Jason Reilly, WPUNJ student writer
In today’s changing economy more men are staying at home with their children, becoming stay-at-home fathers. Often, couples find the economic benefits of having a stay-at-home father are greater when the man becomes the caretaker. In a June 5, 2014 New York Times article, family and gender role writer, Claire Cain Miller, writes that the main driver for staying at home is choice.
According to Gretchen Livingston, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center, the number of stay-at-home fathers has doubled from 1.1 million in 1989 to reach its highest point—2.2 million—in 2010. Eric Mountford, of Slate online said that he’s a stay-at-home father because although he’d love to put his kids in daycare five days a week, he doesn’t have the extra $30,000 a year to do so.
The stigma of stay-at-home fathers
There is a stigma towards stay-at-home fathers. They’re judged because they are not able to provide for their family. The fact that Mountford’s wife has more of an earning potential is judged, he said, especially by the older generation.
Mountford discusses how the best decision for his family, financially, was for him to be home with the kids. They were trying to allocate their resources in the best way possible. One parent needs to stay at home with the kids, while the other forages for money or berries or mastodon meat, Mountford quipped. Especially during lean times. And according to him, it happens to be lean times we’re living in.
Dr. Steven Lindner writes in a June 2016 article from The New York Daily News that, “Men are stereotypically thought of as assertive, competitive, dominant and tough, and those are not characteristics typically associated with someone fulfilling the role of Mr. Mom.”
Even in the high power of Wall Street, the shift is evident. A December 2013 article from the New York Times, discusses how women working in Wall street rely on the support of their stay-at-home husbands to enable them to compete with new intensity. Having a husband put his career on hold to be with the kids allows his wife to excel in her’s.
The same article said that, “Many discovered that even with babysitting and household help, the demands of working in finance made a two-career marriage impossible.”
In other words, parents sometimes need to sacrifice their own needs for their kids needs.
The stay-at-home dad benefit for children
A 1996 study by McGill University showed that children brought up by their father had developed more empathy. “Fathers who spent time alone bonding with their children more than twice per week brought up the most compassionate adults.”
Not all fathers are home because it’s economically beneficial to the family. According the Pew Research Center, “the largest share of stay-at-home fathers (35%) is at home due to an illness or disability.”
While this may seem like a negative to the economic argument, it’s still more beneficial than having to put a child in daycare. Studies by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the other by the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota, have shown that having at least a parent home is beneficial, and it doesn’t always have to be a parent. A babysitter, relative, or daycare can be just as beneficial, as long as the quality of care is great.
A new perspective for a growing trend
When society looks at a stay-at-home fathers, they are quick to judge. They expect him as unable to provide for his family, or his wife has more of an earning potential. While this may be true in some cases, it may not always be the case. Maybe, they decided it was the best economic decision at the time. This was the case for Mountford. Even though he still remains as a moderately active writer, he earns two-thirds of what his wife makes. Mountford has seen people look at his wife as ditching her kids to nurture selfish professional ambitions, and not as someone who wants to provide for her family.
This new trend needs to be looked at as a way to help families survive in an ever-changing world. The cost of living is only becoming more intolerable as time goes on. The decision of who stays home and who is allowed to financially provide should be a collective decision. Considering that for most of human existence, it has been economical for the men to go out and work. Maybe, by having the men do the childrearing, there may be positive benefits to this new phenomena.
Parents, especially dads, can check out the National At-Home Dad Network: Providing support, education and advocacy for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children.
This website, http://www.amotherisborn.com, also offers support and information for working mothers who need advice, or just someone to talk to.