Stay-At-Home Fathers: A Small, But Thriving Bunch

June 19, 2006

The Father’s Day media “trend story” yesterday was a tribute to stay-at-home dads, a small, but growing minority.

According to the 2004 Census, there are 143,000 stay-at-home dads caring for 245,000 kids under the age of 15. That’s only 1.7 percent of all U.S. parents caring for children.

On the flipside, that is double the number of stay-at-home fathers since 1995, according to this thoughtful article in AlterNet. Additionally, two million dads work part-time for “non-economic reasons,” that include spending more time with their children, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Freelance journalist and at-home father Jeremy Adam Smith wrote for AlterNet:

So what? Those numbers are small, and it’s still mostly women taking care of children, often pulling double shifts as workers and mommies. If there is a trend toward more paternal involvement in child rearing — and there is, no question, and that’s a good thing — we should still keep it in perspective.

On Father’s Day, we stay-at-home dads are the freaks. I’m happy to fly my freak flag, while acknowledging that today it’s hard for any parent, male or female, to find enough time for their children. In her report, “One Sick Child Away From Being Fired: When Opting Out is Not an Option,” U.C. law professor Joan C. Williams found that only 16 percent of working-class families enjoy the luxury of having one stay-at-home parent.

So sad and so true.  

As this Boston Channel 5 piece pointed out, it doesn’t mean that fathers are uninterested in staying home with their children. A survey picked up by various news outlets, polled fathers and found that four in 10 would stay home with their kids if they could afford it. Forty-four percent of the dads also said they would take a pay cut to spend more time with their children.

While I wish these numbers were higher, at least we are headed in the right direction.