Why a ‘Stay-at-Home Dad’ May Never Be the Norm


dadFor a while there, we were all buying the talk about how more families had stay-at-home dads. And no wonder we did: Those Mr. Moms felt like the Superman heroes who would forever prevent working moms from feeling as if they were sacrificing the day-to-day tasks of family life for the growing to-do lists of their busy jobs.

But it looks like that sliver of hope about the prevalence of stay-at-home dads may have been just a speck.

Time reports that, according to recent Census data, although the number of stay-at-home dads (who have been out of the workforce for at least a year) has doubled in the last decade, they account for the makeup of only 0.8% of families—a number that’s too small to really support the idea that fathers are rushing to exchange their briefcases for diaper bags. What’s more: that percentage is most likely skewed by the number of men who have been laid off due to the recession (and who aren’t necessarily homebound by choice).

RELATED: Can Moms Have it All? Real Dads Respond

The Census survey also shows that men aren’t spending as much time at home in other ways, too: Working dads take off less time than working moms after the birth of a child. Although the majority—85%—of men do take paternity leave, most don’t take more than two weeks. Women, meanwhile, take an average of 10 weeks off, according to Women’s Health USA. (The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for companies with more than 50 workers.)

The reason for the disparity, men say, is that they believe that even taking two weeks of paternity time, though legally allowed, is still somewhat socially taboo and that the status quo in most business cultures is still to expect maternity leave for new mothers, but not for new fathers. As a result, men feel more pressure to get back to work.

Even if the Mr. Mom trend hasn’t taken flight just yet, we’re sure many moms are glad their stay-at-home superheroes are still around.

  • Rob

    1) Can you stop with “Mr. Mom” already? That’s so ’80s. I prefer “Dad”.
    2) One reason the Census data are skewed is because of the prejudicial way the bureau treats parents: women taking care of their kids, regardless of wages earned, are considered ‘parents’, while men caring for their children are considered ‘child-care providers’ unless they are completely unemployed.
    3) Men are not taking care of their children primarily because they’ve lost their jobs. For the most part a couple makes the choice for the partner with the higher earning potential to work while the other partner stays home. It is more common today, because of education and opportunity, for women to be the higher earner, so the guy stays home as a choice.

  • chadmwelch

    You need to have a better understanding of the Census numbers you are reporting on. The qualifications for at-home dad are so restrictive it leaves out a large number of caregivers. I myself have been an at-home dad for 12 years. Because I have always earned a little money, between $25-$100 a month) I do not qualify as an at-home dad under their definition.

    It would be like discounting an at-home mom because she hosted a Tupperware party.

    Although not perfect, a better number might come from the Census report showing that 32% of married fathers (approximately 7 million dads) are “a regular source of care for their children under age 15, up from 26% from 2002.”

    And seriously, you are still hanging onto Mr. Mom. That was 30 years ago. It is 2013 and we just call it parenting.