PM ET

There is a strong sense of struggle for me as a stay at home dad when I think of about my masculinity. I am not doing the "traditionally manly" thing - goin to work and providing for my family. Doing house work, raising kids, etc is something none of my other pals are doing. It can be tough and rairly rewarding but I think my kids love it.

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