Picture by Marcela Rodarte
Let’s graciously and wholeheartedly honor all fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles, first responders, military members, coaches, teachers, mentors, spiritual leaders, and other positive male role models this Father’s Day. We know that fathers “are critical to their children's growth and development. Research on the involvement of men with their children stresses the important role that fathers play from infancy to adolescence” (Mazza & Perry, 2017). While this father’s day fiesta doesn’t feature any fun piñatas, we encourage you to throw a fiesta everyday for all the stay-at-home dads (SAHDs). Today’s blog explores this important demographic, reasons why more fathers are fulfilling this role, common myths and challenges facing SAHDs, and why Father Time isn’t just the old, grey-haired dude from New Year cartoons. We’ll also suggest how we can all work together to better acknowledge, uplift, and empower SAHDs. It’s Father Time (take that M.C. Hammer!), so show your fondness, empathy, and gratitude for SAHDs worldwide!
Papa Don’t Preach: Who Are The SAHDs?
No, we’re not emulating Madonna’s iconic fashion frocks. Instead, let’s describe what a SAHD is. Break out your bangle bracelets, peg those jeans, and make a big hair don’t care tribute. We’re thrilled that “papas are preaching” today as SAHDs to make families more inclusive, empowered, and diverse.
Who are the SAHDs typically? Just like any demographic, we advocate a “save the labels for the soup cans” philosophy since there’s no one-size-fits-all model or formula for any parents. However, most SAHDs tend to be married men or in long-term and/or serious relationships. Statistically, stay-at-home dads have nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Based on federal childcare data, Mazza & Perry (2017) cite how among American married employed mothers, 23 percent their child’s father as the primary care provider. Papa is “a rolling stone!”
Dance With My Father: Reasons for SAHDs’ Decisions
Next, let’s analyze why more SAHDs are opting for this path. The SAHD role is climbing due to the daunting job market, increasing costs of child care, and a more enlightened, equitable perspective of a parents “who themselves were raised in households where gender roles bucked traditional divisions”. Mazza & Perry (2017) further infer how many fathers are assuming new family roles as more unemployed fathers are squeezed out of the job market and other fathers by choice, while their partners are primary wage earners (p. 178). With the ample virtual and remote work and educational opportunities available right now, there’s more “power to the padres!”
Father Figures: Challenges Facing SAHDs
While my amazing husband isn’t a SAHD, he’s a first class father in every sense, despite being a busy commercial pilot and active military member. Yet when he takes our two daughters to dance classes or the local library for literacy events, he’s often confronted by snarky jokes and sexist remarks. These challenges are even harsher for SAHDs. Research reveals how the notion of men occupying traditionally female-dominated spaces is often met with both subtle and overt resistance (p. 89). Exclusionary practices and social isolation are common. Many SAHDs are often labeled as negligent parents, video game addicts, or lazy.
Meet my husband and girls :)
Just as many stay-at-home-moms often struggle to the most from one income, maintain a healthy work-family balance, return to the workforce when (and if) the time is right, SAHDs also face these common barriers (Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family, 2005). Save the judging for Judy and nurture SAHDs this father’s day (and everyday)!
Fatherhood Fiesta: How To Celebrate SAHDs
For starters, smile, be authentic, as well as open your mind and heart. Make friendly chitchat when you see a father, grandfather, uncle, single dad, or pair of dads bringing kids to a daycare center, hip-hop dance class, chess match, or girl scouts’ meeting. Let the dads dance, drive, doodle, dress, and/or dreadlock without ridicule, silly questions about masculinity, steely stares, inquiries about incomes, job schedules, etc. Let’s forge a better way to treat father figures via these 5 father friendly steps:
- Cancel the Guilt Trips: Both SAHDs and their partners shouldn’t feel guilt or be embarrassed. One SAHD mentions that his wife frets about “what people may say or think. But not about me. About her. Namely, she's worried they'll think she's a bad mother” Summer’s here, so take a real trip, families. Cancel the guilt trips.
- Swedish Fish: Take cues from Swedish culture. Sweden offers 16 months of paid parental leave with a three-month "use it or lose it" quota for fathers (Gatti, 2016). Look to our global pals for parenting paradigms.
- Silence of the Lambs: Don’t get morbid but do silence rude remarks swiftly. When facing ignorant comments such as "Looks like Dad played hooky today to take care of the kids," or, "Mommy must be taking a much-needed break," an article in The Washington Post recommends silencing sexism by proclaiming how that there’s nothing a dad would rather do “than to be with your children. The stranger may think you are sanctimonious but might also realize what these jibes implied” (Martin, 2019).
- Build Bridges: Find another parent for brunch bunch, play dates, and other social sanity savers. Evidence finds that stay-at-home dads are now forging more visibly “supportive communities of like minded fathers, for whom there are many online resources” (Mazza & Perry, 2017).
- Move Away From Mr. Mom: Stop the gender bender banter and move away from the outdated Mom myths. After all, "Society is increasingly open-minded about the nontraditional caregiving role of stay-at-home Dads, which augurs well for other fathers who might decide that this is the right choice for their families and themselves" Father Friday Frisbee in the park, anyone?
While we love Sly and the Rock, let’s not force all men to look or act like these actors or their characters. Don’t presume or imply that staying at home with the children isn't “work” or makes a dude "less of a man" than a guy with a paying gig”. Rid your mind of Rocky, except the Rocky Road ice cream, of course!
Let’s work together to support changing parenting, gender, and family norms. Just as Classic Childhood break norms in sustainable fashion, let’s all shatter barriers regarding how we view fatherhood and parenting dynamics in 2019 and beyond. Consider transforming one of dad’s favorite Hawaiian shirts or one of grandpa’s iconic dress shirts into an Heirloom piece for your lil one, fatherly fashion that will literally crawl or walk with your child linked in love, light, and laughter.
Gatti, T. (2016). The slow rise of the stay-at-home dad. New Statesman, 145(5345), 18–19.
Hart, John. (2018, June 7). What they don’t tell you about being a stay-at-home dad.. Daily Mail, p. 33. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5788133/What-DONT-tell-stay-home-dad-No-one-job-afterwards.html
Lesser, D. (2013). Stay-at-Home Dad: Why My Wife Is Embarrassed by Me. Time.Com, 1. Retrieved from http://ideas.time.com/2013/12/17/stay-at-home-dad-why-my-wife-is-embarrassed-by-me/
Lesser, D. (2014). 5 Reasons Dads Shouldn’t Work Outside the Home. Time.Com, 1. Retrieved from http://time.com/2941635/5-reasons-dads-shouldnt-work-outside-the-home/
Martin, Judith, Martin, Nicholas, & Martin, Jacobina. (6AD, April 2019). A stay-at-home dad wonders how to respond to sexist comments from strangers. Washington Post, The.
Mazza, C., & Perry, A. R. (2017). Fatherhood in America : Social Work Perspectives on a Changing Society. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas.
PR Newswire. (2013, June 17). Stay-at-Home Dads: Uncommon and Exceptional - Findings from the 2013 DDB Life Style Study®. PR Newswire US.
Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family. (2005). Adolescence, 40(158), 449.