The number of stay-at-home dads has increased vastly over the last few decades, reaching the highest rate at a little over 2 million in 2010. And while many may want to attribute this trend to the coinciding recession, the truth is that more dads actually want to stay at home with the kids: a 2013 study of almost 1,000 fathers by Boston College’s Center for Work and Family reported that 77% of dads wanted more time to spend with their kids. And while only 16% of home based caregivers are stay-at-home dads (according to Huffington Post’s analysis of U.S. Census data), this number is sure to increase as more women decide to take on increasingly demanding corporate jobs or, as I predicted in a recent article on SharpHeels, more parents take turns between working and child-rearing.
As they take on the responsibility of being the main caregiver and lead parent, what do stay-at-home dads want us to know?
We’re not just here because we couldn’t find a job.
Some of us may have ended up in this role because we weren’t able to find a new job after a layoff or because we had an injury or disability that put us out of the workforce, but many of us are here because we really want to get to know our children.
We realized that the work-life policies put in place weren’t meant for men; unlike women who spent the last generation fighting for family friendly work practices, men’s careers have not caught up. If we want to be more to our kids than someone who shows up (late) to dinner and at a few after school sports games, we have to take on the responsibility of becoming primary caregiver – and give ourselves a chance to actually be there for them from the start.
We wish stay-at-home moms would make us feel more welcome.
We may not be the same as stay-at-home moms, but we still want to feel like we’re part of a community and valued for what we do. Include us in play groups and meet ups. Don’t assume that because I’m a dad that I won’t be interested in volunteering in my child’s classroom or chitchatting about parenting trips. And most of all, don’t make me feel like I have to be occupied by my phone, newspaper, or other distractions when I take my kids to the park – invite me into your circles so that we feel included in the community.
We love our kids more than anything.
We love our kids so much, that’s why we’re here doing this job day in and day out. We may have grown up with dads that didn’t know how to warm a bottle or change a diaper, but that’s not who we want to be. We want to be a part of our kids lives, and we want to be there for all the special moments like their first steps, their first words, and their first day of school. We love having a connection with them and we love having them see us as more than someone that earns money for the family.
We love that our significant others are giving us this opportunity.
Without a significant other that supports us and is willing to support our family financially, we wouldn’t have our chance to be with our children all day. To previous generations, being a father that stayed at home wasn’t common. In fact, many of us grew up barely knowing our dads in any sort of meaningful way until we were well into our teenage years. By allowing us to take the lead at home, you’re give us the opportunity to know our children in a more intimate way than our fathers were able to experience.
We may do things differently than a stay-at-home mom would.
We may not be overly concerned about enrolling the kids in tons of activities, and we may not spend our days planning the perfectly balanced lunch menu for the week. We may not join a daily playgroup, and our daily activities may be bug collecting and mud painting rather than piano lessons and tennis. But we will take care of kids and make sure they know they are loved. And while days may be a little crazy (or spontaneous, as we prefer to call it), we will make sure they explore, learn, laugh and play. We’ll be there to wipe away tears and bandage skinned knees. We may do it differently than you would, but that’s why we’re stay-at-home dads.
Sometimes, we’re lonely.
It’s no secret that stay-at-home parents experience feeling of isolation and loneliness. When your days are similar, melt one into the other, and are void of adult companionship, it can be tough. And stay-at-home dads are more likely to experience this loneliness than stay-at-home moms since many of the playgroups and other activities are run by mothers and can be exclusionary for dads.
Featured photo credit: Dad and Daughter/ Peter Werkman via flickr.com