Being a stay-at-home dad seems like a solid gig. Particularly if you have finances locked down thanks to killer investments, a career-minded partner, or cushy reality TV show deal (at least until you got cancelled after one season). Sadly, that’s not the reality for the vast majority of stay-at-home dads, a population that has been steadily increasing since the late ’80s.
At 2 million, the number of stay-at-home dads in 2012 was nearly double what it was in 1989, thanks only in tiny part to that reality show. In fact, it was the Great Recession that helped that number reach its highest point, 2.2 million in 2010, according to a recent Pew study.
Many of those dads have since bolted back to outside-the-home work environments as unemployment has decreased; 23 percent of those surveyed said they were only home because they couldn’t find work. Ironically, almost exactly the same number, 21 percent, said they stayed home because, well, they just wanted to. In other words, for every stay-at-homie who says there’s nowhere he’d rather be, there’s one that would rather be anywhere else. Both groups, however, are outweighed by the 35 percent of dads parenting from home due to serious illness or injury.
Pew wonders if that has anything to do with the fact that nearly twice as many stay-at-home dads, compared to stay-at-home moms, are over the age of 40. That’s roughly the age when lifting a 4-year-old becomes more likely to result in Exploding DadBack, to use a medical term.
Although the numbers have dipped slightly due to the aforementioned employment trends, the stay-at-home dad is still very much a creature you can expect to see more often in the wild. Problem is, societal opinions have yet to catch up. In another Pew survey, 51 percent of respondents said kids are better off if their mother is home, not working. For the Dads? Only 8 percent said those kids’ lives would improve.
It appears that the out-dated gender dynamics still plaguing women at work are just as big an issue for guys whose workplace is the family. Maybe everyone should be talking about this a little bit more.