Dads at Home

It seems we’ve come a long way in a single generation. Dads now play a much bigger role in their children’s day-to-day lives than they did a few decades ago. Yet it is still unusual for men to accept the role of fulltime stay-at-home parent. Research carried out in 2010 by the Australian Institute of Family Studies identified only 7 per cent of families operated with the female as sole breadwinner.

Deborah Wilmore from the University of Western Sydney is conducting a study into the role of stay-at-home dads. Her preliminary research indicates the greatest critics to the idea of a man becoming the primary caregiver to his children is his own father – who often can’t understand why his son would want to take on the role.

Wilmore’s research also shows there is still a stigma attached to men who opt out of the workforce to care for their children and they often feel isolated without the traditional support of playgroups, mothers groups etc.

It is a fact of life that children need care – be it from a parent or in a formalised childcare arrangement – you simply can’t have a child and revert back to your old life. The notion of which parent takes on the majority of the caring responsibilities is a complex, emotional and difficult one.

Staying at home with my daughters was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Disassociated from the workforce I felt my sense of identity and self-worth wither. There where long stretches where I had absolutely no idea who I was or what I was trying to achieve in life. However, the process of being forced to forge a new identity and rediscover what was important to me proved to be a rewarding one. There is no doubt the process saw me develop new skills, adaptive abilities and gave me a confidence that paid work did not define me.

Giving dads the opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with their children could only be a good thing. If more dads took time out of work to raise children we may see the workforce adapting more to the idea that a break does not mean the end of working life. It could also see a more flexible framework to employment that would benefit everyone, even those without children. However, I can imagine it may not be so easy for women to hand over the child raising responsibilities, we do like to be in control.

What are your thoughts on stay-at-home dads?

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13 thoughts on “Dads at Home

  1. I think every Dad should stay at home with the kids for at least a month and have the full responsiblity that Mom is expected to carry out. It would give him a chance to see how hard it really is to keep up with the kids and the household chores. I love it when women who are stay at home Moms, are considered to be ‘non-working’ women. Hah! They have the hardest, and probably the most important, job of any of us.

      • A little, but in the UK fathers do not get the recognition they should. I will not say deserve, cos not always the case. My isolated feel is not due to this though. But many places ie; schools seem to find it hard to respond to fathers, eyes forever follow you around, and in some cases thoughts are not always nice. I enjoy my time with my daughter, precious and gold.

      • Yes dads of daughters have it a little tough, my husband often commented that it was difficult when he was out alone with the girls when they were little, especially if they needed to go to the toilet etc.

      • Ditto from me, tell him from me I fully understand. Unfortunately peoples thoughts stray and are often wrong. I once took her to a small open farm, local to us, and I am sure if looks fired bullets I would have been riddled with holes. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed her day out…..shame really..

  2. hi janine, i have a friend whose husband is home with their little one. i do not know how he feels, but she misses all the little daily things her baby is doing. i support dads at home, if everyone is happy with the choice! joy to you, n

    • I think it is a complex situation – when you become the main breadwinner you do give up certain things with your baby (just like blokes have had to do for centuries). I reckon it would be good to have both parents working part-time – but then of course two careers get derailed.

  3. I took 3 months off work to look after my daughter and since I was without a car it was very isolating. The time with my daughter was great and we have a super strong bond. I found that going to baby groups was not enjoyable since the moms were not willing to talk with me. Even now with things like school councils (PTA), it is mostly moms. I notice that if moms are friends then families are friends. There is seldom a family friendship when the dads are buddies or if the dad has an acquaintanceship with another mom. While my kids have lots of friends, since I am the public face of our family (for a bunch of reasons that work for us) we have a pretty small social circle. I doubt that would be the case were my wife out there on the forefront.

    • To have been without a car would have been awful. I never really got into the baby groups either and it did make it a somewhat lonely experience being at home. You make a valid point about the friendship side of things – our friends are mostly couples I met through the kid’s school – my husband is friends with the husbands but the relationships were initially developed by me.

  4. My dad traveled 4-5 days a week for the first 13 (?) years of my life. It was strange when he got a new job and spent more time at home – it was almost like he didn’t know how to fuse himself in with the dynamic that was already there. However, I keep looking at my friends that are having children now and even though it’s only the beginning, they’re splitting a lot of the work and a lot of the time. It’ll be interesting to see how this continues when a few of them get more steady jobs (as opposed to graduate students, etc)….

    • I’ve got high hopes for your generation Chrystina – I’m hoping it plays out a little differently for you guys – I think Generation X, despite the fact we are sometimes seen as the do-nothing-of-significance generation, did see a huge turnaround in male participation in the homefront. I just think that at key points we chickened out a little bit – many of us retreated back to the home because it was bloody hard to juggle kids, work and home usually while living a long way from our own families. There are many reasons why so many women did revert to SAHM or part-time workers and in my opinion a lot of it was to do with lack of support structures, in the workforce and in the moving away from what had been the traditional support of grandparents to help out. I’m hoping that as the men of your generation become even more actively involved in their families we might see some big changes in the way employment is set-up. Re your dad, my husband was in the Navy for the first seven or eight years of our relationship, he left the Navy when Hippie Child was two and it took a lot of adjusting to get used to having him home on a permanent basis after him being away for six to eight months of the year, so I can understand your Dad’s disconnection when he stopped travelling.

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