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stay at home dad and baby

(image: J.K. Califf)

Over the past 15 years, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in America. What’s behind this trend? Family structure and gender roles are shifting.

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The “good old days”

Back in the ‘50s, the nuclear family was the norm. Society said that husbands would bring home the bacon, and wives would pump out 2.5 children and a cornucopia of fresh-baked pies. Little Susie would play the violin with a blank, spine-chilling stare, and Johnny would shoot his BB gun outside until dinner. Mom would worry about Johnny shooting his eye out, and would keep stacking up pies, pies, and more pies.

Seriously, how many pies can one family eat? (Moving on.)

For some, these were the good ol’ days. For others, those times were a stark reminder of how poorly diversity was tolerated. After all, not everyone fit into the confines of this narrowly defined, white-picket-fenced world.

A fundamental shift

Today’s American households are weaved together with a colorful patchwork of differing beliefs, preferences, and orientations. How you raise your family is entirely your choosing. I could write a novel on this topic alone. But we don’t have time for that, muffin. In this article, we’ll dive into the fundamental shifts happening in committed, heterosexual relationships, and how stay-at-home dads are blazing a trail of their own.

dad and son embracing

Why more dads are staying at home

“When I first started being a stay-at-home dad I was the only father in New York in Riverside Park,” says Jacques Elmaleh, who started staying at home with his children in 2000. “Slowly there were more and more.” (BBC News: What’s behind the rise of stay-at-home dads?)

Jacques isn’t alone. New York Times (and data from Pew Research Center) suggests that more American men are staying at home by choice, not because of injury or unemployment. In fact, the number of American stay-at-home dads has doubled over the past 15 years.

What’s behind the rise of stay-at-home dads in America?

Gender roles are shifting

By and large, there’s been a central shift in gender roles and family structure across America. Studies show that men are more hands-on with housework and childcare than previous generations.

Men and women report trouble balancing work and home life. Many say they’d prefer to stay home if they could afford to. Many couples toss traditional gender roles out the window, and make decisions based on what works for them as a couple.

More and more, women out-earn their partners

Between taxes, living expenses, and day care, that paycheck is gone quicker than you can say “naptime Happy Hour.” With women holding their own in the workforce—and bringing home more delicious, delicious bacon—many men will trade their suits and hard hats for Baby Bjorns.

According to the New York Times, Otis Johnson became a stay-at-home dad after he was laid off from his factory job in 2009. With his wife making big strides in her career as a nurse practitioner, they decided he would stay at home with his daughter. Otis isn’t too concerned with what others think about his stay-at-home dad status:

“By the time I get a paycheck, it all goes to day care, or I can stay home and raise my own children. . . . I don’t care what people say about men staying home. . . . My daughter a couple weeks ago learned how to hop on one foot and she was just so excited about it. Men who don’t stay home are missing out on some of the crucial moments in [their] child’s life, and I’m blessed to be able to witness it.”

Over to you

Does your partner stay at home with the kids? Do you? How do you balance childcare, careers, and family time? I’d love to hear your two cents in the comments.

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Tanya Roberts

Tanya Roberts is a writer and marketer who loves to spin stories about interior design and home decor. She is principle strategist at Bluefinch.ca