SAHD: Recognizing A Growing TrendIt's no surprise to anyone that more men are staying at home to raise their children. Media outlets from TIME to CNN to The Wall Street Journal and even NPR have tried to capitalize on the so-called "man-cession" news thread ever since the economic downturn began in 2008. Out of the parents that stay at home with their children, only 3.4% of those parents are men; however, that number has DOUBLED in the last ten years to about 2 million. A new study out of Boston College's Center for Work & Family reports that the media might have it all wrong. As it turns out, most at-home dads are not victims of the down economy. Watch this video from a Fox affiliate in Boston for a quick overview of the study's outcomes from the Center for Work & Family's Executive Director, Professor Brad Harrington.
The Pragmatic Decision To Stay At HomeThis study found that most at-home dads actually choose to stay at home. This might be shocking to some men. Those men probably don't read this blog. The funny thing is that this new study is not shocking at all to those of us who actually stay at home with our children. We know why we do what we do, and most of us didn't choose to do it because of the down economy. There is usually a pragmatic reason for choosing to be an at-home dad. In my situation, it was because my former job kept me out of the house too much and Mrs. Matt Daddy really wanted to go back to work. For other guys, they have a spouse who happens to have a great job and make lots of money, and both partners value the involvement of an at-home parent so they can easily afford to make it happen. The decision to stay at home is usually a pro-active one based on parenting values and not a re-active one based on the economy.
Unemployed Men Probably Don't Make Great At-Home DadsI might be over-generalizing here, but I believe it's mostly true. There is a very big difference between an unemployed father who stays at home because he has not found another job and an at-home dad who chose to walk away from a job in order to stay home. They can both be successful parents, but the difference is that usually, the unemployed dad is typically still looking for another job (therefore dividing his attention from parenting). The man who chose to stay at home can focus solely on his responsibilities as an at-home parent. I find it interesting that five men of the group that were studied were unemployed and did not consider themselves at-home dads. They were still looking for work, and they would most likely return to work if they got a job. How is it that the media cannot recognize the difference? Granted, there are exceptions. I knew a handful of guys who used their unemployment to make a change, and they love it. But at some point, they still CHOSE to stay at home instead of look for work.
Being An At-Home Dad Is RewardingThe study found that the majority of at-home dads consider their new role to be extremely rewarding and meaningful. Wait... we are responsible for the well-being and upbringing of our offspring, and that is meaningful to Neanderthals like us? Of course it's rewarding! Why should it surprise anyone that dads feel the same way that moms do about staying at home with their kids? Why should it be a surprise that dads love being involved parents? It's not a secret. If you are one of the men who has been trying to keep it a secret, you need to tell ten people immediately that you love being an involved father! Seriously, turn off the screen. The article will be here when you get back.
Spouses Love Their At-Home DadsContrary to some misleading articles that have surfaced on the web, this study found that the spouses of at-home dads were happy to have someone they could trust looking after their children. It lowered their stress levels so that they could focus on being successful at their careers. The only major point of contention was what Dr. Aaron Rochlen and Dr. Marianne Dunn's 2011 study refers to as "domestic deterioration," that is, mom and dad have different standards when it comes to household cleanliness. This is not news either. When I consider my own marriage, my wife and I are closer now than we ever were when I was working. I hear that I am loved and appreciated. I know that she brags about me to people at her work. But I also know that she wishes I'd do the dishes sooner or pick up more often.
The Not-So-Shocking News About SAHDsSo this report was not very shocking at all. It basically reaffirmed everything that I already believed to be true about most at-home dads. Sure, there were some great quotes and a nice video, but there was no statistical proof that at-home dads are crazy, unemployed, depressed, isolated and more likely to divorce. Weird. The media can spin stories about "man-cessions" and what they think at-home dads really are, but it doesn't mean that they are true. Get to know any at-home dad and you will surely find a guy that loves what he is doing and feels that it's the most important job in the world.
Happy Father's Day everyone! Spend some time with your dad if he's still around, or spend some time remembering the good times you had with him if he isn't.