The National At-Home Dad Network defines "at-home-dads" as:
"An at-home dad is any father who is the daily, primary caregiver of his children. He cooks, cleans, and cares for his children most days of the week while his wife works outside the home. Many at-home dads also provide some income to the family by working an evening shift full-time or working from home part-time or doing odd jobs when it works into the family's schedule..."
While women still remain the primary caretakers, several men are quitting their jobs in order to take care of little Johnny--my generic child name of choice.
A U.S. Census Bureau reported that among fathers with working wives, 32% babysit their children once a week (minimum) in 2010. The Census looked at families with children under 15 years old.
This is a dramatic increase from the previous 26% reported in 2002. Another 2010 report indicated that of those kids under the age of 5, 20% of fathers stayed home as primary caretakers
Why the surge?
Many factors are causing this. But ultimately it's because dads are simply more available now than before--largely because of the recession. Mothers still go to work, but fathers are left twiddling their thumbs after losing their jobs.
The avalanche of job loss since 2007 buried twice as many men (4 million jobs) as women (2 million jobs), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Another reason is that couples are realizing the economic incentives of having at least one parent at home. Child care costs keep rising while wages remain about the same. So it's simply the more cost-effective choice.
And naturally, the one contributing the least to household income is the first to be on the self-induced employment chopping block. Sure, there's still a massive income between the sexes. But a slow rise in women's salaries results in many women out-earning their husbands.
In fact, 26% of women living in dual-income households had annual earnings of at least 10 percentage points higher than their husbands (according to a report in 2008). An increase from 15% in 1997.
But It's Not All Financially Motivated
Lance Somerfeld--founder of the NYC Dads group--said in an interview with CNN, "Too often, we hear that it's the economy that forces dads into these roles and that's certainly a part of it, but I would love to shatter that stereotype."
He added, "Being my son's primary caregiver is something I have truly cherished and embraced and never looked back."
Jeremy Adam Smith, former stay-at-home dad, states, "There are a lot of guys out there that had remote relationships with their own fathers and they don't want that with their kids. It's not just stay-at-home dads--fathers in general are participating more in their children's lives."
Some of the Challenges Include...
Many stay-at-home dads say it is an isolating experience, running the risk of falling into a depression. Although there are several fathers serving as primary caretakers, it is still challenging for them to find and connect with other stay-at-home dads--hence organizations like NYC Dads.
Let's be honest. Even though it's more common now, there's still a certain emasculating stigma with being a stay-at-home dad. And many of them struggle with finding their identity because society believes that childcare should be a woman's task.
But perspectives change over time, right?