Stay At Home Dads. Why is it such a big deal?
Social attitudes change with each generation. Women voting? Sure, why not. Gay marriage? Heck yes. Equal pay for men and women? Um, er…maybe we’re not quite there yet. One social trend which still has a long way to go in terms of acceptance by society is the role of the father being the stay at home parent and primary child carer.
When Mrs DADiator and I had the discussion about starting a family, the one question we knew the answer to was regarding childcare once she returned to work. Outsourcing it to a nursery, nanny, child carer etc. wasn’t going to be the route for us; both of us had the luxury of having one of our parents quit their job to care for us at home, and we wanted to do the same for our child.
Now for most families, the choice is fairly straightforward; the Dad tends to be the major breadwinner so the Mum stays at home with junior. In our case, and I have no problems in admitting to it, my wife is the major breadwinner and, even more importantly, working for a company that values her and whom she enjoys working for. This symbiosis made it a lot easier for us to decide that it would be me to put his career on hold (indefinitely?) and become that now, well-worn acronym; SAHD ( Stay At Home Dad).
When I mentioned to my mates that once my wife would return to work after 6 months of maternity leave and that I would take up the full time parenting baton, most were outwardly envious. Comments like, “You lucky git! You get to stay at home, watch TV and play all day” were plentiful. However, a few were more along the lines of “I wish I’d stayed at home when X was a toddler, I missed a lot of her milestones”. Taking the decision to give up full-time employment isn’t one to be entered into lightly by men, a recent survey on British Social Attitudes shows public support for dads staying at home is close to zero; only 5% of us think dads should work part-time and the vast majority of us (73%) say dads should work full time. Compare this with the 33% of us that think mums should stay at home; 43% say mums should work part time and 28% favour mums working full time once the kids start school. You don’t have to be a genius to see that Dads at home are very much a minority group.
The sterotype of the male being the hunter gatherer and “putting food on the table and a roof over our heads” is quickly becoming an outdated one for three reasons. Firstly, the number of SAHDs in the UK has risen to around 250,000 as they balance the primary caring with part-time work. Then there are those that work in the public sector (or for those unique private sector companies) that offer much more flexible working and as a result, earn more part-time than their female part-time counterparts. And finally there are the high-fliers who have made it in their respective careers very early on and as such can take a back seat or work freelance and the hours that suit them.
In any case, it’s a trend that’s only going to continue growing as long as employers offer the flexibility to its employees and moreover, as long as men want to take on the responsibility of being that primary carer.