The new stay-at-home dad paves new paths for moms

As more men call themselves stay-at-home dads, they redefine for both men and women what it means to stay home with kids. Men have learned a lot from watching women struggle with home life. The super-woman syndrome of the 1980s has squashed the desire to juggle committed parenting with a sixty-hour workweek, and Rolling Stones lyrics about Valium as “mother’s little helper” do not fall on deaf ears; 24/7 with kids for eighteen years is too hard.

So today’s stay-at-home dad probably has some kind of work outside of the kids. He might not be earning much money, but he has the wisdom of generations before him to know that the money isn’t what matters. Ted Castro is a stay-at-home dad with his daughters, Giselle, six, and Claudia, eighteen months, while his wife, Nicole Faulkner works full-time managing a genetics lab. But if you ask Ted, “What else do you do?” he’ll say, “I’m an artist.”

Since the onset of feminism, stay-at-home moms have been incensed by the question, “What else do you do?” as if being home with kids were not a full-time job. But today, few people question how difficult and full-time taking care of kids is. So stay-at-home dads welcome the question. “I think the question really means, What did you do before you had kids?” says Castro. “Everyone went through a certain amount of schooling. So the question really means, What was your other choice?”

Castro’s other choice was making stained glass. After a degree in fine arts and an apprenticeship, he built up a business making stained glass commissioned by architects. Now he “makes only two or three pieces a year,” but he still calls himself a working artist.

After at least a decade of feuding between stay-at-home moms and working moms, the argument about which is better is dissipating. And in part, this is because men add a fresh perspective to the decision-making process. For dads, staying at home is not so much political as practical. “It just grew that way,” says Castro of his family setup.

In fact, most men do not set out to be stay-at-home dads. They just want to make sure they get to spend time with their kids. A survey by American Demographics revealed that eighty percent of men ages 18 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. The new stay-at-home version of dad is how they reach this goal.

On web sites such as slowlane.com, which cater to dads who put family first, stay-at-home dad and work-at-home dad are used almost interchangeably. And it’s a gray area as to how many hours per week a dad needs to work outside the home to disqualify himself as an at-home dad. (Stay-at-home dad Jeff, for example, designs stay-at-home dad apparel and operates the store that sells it.) Most significantly, though, the dads don’t seem to care about that number.

Some people will say, “Big surprise. Men staying at home with kids is just like men vacuuming — they do the living room and bedroom and never get to the kitchen and den before they get distracted.” But others will see a synergy of the sexes: Just as women in the workplace show men how life can be better there, men at home show women a few means of improvement as well.

So both men and women can benefit from learning how to create a life that is conducive to the new stay-at-home and accommodates a new sort of work.

1. Think part-time. Lisa Levey, Director of Advisory Services at Catalyst says, “Usually you have to earn the opportunity to work part time. Work at the same company for a while, and develop a certain niche. Over time, you can craft something that will work for you.” She would know: For years her husband has worked an abridged work schedule so he can be home with the kids.

2. Aim for high-level. “We have in our mind that lower status or lower paying would be easier to balance, but this is not the case,” says Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. “If you think you are taking a job that would give you more time, talk to people in that job.”

3. Save, save, save. Castro buys clothes at thrift shops and even frequents garbage dumps. “I got a Concept-II Rowing machine off the street,” he says. “I’ll never pay for a piece of exercise equipment again.”

4. Have faith. “People say my husband is so lucky,” says Levey, “But he negotiated and made compromises. Fear dominates the work world now. People need to push back and try to get what they want.”

Posted in Fulfillment, No image, Parenting
12 comments on “The new stay-at-home dad paves new paths for moms
  1. Penelope Trunk says:

    I am also working from home. But I’m not. Because my kids never leave me alone when I’m home. Even though, like you, my spouse is the one who is taking care of them.

    Based on tales I’ve heard from other homes, my siuation is not unique. I wonder if this is a male/female thing and kids just won’t leave a mom alone.

    .. or maybe this is another place to learn from dads.

  2. FamilyMan says:

    Nice article on dad’s with focus on family. A while back, I quit my day job to work from home. I still work and my wife takes care of the kids and home. But I get to take lunch with the people I love the most.

  3. Brad says:

    I wish i can become a stay at home dad one day. I am one of those people who does not like working for others so I am looking to start my own business and work from home. That is my dream…

  4. Stop anxiety attack says:

    Great article from the perspective of stay at home dads. I completely agree that mostly it’s not much political but practical.

  5. Home Typing Jobs says:

    Great post! I was blessed enough to leave my day job back in 06 and work from home full-time as a stay at home dad.

    My next goal is to make enough to retire my wife for good as well. ;-)

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. wesley @ social anxiety treatment says:

    Thanks for the great post. I am a stay at home dad myself for the last 2 years. At first it was hard but my wife and I have managed to make it work.

  7. max says:

    I am a stay at home dad, I did some writing work for a while, but it was way too hard to keep up with the wee one and the workload…I have embraced being a full time dad, it rocks and look forward to spending the next couple of years watching my daughter grow while I take a long break from the rat race chasing ideals rather than living them.

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  9. D rowing machine says:

    Thanks a lot for the article! You saved me a lot of precious time deciding what direction to go,

  10. Joe Gilharrry says:

    Nice blog, thanks for posting this article.
    By tradition, mothers has been well known of taking care of children at home while the father provides for his family financially, however, there has been an increase of stay-at-home dads in recent years.In my case, I prefer being stay-at-home dad and spending more time with my children. The more frequently people communicate with families, the more harmonious the relationship among family members is.

  11. Guest says:

    The good news about stay-at-home-dads is that they are very protective of their children. If anyone messes with their child, they go chasing after them!

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