Editor's Note: Zach Rosenberg is co-founder of 8BitDad.com, a site that offers a daily shot of fatherhood news, interviews, dadvertising, and fatherly opinions on parenthood topics. You can find him on Twitter @zjrosenberg. He lives in Southern California with his wife and 3-year-old son.
There’s got to be some reason why all these career-driven dads are staying home with the kids. Were they laid off, forced out of work because of the mancession? Did they eschew traditional office work to write memoirs and blogs? Are they trying to give their fathers’ old fashioned work ethic the finger?
Nope. They’re just -- as it turns out -- happier at home.
The Internet, universities and journalists can’t stand it. Where’s the scoop? Where’s the riches-to-rags story that would explain why on earth these fathers would turn their back on the soul-fulfilling rat-race for money and take on the inconvenient and complicated job of taking care of children? As it turns out, we all had it backwards; working in an office is an inconvenient and complicated rat-race, and parenting is soul-fulfilling.
So we solved it for you: fathers are choosing to stay home more – get ready for this – just because.
Now, it’s a little more complicated than “just because,” but it’s almost the sum of its parts; some men did, in fact, lose their job. Some men, however, left their jobs, hoping to get by with part-time work. Some men decided with their wives that mom was making more money or had a better potential for promotion, so dad would stay home with the kids. And some men, well, were happiest just going their own way.
Others just saw a window of opportunity. “I left my job because we wanted one of us to stay home with our son,” says Huckleberry Starnes, contributor to 8BitDad.com. “Our salaries were similar, but her company treated her with respect and she loves her job.”
The statistics seem to support Starnes’ sentiments. “Contrary to media reports about laid-off fathers who re-invent themselves as full-time caregivers, most of the men we interviewed report that being a stay-at-home dad is a choice, not simply a reaction to an unanticipated job loss,” said Brad Harrington, executive director of Boston College's Center for Work & Family. Harrington headed up a recent study called The New Dad: Right At Home that analyzed exactly why dads are staying home with the kids in greater numbers.
In their study, only 30% of their sample said their reason for homecoming being the loss of a job -- and some of that segment even reported the job loss as not unwelcome.
Consumerism Commentary investigated the trend back in May, citing a University of Nebraska survey about men, careers and fatherhood. According to the survey, “75 percent of men consider being a parent very important, while only 48 percent had the same opinion about having a successful career,” said Luke Landes of Consumerism Commentary.
And then there’s “the newest trend,” according to NPR: being a single father by choice. These “SFCs” don’t wish to go the traditional route of marriage and then family -- rather, they plan out a child with a surrogate and go it alone. These men aren’t without precedent from the other side of the gender-fence, however. As The National Review Online notes, men have taken a page from books such as Louise Sloan’s 2007 book, "Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom".
Brian Tessler, the founder of a hotline for prospective single fathers, told NPR that there’s still a stigma and bias against men looking to become single dads, but it’s changing as more men (hetero and homosexual alike) choose this path. The National Review Online says that statistics for SFCs are muddled, as the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t account for SFCs when counting the number of single fathers for other reasons like divorcees and widowers.
With more stay-at-home and work-at-home dads these days, many people seem to be scuttling about attempting to find a reason. But maybe that’s taking away from the real point: in our unending search for “why,” we’re missing out on the beauty of “just because.”
It’s tough for society to accept that fathers are taking opportunities to stay home with the kids they love -– but let’s just enjoy it. The numbers are showing that dads themselves are enjoying it: sociologists recently used statistics from the European Social Survey to conclude that men who shoulder more than the average amount of housework are happier.
As much as commercials and television shows would like to imagine dads as mancession-stricken, out-of-work, hapless idiots in the home who would do anything to avoid having a heart-to-heart with their kids, it’s just not true. We’ve learned (some of us firsthand) that they’re happy, loving guys that have mostly chosen the home life over the rat-race. It’s benefiting everyone -– moms, dads and their kids. And if everyone’s happy, we’re happy. Just because.