What should you expect from Millennnial dads? Expect to see more of them stay at home and care for their children. There’s already been a greater move in recent years towards dads staying at home. According to Pew Research, 2 million stay-at-home-parents are dads. That’s 16% of stay-at-home-parents. Of these, 21% say that their main reason for staying at home is to care for their family. This represents an increase of 400% since 1989 when only 5% of stay-at-home fathers said they did so primarily to care for their kids. In fact, the study found that 48% of working fathers would prefer to be home raising their children.
While just 24% of current stay at home fathers are under 35 years old, the trends are showing that we’re on track to see more stay-at-home-dads (SAHD) in the future. In fact, 61% of Gen Y men say that they expect there to be an equal amount of stay-at-home-dads as there are stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) in only 20 years time. That suggests that many of them see themselves potentially staying at home.
The reason why SAHDs are increasing in numbers is partly because women are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners in their families. In a BBC article, two men explain the reasons they chose to stay home:
“My wife and I were earning about the same income at the time just after our daughter was born. We felt that if someone was going to raise our children it would have been one of us,” says Watts.
“My wife was promoted shortly after she got back from maternity leave and that bump in pay would allow us to live on one income.”
When Matt Burr’s son was born, there was never any question as to whether his wife would take time off from her job as a doctor.
“It was a no-brainer in that situation. She was definitely going to have to work,” he says.
The question, then, “was whether I kept doing my job.” When they crunched the numbers, including the cost of childcare, it made sense for him to stay home.
Often the decision to stay at home with kids is primarily a financial one. Many families simply can’t afford to have single career households, but when one parents makes less it can sometimes mean that childcare will be more expensive than having that parent go to work. In the past, this has primarily meant that mothers have stayed home. But now, more fathers are staying home for this reason or simply because the mother’s career cannot easily be paused or is just much more lucrative.
The challenge remains that SAHDs face significant stigma. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 51% of people believe that children do better if their mother stays home, but only 8% said that children do better if their father stays home. There is still a great deal of stigma around stay-at-home dad, so much so that the organization that advocates for them the National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign against the common practice of calling SADHs Mr. Mom. The term suggests that dads are somehow less capable of being the primary caregivers to their children.
But this stigma is not just a general societal attitude that disapproves of SAHDs, it means that many SAHDs have had to face criticism from their families and friends:
“They freaked out,” Michael Ring told me while describing his parents’ reaction to his decision. “They thought it was a phase. My mother thought I’d never be happy. My father tells people I’m retired.” My own dad, who’d worked full-time as a civil engineer, had politely treated my staying home with the kids as a consolation prize for struggling professionally. To him, my writing career was a dream deferred, something that hadn’t quite worked out yet but would. Meanwhile, getting to watch my kids grow up, hey, that wasn’t bad.
That criticism might make it more difficult for SAHDs, but it isn’t deterring them. In fact, many SAHDs are defiant:
“I don’t care what people say about men staying home, that it’s wimpy or other explicit words,” he said. “My daughter a couple weeks ago learned how to hop on one foot and she was just so excited about it. Men who don’t stay home are missing out on some of the crucial moments in the child’s life, and I’m blessed to be able to witness it.”
With Millennials increasingly interested in work/life balance, and more women becoming the primary breadwinners, expect to see more SAHDs in the future. While SAHDs won’t be overtaking the number of SAHMs anytime soon, it’s refreshing to see that parents are making choices that work for their families rather than relying on gender roles to decide who should stay home.