Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

The Executive Mom's Answer to Childcare: The Stay At Home Dad.

This generation of working moms has a childcare option almost unheard of in previous decades: the Stay At Home Dad (playgroup code name “SAHD”). According to a Census Bureau report, full-time stay at home dads took care of 189,000 children in 2002, up 18 percent from 1994. These are married fathers with children under 15 who are not in the labor force primarily so they can care for kids while their wives work outside the home.

It has been said many times in many contexts that a family with young children can only handle one and a half high power careers. There are those who believe that at least one parent should have a somewhat flexible work schedule so that someome is there to cover sick days and attend school plays.  Why should it always be the women that make the professional sacrifice and scale back their careers? How great that more and more dads are the ones “opting out.”

The reasons dads are staying home are compelling, including a reluctance to use day care, an increase in women’s earning power (three out of ten women out-salary their husbands) and a desire by fathers to be actively involved with their kids.  Let's celebrate this new generation of dads.  They showed their progressive colors in a recent poll in Parents Magazine.  Asked how they would feel if their wives out-earned them, 46% said they would quit their job, 41% said she already does make more and only 13% said they would be uncomfortable.  

A relatively new phenomenon, stay at home dads are lucky to have a plethora of resources available to them. Rebeldad.com [1],where "a father puts the stay-at-home dad trend under the microscope,"  slowlane.com [2] and athomedad.com [3] are popular SAHD-devoted sites, loaded with blog entries, articles and networking suggestions. Peter Baylies, who hosts the athomedad.com [3], where the tag line is "men who change diapers change the world" even wrote a Stay-At-Home Dad Handbook [3].   Indeed, there is a proliferation of stay-at-home dad lit.  Check out Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Dad [3], Diary of a Mad Househusband [3] , How Tough Can it Be: The Trials and Errors of a Sportswriter Turned Stay-At-Home Dad [3] and What Every Woman Needs:  Househusband [3], just to name a few.  

All these SAHDs report improved intra-family communication, a flexible approach towards life and work, and an increased “emotional intelligence” on the part of sons cared for by SAHDs. Interestingly, research shows SAHDs aren’t just caring for kids but are also assuming many of the attendant responsibilities traditionally handled by women, including cooking and laundry. But even in SAHD families, it’s moms who have primary responsibility for the evening shift, including baths and bedtime, according to the same research.

To be sure, there are downsides to dads staying at home. Most notably, social stigmas are still attached to fathers who serve as a family’s primary caregiver. Many observers may wrongly assume, for example, that dad is caring for the kids because he couldn’t cut it in the workplace. Also, stay at home moms may be reluctant to let men into their inner circle – it’s a reverse, playground-centered version of the glass ceiling.

Chances are, though, the benefits of a SAHD situation – most notably, fathers spending more time with their kids, making for well-adjusted families – far outweigh the downsides. In one survey on stay at home dad families, a leading researcher found that 51 percent of stay at home dads and 43 percent of their spouses reported being extremely satisfied with the caregiving arrangement. The total satisfaction score – determined by combining the "somewhat" and "extremely satisfied" response groups – was higher than 70 percent for both.

For the mom’s part, there’s a sense of pride in supporting a family. And the inevitable guilt that comes from being a working mom is largely assuaged when it’s dad, rather than a nanny or a day care, that’s at the caregiving helm. Plus, there’s something so very modern about being married to a truly progressive dad who tackles arranging play dates and managing temper tantrums on a daily basis.  Although SAHDs are not yet mainstream, this is a childcare trend we hope will continue.

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