Stay at Home Dads Are Losers – True or False?

Father and baby girl sitting

How many times have you heard people saying stay-at-home dads are losers? As a father myself who is fortunate to be a stay-at-home dad, I’m aware of this talk. I used to get mad about it but now, two years down the line, I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Despite living in modern times, stay-at-home dads are still often frowned upon by society. My common sense tells me to expect this. After all, we’ve grown up believing fathers should be bringing home the money while mom looks after the kids (but she can hold down a career too!). In 1967, 47% of mothers were staying at home. By 2012, this had dropped to 28% in America. I can’t help but hope society will learn to embrace stay-at-home dads more willingly.

By sharing my story and my points of view, I hope to instill the fact that stay-at-home dads aren’t losers. If anything, we’re contributing to a more holistic growing experience for our children. Not only do I benefit from having a wonderful relationship with my toddler daughter but I do believe she adores having her dad at home. What’s more, it helps dads to appreciate what moms have to handle on a daily basis. 

Read on as I share my side of the story, what my fiancée’s views are on stay-at-home dads and how you can manage the naysayers. I’ve dug up some facts to prove stay-at-home dads are far from losers and why some fathers pick this lifestyle. I’m also going to talk about how kids benefit from this arrangement and how you can make it work as a family.

What I Know About Being a Stay-at-Home Dad

I can confess now and tell you, that being a stay-at-home dad is not always a bed of roses! There have been days when I doubt my decision and wonder if I’m damaging my reputation, career-wise. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve killed a conversation by telling people I’m a stay-at-home dad. For many, this is still a strange concept to grasp!

I know what it feels like to be “looked down upon” for not being the main breadwinner. I don’t even try and sway these opinions. Who says you have to work away from home to be the main breadwinner anyway? But, that’s how society still sees certain roles functioning, and until there’s a wider acceptance, I simply put on my man-shield. However, I can state that I do believe people are more accepting of stay-at-home fathers than a decade ago. So, we’re getting somewhere! Recently on Shondaland site I got featured on the breadwinner role topic.

I had a chat with my own dad the other day on Skype. He’s a more conventional father and I grew up in a home where the father was the main breadwinner (away from home) while the mother stayed at home to care for the kids. My father did say he admired me for being at home for my daughter. He went as far as congratulating me for coping with the daily tasks of raising a child.

What Do Moms Have to Say About Stay-at-Home Dads

My research on this topic has shown that many mothers actually think it’s a great idea for dads to stay at home with the children. It’s certainly an arrangement that works well for both my fiancée and myself.

I fill in for my fiancée when she has to go to work. This typically means I get to be a stay-at-home dad, one to two days a week. Initially, this was quite a learning curve for me. It didn’t come naturally to me to perform “baby tasks” but I learned fast enough. I also have huge respect now for my fiancée and every mother out there. Looking after a child all day is no easy feat!

I asked my fiancée for her opinion on stay-at-home dads and I do believe it’s a reflection of many mothers who have partners staying at home looking after the kids.

Firstly, she wished she could have had her dad at home while she was growing up. She can see how our own daughter is thriving in our co-parenting style.

Secondly, she’s got a newfound respect for men who stay at home to raise the kids. She knows it’s not an easy step to take and that it can be challenging for many fathers.

I can’t deny there are many divorce cases that have stemmed from fathers staying at home. But, you can’t deny there are many success stories too.

Some Facts About Stay-at-Home Dads

I like working with statistics so here are some facts that’ll get you thinking you’re not alone in this role:

  • A 2016 study reported dads made up 17% of stay-at-home parents in America.
  • The same report indicated that 24% of these fathers consciously made the decision to be stay-at-home dads. 
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, it’s estimated that stay-at-home dads have grown from 1,2 million in 2006 to 1,45 million in 2013.
  • Fathers who stay at home to look after the children are often older, averaging around 43 years old, compared to homes where mothers stay at home.
  • A 2013 study revealed that 51% of its respondents felt mothers should stay at home while only 8% felt fathers should stay at home.

While some of these facts may seem dismal, there is a growing trend of fathers staying at home.

Why Some Dads Stay at Home With the Kids

While my decision to stay at home with my daughter was a personal choice agreed upon with my fiancée, some fathers take on the role as the primary caregiver for other reasons. These reasons could include the following:

  • Retrenchment or loss of a job: This is an unfortunate situation that is becoming more and more of a reality for many fathers. I do believe the COVID-19 pandemic is going to see an increase in stay at home dads. I lost my job as well and this way I get to stay at home with my daughter even longer than before.
  • Disability or a chronic illness: Many fathers may find an illness or disability forces them to work from home so they, by default, also become the child’s primary caregiver.
  • Your partner is the main breadwinner: If your partner is earning more money than you are it makes sense to stay at home and take care of the kids. Child care costs can be steep so opting to stay at home is often the best solution financially. To give you some guidance, at LA Fitness monthly fee is between $10 – $15 per month for each child.

Whatever, the reason for becoming a stay-at-home father, there can be many challenges. One of them is finding enough mental stimulation. By profession, I’m a scrum master for R&D teams. This entails working with many intelligent people. Coming down to my two-year-old’s intelligence level sometimes leaves me feeling brain-dead!

Do Kids Benefit From Dad Staying at Home?

Studies have shown that children do benefit in many ways from having a dad stay at home. These range from emotional to cognitive and physical development. Fathers and mothers have different parenting styles and if well-managed, your child will benefit from both.

Some of the benefits reported from the studies above include:

  • Fathers encourage their toddlers to deal with their frustrations by showing them how to manage their stress. A mother will naturally turn to nurture their toddler during a tantrum.
  • Fathers tend to teach older children how to be more curious about the world around them. 
  • Stay-at-home dads who bond closely with their children in their first five years have been shown to produce more compassionate people in their adulthood.
  • Children who grow up with both active maternal and paternal influences on a daily basis are shown to be more emotionally balanced.

Becoming a stay-at-home father can also allow you to soothe your baby when he/she is crying as I mentioned in a separate article. In effect by spending time with your baby, the two of you will get accustomed to each other.

For a child to benefit from having a stay-at-home dad, it’s important that the father actively engages with the child in a positive and constructive manner. If a father is angry about being at home because of forced circumstances then he’s more likely to battle with mental health issues.

How to Make Being a Stay-at-Home Dad Work for the Whole Family

Whether we like it or not, being a stay-at-home dad is still a novelty in many families. It works for some families while others struggle to accept the change in roles. Reports of marital relationships taking strain are numerous. At times, jealousy and resentment towards the working partner can surface.

So, how do we fathers who stay at home with our kids make it work for the whole family? I believe it always starts with respect for each other and the contribution we’re making to the family structure. 

This can be acknowledging the working mother and the role she plays as the main breadwinner. It’s about recognizing your role as a stay-at-home father for all its complexities. The children can be shown, by example, how to respect both the maternal and paternal dynamics of the family and how they benefit from such a structure. 

It’s vital that both parents understand the vast challenges of being a stay-at-home dad and these include:

  • Dealing with the social stigma as well as with work colleagues who may look down on you for working from home while caring for the children.
  • Depression if the father has been retrenched and battles with no longer contributing financially.
  • Feeling isolated from the world and losing out on social interactions with other adults.

Raising children is hard work but it can be rewarding at the same time. If you’re all in it together, as a family, then staying at home as a father can also be extremely rewarding.

Some Tips From a Father Who Knows

It’s very easy to get caught up in the mundane tasks of raising children. I know. There always seems to be diapers that need to be changed, meals to be prepared and daytime naps to be scheduled. Then, don’t forget the dishes piling up in the sink and laundry that needs to be done!

Here are some tips I have found that help me bring some fun into my daily task of caring for our daughter:

  • Games: Set aside some time during the day to play games with your child. My daughter gets so excited when we sit down on the floor and play with her favorite Magna Tiles or Magformers. You could also get this KidKraft Wooden Play Table Train Table and set up the train set. Perfect for those rainy days when you’re stuck indoors.
  • Get out into nature: My daughter and I often take walks outside in nature. I find this calms her down and in turn, I become more relaxed too.
  • Plan a day trip: As a hobby for a stay-at-home father, in order to bring in some adventure, take a day trip somewhere. Don’t forget to pack food for the trip. You might find this TRAVELISSIMO Electric Lunch Box handy as you can warm up food straight from the car with it.
  • Join a local moms and kids club: This takes some courage but it’s a good way to get out of the house and interact with people of your age. Your kid will enjoy interacting with other kids as well.

You may also find these two books beneficial in managing your role as a stay-at-home dad.

  • The Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook by Jessica Toonkel & Peter Baylies: This book talks about how to manage to be the primary caregiver while offering practical solutions.
  • The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family – Jeremy A. Smith: The author tackles the complications, psychology and sociology of this growing trend of stay-at-home fathers.

Also, this guide on stay-at-home dads is quite useful, especially on how to make money – start a blog, the way I did it! 🙂

Watch this video and hear what stay-at-home dads have to say about this role.

Final Thoughts

Are stay-at-home dads losers? I don’t think so. In fact, you gain so much from being involved with your child’s life on a daily basis that it can only be positive. Many parents find their relationships actually improve and the father-child bond is stronger.

A stay-at-home dad learns to be more confident about who he is and places more value on his role as a father. And, your child grows up to be more emotionally balanced. Whatever your reason for being a stay-at-home dad, make it work for you, your partner, and your children.

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