Support for Stay-at-Home Dads

Garrison Keillor, the musical host of the Minnesota radio show A Prairie Home Companion, recently sang a song on his show entitled “The Only Living House Dad in Eau Claire about a dad who wishes he lived in San Francisco, where there would be others like him.  While stay-at-home fathers were once rare, a U.S. Census report indicates that in 2007 there were 159,000 fathers who were the  primary care takers of their children while their wives worked out  of the house. This represented 2.7% of the parents who stayed at home taking care of children, a tripling in the percentage from a  decade ago. These figures underestimate the number of fathers with  primary responsibility for childcare, in that it doesn’t include single or gay-partnered fathers.

In the current economic climate, many families are forced to make  choices about whose career to support and who’s to put on hold while  children are home. Most couples make these decisions based on  economic realities, as one partner’s job may offer better  advancement, compensation or benefits. Other couples make the  decision based on more emotional concerns. One partner may have  more patience and skill with children, or more enjoy the process of homemaking. When fathers choose to stay home, they may face particular challenges.  Many stay-at-home dads report feeling isolated, and have difficulty adapting to environments where they are the only man around.

Fortunately, there are many printed, on-line and organizational  resources for dads who take care of children full-time. “At-Home  Dads”  has held annual conventions for the past dozen years. DC Metro Dads , a local DC area  chapter of “Daddy’s Home” sponsors play groups,  picnics, dads-only parties, and camping trips.

The effect of stay at home fatherhood on the marital relationship may be complicated. Moms may feel ambivalent about their husbands taking on what was once thought of as the “mommy” role, while dads may feel pressure to provide economically for their families. In  working through their feelings and decisions, sometimes couples can benefit from marital therapy, which can help mothers and fathers find the best arrangement for their
families, and find satisfaction in their roles.

Bayles, Peter Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook, Chicago Review Press (2004.)
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