“The Engaged Dad,” “The New Dad,” “Dads Behaving Dadly,” and the veteran “Stay-at-home Dad” are all variations on a growing trend: fathers choosing to be the primary caregivers to their children. From the Pew Research Centers to Boston College, the research is clear; more and more dads are opting out of the business world and into full-time parenting.
The trend, which had first been attributed to fallout from the Great Recession, seems to be more about lifestyle choices than any imposition of a “new normal” by economic factors. Although, the fact that now some 23% of women in 2-parent households out-earn their spouses probably has a little something to do with it.
According to the Pew Research Centers, as reported by The New York Times, last year more than 16% of primary at-home child-care was performed full-time by men. And, those men in the 16% are feeling lonely. Many a mommy can identify; days filled with diapers, Disney Channel, and Leap Pads do not lend themselves to male camaraderie. As one dad said to The NY Times, “You’ll hear many men describe it; I’m alone on an island in a vast sea.”
Moms organized and learned to combat their feelings of isolation with Mommy & Me classes, TOPS groups, and a vast array of mom-to-mom support. Luckily for the dads, they don’t have to re-invent the wheel, just adjust it, and maybe soup it up—trick it out a little—dad-style.
Dads aren’t just coming out as parents, but combating serious societal stigmas associated with masculinity and parenthood. Men have long taken on the provider role, and women were expected to take on the caregiver one. “There’s no history, no social structure, no guidebook. A guy jumps into this blind,” offers Jim O’Dowd, the organizer of the first annual National At Home Dad Network Conference, which was held in Denver, Colorado in November 2014.
Dads’ groups are springing up all over the country, with one New York based local meet-up boasting 1,100 members. While it may sound as though Daddy Day Care is poised to be the next big wave in child rearing, remember, these men are paying a huge social price for their decision. Much like the University of Toronto study which coined the phrase motherhood penalty, dads are finding a double-stigma associated with care-giving. Max Shereson, former C.E.O. of MongoDB, Inc. said in a statement outlining his decision to step down to spend more time with his young family, “As a male C.E.O., I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a C.E.O.”
The New York Times article shared anecdotes from dads nation-wide who are asked if they’re “babysitting” their children, and one man was accosted by police while out with his own baby on a cold day because it seemed “suspicious.”
Dads, we at Ideal Baby salute you.