Friday, March 03, 2006

When Men Stay Home, Why are they there?

From Po:

When you’re talking about stay-at-home Dads, it’s important to distinguish between the long-term ones and the temporary ones. Most lifers started out as temporary – the arrangement just stuck. But usually it doesn’t stick for more than a couple years.

In 2004, the Census reported there were 147,000 stay-at-home Dads, which is more than double the 1995 figure of 64,000. This counted as a major trendline, and there were tons of news stories about this new alternative. Men choosing to care for their kids! What a story! However, a little perspective is needed. Consider this: for every 1 stay-at-home father, there were 56 stay-at-home moms. In other words, men had ridden this surge, and were now doing 1.7% of the stay-at-home duty. We might have broken the 2% barrier by now. Boy, 2 percent! Stop the presses!

Extremely rare was the news story that bothered to mention this. So we the people got the impression that men were suddenly pulling their weight … when we were really just pulling 2 percent of the weight.

Meanwhile, there were actually a ton of guys staying home that same year. In fact, nearly 1 million married men stayed home that year. Of those, only 16% were staying home to watch the kids. 45% were staying home because they were ill. In other words, a man was three times more likely to stay home that year because he was ill than because he was taking care of the kids. 11% stayed home because they couldn’t find a job.

So I think it’s great we men feel that staying home is an option, even short-term. I just think it’s misleading to get all the ink, when women still do 98% of the work.

Lots of studies have been done on stay-at-home Dads. They fill out a lot of questionnaires. Asked why they do it, the #1 response has to do with the fathering they experienced as children (they either didn’t have a father around, or in some cases they had a very nurturing father.) But a close #2 is that their wife had a better job.

In my next post, I’ll discuss one man’s experience as a stay-at-home lifer.


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