In previous decades fathers were usually the main breadwinners in the household. While they worked full time jobs, mum stayed at home and raised the children. Things are different now. With more equal opportunities for men and women in the workplace, plenty of women have well paid jobs, and in many cases, its fathers who stay home and look after the kids.
A study in 2013 recorded that 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.
In the article let’s look at the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home dad as well as some statistics on the numbers of men looking after the kids at home. Is it a good thing?
Is it better for one parent to stay home?
Every parent needs to make the right choice for themselves and their children in terms of childcare. For many, there are several advantages in having one parent commit to looking after and raising the kids.
For one, it can be a sensible decision financially. If one parent’s salary is less than the cost of childcare, then it’s really an easy choice to make. In the grand scheme of things, you can always go back to work. You might work 40 years or more in a career, so taking a couple of years off won’t hurt.
It might also be less stressful for the family as a whole. When both parents work, you have to sort out childcare around your busy schedules which can be a nightmare when it comes to picking up and dropping off the kids. Having one parent at home makes planning things a lot easier.
Why are men becoming stay-at-home dads?
While some fathers embrace raising their children at home, for others it’s not out of choice. Some may have an illness which affects their ability to work properly, particularly if they worked in a manual labour role such as a builder or carpenter.
Some men may have lost their job and simply can’t back into the world of work, so it falls upon them to look after their children.
But probably the most common reason is to save money on child care costs. These days it can cost an arm and a leg to have your children at a nursery or preschool, and if a father’s salary barely covers this cost, then it makes sense to put their career on hold and raise the children, at least until they start school.
Are stay-at-home dads happier?
Many dads enjoy looking after their children, but for many fathers it’s not a dream outcome. The stereotype of the working father still exists today as many believe dads should be the main breadwinner and put food on the table. For stay-at-home dads this negativity can really hurt and make them feel pressure about returning to the workplace.
Also, stay-at-home dads can feel anxious about falling behind in their career (if they plan on going back to work after a few years). As their friends and colleagues advance into higher positions with larger salaries, stay-at-home dads can feel left behind.
What are the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home dad?
Here are some of the advantages (and disadvantages) of being a stay-at-home dad.
- A stronger bond with the children
For many dads who work long hours, they don’t get that much time to spend with their kids. A stay-at-home dad can develop a strong relationship with their children, which is great for the family overall.
- No child care costs
This is a big plus. Childcare bills in many Western countries are incredibly expensive. For many families it makes sense not to pay this, and have a parent look after the children instead
- Knowing your children are truly safe and secure
Nannies, childminders and nurseries do a fantastic job in developing young children, but as a parent it will always be more reassuring knowing your partner is the one looking after them. If your child is sick or hurts themselves, having dad nearby is a big help.
- Knowing your children are being raised/developed how you want
As a parent, you can never know for sure what your children are doing when they are in childcare. Are they being fed the right food? Are they being taught the right things in a way which you and your partner want? It’s more reassuring for both parents if dad has this responsibility.
Many stay-at-home dads can feel isolated fulfilling this role. Most of their male friends are probably in work, so arranging gatherings with other stay-at-home mums and their children can be an uncomfortable experience. It may lead to many dads just spending all day with the children with little interaction with other adults.
- Negative stigma
Unfortunately, many people look down on stay-at-home dads as they don’t feel it’s a ‘proper’ job that men should be doing. While this way of thinking doesn’t have any place in this day and age, it still lingers around.
How many fathers are stay-at-home dads?
It’s actually quite hard to figure out the exact figure. In the US, there is no category for stay-at-home dads on the Census report, so various organisations have to dig deeply to work out the total. Data from the 2011 Census shows that 32% of married dads are a regular source of care for their children under age 15. This is around 7 million fathers, but this data doesn’t tell us if they are all stay-at-home dads, as they may have some part time work, working in the evenings or night shifts.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2012 there were 2 million dads who were not working outside the home. The data was based on fathers’ aged between 18 and 69 who had children younger than 18 living in the household.
Is this figure increasing?
There are certainly more stay-at-home dads these days than in years gone by. In the 1970s, only six men (yes…just 6) identified as a stay-at-home dad in the whole of the United States. There are complex reasons why there are more now though, as some aren’t staying at home out of choice. They might be out of work and they just can’t find a job.
The cost of child care is another factor. Many parents decide it’s better for one of them to stay home and look after the kids, especially if the cost of child care is equal to or greater than one person’s salary. If mum is the main breadwinner in a household, than it will fall to dad to sacrifice his work for the sake of raising the children.
Which state has the most stay-at-home dads?
According to the Huffington Post, South Dakota has the highest proportion of stay-at-home dads, at 39%. The lowest estimate is in Utah, with just 7%.
What percentage of fathers are stay-at-home dads?
According to Census data, around a quarter of the 121 million men in the US are fathers to at least one child under 18. This is around 30 million. Therefore, based on the data above from Pew Research and the 2011 Census report, between 6.6% and 23% of men are stay-at-home dads. 23% seems very high, so the figure is probably a lot closer to 6 or 7%.
How much is a stay-at-home dad worth?
At Salary.com, they worked out what a stay-at-home dad should be worth based on working 55.7 hours per week. They divided these hours into what someone would charge for doing the work e.g. computer operator, cook, laundry machine operator etc.
If you’re a dad and want to know how much you should be getting paid, you can search for yourself at dad.salary.com. Show it to your partner and see what they think! The range is quite wide depending on where you live and your living costs, but the median salary in the US as of 2021 is $67,228.
How do stay-at-home dads make money?
If you have the time during the day or in the evening, there are ways for dads to earn a bit of cash to supplement the household income. Here are a couple of suggestions that you can do just with a computer from home:
If you are a good writer there are loads of websites which will pay you to write content. For example, bloggers will pay agencies to find a writer to publish an article, and they in turn will pay the writer (taking a commission in the process). You can start off working for one of these agencies, and then go freelance once you get more established.
If you are good designer, you could design logos and banners for websites. Sites like Fiverr.com have lots of such opportunities.
If you have good computer skills, you can design websites for clients too.
Another great source of income is online tutoring. Plenty of parents want their children to achieve better results in various subjects. If you have knowledge in any academic subject, use this to tutor students and offer online lessons. You can use Zoom, Teams or Google Meet.