The stay-at-home dad population is growing, and a lot of guys want a piece of the action.
More fathers than ever are participating in their children's nurturing and upbringing. A fair bellwether for that statement is the ever-increasing population of stay-at-home dads. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 105,000 fathers stayed home to care for their families in 2002. Six years later, that figure jumped 33 percent to 140,000. Of course, that number does not include fathers who work from home either full time or part time, or same-sex couples who have adopted. Nor does it include the recent trend of more men than women being laid off during the recession, a likely contributor to the stay-at-home dad population.
Let's not forget the dads who wish they were home. In 2007, Careerbuilder.com conducted a survey of 1,521 working dads and found that roughly 37 percent said they would leave their job if a spouse or partner made enough money to support their family; 38 percent would take a pay cut to spend more time with their children. In a survey conducted by the NFI, men were asked to specify the biggest obstacle to being a good father. Nearly half of all respondents said "work responsibilities."
Lance Somerfeld is a 36-year-old father in New York City. When his son was born in 2008, the public-school teacher decided to take advantage of the school system's child-care leave policy: A parent can take unpaid time off for up to four years, with a guarantee that a similar position will be available upon his or her return. Thanks to his wife's well-paying job as an actuary at an insurance company, Somerfeld has been a stay-at-home dad for all 22 months of his son's life. "A lot of my dad friends are envious," says Somerfeld. "They wish they had as much time with their children."
What mom should know: Fathers participating more and more in their children's upbringing isn't a trend but a permanent shift. "More men are organizing their lives around their families," says Ben Siegel, M.D., FAAP, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, which shapes policies regarding family well being and parenting. "In the past, men have been expected to work and provide financial support for the family. More recently, many men are choosing to share in child rearing and participating in running the household."